“I don’t feel ready for this. I know that I’m strong enough and experienced enough not to have any excuse NOT to go, but I don’t feel like I’m really dialed in and confident in my abilities” I said to Rob who was furiously applying upholstery cleaner to his Jeep cover.
Without missing a beat his immediate rejoinder was “That’s awesome. I’m really excited for you–what a great place to be in! You’re going to learn so much up there.” I should have expected this from Rob since he enjoys suffering and has been my mentor in embracing discomfort with unbridled enthusiasm.
I have both longed for and dreaded my time in the Bugaboos in British Columbia. It is without a doubt my favorite climbing area in terms of aesthetics–and always has been since I first became interested in climbing and picked up my first copy of “Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills” and saw those magnificent spires on the cover. That notwithstanding, the “Bugs” have always intimidated the hell out of me because of a variety of challenges they present that I have never felt completely prepared for.
Cold: Big mountains in September aren’t going to feel like summer nights bouldering at the Globe in Zion or cragging at Cerberus. Highs in the low 40s.
Steep approach: 3 hours of hiking and climbing with a big ass pack filled with climbing gear, clothes, camping stuff and camera gear…just to get to basecamp.
Ice and snowfields: So we will be learning a bit about using axes and crampons, glacier travel and the like since accessing the climbs requires crossing icefields.
Committing routes: Once you commit to the first several pitches of most of the routes, your only way down is up. Descents involve routefinding, not simply threading some chains and rapping off.
Fickle weather: It can snow any month of the year. Ridgelines and summits are effectively lightning rods. Metal (found in climbing gear) attracts lightning.
Ah the joys of alpine climbing. So wonderful are they that I almost completely neglect them because I just don’t want to hog all the fun. After spending all night packing up and now charging my batteries, I am trying to avoid that unproductive question of why…because I know there is no ready answer and I can’t second guess myself. Granted I am really really good at second guessing myself–to the point that I can even trick myself into backing off of objectives when deep down I know I can do it.
See? Now diabetes isn’t the biggest baddest thing out there. It’s just a cog in the machine out there that is conspiring against you, waiting for one wrong move in order to strike you down. Im not sure if that’s encouraging or not–and really I don’t care because this is a sliver of what occurs in my mind when I push myself out of my comfort zone. It’s simply part of the conversation. I would be a transparently idiotic blowhard if I tried to pretend that in my mind I was totally dialed in and set on crushing my objectives. Some people (whom I thoroughly envy) have minds like steel traps. They think it and they do it. No questions asked.
I on the other hand question myself to the point that once I run out of monologue to engage myself with, I have no choice but to go up. The voices are still there, but I have to strain to hear them over the wind, whistling in my ears. The doubt is there but I am too gripped to engage it. There is only survival and action.
Climbing in the mountains is very different because speed is safety and moving quickly can be the difference between very different outcomes on a given day. Sure climbing is always filled with objective dangers, but it’s a lot easier to shrug them off when you can approach the climb in flip-flops and rap off at any point to go back to town for a diet soda.
I have set myself up for this kind of thing, and I am thankful that there are people who hold me accountable and remind me of the joy of struggling and the importance of not knowing the outcome. There have been many times during this project where I have lost that vision and have despaired but seeing through the eyes of others allowed me to regain the path. I am hitting my stride again and with that comes the need to push forward and get a little scared. I know that this is my next step even if it is to be a short one as the weather closes in for good at the higher elevations.
Heading north tomorrow. Diabetes is coming along for the ride I guess. I can’t leave it home. Oh. That’s right, I live in a car or on Rob’s couch so technically I have no home. Anyone want to take in a bum pancreas for a couple weeks? No? Fine, looks like its coming with me. Lazy bastard.