In Praise of Climbing Mountains

“So there I was,” halfway up a frozen headwall, skis slung over my shoulder, praying the 40 mph winds don’t throw me off balance enough to send me sliding into the heap of jagged boulders far below and over the precipice. My partner was below me somewhere, I hoped, trudging up the same slope toward the small ledge that promised a modicum of shelter. The snow washed past my headlamp, rendering any sight of him impossible, and the wind quickly engulfed my calls. We were all alone, together, working toward a goal that could certainly get the better of us.

“Why climb?” That question has been asked of everyone who goes vertical more than once. George Mallory famously responded, “Because it’s there…”; a seemingly flippant reply from a man who would eventually end his climbing days forever on the side of Mt. Everest. In reality, that was the only response he could muster for those who had no experience of what he did. Why take the risk? Why choose misery over comfort? Why push yourself to such limits when it could end so badly? Because, once you’ve been there, you’re fundamentally changed.

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The Subtle Extravagance of Nature

I was woefully unprepared to become a father. The youngest of four boys, nurturing didn’t come natural to me. My daughter’s entrance into the world five years ago was dramatic and powerfully enduring. She was a fussy baby. My wife and I were always jealous of parents who could leave their child in the car seat for hours on end. Our nightly routine included three hours of bouncing and singing in a tireless rotation until the crescendo of crying finally dropped off and we all fell in the bed exhausted.  Everyday we’d try new methods of soothing our little one, but nothing seemed to work consistently. As I became less embarrassed about my lack of parenting skills and my daughter’s screaming, I began to strap her in the baby carrier and stroll to a park in the neighborhood, baby sirens blaring. It was then that I noticed a pattern. Almost always, soon after we stepped outside, the crying would stop.

She was mesmerized.

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