One of my favorite NOLS instructors left our course with a short piece of wisdom- “Climb things that inspire you.”
This past weekend was dominated by a commitment to shuttle some friends to their put-in for a rafting trip on the Salmon River, and while I wasn’t able to convert the trip to Idaho into climbing anything big, I was able to exploit the opportunity for a little spontaneous adventure. My weekends this summer are filling fast, and none of my Missoula friends were free to get dragged into a 200 mile shuttle mission, so I found myself outside North Fork, Idaho yesterday morning with no plans, no partners, and staring at the continental divide.
I realized these were the Idaho side of some of the mountains that had caught my eye when I drove the Big Hole valley in June. Rarely do I find myself without a plan, but it felt fun to let the mountains inspire me, and the plans to follow. I didn’t have a map of the region, and hadn’t done any research, but honestly it didn’t matter. GoogleMaps on my phone got me to the base of an old jeep trail, and my feet took care of the rest. Sometimes not knowing where you are going takes you to places even better than what you might have planned for.
I left the car at 5,400′ with a light pack of bivy gear and and angst to get out. 4.5 hours later I had ticked two summits over 10,000′ and found the perfect bivy spot. Before I left, my loose plan was to tick as many summits as possible in 24 hours, but my fractured foot wasn’t up to it, and frankly I’m a little out of shape for all day scrambling. My goals shifted to simply play in the mountains until my body said stop.
I had a lot on my mind. My friend Andy left Missoula on Friday afternoon- the depth and strength of our friendship is unquestionable, but his departure left me with some loneliness in my heart.
Work has been racing lately, and while the big picture remains fulfilling, the day to day responsibilities aren’t always pretty. I’m really not looking forward to this week at work, and making peace with how I’ve chosen to spend my time in Missoula requires regular maintenance.
Without a partner, I limited myself to easy scrambling and fast hiking- but the solitude also left me open to explore the loneliness and doubt. Strangely the peace I’ve normally found by pushing hard through beautiful wilderness remained illusive.
After summit number 2, I dug out my bivy gear high on the ridgeline, in prime position for an epic sunrise, and hopefully (unsuccessfully) away from the bugs . There, high on the ridgeline, I remembered how I felt traveling last year- the freedom, the solitude, the joy. I listened to one of my favorite pieces of music, “Entity” by Tim Reynolds, and the vision I have for my life snapped back into focus. Sleep came quickly, and sunrise was as perfect as expected.
Sleeping at altitude left me with a headache in the morning, and with my foot aching, I knew it was time to head for home. For whatever reason, the peace of the previous evening didn’t hold, but the vision I have for my life remained vivid. I enjoyed the hike down, and pushed out the drive home in time for a productive Sunday afternoon.
“Refuse to allow anything to impact the vision you hold for yourself, and the person you seek to become. Whether or not you feel that you are that person in this moment, your vision for who that is, is a real possession that you can find satisfaction in. If you don’t feel like you have a vision for yourself right now, try to create one- chances are it doesn’t include whatever it is that is bothering you. With that vision comes a plan for your life, and inner joy that is rooted in substance.”
A Picture of My Life- 4.22.08