The next time you’re planning a trip to the backcountry, your enthusiasm sparked by some glossy coffee-table book picturing snowcapped peaks under perfect blue skies, you would do well to keep in mind whence that glorious snowpack came. It is the nature of mountains to wring from the winds what moisture they happen to be carrying…It can be difficult to admit that spending time in the unspoiled wilds, more often than not means doing time within the walls of a dank nylon cell, tentbound.
Jon Krakauer, Eiger Dreams
I need to make oxygen choices.
This excerpt from Eiger Dreams single-handedly stole away most of my desire to bag a summit, tucking it comfortably under my belt or adding it as a notch on my door frame. I’ve come to realize that many of the things that I once held in high esteem and monitored with great longing, I no longer hold with the same affections…some call this “Getting old”.
Because I’m still young and fighting to cultivate my childhood throughout the duration of my life, similarly to Peter Pan, I don’t think I‘m quite ready to concede my defeat to adulthood. Yet, I do believe that the years have changed me, and one of the agents of this change has been responsibility. I don’t have the same time, free from responsibility and full of whimsy, that I once did.
While it is easy to see this as a restraint, I do not view it that way. The answer is not that I need to quit my job (which I love by the way) and run off to the Himalayas or the Archipelago. The answer, rather, is I need to make time decisions, and the things that will fall by the way side are the many “Adventures” that have been hanging over my head, unrealized, unachieved.
I have realized these no longer define my truest aspirations.
Recently, I went on a road trip to Zuni, NM with some friends of mine. When I say the words “road” and “trip” in tandem, no doubt, many fond emotions of beaches, friends, and glorious fun arise in your soul. But ask yourself, is that really what your roadtrip experience has been like?
Shouldn’t rather the memories also be of long lapses of time spent in confined spaces, restraining your bladder, and eating food from gas stations?
Well, following this trip I chose to be real with myself…I don’t enjoy road trips. I admit it. I don’t. I love traveling, under certain terms and conditions. I love arriving at a new destination and being able to stay comfortably and cheaply with a close friend, enjoying their hospitality and friendship. But rarely, do road trips hold these cherished items. Especially, during your college years.
This brings me to how I identify with Jon Krakauer’s description of the “unspoiled wilds”. In Eiger Dreams, he expresses relief at not having to climb a mountain due to inclement weather as it ensured he would not die in the attempt, and would keep him safely in his nylon cell. When realizing he would actually have to attempt climbing the Eiger’s north face, as weather lifted and the pressure of his partner’s disappointemnt arose, his reaction was, “Sweet Jesus, we’re actually going to have to go up on the wall.”. If I’m honest this is how I feel when I can’t avoid putting myself in an uncomfortable or frightening situation.
Excitement and dread mingle in a mysterious way in the face of risk and adventure, producing both disappointment and relief when plans fall through.
Similarly, I have felt some relief as I no longer feel the pressure to bag a peak, or embark on a life-altering, worldview-changing road trip. I’m quite happy with my life currently, and I don’t know what I stand to find out there that I cannot find much closer around my own corner. Nor do I find I have the time to invest into these things. There are so many things that I enjoy doing, but there are so few things that I can actually enjoy doing well.
Just as a mountaineer must make oxygen choices, due to the thinness of air at higher elevations and the dizzying affect of the altitude, so must we make choices of time. It is impossible to be fully invested in all of the things that seem so worthy of our time, therefore, some pursuits must be deemed inferior or placed in a holding pattern.
This is my farewell address to the desire to climb you. Perhaps one day you will return, but as for now, I no longer wish to do so. If said climbing excursion can be enjoyed in good weather and on a weekend trip not requiring long hours in a tent or car, I will reconsider the firmness of my stance. Until then I will remain….
Note to the reader. This desire to “bag a summit” has returned. Seems some dreams are not so illusory or temporal.