As I am coming off of my second month with CFI, I seem to have a slew of family members and friends floating (or launching) some version of the same question my way: What have you learned from everything you’re doing out in Colorado? And so, I bring to you these 10 points, notably inspired by Anne Lamott’s “12 Truths I Learned From Life and Writing“. (I do encourage you to give that talk a listen and to take it in stride as well.) My 10 points are thus not quite novel, are likely cliché, and are surely incomprehensive – but they are a series of musings on matters I believe to be inexorably true. Perhaps they could be figured out in a variety of settings, but they have been highlighted and enriched by my time spent both scampering and trudging along some of Colorado’s killer trails.
1) Mountains make and mold muscle. Trekking up and down 14er routes will tax your quads, your calves, your hamstrings, and surely your glutes. It will also work the full length of your arms, your core, and yes, your heart. But our bodies were made to move, sense, and strengthen – and all that soreness, stiffness, and woeful lactic acid pooling is mightily worth it.
2) Chocolate bars and granola are not always ideal trail aliments. They are entirely subject to melting and then staining your most favorite fleece and Kindle you believed to be preciously protected in your pack, as well as capable of aiding a crumbly violation of LNT principles. However, they can still be excellent morale boosts and sources of jubilation (particularly the chocolate).
3) You cannot afford to skimp on sun protection or sleep. Please stop trying to work your way around it.
4) We are oh so small.
5) The mountaineering world can still feel elitist. In part, spending time out here has made me aware that I am participating in a bubble realm full of pretty places marked by the peaks we love and many privileged people. That is, even though more women, racial minorities, and people of various socioeconomic backgrounds are taking part in the outdoor recreation industry, there remains a bit of a lurking intimidation factor. Hiking and climbing are indeed risky pastimes that require a certain base of knowledge and technical gear to be safe and courteous – but I think we ought to remind ourselves that the mountains offer us all learning experiences; no one is inherently more or less capable of pursuing mountain feats, and everyone should be encouraged to take on the (albeit steep) learning curve.
6) Not summiting is not shameful. Sometimes it is the greatest thing to head up a peak, pause, chill out, and then just make your way back down. (Particularly working to swiftly place and monitor CFI’s infrared counters, I have had to let quite a few summits go.) It is indeed as we say: The mountains will always be there.
7) It is important to continually adjust and recalibrate your personal sense of challenge and adventure. Along the same lines of physical strengthening, increasing self-awareness, and allowing yourself to operate in big picture thinking mode, this is good. There is a lot out there to see and appreciate – ultimately, get after the activities you enjoy and do your best to find your rhythm.
8) Monday-Friday can be like Saturday and Sunday. Actively getting out in some greenery in search of solitude and/or a thrill mid-week is rejuvenating and valuable. Do not succumb to cramming all of your fun into the 48-hour periods we call weekends. (Try not to be a Weekend Warrior if you don’t have to.)
9) Photos are wonderful; videos are too. When trying to capture your perspective on a mountain (or elsewhere), motion and sound should not always be stunned. Take a few extra seconds to record a bit of the wind, the clacking of your poles, and even the tumbling and further fracturing of scree. Then share and also look back on your snapshots.
10) The mountains are calling in more ways than one. Go out solo, go with a partner, go in a group, and/or go with a work crew. Relish the mountains and still remain aware of how you are impacting the physical landscapes you visit. Do remember to help give back in whatever way(s) you can, and embolden others to do the same.