I recently had some family visit me here in Montana and inevitably the conversation turned to my passion for ice climbing. My family is not from the mountains, Montana by all rights is a foreign place for them. It reminds me of the John Denver lyrics " I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly..." I was excited to share my love for the mountains and my experiences in the mountains with my own flesh and blood. I should have known better :) I've experienced bringing people who are in my life to this special place many times but this time was different. My dad in particular I don't think can understand why I ice climb. He asks me things like "When are you going to stop?" or "Why don't you find another hobby?" A...hobby? Climbing is not a hobby, it's an art form, a way of life, to me it's an expression of the most inner self manifested in action and motion. A sport or physical endeavor at least to others but... not a hobby.
I let him know, I don't foresee ever choosing to stop climbing. If I was a painter no one would ask me when was I going to put down my brush. If I played guitar no one would ask for my pick. Is climbing different? Does climbing come with inherent risks? Yes. But so does life.
I asked my dad if he'd walk out to Hyalite to see me climb a pitch of ice in hopes that he'd better understand once he's seen it in person. I chose a climb that had a short approach on a nicely maintained trial that was more or less a flat walk (in fact the path is wheel chair accessible in the summer). He said the walk would be too tough for him. Apparently, a lifestyle of malls, restaurants and sitting in cars has dangers too.
The fact that this walk in the woods was too tough for him gave ma pause. It made me grateful for the journey my life has taken and that I chose a path untraveled by my family. It reminded me of a quote from one of my heroes, Marv Levy the Hall of Fame football coach of the Buffalo Bills, - "When it's too tough for them. It's just right for us!"
Here's to a life worth living in the mountains.