Dealing With the Break: How I’m Preparing for an Epic Winter

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The harness is hung up, the rope is coiled, the tent and sleeping back lie neatly tucked in the corner of my closet. As the snow dominates the Cascades, the fog and cold weather rolls over Seattle, the trails too fragile and snow packed to get very high, it’s a low point in my outdoor life. For experienced snow travelers they’ve started already: Skis and boards in the backcountry, glacier travel, the occasional climb on a semi-dry crag, and waiting for any break in the weather to run, climb, or hike where available. Despite spending the time away from the trails, the anticipation, the training, the planning hasn’t stopped, and I think i’m preparing for one of the most epic winters of my life.

So I’ve temporarily become a city dweller, spending more time within urban boundaries, living a more home-bound life, however I haven’t strayed far away from where I really want to be. In the past few weeks since the last hike of the season, I’ve been recovering from an unfortunately badly strained knee and although I have it bandaged and placed in a brace, i’ve been keeping myself active with any activity that doesn’t add too much pressure. One of the biggest developments of this winter so far is I’ve developed into a much more active boulderer. I’m extremely proud of my climbs this year and I think I was able to take it to a level that I never went to in the southeast. Despite my accomplishments, I feel there’s always room to improve, especially in the way of technique and developing a calmer and much less dynamic style. Hence I’ve ditched the ropes and turned to bouldering all winter and I was positively surprised that despite not taking it seriously for over a year, I could confidently send a V3 and just this past weekend climbed my first V4. My goal is to hit a V5 or higher and to confidently take that over to the ropes as well when next season hits.

What really excites me right now however is the possibility of getting on some real ice over the turn of the new year. As I plan out the list of peaks that i’m scouting to climb, I want to focus on more mixed routes, bigger challenges, and using ice tools and colder, harsher environments. I’ve already selected several programs that i’m going to join, so ice climbing is a very real step up that i’m looking forward to with a lot of anticipation.

The other big event of the last week keeping me excited is finally getting a proper ski education come January. Growing up in Florida, I never had the chance to get on snow aside the odd weekend in Gatlinburg or some lucky trip out west, but taking skiing seriously as a sport was never a possibility, despite how much admiration and how much want I had for it. The last time I skied I was 3, lasted 10 minutes before a tumble on a frozen patch of water ended any hope of blossoming into a true pursuit. I’m not going in with any expectations other than to get the basic skills, practice on my own, and let it develop as my climbing has developed.

So how to stay inspired during these months? How do I keep myself ready for when the weather clears and it’s time to head out again? I’ve spent my nights reading my favorite trip reports, watching the films that first inspired me, talking to an awesome group of adventurers of all sorts via Twitter and Facebook and I have yet to feel anything other than anticipation for some very big events. I’m looking forward to meeting more people in the local climbing community, finding partners to head out to the peaks with, and making Seattle feel more like a home. Of course i’m learning to balance the indoor life with the outdoor life, but there’s so much to look forward to.

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