Friday, July 20, 2012

Making Friends With My Nemesis

Sitting in my tent at 19,000 ft in the middle of the Andes Range in Argentina, I remember coming to the realization that the wind is my enemy.  We were not friends and we would never be.  Seventy mile per hour constant winds were pummeling my tent with unbelievable and unrelenting force. This had been going on for 2 days now and I was convinced that it had become personal. A gloves off, ass kickin, vindictive battle. And as much as I didn’t want to admit it…I was going to lose.

And this disdain was fostered early on…
As a child, I remember riding with my parents in my Dad’s T top Camaro with the windows down on a summer day. My parents seemed to be embracing the wind blowing around the car, enjoying the warm breeze. But I clearly remember worrying that the paper and objects in the car were going to blow away…maybe even me from the backseat. I didn’t like the chaos that came with heavy wind. Around that time I also remember being made very aware of the wrath of a southern summer time thunderstorm.  Immense lightening crashing all around, buckets of rain filling the woods and of course…my soon to be nemesis, the wind…just hammering the house with what felt like hurricane force power.

I have never liked the wind and throughout my mountaineering career this animosity has been nurtured with countless events that have supported my contempt. I have had dozens if not hundreds of summits rejected due to high winds. I have returned to lower camps on mountains from up high only to find my tents and gear throttled beyond recognition from a recent windstorm. I have retrieved bodies that were cast down the glaciers of the Alaska Range like rag dolls by the high winds. 

No, the wind I were not friends. And we would never be.

One of the things I have realized in my path towards middle age and the slight bit of wisdom that comes with my quickly populating gray hairs is that I refuse to foster negativity. I am realizing how important it is to surround myself with positivity…with clarity and goodness. And I mean exclusively positive.  By doing that, it becomes so very easy to push away objects or people that exude toxicity or anything of the Darth Vader ilk.

As I inventoried the good and the bad…I started on my culling process…jetting the bad and nurturing the good.  Some were clearly defined on one side or the other…some a bit more vague.  Some required a change in my own perception…some just required getting closer to things/people that I felt held promise.  Some required cutting the lines completely.  It’s been like Spring-cleaning of the soul. I recommend just such an exercise. It’s enlightening and cleansing to say the least.

Mountaineering and climbing were at the top of my list of “What brings me joy”. As I reflected on my 20-year mountaineering career though, I realized that the wind was a variable that was the yang in my alpine yin. I knew that it was a vital force in the construction of the very mountains I was climbing and through its forces, vital weather patterns were born. I knew that it had its place and appreciated its presence. Just not while I’m high on a mountain please.

So I decided it was time to become friends with the wind. I thought on how to go about doing this. I had paraglided quite a bit a few years back and although that was flying and dancing with the wind it was more about thermals and floating. There was way to much sitting around with paragliding.  Too many other variables in play. I wanted to harness the wind…I wanted to seek out the wind and desire it’s presence. I wanted to hunt the wind instead of being hunted.

Then it occurred to me as Merry Beth, Jace and I were planning for our inaugural trip down to Baja in 2010. We were heading to a small little fishing village on the East Cape of Baja that sits on the Sea of Cortez. Los Barriles was known for fishing in the summer but it in the Mexican winter it became a hotbed for this crazy sport called kiteboarding or kitesurfing. This wasn’t windsurfing with all of their cumbersome and unwieldy gear. This was a dude or dudette flying across the water, on a board under a huge, beautiful kite…being powered by the wind and the wind alone.


The more I studied it and learned about it the more it turned me on. Within 24 hours of stepping foot in Baja I was in lessons. A week later (and dozens of epic crashes) I was finally getting up on my own and flying across the ocean.


Two years later I have now kited in Florida, Colorado, Texas, South Carolina, Haiti and next week, the Dominican Republic.  I have not only made friends with the wind but now we have an intimate relationship. I seek her out. I look for her on websites. I jones for her when she goes away.  I follow her to remote places.

I would encourage everyone to do a soulful recalibration. Bring in the good. Dump the nasty. Embrace the things that scare you and don’t be afraid to face the dragon. Joe Campbell would be proud.

Me and my new friend the wind will tell you…
Its time to fly!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Sweet Walk Through Big Mountains

After 5 days of cruising through the deep Andean mountains, today we arrived in the holy city of Machu Picchu. Ear to ear smiles on 30 faces leaves me satisfied with how this trip of friends came together and went through without a hitch.
Tonight we take showers, eat good food and sleep in beds for the first time in a week.
Much more to come.