Lauren walking between Boulder and Lyons
I’ve always searched for adventure on the grandest scale possible. I like days where I wake up from a tent on a remote ridge. Mornings halfway up an ice wall on the way to the summit. An afternoon traversing a canyon, getting lost between the cracks, and an evening sitting with a friend, watching the sun bathe the landscape in a wash of golden light. I’ve always believed I should be living as out loud as possible, dreaming the impossible and testing myself against the elements, that simplicity escaped me. I was living in a world of expensive gear, plane tickets, alpine starts, and hikes in the most spectacular places on Earth which took days just to get to.
Inspired by the idea of Microadventure, and the British traveler Alastair Humphreys, my friend Lauren pulled me into an excursion that was so simple in execution, yet so bold and ambitious that I couldn’t say no. Her plan was to launch a series of microadventures: human-powered sunrise to sunset trips promoting the idea that adventure should be cheap, ambitious, and accessible to everyone. Her plan was to hike from Boulder to Estes Park in a single day. 36-miles, 13 hours, and 3,600-feet of elevation gain. It was both a bonding experience, and a reversal in the way that I view adventure: Not just looking for beautiful places, but testing our mettle and our spirit.
Exploration has become so routine that it’s been almost forgotten in today’s age. A major expedition may make headlines in a climber’s world, but it’ll make the back page of a website or newspaper, usually hidden somewhere in the Sports section. In the Golden Age of Himalayan mountaineering, the world held with bated breath, the news that a major 8,000-meter peak had been conquered by their country. It was a source of pride, inspiration, and immense joy because it was an example of what the human body was truly capable of. We weren’t just living in this world, we were exploring it.
This past January, when climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen were completing a passion project on the Dawn Wall in Yosemite, it caught the attention of the media, a rarity in a niche sport, who covered it so extensively, that the final pitch was streamed live through major news sites. With the attention came the inevitable barrage of criticism: “Slackers”, “Attention Wh**es”, “Get a job”, “He’s a father?!” and as much excitement as there was through the adventure community, for many others, there wasn’t any payoff and no knowledge or scientific gain, so thus, it was insignificant.
We’re told nowadays that we’ve climbed every last peak, seen the last area on every continent, and we seem to know and understand our world pretty well. Why keep sending men to space when we have robots? Why not use that same method to see our ocean? Exploration is pretty much dead isn’t it?
We need to look at exploration not as new, but as different.
The Longs Peak / Mt. Meeker massif
“Let’s go climb Mt. Meeker this weekend! It’ll be fun! We’ll do it for your birthday!”
My friend Anh’s excitement was contagious as she described the 13,000-foot peak that she wanted to climb for by birthday. Mt. Meeker may not be a Colorado 14er, but it’s a jagged ridge across a couloir from Longs Peak with a long, icy, committing ascent. Our plan was to camp directly on a ridge overlooking Chasm Lake and set off early the next morning for a sunrise summit. While the route does get technical in small sections, we wanted to climb fast and light, forgoing a rope for ice axes, crampons, and minimalist packs. What I thought was a simple hike actually turned out to be a full-on alpine experience, the type that I absolutely love. We’d be ascending the steep couloir and veering left to gain the serrated knife-ridge leading us to a jagged summit. We even had a couple small bottles of champagne to celebrate my birthday while watching the sunrise.
And what a learning experience it was.
Well the big news is that I no longer reside in the Pacific Northwest. A desire to expand my creative, vertical, and outdoor life has brought me to friends in Boulder, Colorado to rediscover my climbing, my writing, and my love for the mountains. After a turbulent past few months, I’m finding old friends, connecting with new people, training and finding my fitness again, and making big plans for the rest of the year.
Tubbs Snowshoes Alps XL Trekking through Rocky Mountain National Park – Photo by Anh Thai
I am a converted snowshoe believer.
In January, I was invited to spend the first day of 2015 in ice-glazed valleys of the Mountain Loop Highway. I didn’t have a pair of snowshoes and my experience was limited at best to a jaunt with friends last March. Compared to my climbing and hiking exploits, snowshoeing wasn’t a sport that was at the forefront of my mind. Seeing that ski season was starting off disappointingly slow, it was a great opportunity to cut some fresh trails and see how steep I could get on ice. I reached out to Tubbs Snowshoes and asked if I could borrow a pair. Within the weekend, I had a pair of Tubbs Flex Alps’ and while I was only going to use them for this one trek, they ended up doing so much more. So here’s the general roundup:
These. Things. Are. Awesome.
How do you define your passion?
Are you a hiker, climber, skier, and mountaineer? Or do you simply wrap them under “adventurer” and “outdoor enthusiast”?
What experience and what at what level of mastery are you allowed to proclaim that title?
A few days before Christmas, I was in a Seattle coffee shop with my friend, Beth (of 3 Up Adventures) and a question came up that I hadn’t thought of before:
What am I?
I consider myself a climber overall because I’ve put passion and knowledge into my practice. Do I have the right to call myself an “alpinist” if I haven’t achieved the mastery of the sport but I put my whole heart into my development?
This isn’t about assigning a name or a title. An adventurer is “a person who enjoys or seeks adventure.” This about using outdoor experiences to define one-selfs abilities and passions.
So what is in a name?