Monday, September 26, 2011

Adios, Amigo!

by RyAnn Lugo

As many of you already know, Charlie, Aiguille employee of 6 years, Assistant Manager, and one of your favorite route setters, has moved to Brazil with his lovely new wife, Roberta. (Yes, they finally “tied the knot!”) Both of them received their degrees this year, Charlie in Financing and Berta in Educational Leadership, and are setting out on a new adventure. See, it’s easy to write an article, but to capture the essence of such an admired person and great friend of so many years, that is "Chuckles," "Brown Bear," "Char-Char," “Chalupa,” “Spanish” (though he doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish), was going to be a rather difficult task - especially since almost everyone, when asked, "What are you going to miss the most about Charlie?", simply sighed and shook their heads. It’s as if the question invoked a million moments and sent them bouncing around in their memories. As Alex Velandia, Aiguille Assistant Manager and friend of 3 years, said, “What can anyone say about Charlie that you don’t figure out for yourself within the first few minutes of meeting him?” It’s obvious that there is so much about the guy that cannot be pinned down on paper, or summarized with just a few recollected moments, but the event of his departure calls for a very loving farewell.

Demonstrating great talent from the get-go, though he was quiet as a mouse, many of the members here have witnessed Charlie’s rapid growth as a climber and as a person, from a little baby boulderer into a full-fledged Big Daddy boulderer. In fact, at his first competition he earned 2nd place in the Men’s Advanced category. He was also the very first National Champion in the Collegiate Climbing Series, representing UCF, and he dominated the Tampa Bouldering Series last year. Aside from those victories, he has also participated in over a dozen other competitions and memorable bouldering climbing adventures country-wide. “His favorite sport climbing spot is The Red River Gorge in Kentucky and his first choice for bouldering is Horse Pens 40, in Alabama. His climbing achievements have certainly earned him a spot in the Aiguille hall of fame. To read more about Charlie’s beginnings and other fun facts, you can read his climber bio:

“Working at Aiguille was amazing. Being so close to the sport everyday helped me progress as a climber and person. I really do feel like Aiguille was my second college. I spent more time there than at school (for better or worse haha). I wouldn't trade it for anything.”

Some of those who have climbed with him would describe his climbing style as controlled, heady ninja. “I love watching Charlie climb,” says Kara Werner, “because he's almost as short as I am! I got lots of great beta from him. His climbing style is very technical. He gives lots of attention to where he places his feet, and most of his moves are static.” Though a careful, quiet climber, Charlie has also been known as a bit of a daredevil. “He likes to high ball,” says Mark Mercer, our Head Route Setter and one of Charlie’s closest climbing buddies. “Highlights of climbing trips have often been of him sending (and sometimes not sending) tall and scary problems. He is a walking, talking guidebook to every bouldering area he’s been to. He remembers names, grades and, most importantly, beta to any boulder problem he’s tried. He remembers specific details like the shapes of footholds. Crazy.” Chase Heatwole, Aiguille member of 5 years, describes Charlie’s climbing as some of the smoothest he’s ever seen. He says, “There are those who just power through, and then there’s Charlie, who simply ascends.” Dean Pflaumer, remembers when he first started climbing at the gym. “We used to make fun of him because, instead of breaking out a rope for tall walls, he just climbed them.” Legend also has it that Charlie would hunt through YouTube videos of the classics in order to gain powerful beta wisdom.

“Probably my favorite times at Aiguille were when I first started climbing there, no ropes and tables. It was such a small community that on a busy night there maybe 20 people in the whole gym. I progressed as a climber the most then, and got to hang out with a lot of great climbers like Nick Sherman, Mr. Mark Mercer, Meagan Martin, Phil Adams, Alex Manikowski, and my main man Tommy Terrell. Seriously a total of 5-7 people making "adventures" up on the wave, getting strong! I have to also admit that even though the gym can get packed at times nowadays, I love seeing so many members psyched on climbing and sharing the same passion I have for struggling up a rock climb! Seriously having a gym full of people who know the joy of climbing is indescribable.”

It wasn’t long after Charlie started climbing that Mark noticed Charlie’s unmistakable promise and asked him to join the Aiguille Route Setting Family. When members were asked to describe his route setting, interestingly enough, “burly” and “technical” were the he two words used together. Becky Kiley, Team Aiguille member of many years agrees with others that his routes vary, depending on his mood. “They’re usually not very ‘reachy,” she said. “I never really knew who set what but usually I’d find out that the routes that I was working on were one of his.” Another climber at Aiguille, Alex Bosak, describes his routes as “innovative and fun.”

Of all the places to start a new life, Brazil might seem like a strange choice. Charlie explains, “I went to Brazil last summer and absolutely loved it. The people were incredibly nice, even though I couldn't speak a lick of Portuguese. My wife and I were looking for new jobs in better locations (Sorry Orlando. Haha!) for working outdoors, specifically North Carolina. Unfortunately, we couldn't find a position for either of us, then the idea came up to head to Brazil, where a lot of Roberta's family lives. One thing led to another, her family made an offer we couldn't refuse, and we are on a new adventure!!!” Charlie explains that his lady will be helping him with his Portuguese till he is fluent enough to be a diving instructor. After that, he hopes to use his dual language skills to get a job in finance.

Though he’s far away from climbing buddies, he plans to continue to train. “I'm bringing a hang board,” he says. “I just want to keep progressing, (climb v10 one day), and make some cool climbing friends in Brazil. There is a lot of rock there, even though it is 2 hours away, so expect to see videos very soon!” If you would like to keep in touch, you can find him on Facebook and stay updated on his adventure. Also, keep your eyes peeled around the gym within the next year because he plans on visiting soon.

It took some time, but once my interviewees were able to sort out their thoughts, I was finally able to get some straight answers to the loaded question: What are you going to miss the most about Charlie?

Mark Mercer: “I am going to miss having a reliable friend who was always down to have fun. And I’m going to miss his routes… Did I mention they were very underrated?”

Kayla Baker: “I’ll miss his cool, calm, and collective personality. He is a good friend and listener and he had a silly, subtle sense of humor.”

Dean Pflaumer: “Charlie never had a bad thing to say about anyone.”

Karl Antenucci: “He’s a hoot.”

Alex Bosak: “He’s the man.”

Phil Basti: “I’ll miss his sense of humor and diverse routes.”

Some guy: “He always had cool shoes.”

Kenny Bonnette: “I’ll miss his fresh tank tops and his incredible route setting. He set some of my most favorite routes.”

Tara Ziegler: “Charlie was someone I could always rely on to be there for me, in climbing or just as someone to talk to. He is such a big part of why Aiguille is a second home to me. He is truly one of best friends.”

Megan Harrington: “I’ll miss his imagination and his ability to come up with crazy stories at baby showers.”

Kara Werner: “No matter how hard or stressful your day was, Charlie could always make you feel better. He tried to stay positive about most things, and could always slip a joke into a conversation. Charlie loves pizza! The first time I realized this was after seeing him eat pizza for lunch and dinner 3 days in a row. He makes climbing look easy, that's how you know he's a great climber! Oh, and his best kept secret is that he was actually born in Mexico.”

Aubrey Wingo: “Every day of work would start off with a call or text. ‘Want food?’ And depending on who opened we would bring the other one lunch. I don’t even think there was ever an exchange of money! But it was something to look forward to every day. I feel like no one really understood the stresses of the job more than him because of working the same shift and it certainly easy to talk to him about the issues because we probably felt the same way! My mornings will never be the same since I don’t have Charlie’s humor! Oh si si Charlie! I will miss you! Even if you don’t know how to say black beans and rice in Spanish. Keep sending those V11s on the beach!”

Alex Velandia: “He was one of the most genuine people I know, who was always quick with advice. One of the strongest couch climbers that I know and I’ve always admired him for it. There was always a crazy zen-like aura that encompassed him as he climbed and was as fluid as the Spanish he didn’t speak. We can only hope that he finds a community as loving and caring that he will always have here. Best of luck, Chuckles, with the wife and life! Climb Hard!”

Justin Steakly: “Learn Spanish!”

As Alex said before, it really only takes a few moments with Charlie to get a sense that you’ve just met one of the coolest people alive. I’ve learned a great deal about him through hearing his Aiguille family sift through their memories. It goes without saying that “Carlos Antonio Garcia Los Tres” will be missed without a doubt, but his fierce climbing spirit will remain within the crags of Aiguille Rock Climbing Gym forever. If you listen closely, you can still hear it howling through the boulder cave, saying, “Ooohh. Si, Siiii...”

Final Words:
“Special shout out to K. Werner and Dean for teaching me a lot of hard working and climbing knowledge that I will carry on throughout my life. I also want to say thank you to anyone I've talked to, climbed or worked with. You have all had a hand in making my Aiguille experience one I will never ever forget. As you might expect, keep climbing just because it is fun and a great release from the daily grind. Make as many trips to outdoor areas as possible because, and I almost hate to say it, but what we do in the gym is just practice for the real thing: outdoors, in nature, climbing real rocks with a group of friends who share the same love for scampering up a boulder (or cliff). I will continue climbing until my fingers fall off, and then I'll start trad climbing. Hahahaha! (Love you Dean!). I hope Aiguille continues to grow, one day to the point of moving to a larger and newer facility. I know my boys Karl and David C. will keep that place running smooth with the help of Kara and Aubrey. I have no worries about the future of Aiguille and the awesome events that will happen in the future (hopefully I can make it back for one!) I will be on Facebook posting pictures of my travels and hope any and everyone who wants to visit hits me up! Thanks again for everything, including this article and I'll reply back as soon as I get to a computer when I arrive in Brazil. Wish me and my new wifey luck!”

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