Everyone Needs A Brian

Brian Naghski looking serious.

There are many basic needs in this world. To begin with: We need air, shelter, water, and food. After that, a sense of purpose, a reason to live. Friendship. And finally – hopefully – someone to love who also loves you in return.

It’s not quite as simple as that. Humans also need community, stories, physical activity, positive interactions, and healthy boundaries. Goals, successes, failures, curiosity, opportunities to learn, time in the natural world, hobbies, sunlight, etc.

And, in my opinion – and this is very, very important – everyone needs a Brian. To be more specific, everyone needs a Brian Naghski.

Brian lead-climbing.

Just to be clear at the start, I don’t call Brian “Brian.” I call him “Bri Bri” (pronounced with two long “I” sounds) or, sometimes, I call him “My Bri Bri.” Because he’s that wonderful.

First of all, Bri Bri’s laugh is amazing. Everyone who knows him talks about his laugh, about how it sounds, about how great it is. It’s loud and infectious. When he laughs, other people laugh too. But since laughs are difficult to describe, I can only say that when Bri Bri laughs, all the people around him get a look on their faces like when people watch puppies do something ridiculous and cute.

Also, Bri Bri gets excited about any adventure. If I suggest a ten-mile off-trail navigation course in the desert, he’s in. Better yet, he emails me before we go, writing: “By the way, I really like hiking in the dark.” Going into a difficult adventure, he’s hoping to navigate by the stars.

Or if it’s a white-water rafting trip through a canyon, he writes, “When are you going? I wanna make that happen!”

Or a winter snow-survival trip? He writes, “You know how I love to sleep in snow caves, Don Pedro!”

Bri Bri is endlessly positive and completely unguarded. If he thinks something is awesome, he says, “That’s just AWESOME!!!” He doesn’t care who’s nearby, and he doesn’t care what they think. He’s himself at all times.

He also wants to hear any good story. Even though he’s a slow reader, he wants to read great books. He asks me for summer reading lists and for short, during-the-year reading suggestions. And if I giggle while reading a book next to him in my camp chair, he says, “Hey, when are you gonna loan that book to me?”

Bri Bri’s tall and heavy. He’s a BIG guy. He was a heavyweight wrestler in high school and a defender on a college lacrosse team. Rock climbing isn’t easier for bigger people, so when Bri Bri rock climbs, he has to battle. But that’s what he does. He sweats and grunts and works at it. And if he doesn’t get a route, he gets back on it and tries again a few minutes later. He’s happy to try hard and he’s fine with gasping for air, pumping out his forearms, or feeling his calves quiver. When he climbs, he wants to do some work.

But he’s not just into adventures. Bri Bri brews good beer and shares it with his friends. He loves his wife Kara and his two kids. He scarfs food and chugs coffee. He has a great New Jersey accent, and he believes in building community anywhere he goes.

We used to work together. When Bri Bri was a licensed SPED teacher at the high school where I taught Language Arts, he’d regularly come into my speech class where we had a rule that any visitor – adult or teenager – had to give a short impromptu speech on a topic of the class’s choosing when they first entered the room. It was a tough rule, especially for Bri Bri. He’s not a natural public speaker – and he gets a little nervous sometimes in front of big groups – but he always took on the challenge, and spoke on any topic we gave him, even though our topics were pretty ridiculous sometimes.

Because Bri Bri’s real and honest about his struggles, he understands people, and people connect with him as well. Kids at his new high school say he’s their favorite teacher. One of his students told me, “He gets so excited, and he’s always SO nice to everybody.” I know how his students feel because Bri Bri was my favorite colleague. When he came across a broken-zippered, duct-taped, neon-green down jacket, he knew it was the perfect present for me. And not for my birthday because Bri Bri just gives out presents at random times throughout the year.

Bri Bri and his skis, volunteering with my outdoor program.

We don’t get to hang out too often. Bri Bri has his family and I have mine. We teach at different schools. He coaches youth sports and I run a leadership program. He travels back to the east coast to see his family and I spend a lot of time writing or adventuring with my family. But if we do get a chance to hang out, I always try to take it. Because time with Bri Bri is time well spent.

So yesterday was Bri Bri’s birthday, and for his birthday, Bri Bri wanted to hang out together, to share food and rock climb at our local crag, just the two of us. He wanted to meet me in the morning and not be in a rush. He wanted to climb a few routes, talk for a while, climb a few more routes, then talk some more.

When I showed up, he was rappelling down to the bottom of the main buttress. I met him on the ground and pointed to his ancient climbing rope. It’s at least 10-years old, thickening and shaggy and a pale, faded red color. I said, “I see you bought yourself a new rope.”

He pointed to the t-shirt I was wearing – a surf shirt he knew I found on the ground that had holes in the shoulders – and he said, “I see you bought yourself a new t-shirt.”

Then I got to hear his amazing laugh while we hugged. After that, he handed me a breakfast burrito that he’d bought for me as if it was my birthday morning. And to be honest, it sort of was. There really wasn’t a better way to start a day than hanging out with My Bri Bri.


Dirtbag Skills!

Here’s my new article: “How To Be A Dirtbag” (7 Skills To Build Your Rugged Side).

Pic credits:
1. Cassie Chyne Cook at Monkey’s Face, Central Oregon (Mikey Holmes’ pic)
2. Ben Leroy’s pic of me bouldering at Sisters Boulders, Oregon
3. Rainy Hoffmeister at Lost Rocks, Northern California
4. Jennie Hoffmeister‘s pic of me on the Alvord Desert slat flats, Eastern Oregon

Week One Of Climbing Training

As a try-hard local, I figured I’d post some training weeks in prep for my El Cap race with Hans Florine in June.

Week One Of Training:

Sun – 20 boulder routes at the gym (up to V3), then sent one V8 for power

Mon – Climbing rest: Light weights, jumping jacks, push-ups

Tues – Speed climbing outside at The Columns. 7 fast laps (5.8+ to 5.10c)

Wed – Easy climbing outside, bouldering at Sisters, 10 routes up to V3

Thurs – Active rest: 4-mile hike + 4 easy boulder routes (VBs and V0s)

Fri – 2-mile run, 1.5-mile hike, + outdoor bouldering at Sisters (13 routes up to V6)

Sat – 10 outdoor boulder routes up to V6

I’m Racing Hans Florine In June!


Hans Florine lead-climbing on El Cap, Yosemite Valley

“Super Local vs. Super Pro – An El Cap Day At A Crap Cliff”

Recently, I was being interviewed by an adventure journalist name Jayme Moye, and she decided to help set up a strange event.
The short version of the story is this: Hans Florine is flying up to Eugene, Oregon to race me on an El Cap Day (3000 feet of climbing in one day) at my local cliff where I’ve done many El Caps. He’s a world class speed climber, but he doesn’t know the routes. I’m just an average local dirtbag – not world-class by any standards – but I do know the routes.
Hans Florine has won a world speed-climbing championship, three X-Game gold medals, and holds many world records.
I really sorta kinda like to climb a lot, pretty often, and anywhere I can.
The race is high-stakes: We’re betting a beer, a burrito, and a monster cookie.
The journalist (Jayme Moye) has written for National Geographic, Outside, and Men’s Journal, and she’ll be writing about the event for multiple magazines. Climbing Magazine has asked me to write a feature for Climbing.com.
Running laps at The Columns

Me running laps at the Columns, Eugene, Oregon, on an ascender (with my surgically repaired thumb in a cast)

Specifics On The Race:
– Our local cliff is only 47 feet tall, so each time I do an El Cap Day, it’s 64 route-laps. I last did an El Cap Day there two weeks ago. The last time I climbed there was Tuesday.

– I usually fix a few lines and run 64 laps with an ascender on a drag, then rappel each lap and start over. This is the system we’ll use for our race.

– Although I never race my El Cap Days, it usually takes me 3.5+ hours to rock climb 3000 feet (while eating and talking to people a little bit), but I’ll train and get that time down before the race (Note: The time includes 64 rappels).
– Hans has climbed the real El Cap in under 2.5 hours – and formerly held the world speed record on that cliff with Alex Honnold – but again, this is a new cliff to Hans, and he doesn’t have to rappel 3000 feet when he speed climbs in Yosemite.
– But – honestly – that might not matter. He might just crush me anyway. So I’ll just do my best. I do know the cliff well and have first-ascent trad routes at The Columns of up to 5.12cR.
– The dates we’ve set out (three in case of weather, specifically rain) are June 10-12. Tentatively, the race is set for June 10th, at 9:00 AM.
Character details:
– I’m more than 10 years younger than Hans. So that might help me?
– Just kidding: Look at his picture and notice that he’s kind of fit.
– Also, just two years ago, Alex Honnold said in an interview that Hans is still the greatest in the world. Since Alex Honnold is considered the best in the world by most people, this is a huge compliment.
– Injury notes: I have a brain injury from getting hit by a car on my bike three years ago (and a torn right meniscus + surgically repaired right thumb), yet I keep climbing every week at the crag. Hans probably has a few things that hurt on his body…doesn’t everybody?
I’m ready to get crushed compete!

Maybe I’m A Dirtbag?

I realized – last night – that I was going to see my mom (who’s here, visiting from Arizona), and that I smelled terrible and couldn’t remember the last time that I’d showered. Friday maybe? Or maybe it was Thursday? I know I paddled the river on Saturday, which is pretty much the same as showering…

Since that river bath, over the next five days, I’d climbed twice, biked six times, gone for a run, played soccer twice, and lifted weights four times. Plus there’s that whole Summer Sun Angle (Heat) = Sweat thing.

I’d also mowed the lawn, worked in the yard, gardened, and picked up dog poop in the sun three times.

For my mom, I took a shower.

“Meet the IOP: Young Adventurers with a Knack for Environmental Understanding”

I’m so proud of my student leaders every year. But last year – when I was out on medical leave after my brain injury – my student leaders really stepped up.

Here’s Envision Magazine’s feature on the Integrated Outdoor Program, with a focus on the student leaders (thanks to Mara Welty and Damon Holland):

Read the article here.