Outside of my comfort zone

I've had so much on my mind recently, and the loneliness of being on the road for so long and so far away from everyone I know has been starting to wear on me. I've met many nice people, but I've also had plenty of days where I don't talk to anyone, at all. While it isn't a big deal at first, it can be very hard at times. And the idea of car camping, I spent plenty of nights trying it out before leaving on this journey, but I was never more than a few hours from my home in Denver. I like this idea of being rent free and picking up to go wherever I would like on a whim, but at what cost? It's just becoming more and more challenging. I thought that I would be able to sustain like this for around 6 months, it's barely been 2 months. I still have this idea that I'll keep living this way and perhaps find some kind of meaningful work along the way. We’ll see.

I've been trying to remind myself what inspired this trip to begin with, and a big part of it was a personal challenge. Can I ski 44+ mountains in a year? Sure, but would I enjoy it? Can I ski the most challenging terrain at some of these resorts? Sure, but hasn't that been done before? Can I get rid of everything I own and move into a truck? Sure, but what would I be giving up by doing that? It feels that each of these goals, while attainable, have become meaningless. I'm starting to figure out whats important. The challenge is not the skiing, it’s finding where else I’m uncomfortable and tackling that.

With that in mind, what’s important for one person is not the same as it might be for someone else. I left on this trip to go ski, I’ve since realized that while I love skiing, it isn’t about the skiing. It was the idea that there is more to life than waking up to go to work each day. I was doing well at work, but I was not moving ahead. And I was saving for something I didn't want. A house for me and my dog? Then I'd be stuck somewhere and I'd still want to explore. Perhaps for a future with a spouse? I'd love to meet her, but wouldn't she want to explore as well? I can only imagine that she would.

We all have fears, some are crippling, some are good and self preserving. My friend Carolina recently wrote about fear on her blog, which I would encourage you to read. 

"When fear debilitates, it can hinder, weaken or all together halt you from acting/doing. Fear can stop us from speaking our minds, can stop us from standing up for what we believe in, can cause us to feel stuck, or even worse powerless."

I remember when I started skiing in Colorado, I was so far outside of my comfort zone. I looked at these crazy lines around Loveland pass. I saw ski tracks and questioned, can I ski that? At the time the answer was absolutely not. Not only was I physically unable to, it would have been unsafe for me to try. But, it was a goal.

After a couple years of pushing my boundaries in the resorts, I got my first touring setup, and skinned into Watrous Gulch with my friend Wil. Along the way in, Wil pointed out the “Tuning forks” an awesome line down the front range 14er, Torrey’s peak. 2000’ vertical feet, a big line of snow. I knew absolutely nothing about backcountry skiing, but I knew I wanted to ski that. Far outside of my comfort zone.

A couple of years later, I decided to go for it. I figured, worst case, I’d hike a 14er, best case, I’d get some spring/summer skiing in. I drove up the night before and camped up the road. I arrived to find a group of campers who’s all met on a facebook group and were camping the night before hiking Gray’s peak the next morning. They invited me to camp by them, we enjoyed a good campfire and some music before the early morning hike. I think many of them were surprised when they all headed in one direction to hike the popular route up Grays, and I then grabbed my skis from my car and I told them I was heading in the exact opposite direction. The route up the “Tuning forks” is listed as a “Difficult class 2.” I’d also only hiked a couple of 14ers until then. All were a “Class 1.” Class 1 14ers are still quite challenging, for an out of shape east coaster like me. I was making the haul to a relatively high elevation, and along a fairly steep route, in snow.

When I arrived at the bottom of the snowfield, looking up a 2000’ tall 35ยบ slope of summer corn skiing. Unlike other 14er routes where you can often hike on a trail, the tuning forks on Torreys requires a bootpack up the snow. On each side there’s a bunch of scree which can’t easily be climbed. Something I hate to admit, I’m actually afraid of heights, not an uncommon fear, but its all about perspective, right? Hiking up is like a huge staircase to the top. But if I slip, and fall, how far will I slide before I can stop?

I was lucky. Although it didn’t appear this way when I set out, once I was on the snow I found a decent size group that had decided to do the same route that day. Some were faster than others, but we were all encouraging each other up this route. At the top, we all helped each other put our skis on and get back down this awesome line. I'm in the middle of the group in the photo below.

I returned the following year around the same time to ski the same line. The conditions were pretty much the same as the year prior, but minus the party ski, it was just me. A few miles hiking in with skis, boots, and avy gear on my backpack. I’d done it before, and I was confident that I could do it again. Without the presence of others though, it's a lot scarier. I was surrounded by silence, and views for many many miles. When there is someone in front of you setting the line to follow, and someone behind you to encourage you, it becomes a lot easier. When you’re alone, you have to be both of these voices.

The views up top, breathtaking. The skiing back down was awesome. The sense of accomplishment, priceless. 2000’ vertical feet of corn skiing. It was late June and later that day I’d be sitting by a pool in Denver. Where else in the world can you experience that?

Heres the thing, this line has been skied 1000s of times, and overall it’s not a big deal. But it was for me. It was something that I couldn’t have imagined possible when I first saw it, let alone years ago when I was walking around New York.

While I’ve been struggling recently, I was lucky enough that tonight my good friend Ryan called me right I needed that reminder. His call and our conversation reminded me of my goal on this trip all along. I’ve been close to giving up, but I’m going to continue on.

I would encourage every person with the desire for a change in their life, step outside of your comfort zone, do something that scares you but that’s in line with what you love. Take a risk that you’ve thought through (not an unnecessary one), and then try it. Right now, I’m thinking that worst case, I’ll jump back to my comfort zone. Best case? I’ll find just how far I can go next.