I’ve been spending a lot of time in Europe recently; from big cities to the mountain ranges to tiny little villages in the middle of nowhere.
As an American, one of the most striking things I noticed in Europe was the importance of water. Rivers are the lifeblood of this continent. The major cities were built around them, which makes sense, as back in the day waterways were by far the quickest and most efficient method of moving people and goods around.
The European conquest of nature extends far beyond building cities though; almost every single major river on the continent has been dammed for hydroelectric power.
As an American, and one from the West, this fusion of civilization and nature always struck me in an odd way. In the U.S., we usually separate these things. Our nation was built on the back of railroad and automobile infrastructure, which means besides the Mississippi and a few other routes, rivers have largely been left alone. We prefer coal and oil over hydropower (not necessarily a good thing). We also enjoy a deep bond with our public lands.
In the US, our wilderness is untamed and unaltered as much as we can make it so.
For me, this respect for the land and the ecosystems is just as American as the right to own guns, or eat cheeseburgers, or whatever else foreigners associate with our nation. The first time I saw trees painted to mark trails in Hungary, I was horrified. The golden words in the American wilderness are Leave No Trace.
So when I read this article on Adventure Journal about the planned damming of Europe’s last, pristine rivers in the Balkan Peninsula, my initial reaction was pretty negative.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably realized I’ve been home for a bit. Home for me is Colorado, USA. Colorado’s one of the hottest states in the U.S. at the moment; one of the top places young people want to move. The migration is major, bringing both skilled and unskilled workers in large numbers to my home.
I can’t blame them; as I tell my friends and family when they ask about my travels, I’ve now seen a lot of places around the world. And the more places I see, the more convinced I am that Colorado is one of the better ones.
Here’s why I believe that:
My sister gave me “To Touch the Top of the World” as a gift, maybe ten, twelve years ago. “It’s about a blind guy that climbed Mount Everest,” she said. “Super inspiring.”
Cool, I replied, probably with a roll of my eyes, and set it aside. The book sat in my bookcase for the next decade, patiently waiting.
I picked it up the other day, in a moment of boredom, and found myself tearing through it. It is, as my sister said all those years ago, super inspiring.
Recently, I went through all the photos on my computer, and sorted out all the climbing ones for a project I’m working on. I was surprised by how many I found. Five years of photos, starting in my university climbing gym, and slowly growing into photos of small cliffs, endless pine forests, frigid rivers, high alpine peaks, frozen waterfalls, and foreign countries.
I often struggle to explain why I love climbing so much. After all, so much of the experience is internal. But after looking through these photos, I think they make a compelling case on their own.
Here’s where five years of “The Sport” have taken me.
(A lot of images after the break)
Recently, a woman I met in Chefchaouen messaged me a link to my article: “Should You Work For Vail Resorts? “Fourth result on Google! You’re all over the place,” she wrote.
How funny to think that three years ago, when I started this blog, it was about living in a ski town.
Life will change a lot, if you let it.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I certainly don’t yearn for the ski town. And I’m excited to see where the newest changes in my life will lead me. But sometimes, a reminder of the past can be sweet.
So today, we look back at Vail for a bit.
Here’s a video about Henry, one of the ski-patrol avalanche dogs from Vail. Snatching a few scratches from one of these puppers at PHQ atop Chir 4, or seeing one load or unload the chairlifts across the mountain was always a highlight of my season at Vail.
Hope you all enjoyed the video as much as I enjoyed the glimpse at the past! And hope everyone in Colorado enjoyed this weekend’s fresh snowfall! I’m jealous of everyone that got to catch some powder turns!