Blog posts older than about 15 years.
Throwback — to the ancient days of 1996, and subsequently from the archives of WildSnow. I’d finished skiing down all the Colorado fourteeners just a few years before. With a six-year-old child at home I’d transitioned to another chapter of life. Actually, transitioned is the wrong word, too gentle. It was more like I’d dragged myself by my own neck, moving from an entirely self-centered existence to being a husband and father (I can’t say I was a saint in that regard, but I tried). I was writing a column at the time, for Couloir Magazine. The words just spilled out. A little risky, writing philosophy when my normal beat was opinionated verbiage about gear. But people seemed to like it. Let us know what you think. -Lou
Eventually the question will pop. A friend, workmate, or spouse will ask: Why, when we’ve created a society where one can exist with an incredibly low level of physical risk, do we mountaineers purposefully place ourselves in harms way? Why do we stretch to the limits of our stamina and sometimes risk our lives climbing and skiing mountains, when chairlifts and gondolas provide comfort? Why do we careen back down at speed instead of enjoying a safe and stately plod?
Perhaps your reason lies in the rewards of learning and mastery. Perhaps there is sanctification in piercing the veil of materialism. Perhaps you believe in heaven; perhaps you believe in heaven on earth. Whatever your faith, alpinism trashes morbid connections and plodding complacency. It gives rhythm to a sometimes pointless and scattered life.
I used to count how many rock climbs I could do in a month, how many miles I ran or how many peaks I skied. But I always felt tension between the numbers and less-quantifiable results. My biggest foray into bean counting was skiing down all 54 Colorado fourteeners. I knew such an indexed task would yield rewards — amazing experiences, enhanced career and reputation — but during the process I found it tough to focus on the sterile numeric and overtly material goals. Reaching the summit of a new peak, feeling vast distance beneath my feet, vibrating with the thrum of an edgy turn, muddling through the 1:00 am starts; all these things conspired to a deeper emotional and spiritual involvement. They were powerful experiences, but not because they were successes.