I began writing The Suburban Mountaineer in April 2010 to fill a void of climbing in my life. I’ve been a repressed mountaineer, though I did it to myself, really.
I fell in love with climbing in the Adirondacks and from reading Moments of Doubt, the short stories of David Roberts. I taught myself to rock climb through bouldering, an indoor gym in Niagara Falls and top roping short routes. I even practiced climbing a giant oak right in my backyard with prusiks. And Ed Palen and Bill Simes at Rock and River Guides in Keene, NY taught me to ice climb.
Instead of dreaming of thin Himalayan air I aspired to climb throughout North America. I wanted to train on Mount Rainier, even frequenting various routes during my infrequent paid vacations from my career in our nation’s capital. After one day reaching the summit via the Liberty Ridge, I expected to go to Alaska to take in the mountains from the snow, ice and mixed routes from Denali to little-known, remote peaks (some hopefully unclimbed) in the Wrangell Mountains and Brooks Range. I didn’t have to put up routes up the most striking lines in the most aggressive style like Steve House, one of my heroes then, to be satisfied. I just wanted mountain highs and exposure.
About half-a-decade ago, I came to a fork in the road, though I didn’t recognize it as one. At the time I was advancing in my career, I felt I had a little money to spend, and my love life was starting to take off. That’s when a buddy of mine moved to Alaska and he invited me to visit him. We went to all the usual sites, the Kenai Peninsula, Denali National Park, and I also did some modest climbing in the Chugach.
Since then, I haven’t climbed. I travel. I hike. But it’s been a while since I took my crampons and ice axe up a slope. My priorities changed. Now I was saving up for an engagement ring, a down payment on a home, and now a college fund! Plus, I couldn’t bear the thought of something occurring that would impact my family’s future because of an accident due to one of my hobbies. So here I write.
There was a time I used to think that I would refuse to settle into a life that didn’t support my climbing ambitions. Parents, friends, and loved ones haven’t always embraced or accepted my passion for mountaineering. Now, despite our disagreement on where alpinism ranks (which has been long since settled,) we’ve all come to a truce to enjoy the mountains and climbing in ways other than climbing them. And interestingly, it wasn’t hard – despite my lack of notable ascents – for life to be not just good but great. I have a wonderful family and a moving career I highly value to support them. In fact, when I vacation now, my family and I visit the mountains at ski resorts, like Stowe, Whistler – you know the type. I’m guaranteed to have great food, craft beers and a luxurious “bivy” for the night.
Though life is great, I look back when I visited my buddy in the forty-ninth state, and have made a how-can-I-be-so-stupid realization: I wished I climbed Mount Rainier instead. I had the time. I had the funds. The only person I was worried about was me. At that time, I thought I would have more of both in the future to do Mount Rainier later. Life took its turns and climbing gradually became considered too expensive, time consuming and risky. Maybe that will change, but not anytime soon.
The lesson is this: The best time to climb – or do whatever you dream about, for that matter – is now. Make a plan. Execute it. If you don’t, life may still turn out to be as great for you as it is for me, but you might wish you have ticked off that other accomplishment off your life list sooner when you had the chance.
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