Mountains evoke a sense of strength, solidity, immutability and permanence. Being from the prairies, I tend to prefer an uncluttered horizon but mountains continue to attract and fascinate me.
Our Canadian Rockies are miniature compared to the Himalayas or even the Andes but they are beautiful nonetheless. Mount Robson at 3954 m is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.
Working at a northern fishing camp was quite an adventure. I liked exploring through the bush, seeing what I could find. New to the camp, I followed this one trail for miles and found out later that it lead to where they dumped the bear bait. It was probably a good thing I turned back when I did. Working 14 hours a day, I didn’t have much time to enjoy the amenities. I did go fishing once, not catching one of the 52 inch monsters but a only small lake trout. I also got to ride in the float plane with some very inebriated lodge guests. Luckily, the pilot of was sober. Being one of a few females in a predominantly male environment is an adventure in itself. Most of the conversation revolved around fishing and hunting accompanied by a lot of drinking. As one of the fishing guides succinctly put it,”Work, drink, repeat.”
Mountain climbing seems like the ultimate adventure to me. Like many armchair mountaineering fans, I got hooked on the topic after reading Into Thin Air and Eiger Dreams by John Krakauer. I also read an adventure anthology with stories of famous ascents of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.
Although it might be losing cachet due to increasing commercialism, I am fascinated by Mount Everest. Actually reaching the summit (29,029 ft above sea level), must indeed seem like you are on the roof of the world. (If you can survive the death zone, that is.) “Because it is there,” replied George Mallory when asked why he sought to climb the world’s tallest mountain. In June 1924 Mallory, along with Sandy Irvine, were attempting to reach the summit of Everest. Last seen climbing the northeast ridge, they both disappeared and it is not known if they ever reached the summit. Mallory’s body was found in 1999. Everest might be the tallest but it is not the most dangerous, according to many experts. The Matterhorn, the Eiger, Annapurna, K2, Mont Blanc, Mount Vinson and other peaks have all claimed lives yet people love challenges and keep on trying. There is that quest, that determination to conquer something – why not a mountain?
I think if I was to take up mountaineering, I would have to start with something much, much, much smaller like Kilimanjaro. I would have the achievement of completing one of the Seven Summits. (The others being the highest peaks of the 7 continents: Everest, Aconcagua, Denali, Elbrus, Vinson, Carstensz) Taking a mountaineering course would probably be the wisest option to get started. To participate in this sport, you need to know what you are doing as the wrong move could mean your life.
“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ~ Sir Edmund Hillary
Not to worry, the closest I will ever get to Everest is a casual acquaintance who made it to base camp and a friend who is from Nepal. Along with other plans of derring-do, making it to Base Camp is definitely on my bucket list. Climbing mountains is the sine qua non of adventure but it is beyond the reach of most of us. Not to mention being expensive, it would require peak physical stamina and mental fortitude. Not something you want to try if you are out of shape or lack persistence. I work out nearly every day but something tells me that is not enough.
Anyway, I have to be content with everyday, prosaic adventures like trying to walk (on this city’s icy streets (this is where crampons would come in handy!) in the winter or navigating the Costco parking lot on a Saturday morning. With a certain amount of imagination and requisite curiosity, everyday life can be an adventure – you just have to know where to find it.