Thursday, May 07, 2015

Spring Alpinism

Me, Hallett's Chimney, a while ago, thanks Tom for the photo!

Spring always brings a bit of hope for me.

Long, warmer days generate a shift in desire from cold snow floating and long ski tours, to slow, methodic and often panic filled moments of alpine climbing.

Such a strange thing, let's be honest; powder skiing is the best fun you can have in the mountains. Hands down the best. Yup you read that right. I am yet to have a bad time floating on powder. How can you? It is somewhat magical, that simple.

Alpine climbing though, well, that is another story. The approach is hardly ever fun, nor close. The pack always weighs too much. It is freezing leaving the car and then you are sweating immediately. Wind, darkness, getting lost, and the constant wondering if the climb is in condition, if someone has beat you to it, etc. Who wants to do this?

Then you get to the climb and you have it all to yourself and now you might just actually have to climb it. It is cold and tools start to scratch around and crampons scrape and you wonder where the warm up climb, like in the gym, is. Too much gear clanking around, is it the right gear?, why do I even have so much gear (Josh Wharton never has this much in the photos I see of him)?, pack full of belay coat and extra gloves and other junk because the easiest way home is down the other side of the mountain. Does the gear hold in that iced up crack I kinda beat out, should I have used a longer sling, a shorter sling? Is my partner paying attention? Is he stoned again ( I live in Colorado).

Me, Alexander's Chimney, a while ago, thanks Brian for the photo
Then suddenly you are in the swing of things, your mind clears because you have no choice. It must. You must go up and you must apply all of your earned skill and knowledge so that you get the most of the experience. You squeeze every bit of doubt and suffering out of your mind because you packed your bag, you walked the long approach, you put yourself in this position. That, I think, is the beauty of climbing, it mimics the uncertainty of the world, the chaos, the fear and doubt; but you control the only aspect of it that you can - you put yourself there. You chose to do it.

It is rare, but those times that you are pushing your limit and everything is going well and you have completely zoned out all the negatives and self doubt make alpine climbing so much fun. Those are alpinism's powder days. Trust me, they are few and far between, interspersed with hard days that make you reflect on your choices of sport, but when they come they are so sweet.

After a bit of time off (you know if you don't count the trips to Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Alaska, Nepal and all of the days working in Colorado the past year) to get rid of some nagging injuries, I am very excited  for this spring!

Thanks very much for the continued support from SCARPA and CAMP and the new support from RAB (who make some really kick ass alpine climbing clothes, sleeping bags and Tents - remember Integral Designs!!!) I hope to bring you some fun photos and trip reports soon!