By Doug Pierson on March 27, 2008 10:01 AM | Comments (0)
The days have been ticking by, the hours and hours in the gym becoming almost routine. Thirty minutes of bike here; thirty minutes of treadmill there. It almost became mundane until yesterday when I looked at a calendar and was shocked into the realization that I have about five weeks until I’m flying east. Five weeks! Yee cats. That gave me a new sense of urgency and immediately went back to the gym.
Interestingly enough (and maybe the reason I took a look at the calendar), yesterday my good friend Pam Vitaz asked me a simple question: “Why do you climb, Doug?” How many climbers have been asked that question? More importantly, how many have had a reasonable answer? Countless explorers and adventurers over the centuries have been compelled to leave the warm bounds of hearth and home to head afield. Why? It’s truly one of those questions that elicit deep thought in some, casual brush-off in others.
Some examples to The Question: George Mallory — “Because it is there.” Sir Edmund Hillary — “Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons. Science is used to raise money for the expeditions, but you really climb for the hell of it.” John Muir — “Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach.”
My favorite quote — which is more a Golden Rule of climbing — comes from Ed Viesturs — “It’s a round trip. Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.” (until recently I credited this to a guy I climbed McKinley with!)
Spiritually, it makes me feel closer than ever to my grandparents, Sampson (my old Saint Bernard) and God. Hokey, I know. But when you are in an environment where something as simple as a sunrise can make you stop for no reason other than to revel in the majesty of the moment, it is profound. Looking out from thousands of feet above the sleepy day-to-day of cities, highways, town, and the welcoming warmth of our planet — how can you not believe that there is a God? Honestly, it’s just plain that simple.
To me, climbing is more a passion than a challenge. Simply put, I love it. Just you and the mountain, challenging your skills in a place where you have to rely wholly on yourself and in many cases on your teammates. It forms a bond among members rarely seen outside of this environment. It makes you push yourself in ways you didn’t know you were capable of being pushed. You invest more than just time and money — you invest your dedication and spirit in an endeavor not guaranteed. I have always firmly believed that the mountain isn’t going anywhere, and if conditions aren’t right? Turn around. I have done it time and time again, to climb another day, and this mountain will be no different in that respect. But even though being smart about it means you turn around, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel good about not making the top. Sometimes you feel sad, sometimes you feel frustrated. But every time — every last time — that I have turned around, I have still felt a sense of reward about being able to make it under my own power and via my own skills to a place where few have tread.