Covering the diverse ground between geography lesson, sport journal and anecdotal meandering, these essays all share a passion for life. A passion we tap into whenever possible and celebrate time and again by sharing our stories with others. We hope that reading these essays provides you with insight, amusement and inspiration for journeys near and far, engaging in the environment and exploring your comfort zone. We’ll be adding to this collection throughout the year, so be sure to check back for more.
About a half-century ago, the French mountain guide and author Gaston Rébuffat wrote one of the rare nonpoetic, strictly practical sections of his classic book Starlight and Storm: “Personal equipment should be warm, light, strong and of first-class quality … [it] will be severely tested, and it must be in perfect condition before every climb.”
One-thousand-foot streaks of water oozed down the mass jumble of gray rock like dripping black fangs. Ice chunks floated peacefully by until one landed close by and exploded, spraying us with shrapnel. Clouds rushed overhead, then dissipated as they entered the cirque we’d hiked through earlier that morning. We were at 14,000 feet, high on the Diamond, Colorado’s premier big wall.
My red and white umbrella casts a meager shadow over the path; puffs of hot dust lift from each footstep as I lengthen my stride across the flat ground. Around the next corner, I finally see the summit of Kunyang Chish East (24,278 feet), another unclimbed peak in the Karakoram Range of Pakistan.
“Yotei is not a challenging climb. It’s a six-hour walk – no ropes, no crampons. All you’ll need is a pair of snowshoes and a couple of Asahis,” my husband assures me. He knows mentioning my other love – beer – will help me forget about my fears, if only for milliseconds. “What about Friday’s surf spot? What kind of break is it?”
“I can take you there, but you can’t write about it,” says Dave, looking over a tree-choked mountainside blanketed in 15 inches of fresh. “I dipped down there this morning,” he adds, “you can almost see my skin-track under that cliff.” He points with his pole, a bent one emblazoned with the logo of a ski shop over 2,200 miles to the west.
“Man, I wish my legs weren’t so smoked,” my ski partner Arne Backstrom smiled as he articulated the thought blaring in my head. I might not have known it then, but this was about to be the run of my life; the day we finally got to leave our tracks on the Aiguille Verte’s Couturier Couloir, and nothing – not even tired legs – would stop us.
There it is. A shot of powder so pristine, I almost feel guilty tracking it up. There’s no point in looking over my shoulder—no one is there. I could never explain exactly how to get here: A few turns, a traverse, a side step, a tree duck and then it opens up. A magical alleyway. My stash.