Cosmic Dreams

For three hours the only sound was the glacier beneath our feet and the occasional deep exhale. We had been moving since 10:00 PM the day before. It’s 1:00 AM somewhere on the col of Patience. Our headlamps only light 100 feet in either direction, the moonless sky exposes an array of stars beyond the comprehension of even the most capable imagination. Of the light from the billions of stars, I, a small human, shine a light deep into the vast darkness of our universe.

On one of trillions of planets, I am on earth standing at the foot of one mountain. That mountain is Cerro Tore. For three hours I have walked towards its looming headwall, unable to see its unfathomable mass. My partner and I gaze into to the encompassing darkness, humbled by how small we are. Although we stand within an amphitheater spreading millions of light-years, we have meaning and we have purpose. We are not simply on a stage; we are in our place. We are allowed to see the validity of the universe; the mountain is letting us in.

We have spent the last two weeks waiting out bad weather in El Chalten. We came to Patagonia with one objective: Cerro Torre. The whole trip seemed to be a loss: monster winds, rime ice, and snow for two weeks. Four days before we were scheduled to take the bus back to Santiago, the only weather window of the season opened. It was a three-day window; perfect.

There was not margin of error, we left that afternoon and we haven’t stopped since. We can’t. Our goal is to charge up a route attempted by a group of Italians years ago – directly up the center of Torre’s inconceivably massive face. The next five hours will be spent trying to beat the sun up the lower pitches to the headwall.

We take one last look at the sky and then at each other. We know each other too well. We know what needs to be done. We know each other’s every move. Trust is not a strong enough word for the bond between two climbing partners. We pick up our tools knowing that we are about to embark on the adventure that has consumed our dreams countless nights.  Under a cosmic sky we pursue cosmic dreams, together.

 

The Fleeting Glimpse

Life has a balance between dreams and reality. Reality being the status quo, dreams being a desired status quo. Balance lies in between reality and dreams.

Motivation is the fleeting glimmer connecting perceived reality to dreams. it is not something that is necessary understood: it is there or it is not. Searching for motivation is, in essence, chasing after the wind. Accepting motivation’s ghostly nature requires a certain amount of faith and a reasonable bout of patience. Motivation is the constant reminder that dreams are attainable, keeping us from the mundane. It is the darkness that allows us to see the stars.

It is all so difficult, so taxing to realize where motivation lies and how it drives us to reach our goals. To obtain a genuine amount of motivation is a relenting task; a daunting feat of the mind. Insofar, motivation is meant to disturb, it is meant to drive one from a life of conformity – a life void of meaning. Humans have a natural tendency to desire a life of self-defined extravagance; yet, humans are also plagued by the inability to commit to the conditions that would lead them to such a life. Humans, naturally, desire to conform.

My dreams and my reality are at a point where they could intertwine; it doesn’t take much. One successful expedition, one unsurmountable summit is all it would take to loft me into the world of my dreams. I spend my days writing about mountains and dreams of climbing them, what I consistently avoid is what is going on inside my own head. Each day I walk through life with a war raging within my mind: my dreams battle with reality. I sit back as if it is a stage, watching to see the outcome; who will win in this battle royal of normality vs. my dream scape hyper-normality.

The truth is, I know who will win. If I continue to sit back and watch, normality will take over and my dreams will forever remain dreams. The battle is in my mind; it is within myself. Whichever side I chose to embrace will win. If I truly desire to obtain my dreams, then I must allow them to take hold of me. I must let my dreams consume me and define who I am and what I do. If my dreams are the path that I am supposed to follow, then it is the path that I shall walk. Dreams should only remain dreams for a little while. Eventually, you need to turn them into your reality.

 

Savage Dreams

They are the things that keep me up at night. Honestly, they terrify me; they consume me, drive me. They are not comforting, but unsettling. Their inner sanctum shrouded with suffering and fear. To most, this is the description of a nightmare; to me, this is the essence of my dreams.

I dream of mountains. Mountains that ravage you. Mountains that debilitate your mind before you can reach its looming flanks. Mountains that break down your body and amplify every weakness until they destroys you. Some would ask why dream of these things? Why suffer?

To me, the mountain is the ultimate dream, the ultimate objective. When your body has been demolished and your mind broken, you are open; here you can be pure. You are humbled at the foot of a great creation. Your mind has been opened and the wisdom of the mountain may flow in. You understand that you are small; yet, you have a place.

Here you are broken and can see into yourself. You see your flaws and how they destroyed you. More importantly, you see your strengths and how they drive you.

Climbing mountains terrifies me because I know that I am weak. I know that I will be destroyed. The mountains of my dreams slowly dissolve the barriers I have built up in my mind. The barriers I placed to protect myself from change; barriers that keep me comfortable.

The truth is, I’m not comfortable. I am afraid. This is why I climb mountains: because I am afraid. Mountains break down my fear. They show me who I am inside, behind all my barriers. They humble me and put me in my place. They drive me. They grind in my strengths and grind out my weaknesses.

Mountains are teachers. Mountains are sanctuaries for those of us who are hurting and afraid. Mountains are great cathedrals carved in rock and ice that speak to the soul. Mountains are the essence of my dreams.

Coming Up

There is a little bit of a give and take with travel and adventure writing: to write, you need to experience life; experiencing life makes you, well, busy. Which is okay long as you have an outline and a plan for the things you would like to write. Alas, I have said plan!

I watched a great video of filmmaker Mathieu Le Lay scrambling around in the alps (check out the video here). He talked about how working on personal projects helps him reconnect and expand creativity. I’m trying to do the same.

Plans always have a better chance of succeeding when you share your plan with others. So, here is my plan and what I’m working on.

Gear Reviews:

I got quite a bit of new gear for trips I took over the summer and for trips I plan on taking in the coming months. I have also been sent some gear to review on said trips. Here is what is in line to be reviewed.

  • Hedgehog Tactical First Aid Kits – Hedgehog Tactical sent me one of their unique first aid kit that I have been able to put through the ringer over the last two months.
  • Mountain Hardwear Hueco 35 – The new crag pack that spent four weeks in constant use and has taken the beating quite well.
  • La Sportiva Xplorer – Six days in the alpine of Washington and two solid days of (attempted) peak bagging in the Oregon Cascades all synthetic approach shoes have some awesome features worth raving about.
  • Mammut 10.2 Gravity Dry 70m – Some may say a rope is a rope, this is not your ordinary rope.

Stories:

I went on a six day climbing trip to Leavenworth Washington in early September, which has produced several essays and numerous photographs. Much more on this trip will be coming within the next few weeks.

Thank you all for reading. Get out there and breath the mountain air.

Tales and Stories From Far Off Lands

The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually –their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on –and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same –like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?

 

Sure, stories of the great alpinists, mountaineers, and explorers captivate us and drive our own quest for a life greater than the mundane; yet, why do we treat these stories as far off possibilities beyond that of us ordinary mortals? Jim Wickwire’s impromptu bivy 450 feet below the summit of K2. Mikey Schafer’s “accidental” first ascent of one of the Sky Line Peaks of Fritz Roy (watch the FORCE here). Alex Honold and Tommy Caldwell nabbing the first ascent of the Fritz traverse (watch here). Emily Harrington scoring an amazing ascent of Golden Gate on El Capitan (watch one of the most pure climbing vids I’ve ever seen here). Those of us who are not climbing 8,000 meter peaks or 5.14 treat these people as though they are Gods. In reality, the only difference between them and ordinary humans is that they had the tenacity to leave the Shire; 99% of humanity is still setting in the garden smoking pipe weed thinking adventure is for a special kind of person.

Here is the truth about a true adventurer: they are ordinary humans. They just don’t want to spend their short life behind a desk wondering about the vastness of the universe; they get off ass and go see. I guess you could say that they have their priorities straight. This does not mean that you must become a narcissist in order to realize your goals; no, you need balance and a hefty dose of stoke.

The adventurist lifestyle is about living a sustainable life of balance and flow. It’s about realizing that you already make up the stuff people write stories about, you just need to give them a reason to write. Jim Wickwire was an attorney. Alex Honold was not born into a climbing family. Yet, somehow, both of them are among the greatest adventures that ever lived. I think it is time everyone realizes that mythical stories from far off lands are not the deeds of superior humans, all humans are ordinary until they give you a reason to write about them. Leave the garden and give people a reason to write a story.