Recently I read an article on The Guardian that brought some thoughts I’ve been having to the fore. From the article on Lhakpa Sherpa;
She doesn’t have a curated Instagram presence. She’s a middle-aged woman of color, an immigrant single mother who speaks in broken English. She doesn’t exude “stoke”.
This woman is obviously miles ahead of folks like me when it comes to alpinism but her story resonated nonetheless. As a husband and father of two (wonderful) kids, I can 100% sympathize with her struggle to do what she loves despite the many obligations of “life” that come with being responsible for people other than just yourself. Recently I read a comment from a (presumably “hardcore”) climber that the local Rockies 11000er list isn’t that impressive or exciting. I understand what he was saying and where he is coming from, but as a weekend warrior hack climber I couldn’t disagree more.
Many people nowadays don’t know what it’s like to try to spend time in the mountains while working a full-time job, raise a family, pay for two or three university degrees, a mortgage, retirement, bills, vehicles, hockey lessons… For people like me who have been responsible for more than just myself since I was a teenager, the 11000er list or any of the big, remote Rockies summits are like an elixir for our soul. They are our inspiration when we’re on a crowded train in the morning going to work 5 days a week. We dream of standing on their summits when our kids are keeping us up at night with a fever or we’re struggling to pay the bills. We fantasize about the quiet untracked wilderness when we’re arguing with our spouse about one of a million things spouses argue about (I love my wife ). Our minds often slip to the shores of a distant tarn tucked under some crappy ascent ridge somewhere. We meditate on how hard it was to get the two days off to climb Mount Columbia or how much we missed our families when we were stuck in a blizzard beneath North Twin Tower in a tent in -20 degree temperatures with mild frostbite. We feel guilty about the birthday party we missed to go on a wilderness canoe trip.
Lhakpa Sherpa might not be many people’s hero but she is sure as heck mine. To raise two kids while working menial jobs for minimum wage while dreaming of the world’s biggest mountain and climbing it 9 times on her own dime and time is much more impressive than any speed ascent record IMO. Normally I don’t give a crap about rich people “climbing” Everest but a local women who climbs the mountain because she enjoys it is totally different IMHO. I guarantee you that she dreams of that mountain daily (if not hourly) and this summit is what gets her out of bed each day to go to her job(s) and raise her kids and contribute to society as a hard worker and loving parent.
Kudos to the MANY weekend warrior hacks like myself who may not be the lean, good looking, hardcore, sponsored athletes that permeate our Social Media feeds but are something much more than that. We are the dad bods who struggle up “easy” mountains like Kitchener and celebrate like they are Mount Everest. We are the tired moms who finally manage to ignore life’s many obligations to get away for a break and feel like we just climbed K2 when in reality we huffed and puffed our way up Mount Temple. We may not exude much “stoke” but we definitely DO exude “life” – and more than just our own. I salute all of you for managing to balance the immense struggles and obligations of family and work life with adventures in the great backyard of our Canadian Rockies.