Mid-August

“Let’s do the big boy.” The big boy of course being the Grand. My one solid, verifiable goal for this summer was to climb the Grand Teton. When one first lays eyes on the Teton range it is impossible to not wonder what the view must be like from the top. The Grand towers above all in this valley. It is an icon not just for this area but the entire country. For some it is the achievement of a lifetime, for others, it is more like a playground. Regardless, today was my day to check off a massive blank box on the proverbial bucket list.

From the beginning this attempt was rather silly. This is a climb that takes training and preparation. Give or take 16 miles, 7,000 plus feet of vert and about 600 feet of 5.4 climbing it is no small walk in the park to summit this mountain. A responsible climber would rest before, eat a good dinner, go to bed early, and ideally start their day well before sunrise at three or four in the morning. Sam and I did none of this. We stayed up late, drank wine, talked with friends, and only well after the sun had gone down did we even decide to make an attempt for the big boy as he called it.

Our day of climbing did not begin until around eight in the morning. A rather asinine time to start a day as long as what we had in front of us. “Guess we just have to go fast then” was the mindset. We set off up Lupine at a pace closer to Jogging. In the blink of an eye we were in Garnet Meadows and I felt like shit. My legs were fatigued, I was tired, I had done everything wrong in the lead-up to this day and I was now paying the price. As we left the meadow and started up the steep switchbacks leading to the Moraines my condition did anything but improve. On top of my physical condition being less than optimal, my mental was perhaps even worse. I was just in a bad mood, plain and simple. I wish I could say that I had some profound insights or deep thoughts on my way up the mountain but that would be a lie. For the first four hours of our day all that went through my mind was a mixture of thoughts that went something like; This sucks, I suck, mountains are dumb, my legs hurt, this sucks again, etc. etc. However, I was able to have all these thoughts while still placing one foot in front of the other. After what felt like a rather short time we found ourselves at the lower saddle. I thought this would improve my mood but it didn’t. After a short rest we blitzed onward to the upper saddle and upon our arrival we learned almost instantly that our chances for the summit that day were rather slim. Talking to other climbers who had to turn around, who had been waiting for hours for their chance to climb, and who were also now in rather bad moods in a bizarre way made mine quickly improve. As a consolation prize we scrambled up the Enclosure, the second-highest peak in the range that sits at 13,285 feet above sea level. Resting atop this peak we sat for an hour laughing and cursing both ourselves and the mountains. So close but still so far.

Sitting there all the pain and negativity from the morning vanished. The beauty of the mountains and the gratification of what we had accomplished, despite failing, finally began to set in. We had done almost everything wrong and still had made it this far. I felt proud of myself for pushing so continuously despite the turmoil that gripped me for hours. On our descent the pain in my legs was still very present but that didn’t matter now. We quickly made our way back down and I was finally able to appreciate how lucky I was to be in my position. I was not only in a place I could have only dreamed of a few years ago but I was physically able to pull off what we just had. We made it back to the parking lot in around eleven hours after covering 15-something miles and around 7,100 vert. The summit of the Grand would have to wait for another day.

This day out reminded me of the power of discomfort. The pain and the suck were an essential part of what has quickly become such a special memory. The good and the bad cannot be separated, they must exist together so that they may exist at all. This concept quickly reappeared in my life as I made the jump into the world of whitewater kayaking.

Kayaking is something I have wanted to pursue ever since I fell in love with the world of whitewater. I finally pulled the trigger and bought the gear I would need to jump into this new sport. My first outings were some of the most humbling experiences I have had in a very long time. I felt like a baby duck with its head cut off. However, this didn’t discourage me and with a few flatwater practice laps an opportunity arose for my first trip down the class III whitewater of the Snake River. I was scared. I still felt like a baby duck with its head cut off except now there would be consequences for my inexperience. Dropping into haircut rock, arguably the most dangerous feature of this section, I was having a full-on anxiety attack. It came out of nowhere but is something I have learned to cope with. It was unpleasant, as one would expect, but I had no out. As soon as I was in the feature everything about my mental state changed. I snapped into a mindset I hadn’t felt since my last game at Ithaca. I was hyper-focused, confident, and felt in total control of myself. I skirted past the rock with no problems and was instantly hooked. The rest of our trip down the canyon was nothing short of transformative. With each rapid I grew more confident and fell more in love. Not only with just kayaking, but also with the river, the mountains, myself, and life in general. This experience felt very special and was an unbelievable confidence boost. I cannot state just how excited I am to explore this new world more.

These past two weeks have reminded me how important it is to continually push myself, no matter how uncomfortable I get. Complacency is the death of all things and people that could be great. I felt myself slipping into a world of comfort that was not good for me. My goal for the rest of this season is to continually seek out discomfort and let the growing process continue as it has these past few years. I’m looking forward to what this mindset could bring.

Our busy season is now over. Work is slowing down and the town is quickly emptying out. These next few weeks will be prime time for climbing and adventure before the winter quickly moves in. I am as happy as ever to be in this place.

 

Music from this time:

“Angelina” – Pinegrove

“Getaway” – Souldrop

“Close Your Eyes” -Tomcbumpz

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