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.
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?
To everyone who supported Mike Off The Map in 2014, thank you for your support, for the readership, for making these adventures and these experiences real. We’ve already started planning big for the next year, and in the next few months, I’ll be announcing several big surprises and a “secret project” that I aim to fulfill next summer. Keep dreaming and keep living big.
I was only 15 minutes from the summit. That’s what those two other guys we had passed had told me. In the faint distance, between a swirling hurricane of ice, the wind knocking me off my feet, and my ice axe disappearing into an abyss of endless powder, was the summit ridge. But I knew our location was the end of the line. In my head, I was terrified. I couldn’t see how far I was from careening off the edge of the trail, but I was putting all my might forward to persevere. That’s when our climb leader made the call:
We’re turning around.
I felt the judgmental eyes of my teammates, the ones who had been going strong, and here I am. The rookie. The one that ended our climb. That was story of my first attempt on Rainier in May of 2012. It was my first brush with what is an unfortunate, but necessary consequence of our work.
Failure is what no-one likes to talk about. The stories people love are about the successes, not the “almost made it”. While we live to fight another day, those lost moments, those last steps, and those small factors that can make or break an objective will drive an adventurer mad with passion and wanting. We have to fail in order to move forward. While I love talking about majestic windswept summits, smiles from the top, and celebratory moments, I’m going to explore the other side. The stories that have to be heard. The failures.
If there is one item in my closet that I cherish above all others, its my collection of puffy jackets. Whether I’m on a cold belay ledge, snowshoeing through the backcountry, or commuting to work on cold, short, November Seattle days, my puffys keep me toasty and dry all day long.
When the North Face told us they were sending their Thermoball Jacket to take on the last of the seasons high mountain adventures, I was stoked. It’s a jacket that so far I had only heard good things about, and as we traversed a long, windy ridge in Central Washington, it held up to its reputation.
What makes the Thermoball such a coveted piece of my collection?