Worth the Wait

Waiting and watching the weather may be as fundamental to alpinism as is movement over snow, ice and rock. Take this wonderful quote from Rebuffat, who was ever sensitive to the beauty of his chosen craft:

"Like so many others, how many years did I have to wait before seeing it and climbing it? Years of revelation, of internal discovery, of passionate approach; bent over books and maps,over drawings and photographs, you read, you look, and very soon you are not simply an enthusiastic spectator: already you are part of this enchanted mountain. Years of waiting that are not lost years, because it is the time lost for them that renders the mountains so beautiful."

Daniel and I waited most of the winter for a day on which schedules and conditions could line up. A long-time backcountry skier and Wasatch veteran, Daniel is on the road to high alpine ski tours in the Cascades. He's been practicing his rope work and staying quite fit (though I'm still not exactly sure how). When our day finally came last week, we managed to ski the Slot in better conditions than I've ever found before; and to follow it up with a rappel into an untouched Snot Couloir, which skied even better than the Slot.

To me, Daniel personifies Rebuffat's words, and reminds me of the greater picture of the mountains in our lives. While my modern life threatens to fill with habits of instant gratification, the mountains have not changed. The weather is no less determined, the snow has not grown less fickle, the physical toil has not grown much less. The mountains--especially wild mountains--defy a mindset of haste and impatience.

Herded along by my cell-phone and laptop, I am often worried about "losing time"--the tools of communication and productivity are here, right at hand, begging me to do something and to produce. But as Gaston said, it's precisely the lost time that makes mountains beautiful. So I read my maps, I pick through my gear carefully, I pack my bag, and look forward to blowing some time.