09 June 2018

Ski Mountaineering Through The Five Stages of Grief

The depth of my anguish as measured by the disappearance of my chin. Photo by Peter Dunau.


My shoulders ache, my hip belt is digging in to my fleshy bits, and I think I have a rock in my shoe. It's the middle of the summer and I've once again strapped my skis to my backpack to schlep them up the hill until we find snow, then hike some more until we've gone high enough that we can turn around and ski down. I don't want to be here, and can't believe I'm doing this again.

I can still see the car.

Ski mountaineering is often an exercise in suffering. Whether going out for a few hours or a few days, I spend the first 12% of the trip in mental anguish, questioning why the hell I'm on a godforsaken mountain doing this, again.

It turns out, I'm not alone in my silent torment. On a recent trip on Mt. Hood, neither one of my partners would talk for the first 90 minutes. I made an attempt at conversation, to which one guy replied, "I'll be chattier after the sun comes up." Memo received buddy. Like me, you are in the midst of your angst, and would prefer to work through the process in silence.

In my experience, this process closely follows the Five Stages of Grief:

Denial
  • "There's no way I'm going to be able to carry these all the way up there."
  • "I can't do it. I just can't."
  • "It's. Just. So. Far!"

Anger
  • "I cannot fucking believe I am doing this again."
  • "I hate my skis. I hate my boots. I hate my backpack. I hate snow. I hate mountains. I hate beautiful sunsrises. I hate my stupid life."
  • "This. Is. The. Worst!"

Bargaining
  • "If I can make myself throw up right now, maybe everyone will feel bad enough for me that we can turn around."
  • "I think he has new boots. Maybe he's getting blisters? I will send him a telepathic message that I will buy beers on the way home if he turns around right now and proclaims the blisters are too much and he can't go on!"
  • "Just. Need. One. Injury!"

Depression
....during this time your mind goes blank. You have lost the will to fight. The will to think. The will to give any more fucks about anything at all...

Acceptance
  • "This isn't so bad. I feel pretty okay I guess. Looking back we have come a long way I suppose. Maybe we will make it after all."
  • "Whelp, I guess we are just going to do this."
  • "Here. We. Fucking. Go!"

You can tell when the fog of the five stages has lifted by the general look on your partners faces and the slow uptick in conversation. With alpine starts, the end of the process tends to correlate with the sunrise/morning poop break.

Rest assured you aren't alone in your suffering. Like all things in life, this too shall pass. And if it doesn't, you'll eventually turn around because you'll reach your objective or your protests will make their way from your mind to your mouth and you'll convince everyone else that endeavoring on isn't worth it. Either way, you win. The car will still be there, and when you eventually reach it, the sweet freedom of flip flops will be waiting for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yup, I go through something similar every trip. I always start at a pretty slow pace and then gain steam after about an hour on the trail for some of these exact same metal reasons.

-Colin