Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why uncertainty is actually a spark

On the MacBeth Couloir Col. Spearhead Traverse, April 2017.


I began executing a phase of my plan. I sifted through my belongings and painstakingly triaged what stays and what would go. Once the decision was made, letting go of objects regardless of their meaning was not so disastrous. In fact, I chose to turn the episode into a celebration and invited 100 friends to participate in my “garage sale” event and in doing so, vulnerably allowed others to contribute positively in my transition.

When you open yourself up to the support of others and they come through, you gain unfailing strength.

Sale & Celebration Event. April 2017


It’s no secret that I’m smitten with rock climbing. In October of 2016, I bought a membership and a lesson at the North Shore Hive bouldering gym. I then got “on the ropes” at a climbing gym. The next logical step was to learn how to lead climb. For those who are unfamiliar with this sport, lead climbing simply means that you attach yourself to the wall (or rock) as you climb rather than being secured to an anchor from the top of the route. It also means that falling from a lead position entails a further trip to the bottom and in some cases hitting the wall (or rock) abruptly in a jarring motion or worse. To mitigate potential injuries, the climber and belayer practice by simulating falls. The instructor signals at unexpected moments to let go of the holds, to let go, to release your grip and consent to letting yourself fall into space violently toward the ground.

When you fully entrust your physical safety to tiny gear and to your belayer being apt and alert, and it works out fine, you gain confidence in your ability to fully trust.

Tying myself in to lead my first climb route. April 2017.


I was so scared. We had just shuffled up a steep narrow passage, still locked in ski-mode and for me it was too much effort too early into the traverse. The wind was pummeling us hard. I was slobbering with each laboured breath and my heart thumped inside my throat. I was the last skier up the crest. I looked around, alarmed by where we were perched then realized I was sliding backwards toward the lip of the drop-off. The tail of my skis breached the edge “ooooh” I yelped, then learched forward frantically. Simon calmly skied toward me. He instructed me to stomp forward, then to stomp-sideslip perpendicular down the ridge alongside his skis. It seemed like we were wedged, the tips butting a rock face and tails nearing that drop-off as we inched our way into a rocky funnel. That’s when he said to take off my skis. We all boot-packed down what I later learned was called the MacBeth Couloir-Col.

The section after this presented a short couloir. “We’re skiing THIS?!” Simon smiled warmly and responded “we ARE skiing this. I believe in you”. He sounded sincere and I accepted his encouragement. This was a turning point for me. Someone believed that I could, and it was enough. For the remainder of the trip I dropped-in to whatever was on route and I smiled whenever I was scared because I knew Simon would look back to check on me.

When someone believes in you, it gives you more than confidence. It changes your perspective.

Simon leading our Spearhead Traverse-in-a-day. April 2017.

Life changes, no mater the extent, hold some level of uncertainty. With the support of others, full trust in the process, assurance in your own ability and the confidence that you’ll survive whatever is ahead – that uncertainty becomes a spark.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Building an Arc

Talking about our projects on a long run. Photo by Hilary

I don’t know why exactly I’m doing what I’m doing. I laugh to myself as this thought pops into my head “I’m Noah building the Arc”. I’m not referring to a voice in my head tormenting me to do things. It’s more like a nagging, relentless, furious drive to act, to dive forward. I reckon the purpose will reveal itself at the right moment, as in, precisely when things click into place. I muse that people will then say this plan was mastered from the start. Regardless one thing is clear for sure, time is pressing. 

Every morning I walk into corporate office and think to myself “how do I get out of this?” Every single day my whole being screams... 

“I don’t want to be here”

Am I looking for another office job? No. I sigh at my desk, zombie-like delivering on KPIs. In between writing of boring reports, I spy with envy on Insta galleries of my favourite adventure photographers. I lose myself in the most gorgeous content … the likes of Mountain Life, Adventure Journal, Inner Voice Life, Eskapee with misting eyes. I research the lives of top travel bloggers with a progressively tightening throat.

This image is taped to my notebook. Translation: "wtf am I doing here?"

On such days when my mind wanderlusts, there’s no holding back of a rolling tear. I note that my pod-mates dart away their stares and are likely dying to probe with questions yet are afraid to. They must think I’m concealing a dark and unjust personal tragedy.

My discontent is so intolerable that I cannot do nothing. And so I started a to-do list. It looks like this:
  • sell my belongings
  • talk to my broker
  • declare to everyone that I’m working on something incredibly cool
  • continue to sign-up for mountain-skills certification courses
  • put my condo on the market

Unsure what comes after the last bullet item. I’m executing this list subconsciously. Just as Noah built his Arc. Maybe he asked “why?” or “what happens next?”. It made no sense but he did it anyway. He knew things would work out.

Remember last week with Gary Robbins? We all followed the tweet updates and refreshed our web browsers every 5 minutes for news as he fought his way through the cruel Barkley Marathons. That footage of the finish line certainly gave reign to a range of emotions. For me, it was this pre-race interview that stirred me most.

He said he was doing Barley because of the near guarantee of failure. To Gary, a 0.01% chance of success was still a chance. He said, he believed. If you believe in yourself then all is possible. And no matter the outcome if he gave it all he had, in the end he won an unforgettable journey.

Some people trust experience, some people trust inspiration. Gary believed that his experience made it probable there was a margin that success could be his. Noah trusted inspiration. He didn’t question why exactly he was doing what he was doing. His faith was enough to believe a small margin of success would attain marvels.

I’m aiming for a little of both. I have enough experience to trust that I can accomplish what I set out to complete, and inspired enough to believe that there is purpose in my to-do list. Things will click into place.