Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The ridge

My name is Pokerpeaker. My screen name. Anyway, I'm an addict.
I just can't completely give up ridges.
I have written about the line I walk between being a father and being a mountaineer many times, and quite frankly, you're sick of hearing about it. Hey, me too. But it's on my mind every summer, especially when my friends start talking about their adventures.
One friend who I've taken under my wing started them this year, just like she did last year. If I once pushed her to tackle all the 14ers, she's the one who now pushes me to keep climbing.
I saw this ridge last year, she told me over noodles. You would love it.
I probably would, I said.
It's only Class 3, she said, and my ears perked up. It looked solid. It also looked FUN.
Truth be told, she had me at "ridge."
The conclusion I've reached whenever I ponder something like whether I should be climbing again is that I can still climb. I can't, or I won't, your choice, give up my time in the peaks completely. I've reduced it, sure, no doubt, but even if I get out and do one wild, fun thing, I know I'm still me. It's probably much like the dad who goes out to Vegas with his friends once a year. 
Since I was 15, alpine climbing, not just simple hiking, was what fascinated me. My time spent above treeline was always my favorite part of the day. Those hikes through the forest? Boring. Walking on tundra to a summit? Eh. Scrambling over boulders and exposed terrain on a ridge? Yeah, that's the ticket. 
Just last week, I had the opportunity to climb Ice Mountain with that same friend. It's something I've wanted to do for years. I already attempted it once but the damn lightning got in the way. It's honestly something I WOULD have knocked off years ago if it wasn't for those meddlin' kids.
But I cancelled the trip. Snow came a little early this year to the peaks, although September is always a crapshoot anyway. And I can't climb a Class 3 route with ice and snow on it.
A proper balance means taking educated, necessary and filtered risks to climb a tough route, and not doing it very often. It does not mean being even remotely reckless. I probably could have climbed Ice Mountain anyway, and I probably would have eight years ago. I can't any longer.
So this year I'm left with thoughts of balancing along a ridge to Father Dyer Peak, a high 13er near Breckenridge. We scrambled, walked across ledges where a slip would mean certain death and sniffed the blue sky many times. 
We did it on a clear day, on a clean, solid route, and when it wasn't clear any longer, we went down, forgoing a third peak in the process.
It was safe.
It wasn't reckless.
But I can see why addicts keep doing what they do. Because, man, it was FUN.

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