SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder, something I don’t know that I have — but I think I do. I hate it when the sun doesn’t shine. I hate day after day of fog, of clouds, of overcast. It gets to me and wears me down.
What’s your trick to beat it??
Here’s mine. I plan. I spend all winter simply … planning. Poring over maps and climbing guides.
I plan my summer climbs. I make schedules, look for peaks I’ve yet to bag. It’s getting harder and harder, because I’ve bagged most of the non-technical mountains now in the Northern Rockies. The only ones left are the really, really hard ones, which I’m not all that interested in. I’m not trying to prove anything to anyone anymore.
Scouring maps and climbing guides this year, I discovered something … there are a lot of big (not huge, just big) mountains in the Northern Rockies that are quite doable, but I’ve yet to bag. I’ve had a tendency to try and go for really huge, hairy, scary-ass peaks, and the last two summers I’ve wasted a lot of time realizing these peaks were too freaky for me (Borah Peak in Idaho and Mount Rundle in Banff, Alta., are two that come to mind.)
Every year, I try to make a mountain-climbing goal. It helps keep me in shape; keeps me from getting too fat; keeps me from going batshit crazy in the winter. Two years ago, I made my most ambitious goal, and incredibly, I actually beat it — climbing 100,000 vertical feet during the summer. That damned near killed me, in fact, I got a mild case of HAPE on White Mountain Peak in California and it took me over a week to get over it. So, last year, my goals were much more modest … and they got even more modest as the summer wore on. Because of bad weather, a couple of injuries, and a major move in midsummer, I ended up only climbing one new mountain all year — Fairview Mountain in Banff.
One, just one.
This year, I’ve decided I want a whole bunch of new peaks — I’m gunning for six– Vimy Peak in Waterton National Park (9,000 feet), Painted Tepee Peak in Glacier National Park (7,700 feet), Wright Peak in the Bob Marshall Wilderness (8,850), Crow Mountain (9,415 feet), Sacagawea Peak (9,665 feet) and Hyalite Peak (10,299 feet).
I also realize I can make another doable goal — 9 peaks higher than 9,000 feat — Crow Mountain, Sacagawea, Hyalite, Vimy, St. Mary Peak, Lolo Peak, Little St. Joe Peak, Trapper Peak (A true beast at 10,154 feet), and Ward Mountain, which has a sadistic 6,000-foot elevation gain in only five miles.
Years ago, I met Ed Viesturs when he was doing talks for his “Endeavour 8,000” project. His goal was to climb all 14 8,000-metre peaks in the world. He eventually did it. He’s one of only three or four people in the world to do all 14 without supplemental oxygen. Ed is actually a nice guy, but “Endeavour 8,000” was just such a hokey name for it, and so typical of mountain-climbers.
So, I jokingly called my goal this year, “Endeavour 9 X 9,000.” The name stuck. It’s my way of making fun of mountain-climbers. Not all mountain-climbers or “rock jocks” are the same, and I‘m sure some of them are very, very nice, but if you’ve known as many as I have, you know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, a lot of them can be the most narcissistic, self-absorbed class of people you’ll ever cross paths with. Something about the mountain-climbing attracts that type of personality, I believe. A lot of them look down their nose at me as nothing more than a “peak bagger.” Peak bagger is a derisive term for someone who just looks for a lot of easy mountains to climb. It’s my hobby; it keeps me in shape and it keeps me motivated to stay in shape. What’s it to them?
I actually have 11 big peaks scheduled this summer (from mid-July to mid-September), but a couple of the new ones that I’ve never done before — Wright Peak and Painted Tepee Peak — are under 9,000 feet. Painted Tepee Peak has a Class 4 35-foot pitch right at the summit, though. It will probably be the only Class 4 I even try this year.
I actually tried to climb Hyalite Peak last year, but had to turn back less than 500 feet from the summit. It was horrible weather, and in the final pitch — you literally take a trail to the summit ridge, then just go up the ridge to the top — I came to realize I not only couldn’t see the peak, I couldn’t even see the way I had come. The visibility was only about 20 or 30 feet in dense, pea-soup fog. I had to turn back. It was simply too dangerous to keep going when I couldn’t see.
I’m pretty sure I’m physically capable — I did climb 100,000 vertical feet only two years ago. It’s going to come down to weather, forest fires and whether I roll an ankle or pull a hamstring — three wild cards I can’t control. Weather is the toughest wild card. You can’t climb in lightning, and as I found out last year, it’s not smart to climb in fog, either.
So, I’ve set two huge goals. Huge. Six new peaks. Nine peaks over 9,000 feet. If I do one or the other, it’s been a successful year. If I do both. It’s all gravy.
This is how I keep from going crazy in the winter. Thinking this stuff up.