Shaded by Stone is a fast read, full of climbing adventure, and written in a casual writing style. It follows Ari Schneider on his quest to find value and meaning in his life, and it’s this quest and transformation that really drive the stories forward.

Climbers will instantly connect to the physical places and reflective questions posed in the book. Non-climbers will also be able to enjoy the stories and gain insight, thanks in part to the italicized explanations of climbing-specific terminology. 

While reading Shaded By Stone I felt like Ari’s silent partner, following him across North America, including stops in the iconic Bugaboos, Red Rocks, Yosemite, Moab and, peaking my curiosity, secret undisclosed locations.

The book actually starts in a dark place, literally and emotionally, spiraling into an alcohol-fueled search for meaning and self worth. Together we ponder questions asked by countless climbers before: Why climbing? If there is no tangible result, is it worthwhile? What is the value? Is it worth the risk?

These are the traditional questions. Unspoken, but between the lines lingered even more questions of self-worth: Is it ok to not have a traditional job and life structure? How do you pursue a passion when society doesn’t find monetary value in it? Why can’t one more easily earn a living from a passion directly?

I felt the challenges and frustration of pursuing a truly creative, passion-filled, and sustainable life. Not just in Ari’s case, but for all types of artists.

bugaboo climbing

This mood quickly shifts to a positive reframe: Aren’t we so privileged, able to create and mold our values, to follow what makes us happy?

As I ruminated with Ari, I found myself harking back to Brendan Leonard’s book, The New American Road Trip Mixtape. It carries similar themes encased in snapshot stories: struggles with alcohol and the positivity found in climbing adventures, supportive friendships, and the quest to become a writer.

As a reader, I felt Ari’s struggle. Yet I wanted more. I wanted to explore the depths of Ari’s introspections, but he kept me at arms length, switching topics before coming to genuine conclusions. Although neither Ari nor I are religious, we did dive philosophically deeper, comparing climbing and religion. Yet again, many questions were literally left unanswered, posed for the reader, and Ari himself, to contemplate further, alone.

This was my biggest challenge about the book: Ari cut me short. In the book he mentioned that he’s open to exploring certain topics further, but he’d need more time to process these questions. It was here that I wished I could sit down with Ari and have a conversation so we could both get out of our head and find the root of the emotional turmoil.

Where I gained the most energy, and where I found myself rooting for Ari’s success, was on his first ascent endeavors. This is where the book, and Ari’s passion truly shine.

Ari sandy climbing

At times I felt snapped away from Ari’s success. Following a climbing triumph he’d add quick throwaway criticisms discounting the climb as unimpressive or reflect that it could have been bigger or bolder. I’m left wondering, what is it about the ego that necessitated these climbs to be minimized? Is it a fear of criticism? A feeling of inadequacy? A desire to belong? A struggle to accept success?

It’s easy to become empathetic to Ari’s emotional struggle, and overall I enjoyed the light-hearted nature of the stories. They’re fast and easy to read, never bogged down with long-winded descriptions of the climb or scenery. I finished the book in a few sittings, significantly less time than it takes me to get through a quarterly issue of Alpinist.

Witnessing Ari’s emotional transformation from a passive life consumed by whiskey to a self-motivated path forward left me on a high note. Along his journey I relished the most personal moments and intellectual reframes that have shaped Ari’s approach to climbing.

It’s clear Ari is now experiencing a future-pull towards climbing and writing with a renewed freedom. You can feel his energy radiate, as he expresses the intention to help others explore their own passions as well. I closed the book excited for Ari’s future.

Shaded by Stone Cover

Shaded by Stone is available on Amazon and local bookstores.

If you want to read more about how this book came to be, and about Ari himself, check out our interview with him. Otherwise, you can hear from Ari directly on his Instagram (he has some great gear photos!) or Facebook. You can also read more of his writing on his website.

Heads up! If you’re in Colorado, you can hear Ari speak at an event at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder on March 18th, 2019.

 

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Alison Dennis

Alison Dennis

Alison (she/her) runs WeighMyRack from her 17' travel trailer. She is currently touring the US and would love if you contacted her to meet up to talk about climbing, climbing gear, or if you have any fun and/or ridiculous adventure in mind.

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