Most days are spent hiking from dark to dark. We don’t usually have much time for anything else other than walking. Except thinking – we may even have too much for that. Somedays my mind drifts to the following short article written by a fellow mountain man – Rick Collier. He was one of the most accomplished Canadian mountaineers and climbed all the mountains along the Great Divide from the USA border to Saskatchewan Crossing in Canada. In total he climbed over 1350 summits. He was killed in climbing accident near Jasper two ago at the age of 71. Like Rick, I also struggle with organized sports, preferring to slog and bushwack my way up a mountain slope or survival ski down a glacier. I seem to enjoy suffering or at least always find myself seeking it out.
Early on I realized that tennis, baseball, or any sport requiring the careful management of a spheroid was beyond my capabilities; indeed, most activities demanding agility and coordination were best left for more competent others. However, I was exceptional at something quite different — suffering. Give me sweating, gut-it-out, muscle-aching recreations and I excelled – long-distance running, cycle touring, multi-day ski trips, mountain climbing. By age twenty I understood that this was not merely some S&M neurosis: bushwhacking through a remote valley or hauling my carcass up the rubble and cliffs of yet another unremarkable summit was transfiguring; I was clawing myself out of the boxes that imprison us all – education, job, debt, responsibility, others’ expectations – I could breathe and smell and taste exquisitely, and, for a time, “see into the life of things.”
That passion has embraced me now for fifty years, inspiring me through untold kilometers of running, cycling, hiking, and skiing and up more than 1200 peaks. I still lack the finesse to lead 5.12 rock or dry-tool my way to a detached icicle; more important now are the hoary marmots, the golden glacier lilies, the rolling, intricate alplands, the tangled crags, the brilliant snowfields, and the eagle soaring in the azure skies.
What luck it is that I still have “world enough and time” for new adventures and new explorations – for the secret valley and the curious grizzly, for the unnamed lake and the hidden couloir, and for the many still unclimbed mountains of the Rockies. – written by Rick Collier