Sunday, November 17, 2013


I rarely suffer for motivation. I get outside a lot. And it always feels good. My default state is to go to the mountains. Even when my own ideas and creativity slow, there's this physically active community I live among to inspire new endeavors. Whether on the clock, chasing my own aspirations, or partnering for fitness and sending, there is ample opportunity to tackle physical and wild objectives. A quick scan of the calendar indicates I've spent 174 days in the wilderness and crags since February 6 of '13. That's out of 284. Or more than 3 out of every 5 days, on average. And that doesn't include "civilized" fitness.  If I worked out in the gym or went running it doesn't "count". This has been a good year, so far, for mountain time. I'll break down the highlights, as I usually do, nearer the end of the year.
Between the Smileys and Ian, I've spent what
 feels like half the year swaddled in down up
 close with these same people.
They're all great people.  No better on earth.  But there's
 more to life than cold wilderness, I've heard.  Mark Smiley photo.

My point here, though, is to acknowledge and embrace the slowed pace I've adopted this late fall.  With all that mountain time other aspects of life have suffered. I've isolated from friends. I've neglected to make new ones. I've had precious little family time. I've been asked a couple times recently what my favorite part of guiding is.  Unequivocally, the answer is "the people." All summer long I spend 2-4 days at a time in an inspiring environment with happy and motivated people. And I get paid for it. Between work binges, my friends want to go to the mountains too. Mountain time is social, its true. But it's different.  We're dirty, out of breath, and facing hazards. We have agendas other than bonding and getting to know one another. I need some social time that isn't on the go. I need social time that isn't stressed by external factors.

Ski touring in British Columbia's coast range.  April 2013.
My body isn't stoked. All of us in this alpine rhythm do too much with our bodies.  For comparison, those training for 100 mile runs (a 20-30 hour effort for anyone other than the elite), a 70 mile week is considered high volume.  Even on 15 minute miles (pretty low intensity), that's 18 hours. Spread through a whole week. There were multiple weeks this summer  and fall where I logged more than 50 hours on the move. It's low intensity movement, for the most part, but it's a body flexing and slogging around nonetheless. My joints do not appreciate this high volume, slogging schedule. I ended up with a case of plantar fasciitis in late summer.  My shoulders are pinched and tight from backpacks and rock climbing and sleeping on the ground. I gain weight when I do that much low-intensity volume.  My energy levels stay low and mental status declines.  I sleep really well and I wouldn't trade the big alpine binges for anything!  But I need a break a couple times a year.

I have basically no schedule. Some days I wake up at 4 am, some days (like today…) at 11am. Some days I wake up in my car, some in a tent, some on a friend's couch, and some in my own bed.

None of this is to complain. In fact, I couldn't be more happy. This has been one of the most accomplished and memorable years of my life. I live well. And I have the luxury of being able to tweak my schedule and priorities. I'm an adult, after all. I'm in control of my own path, and when everything says, "go easier on your body and spend more quality time with people", its an easy voice to heed.  So, what am I doing?

Indian Creek vista.
I am not camping in the backcountry.  I haven't slept more than a hundred feet from a car in over a month.  Carrying a pack, sleeping in lightweight gear, being that far from a community, none of that fits what I need now.  So I'm not doing it.  Partially, its a question of timing.  This is not the season for High Sierra backcountry climbing or Alaskan expeditioning.  But I've taken an active role in shaping my schedule that way.  And I won't camp in the backcountry for the foreseeable future.  For that I am thankful and focused.  Don't get me wrong, with the right opportunity I won't skip a bivy, but I'm not going out of my way to shiver alone.

I went to the Utah desert. In most cases, I feel isolated when traveling away from home.  I miss parties, dinners, and impromptu encounters with friends. However, if anything, Indian Creek this year was more social than staying home in the Eastern Sierra would have been. I've already documented the nature of 'Creek socializing.

Owens Valley running. 
I am exercising with more intensity and less volume.  I am running, cycling, and going to the gym. I am sport climbing and spent almost a month climbing single pitch crack routes in Utah.  I am mustering the discipline to keep it to one "big" day a week.  And the big day can be 6-8 hours.  A normal day of training is 1-3 hours.  My body loves it.  I'm lighter and my joints are stoked.  But it does take discipline.  This eastern sierra community is built around physical activity.  It takes some work to maintain a social life that isn't always at the crags and peaks.  However, thankfully there is now more time for that social life.

I am being more social.  Even in my new home town, the relatively-quiet-for-now, shoulder-season-deserted Mammoth Lakes, there is just enough action to keep me out of my shell and engaged in the scene.  I'm talking with girls, bs'ing with dudes, and remaining up to date on the couple gossip.  I have only attended one board game night, but I hear that's what all the cool kids are doing now.  I even did yoga.
Deer meat and dudes in the grungy Red Fir cabin.  Mammoth Lakes, CA. 
I have attended meetings and slideshows and mass bouldering sessions.  I have hosted and visited.  I am on the phone and Skype and texting more than most teenagers should.  I just got a satellite phone, intending to stay connected to my people even better in 2014.  I'll go "on the road" again in a couple of days.  I'll climb and hang in Yosemite the middle of this week and then fully vacate the mountains for two weeks of family time around Thanksgiving.

Timely FaceTime with laughing faces.  Shooting the shit with Mom and Dad.  

There are times in life to live, and there are times in life to work.  I'm in a "life work" phase here.  Building connections and fitness and health.  I am resting, recovering, and processing.  I have comfortable patterns and habits.  Some of these, regardless of how comfortable they are, need to change. I need to isolate less. I need to embrace commitment and maturity and what it is I want.  I need to work towards what I want in deliberate and organic fashion. I need to structure my fitness and activity to better honor my body.  And I'm on track.

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