The mountains are addictive. Personally, I couldn't imagine a life where they were not part of my daily fabric. You'd think after all this time that I'd grow tired of the them, but I don't. Maybe it's the light that penetrates through rock aretes, or the cool breeze that blows off a glacier, or the giant chasms that fall before you and make you feel like a bird. John Muir said "Go to the mountains and get their good tidings." He was spot on. I have never gone into the mountains and felt worse spiritually than when I started. Physically, yes, but not spiritually.
The mountains are dangerous. It's a setting with harsh consequences. To last one must constantly make decision and put ego aside. When the mountains say no, it's imperitive to heed the warning. Yet even then, things happen.
When people ask me what it's like to work at Neptune Mountaineering, I wryly reply, "It's the only place I've ever worked where we have more memorials for people who have died than we do sales." Death becomes the norm. Sometimes I think, to the outsider, a few folks who work at the shop seem blase towards death, but I think that's a coping method. You see a lot of death, you put up a barrier to it.
We had a close call Saturday. A new girl I hired took a 40-foot fall in Boulder Canyon while rock climbing. I don't know details, and even if I did I wouldn't disclose them here. That's her story to tell. She was hurt, badly. Two broken vertebrae in the spine and untold other injuries. She was very, very lucky though. The spinal cord is intact and unharmed. She's young and she will heal. But wow, that's a close call.
Elaine and I just watched a film about Kilian Jornet, who is the best ski mountaineering athlete in the world. He's succeeded in the sport to such a high level that he's won just about every race there is, and is now doing ground breaking projects like traverses across Mount Blanc in one day. The movie talked alot about living life with some risk, and how life is meant to be lived, not protected all the time. That's not an approach to take lightly. Kilian's best friend died during that Mount Blanc traverse, in a completely random occurance. The mountains give so much, and take so much too.
Yet still, we return. The are a massive source of happiness. Not the only one I'm sure, but significant nonetheless. For Elaine and I, an evening run tonight up to the divide. The risk was minimal, with the exception of thunderstorms or a cracked ankle with a misstep, yet it's still there. Everytime you head into the mountains, the risk is there. Stay humble, listen to what they are saying and fill your heart with so much mountain spirit that you become a part of the greater equation. Treat every plant, animal and existing thing up there with respect.
It's a good way to live I think.