Recently, I was asked a question that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It seems strange that as someone who spends as much time in the mountains as I do I hadn’t really thought about it before:
How do you train?
Truth is, I don’t. So how can I call myself athletic if I’m not at the gym pumping weights, on a jumprope, using complicated machines, paying a monthly fee, or grunting for life with every breath? Because after a year of big climbs, intense hikes, and spending every moment that I can on the trail, I’ve come to realize that there’s no such thing as training. You’re either climbing or you’re hiking, spending a part of the day outside, or you’re not. When I think of the word “activity” the root of the word is right there: “active” and for me, that’s all I really need.
Getting ready to kick off at Stevens Pass
As much as I was always fascinated with climbing when I was growing up, I was just as fascinated with skiing. My one and only experience came when I was three years old in upstate New York. It resulted in a 10 minute slide down a small hill that didn’t even reach the bunny slope, and a flight into a frozen patch of ice which resulted in tears and a scratched face. It was clear, especially since we moved to Florida years after, that skiing was never going to be a part of my life. Still the more people I was meeting in the outdoor community, the more prevalent it seemed to me, and in mountain sports, it was exactly the direction I wanted to go. Sure I had tried snowboarding over the span of a grand total of four days on small trips in college, but watching the skiers elegantly carving out deep grooves in the snow and coming to such a smooth stop I decided right then and there what it was I wanted to actually do. It also didn’t help that this was around the time I was obsessively watching ski films in between documentary marathons, and studying the movement, the posture and the sheer size of the hills these guys were hurling themselves down, I was inspired. So I’ve joined a full alpine ski course taught through the Washington Alpine Club. In only two weeks, I’ve progressed at a level that I never imagined, and I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.
Using trekking poles especially on uneven and rocky terrain is a preventative measure against unwanted pain.
For the last three months I’ve been dealing with often debilitating knee pain after hikes. It happened in October after coming off of Gothic Basin and it happened again two weeks ago at Rattlesnake Ledge. The uphill for me is always the easiest as I’m putting less pressure on my joints, but after the break, it would swell and then the downhill where I’m putting a ton of pressure on my knee would make it become stiff, unbearable, and the symptoms were often lasting for days. It’s safe to say that the last few days were a bit worrying as I began to think of the consequences of missing out on the upcoming climbing and hiking season. Remarkably as I write this the pain seems to have mostly subsided and I’m feeling optimistic again, so I wanted to share my experience in dealing with this common injury.
Courthouse Wash Petroglyphs
A few weeks ago, a group of hikers and adventurers through Twitter had a chat about some of the biggest problems that were facing public lands. Among the issues of not having enough money or having enough volunteers, a very underreported problem arose. The destruction and defacing of ancient Petroglyphs. The Petroglyphs are pieces of Native American art and lore carved into the sandstone faces in Utah and the gray granite of the Pacific Northwest. These galleries of ancient art are unprotected, unguarded, and numerous times have faced defacing, destruction, and unrestored exposure to the elements, threatening to destroy thousands of years of human history. I’d like to bring to light the case for protecting and restoring these spectacular natural galleries.
The trail at Rattlesnake Ledge
The echo of my steps reverberated across the trail. I’ve never been able to take running seriously but today I had a steady rhythm, a great pace, arms loose, counting each breath, every single thought of the last few days racing through my mind, and somehow today I was an expert. I broke out of the forest into the meadow under bluebird skies and ran along the cliffside over Elliot Bay, a white mist settling along the edges of the horizon and obscuring the mountains and the islands. I kept my eye on the ferry’s and sailboats as they crisscrossed across open water until I ran up the last hill and down the stairway that led to the beach. I opted to run on the sand, as it sunk under my shoes giving me extra friction and motivation to run towards the lighthouse in the distance. That was my midway, that was where I was going to sit and think things out. For the first time in three months I had that Friday to myself, and I had the freedom to start things over.
If you’re like me and don’t have access to snowshoes, can’t tell the difference between ski bindings, and still have never swung an ice tool, winter can be a lonely and desolate time for the adventurer. While the powder enthusiasts run down the slopes, I’ve been getting myself ready and inspired for my own experiences by visiting the books that first excited me, the films that made me follow my heart, and the people whose adventures I had memorized from all those National Geographics so long ago. The fall and the winter is the time when all the big outdoor studios roll out their top films, shot all over the world, in a variety of situations, employing the top athletes to demonstrate their ability and allow the rest of us to dream and plan our ultimate challenge. Recently, through some friends via Twitter, I discovered some extraordinary films on ice that have only solidified the life choices that I’ve made, and just like the one that first inspired me to climb, these inspire me to think even bigger.