I am not a peak bagger. Not to say that I do not set out with climbing to the highest point of a mountain as a goal, it is just that I am fine with not reaching the top. For years now hiking has been about getting outside into the wilds and getting back to nature. I hike and run and climb and bounce, sometimes I take naps and often I spend a lot of time inspecting some one thing, like a leaf or bark of a tree. Often I will watch the way the wind carries the branches and the spirited movement of water as it trips over itself in a stream. This to me is the essence of every adventure outdoors and for me I really had a revelation about it this past weekend while I was hiking with some friends up 14,197' Mt. Princeton in Colorado's Sawatch range.
As we approached the saddle just to the south of the peak I began thinking that to go to the top was not something that I "had" to do. I looked around at the views down the range to our south and into the valley to our east and as I scanned the vast wild lands I began to think that perhaps the goal of "bagging the peak" was one of those endeavors that becomes so focused that an entire trip could be looked at as a waste should that one objective not be met. And then I realized that there is no real value to me for reaching the top unless there are some real obstacles to it. I don't mean to sound as though hiking a 14er is not strenuous or demanding because it is in fact both of those, however if I am heading toward the top of anything I want it to be the type of trip that I have to question the safety of it. I really enjoy nasty nasty weather that most folks dislike. I remember when approaching the saddle below the summit of Mt. Princeton and the wind was really kicking up and my face was burning from the cold dry air, I was thinking "this is what I love" I love the adversity of the act. So for me summiting a peak is fun but not so fun as to warrant overwhelming enthusiasm, now summiting that peak in the worst conditions, that my friends would be awesome! And that is the problem. After reaching the top of the peak, yes we "bagged" it, I looked around, drank my summit beer and was ready to head back down. There was nothing left for me to do. I had taken in the scenery, drank my ale and now I was ready to move on. In other words, I was bored. Being bored on top of this mountain was a weird revelation for me. And as I descended I thought more about it and I began this self analysis and I came up with some astounding findings.
I often don't value my accomplishments in a manner in which most folks do. I have been through a lot of "events" in my life that when folks learn of them they are excited, more excited than I ever was. So my self discovery is one that actually makes me sad. I wonder why these things didn't become bragging points or highlights of my resume, why I choose not to advertise past accomplishments. And although I really haven't spent much time digging into my psyche to find the answers I feel that maybe some thing is wrong with me. So I wonder why don't I do these things? Why don't I brag and try and impress? Why don't I champion my accomplishments? Why does reaching the top of a mountain not excite me? While I don't have a solid answer to these queries all that I can come up with is that I am happy not to one up, and not to be first, I actually enjoy the feeling that others have when they win, and that is that my happiness is derived from understanding that others found their own "awesome". My accomplishments are not extraordinary but they may be more than someone else has done, likewise other folks have accomplished great feats that make up who they are but they do not feel the need to be identified as that one thing. Our past is what makes us who we are today and each accomplishment makes us stronger and wiser, so long as we do not get to linear in our identification of ourselves we will always be growing as a person. Accomplishing things such as bagging a peak is something that folks take great pride in and I think that to reach some goals we need to be pushed to that end. And once the feat has been accomplished then the person absolutely has the right to represent that in what ever manner they choose. Pushed or not they should be proud of what they accomplished.
I will say and my wife will no doubt agree that I do push folks, I will step up the pace on a hike, or push harder to try and non verbally get the rest of the party moving and I think sometimes that can be interpreted as me "one upping" but for me I am doing it to get those folks to accomplish a greater goal, I don't want the aches and pains and excuses to hold them back from a victory. Because as I said once you have "done it" it is yours to decide how you want to represent your accomplishment and in no way is your way wrong, that is unless you use it to be "better" than the others. Everyone deserves the chance at victory and success, sure it may have taken them longer but in the end we all deserve to own our accomplishments. Regardless of how awesome you were, some one will be better one day, so it is better to be proud and humble. I promise.
I myself have been pushed in this same manner while riding or running and while during the bonkfest or pity party I wanted nothing more than to erase the pusher, at the end of the day I was always glad they did it. The beers tasted better and the fire warmer and my smiles were always bigger. This past weekend's hike was not one of those days where we had to be pushed or push others, everyone was solid and did a great job. The beers were awesome and the feeling of great accomplishment was amazing, but had I needed it I would have welcomed it and I hope that those that I adventure with in the future understand that outside motivation is not a bad thing, even though at the time it can seem that way. By working together as a team we build friendships and memories to last a lifetime, even if you don't choose to wear them on your sleeve.