Why Do I Climb
I stare out the window and listen to the sounds of birds, but my mind cannot seem to rest in this moment. My thoughts are far away from here, meandering along all the possible futures that are possible from this particular crossroad. I have a vision, but I am standing at am impass in my decision making. Things that once seemed clearly laid before me, now seem foggy and nondescript. I am lost.
This summer has been filled with nonstop adventures into the mountains, both for work and for play. Back to back trips have given me the ability to pack for a 6 day backcountry adventure in under an hour; food and all. I have dialed in my routine for a one day turnaround with a specific schedule for unpacking, doing laundry, food shopping, and repacking. Then, while in the mountains, there is a constant mind chatter about hazard assessment, safety systems, pacing, time management, client care, and everything else, which has somehow numbed me to the deeper thoughts that point at who I am as a person and what it is I am pursuing. I have lost a part of myself in the months I've spent sleeping in a tent the size of a coffin on the flanks of Mt. Baker; and I feel ashamed.
To work and live on a mountain as magnificent as Mount Baker, I cannot grasp what has brought me to feel ungrateful for it. Maybe it is the repitition and monotony of it all, or maybe it is that my back is starting to break down from the heavy loads; Maybe it's the lack of sleep due to long days spent on my feet and in the pouring rain, or maybe it's the friends I've lost this summer to the mountains that I haven't had the time to grieve properly. Whatever the reasoning, this piece of writing is the my first attempt at trying to set things right.
On every trip this summer, I tell my students the importance of reflection, and how time spent in the mountains becomes increasingly more valuable the more we are able to reflect upon the experience and learn from it. This reflection can take the form of constructive criticism on managing risks, or it could be about a lesson that was learned somewhere along the way. The point of it, if nothing else, is to commit the experience to a deeper level of memory. It seems so easy, but when time is not created to reflect, then we tend to forget the experience altogether; or rather it blends one adventure into the next. I admit, that I did not heed my own advice. I have deprived myself of time to reflect and it has scarred me in a way I cannot yet fully express.
One thing though that I have returned to over and over again, is the question, "Why do I climb?" And my answer has changed every time I ask it.
It has changed through my development as a climber, my explorations to new and different types of climbing, my forever evolving perception of risk, and through the sheer amount of time I have devoted to climbing and teaching climbing over the past nine years. This question remains a constant in my life, even though the answer is always changing. It is an important one to address on a very transparent and serious level with yourself, because in all reality, the consequences of something going