Remember those chain letters from the days when people used to stuff folded paper in letters and send it off on a two or three day journey to its recipient? You know, the ones that threatened supernatural consequences if you broke the chain? I got one of those from a friend when I was in middle school, and as my mom wouldn’t let me waste ten stamps to follow the instructions in the letter, I broke the chain. Nothing bad ever happened as a result, so I’m going to tempt fate and do the same thing again.
Sarah Anne Perry of the blog Eat & Climb nominated me for an award that involves answering eleven of her questions, and then coming up with my own questions and choosing three blogs to interview. I’m generally not interested in that kind of thing, so I always ignore or turn down any queries. However, I read the questions she came up with, and I found them intriguing. They made me stop and really think, so while I’m not going to pass the award on, I decided to go ahead and post the Q&A session here.
What keeps you outside?
Discipline. I’m a very lazy person by nature, and I could easily waste an entire weekend online or in front of the television. I occasionally need a day like that, or even a week of being a couch potato after a big trip, but as a lifestyle I know that’s not healthy. That’s why I don’t have internet access or TV service where I live – if it’s not there, I can’t be tempted to waste time on it.
What got you outside in the first place?
I grew up outside a tiny town on more than 100 acres of woods and farmland. We didn’t have cable TV or video games, so we five kids were always outside running around (and if we tried to stay inside, our parents would kick us outside so we didn’t tear the house apart). There was nothing to climb except trees, but we all did plenty of that.
What’s the most miserable you’ve ever been on an adventure?
A number of planned and unplanned bivouacs come to mind, although I think there is one clear winner. When I was 19 and living in Bozeman, I hitchhiked up into Hyalite Canyon to spend a couple days soloing some moderate ice routes. That night, the temperature dropped well below zero (almost 35 degrees F below the forecast low), and my paper-thin bivy sack and cheap summer-weight sleeping bag proved to be woefully inadequate. I was shivering uncontrollably by midnight and I didn’t really want to die of hypothermia, so I packed my gear and started walking the 15 miles back to cell phone reception. I warmed up after a few miles, but I was wearing brand new ice climbing boots and they didn’t fit properly. By the time I had good enough cell service to call my sister, my feet were bleeding and I laid down on my pack on the side of the road and waited for her to come rescue me 🙂
Have you learned any “enduring life lessons” outside?
Yeah. I’ve lost several friends and acquaintances in the mountains, and most of them were young. At the risk of sounding like an old man, I’ve learned that it’s better to play it safe and live to climb another day.
Of course, the flip side of that statement is that any time you play in the mountains, you accept that certain objective hazards that can kill you are out of your control. Then it’s a personal decision of whether or not the reward is worth the risk.
Did you play sports as a kid?
Baseball and soccer, although I wasn’t particularly great at either.
Best gear purchase?
Unquestionably my Petzl Nomic ice tools. I’m not sponsored by them in any way, I promise. They just happen to make what I think is the best all-around ice tool on the market. Drytooling, mixed climbing, ice climbing, alpine climbing, my Nomics do it all.
Biggest gear regret?
I decided (in the aftermath of a very messy breakup and while highly intoxicated) that, despite having never run a race, I was going to run an ultramarathon. I signed up for a 50K trail race, bought new running shoes, and ordered a $200 GPS running watch, all while drunk and brimming with naive confidence. I think I used the watch three times before realizing that I am just not a distance runner (and that I in fact HATE running long distances), and now it is gathering dust somewhere on my gear shelf.
That $200 could have been 3.4 new ice screws…
Jetboils: overrated or actual magic?
Actual magic. They have their limitations (mainly cold and wind), but I won’t carry anything else when I’m climbing. After I learned to bring a homemade foil wind shield and keep the fuel canister warm in my sleeping bag at night, I’ve never had a problem with it.
How do you feel about fruit leather?
I don’t know what that is…
What is something that all outdoors-people can be better about?
Rant time. Stop treating the great outdoors like it’s your personal gym. Leave it wild, leave it untouched, leave some sense of adventure for the kids 500 years from now. Stop bolting here there and everywhere just so you can be the first to climb something.
Adventure dogs or adventure babies?
DOGS. One of my life mottoes is “No Babies.” I don’t have a problem with kids – I love my extremely cute eight nieces and nephews – but I do know I couldn’t live my current lifestyle if I were responsible for a helpless, pooping, crying, money-draining Mini-Me. As soon as I settle somewhere in the mountains and I know I’m going to be there for a while, I’m getting a husky.