A Question of Balance

I’ve been finding it difficult to write about climbing these days. After visiting the Outdoor Retailer show, it felt petty to post up about a bunch of climbing gear when so many issues of greater importance were dominating the news.

It’s also been hard not to get sucked down the bad-news rabbit hole each morning, following links posted on Facebook and reading stories from the major news sites. (I’ve also been comparing articles on CNN to those on Fox News to see how differently each place covers the same story, a very interesting exercise if you have the time.)

In addition, it’s been a snowy winter, so I haven’t touched real rock since Thanksgiving. I came into this winter motivated to get out as much as I could, but the few good weather days haven’t lined up with my schedule and so here we are. I’ve had a few days out on the ice, but it’s been so warm (#climatechangesucks) that the local ice was only safe for a short period of time, and now I wouldn’t go anywhere near the little that’s left.

All of this has added up to adventure being pushed to the background in my life. Thankfully, the dry spell came to an end this last week when I got to take a group of students into a hut in the Elk Mountains. It was a busy week of preparation, and so I didn’t have time to stay caught up on the news. On one hand, I was scared to think about what I was missing, but on the other it was a relief to not to be so wrapped up in wondering if today was the day the world would end at the hands of the angry orange man-boy.

Evening light on Taylor Peak.

Evening light on Taylor Peak.

Going into a hut is always a refreshing experience, as life distills down to the basics. Put wood on the stove for warmth, melt snow for water, make meals with the food we packed in and chase turns during the day. This trip was part of an avalanche education course, and we got to see a few interesting things in the snowpack, as well as ski some great terrain. Exploring the mountains in the winter on skis is such an efficient method of travel and I’m always amazed at the ease with which you can move around the winter landscape.

We had a motivated crew and on our first touring day, they were all down for one last lap on a slope we hadn’t yet laid tracks into. As we ripped our skins at the top and prepared to shred, the sun broke through the clouds and a soft, pinkish-orange light played across the gendarmed ridges of Castle Peak in the distance. It was a show of epic grandeur, and none of us wanted to leave while it was playing out. All too soon, we reluctantly succumbed to the rumbling in our bellies and the promise of a warm meal at the hut in the darkening valley below.

iPhone 5, not so great at capturing the magic that was happening at this moment. Had to try though.

iPhone 5, not so great at capturing the magic that was happening at this moment. Had to try though.

Later in the trip, we got the crew up above treeline into an alpine wonderland. Craggy peaks, snowy chutes and epic ridgelines surrounded us, making us feel small while at the same time fueling dreams of future adventures. That night I stood outside the front of the hut, watching the full moon illuminate the surrounding peaks and wispy clouds that raced across a backdrop of crystalline stars set against an indigo sky.

And in this blissful moment, everything felt ok. This simple life, the need for adventure, the need to disconnect. Yes, there are very real problems we are facing right now, and running away isn’t the answer to any of them, but that doesn’t mean we should stop doing the things we love, the things that bring joy and meaning to our lives.

It doesn't get much better than this.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

Like so many, my bubble came bursting apart the night of November 8th, but also like many, I’ve been driven into action, and my hope grows each day as I see a powerful tide rising up with people finding their voices and ways to fight back.

We have a long and arduous road to get things moving in a positive direction, but I believe adventure still has a place in it all, a place in any balanced life. And that also gives me hope, and maybe I can even start writing about climbing again.

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