Monthly Archives: November 2010

I’ll Have It All Please

I alpine skied for years. I could pretty much ski wherever I wanted on any mountain in any conditions, but over time I actually started getting a little bored. Then, about ten years ago I entertained the idea of trying snowboarding. Half a day on that thing and I sold a brand new alpine set up and vowed NEVER to ski again. I honestly loved snowboarding that much. Even today, anything more than six inches of fresh powder will cause my eyes to roll back in my head and I’ll be overcome with some form of mild hyperventilation…usually followed by a mysterious cough that forces me to miss a day of work.

In addition to hitting the resorts during the winter season, I also find heading into the backcountry, climbing a high peak and ripping some uber-giant turns in deep, untracked powder marginally orgasmic. Sure, riding a high speed lift all day and piling up tens of thousands of vertical feet has its merits, but working your ass off to climb some steep ridge in waist deep snow, having a spot of warm tea on the summit then dropping into an ocean of deep powder is bordering on (if not tantamount to) a spiritual experience.

I will always be a snowboarder. I love it. L-O-V-E it. But I’ll be the first to admit that heading into the backcountry with a snowboard can be tough. I’ve entertained the idea of a split board at times but that doesn’t really appeal to me, plus they’re crazy expensive. I’ll sometimes take snowshoes if I know the snow will be really deep, but it’s just more gear to carry and not always that much easier than just dipping my head and powering through the deep. But let me say right here, the pros of a solitary descent off a ridge or high peak far outweighs the cons of all the hard work that goes into it. I know that’ll be hard to understand unless you’ve truly earned your turns, but for those of us who have, well, you just have to do it to fully understand.

One small thing that I really don’t enjoy so much about being a snowboarder instead of a skier are the days at resorts when the conditions are hardpack or icy. Having both feet strapped to the board means that when you catch an edge (and you will at some point) you are going down fast and going down hard. On a powder day, who cares, but taking a digger on some boilerplate ice can definitely wreck your ability to efficiently hold a beer due to a broken wrist/arm or even worse, permanently impair your ability to use all the gray matter you started the day with. I’ve cracked a helmet from a hard hit…it hurts. So, while those of us who live here in Colorado, New Mexico and the rest of the west are extremely fortunate to have lots of epic powder days under bluebird skies, there are still those ocassional days when the conditions are not quite up to “epic”.

Although I totally fail to understand why, most of my friends are not snowboarders. They aren’t alpine skiers either. Instead, most of my friends are tele skiers, or at the very least they hit the hills with an AT setup (that means All Terrain in case you didn’t know what AT means). All I hear during the winter season is stuff like “free your heel and free your mind”, blah, blah, blah. Whatever. Well, I am a compassionate and understanding person so I have looked past those shortcomings and forgiven the transgressions of my non-snowboarding friends. I’ve even been known to socialize and yes, even “ski” with them from time to time — and I use that term loosely.

Okay, although I hate to admit it, there is an ever-so-slight advantage to tele skiing over snowboarding. There, I said it. That advantage comes in the form of speed and climbing efficiency in the backcountry. With the right pair of climbing skins and a sufficient set of lungs, it is almost impossible for me to move as fast as they do…move uphill that is. Downhill = Game On. And while I’m eating this healthy portion of humble pie, I’ll also admit that having tele skis is better suited for times when we hit flat terrain both  in the backcountry and at resorts. Instead of having to stop and take off my board (and walk), my tele friends can skate or glide through the flats quickly and efficiently and be on their way without much ado.

So during this off season (“snow sports” off season that is) I’ve come to a lot of realizations and conclusions, both about life and about the upcoming winter season.

I’ve come to realize that life is short. I know that’s a super cliché statement, but because of the way things have gone down this year, I truly know what those words mean. Getting that heaping helping of reality has made me evaluate everything about who I am, what I’m doing and why I’m doing it…or why I’m not doing it. Through all that philosophical exercising and soul searching I’ve re-realized that I am only tapping a minuscule fraction of the grooviness this world has to offer.

Looking back I can see that focusing so much on ultra distance running this past year maybe made me a little too myopic in the grand scheme of things. However, spending a few days with a good friend recently kind of poked me with a sharp stick that maybe I should trying using both eyes again, open my mind up to new disciplines again, have even more fun and live even bigger. In other words, I should have it all.

With all that in mind I obviously had choices to make, about life AND the coming winter season. I’ll definitely deal with the life part in due course, but not here. As far as the upcoming winter season though, I realized I could surely keep my focus on ultra running and go after my first 100-miler next spring as planned, snowboard just a little, ice climb just a little and essentially globally underachieve for yet another winter season. Or, I could back off the running a tiny bit (but still keep running 50-milers), climb like a freakin’ maniac all winter, rip big turns every time a new storm hits and voila!, have it all.

As bitter as the taste of my own words are, I’ve already started informing my “skiing” friends that I have indeed procured a set of tele sticks in anticipation of the coming “ski” season. Damn it, I hate when that happens. I’m still on the hunt for tele boots, but that should be resolved in short order. I also know there is a steep learning curve ahead but I’ll remedy that by taking my lumps and drawing on some of that determination I seem to be blessed/cursed with. I did however make the disclaimer that until further notice, big powder days will still be reserved for the snowboard. Otherwise, those hardpack days at the resorts and those long treks into the backcountry will probably be seeing the new Barry, tele Barry.

Why not?

Yeah, I’ll definitely have it all please.

Run long, paddle far, climb high, SKI hard and live big.

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This Would Be My House

Recently I’ve been on a mission to radically downsize and simplify my life. And when I say “my life” I mean everything from material stuff to mental baggage and yes, even social baggage. I want to shuck the mind-depleting dribble and get back to the things that fill me with life, love and passion…like hard running, hard climbing, big backcountry snowboarding, my little family, my incredibly awesome core group of friends and livin’ a life of experience. If you’ve read any of my recent posts you’ll know this is EXACTLY why I  moved here many years ago and why I recently started my Project 5430. This project is all about harvesting the energy of people who truly know how to live and transform that energy into my own “life lived big”.

I’d actually done this downsizing exercise several years ago as part of another catharsis type process and in doing so I managed to get things down to a pretty basic level. Well, since then I’ve inadvertently regressed a bit and once again find myself letting things get a little too cluttered for my liking.

There are lots of reasons for repeating this purging exercise right now, but let’s just say that a good friend recently showed me the  proverbial light again and the fire that originally burned inside me is once again stoked and raging. Shame on me for letting it slip, but hey, good on me for recognizing it and rallying again!

One of the first things I downsized this time round was my “friend” list on Facebook. I thought seriously about just canning the whole operation but there are actually a few people who I like keeping in touch with. I also have businesses/organizations in my “friend list” that I like to get updates from because they are the type of places that cater to my interests and activities…like running, climbing, mountain biking, snowboarding, food, etc. etc. Otherwise, knowing what someone who wouldn’t give me the time of day back in high school is having for breakfast and how many barns they have in Farmville was doing nothing but cluttering up my mind…and my patience. Honestly, I found myself getting angry and annoyed every time I checked my FB account. What’s the point of that?

And naturally the another thing that is instant and totally gratifying in any downsizing project is getting rid of material stuff. For instance, I’m a runner, therefore I can collect about a bazillion race shirts in a very short period of time. Easy enough to cull these babies out by adhering to the motto of “keep the tech wear shirts — toss the rest”. In the closet? If it hasn’t been worn in the last season, out it goes. Other crap. Out as well.

Music. One word: iPod. All my music is on there anyhow so time to cull those zillion CDs sitting on the shelves doing nothing but taking up space and accumulating dust.

Books. Man, I used to read about a book a week and I sincerely hope to get back to that shortly!  Some of them I’d keep and read a couple of times, especially adventure stories about overcoming tremendous obstacles or hardships. Others I’d keep because they inspired or touched me in some way. Well, I recently cut about 90% of the inventory despite my attachment to “my books”. I must say though, for as attached to them as I was, as soon as they were dropped off at the local library or used book store, I’d feel a huge weight being lifted. Plus, by donating them, others will get to read the same stories and hopefully get as much out of them as I did.

Then comes the gear category. Being an admitted gear slut, this was an onerous task for sure. Some gear comes with sentimental value because there is usually some adventure or memory associated with it. Sometimes there is even an epic story tied to it and may somehow serve as a reminder of good situations gone bad…but good outcomes because of time tested skills and trusted friends! Anyhow, I am determined to go smaller so I tried as best I could to look objectively at all the camping, climbing and skiing gear in my basement. I was resolved to sincerely trim the fat. In the end it turned in to a CraigList-a-Palooza!

One of the items I put out there was my four season mountaineering tent. I’ve seen some awesome times in that thing and it’s definitely been there for me in some absolutely wretched conditions. However, I have more than one tent and since the name of the game de jour is “go simple”, something had to go.

So I put the ad out there, complete with high resolution photos and the verbal certainty that this thing was a total bomb shelter. I also explained how there was no fading, no tears, no leaks and had been meticulously sealed and properly stored for maximum performance. And I put a price on it I knew would please the palette of even the most discerning dirt bag climber, kayaker or backcountry skier.

A few hours later I got a response from a girl named Anika. She said she was interested in the tent, thought it was a fair price, but had one question, “What are the dimensions?”. Easy enough question for a gear head like me so I shot her the details, reiterating that the tent was indeed the shizz when it came to performing in all seasons, was in awesome condition and wouldn’t dare let her down. Being late by the time I responded, I went to bed thinking I would just wait and read her response the next morning.

While I was eating my breakfast this morning I checked my email and sure enough there was another email from Anika. It wasn’t a confirmation of a sale, but that was 100% okay in this instance. In fact, her response was far better than a sale…I actually took it as  a sign.

In her response she explained that while the tent sounded great, the dimensions weren’t quite what she was looking for. Her exact words were, “Unfortunately, since I am traveling with renaissance festivals, this would be my house, so I really need a tent I can stand up in.” I couldn’t have asked for a more amazing and relevant response given my current simplification efforts. I saw her email as a confirmation and reaffirmation of my desire to live simply and make my life all about the experience once again. Man, I love it when stuff like this happens and I totally love that she’s living that free-spirited lifestyle.

Funny how people you’ve never met can have such an amazing and meaningful impact on our own lives, even without them knowing it. I feel pretty confident that Anika is living the dream (her OWN dream). Because she’s willing to live in a tent and embrace that simple life, I know she “gets it”. Because I crossed paths with Anika, I am filled with even more amazing energy that only deepens my resolve to continue to live simply, live consciously and live my own dream.

It’s a shame that I probably won’t get to meet her in person, hear her story and take her photo to “officially” include her in my Project 5430, but at least I got to cross paths with her in some small way and share in her fun energy…and that’s what life’s all about.

Thanks Anika. Safe travels.

Run long. Paddle far. Climb high. Ski hard. Live big…but simply.

Project 5430: Melanie

 

This Project 5430 entry will be breaking from the norm a little, but there’s a reason. Besides that, it’s my blog so I can do whatever I want, right? Anyhow, it’ll be different because Melanie doesn’t live here in the Gore-Tex Vortex, although she did at one time. The reason(s) I’m including her are simple: she’s a close friend, she is as awesome as awesome gets and she unequivocally defines the very reason I started this project — she “gets it”.

I met Mel many years ago, probably fourteen or fifteen ago. We were both part of the climbing community here in Colorado which back in the day was much, much smaller. Therefore it was almost predetermined that we would cross paths sooner or later. She was never one of those “I climb to look cool” or “I’ll wear the proper clothes and talk-the-talk but in reality I’m just a poser” types. She honestly loved climbing (hard climbing), loved life, LOVED the outdoors, loved the mountains and the whole living-consciously and free-spirited lifestyle. That’s why Mel and I always got along.

Unfortunately for me, the visceral call of adventure and the lure of another horizon got the best of Mel and she left Colorado. Along her journey she found herself living in Malaysia for a while, spent considerable time traveling throughout Southeast Asia and Nepal, served a few year stint up in Ketchum at Sun Valley Ski Resort and as of two or three years ago, landed in Spokane where she’s again involved in what she loves — the outdoors.

Through various circumstances, Spokane is where I caught up to her earlier this year. We’ve talked regularly since and as chance would have it, I wound up with an airline ticket I needed to use before the end of the year. That being the case I used the ticket and flew up to Washington a couple of weeks ago to hang out with her for a long weekend. No plan really, just went up to do a little hiking, maybe some climbing if the weather permitted, check out the amazing autumn colours of the Pacific Northwest, explore Cour d’Alene, ID and generally get ourselves caught up on the last seven years.

Mel is uniquely Mel. Always was, still is, always will be. That’s what I love about her. She is likely the most genuine person you’d ever meet and regardless of where you come into or exit her life, she’s exactly the same. When she picked me up from the airport it was like we’d seen each other every day since she left Colorado…just without a few details.

I’ll admit this year has been a hard one for me emotionally. A lot has transpired and at times I’ve found myself searching for meaning and grasping at clarity. Don’t get me wrong, not all is grim in the life of Barry, quite the contrary actually, but because of certain events and experiences, I’ve really spent a lot of time reflecting on what is important in my life and thinking about what direction I want things to go from this point forward. And through some of those experiences, I’ve formed some amazing friendships that are unquestionably lifelong deals. Without going into any of the details, some of those difficult circumstances led Mel and me along the same path again and we were fortunately able to reconnect.

With the weather in the Pacific Northwest bordering on “iffy” all weekend, we hiked when we could, explored Cour d’Alene (in the rain) and met up with another friend (Jenn and her beautiful family) who lives there. We then thoroughly walked Spokane top to bottom and along the way filled in seven years of blanks over some tasty food and “a few” hopped and/or fermented beverages.

With every conversation we had, which was essentially non-stop, Melanie actually brought some soulful clarity to much of the cloudiness I’d found myself in this year — though she had no idea she was giving me that insight. Sometimes it wasn’t what she said, but it was her almost visible passion to live life that was screaming at me to take heed. And heed I have taken.

Mel knows how to live the dream. She is an elite athlete, though she’d never admit it. She’s not into the trophy hunting or boasting about accomplishments in her pursuits but rather she does them simply because she loves them. Again, that’s what makes her so good at her job and such an amazing person — she carries a sincere passion that she can share with others. Spend 20 seconds with her and you’ll see what I mean. Spend a day playing in the mountains with her and you’ll get your ass kicked….in a good way of course.

People take life for granted every day. They live as if it’ll go on forever and waste time worrying about the most stupid things imaginable. And then there are people who know what an amazing gift this life is and fill it with travel and adventure, fill it with love, fill it with acceptance, fill it with a sincere passion for living and will unselfishly share those things with everyone. That’s Melanie.

Mel and I may never live close to each other again, then again, maybe we will. Who knows? Regardless, one thing I know for sure, and I think I can speak for her too, is that our friendship and spiritual connection will continue to endure the test of time. It’s a result of that connection people who live our lifestyle have. It’s not tangible, but you can just feel it when your with other people who “get it”. It’s the reason I started this project. It’s why Mel and I became friend and remain friends today.

Hopefully this winter I’ll be able to head back up to rip a few turns in the deep powder of Washington and Idaho with Melanie. I also hope that in the future I’ll be able to give Melanie a fraction of what she’s given me by just knowing her and calling her my friend.

Thanks Mel.