Why I Chose to #OptOutside this Black Friday

When I’m traveling and people find out I’m American, one of the first things they usually say is: “Oh, America: Black Friday!”

I’m not sure why this event has managed to attach itself to the American identity, but I’ve had enough foreigners ask me about it that it clearly has. The rest of the world sees us as capitalism-crazed lemmings; people who will jump out of bed at 5 a.m. for anything, as long as the discount’s high enough.

And maybe that’s true, for some segment of my countrymen. But that’s not MY America. The same way the extreme Islamic clerics don’t represent Nouman’s Morocco, the homophobes in the streets don’t represent Iuri’s Brazil, and the Brexiteers don’t represent Sean’s England. Black Friday shoppers don’t represent MY America.

You can’t (successfully) stereotype people of any country — but the US, even less so. As I tell people when they ask about my home: there are many Americas.

And in my America, we #OptOutside.

While everyone else got up at 5 a.m. to snag #dealz, we got up at 5 a.m. to go snag some early-season ice climbing at Hidden Falls, in Rocky Mountain National Park. Find a different side of America, below the jump.

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Book Review: To Touch the Top of the World by Erik Weihenmayer

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.

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The Day We Climbed Long’s Peak

My good friend and climbing partner Meg was in a serious mountaineering accident last week. She was struck in the head by falling rock while attempting to climb Martha’s Couloir on Long’s Peak, a mixed ice and snow route. Her helmet saved her life, but by all accounts from those back home, she faces a long journey to recovery. Meg’s a strong person; the strongest I know, probably. But a traumatic brain injury is not a small thing.

When I saw the news on Facebook, I felt powerless. Here I was, halfway across the world in Morocco, while a good friend lay in the hospital on the verge of death. Had I been in Colorado, I might even have been on that mountain with her. I felt guilty.

My first instinct was to see how I could help.

I have a platform here, an audience that cares about what I have to say. I dashed off a post about the accident; imploring people to donate to the GoFundMe her family had started to pay for the sure-to-be-staggering medical bills. It felt good to be doing something. I was even going to send a message to my neglected e-mail list. I might lose some subscribers, but someone would probably donate. I wanted to help. I almost pulled the trigger.

But then I hesitated. Something didn’t feel right.

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Rif Mountains Chefchaouen

I went for a walk in the mountains. Here in Chefchaouen, mountains rise right outside of the town—their powerful presence is a big part of why I have lingered in this sleepy Moroccan pueblo for so long. Mountains have always been where I find my peace; where I find my best self. Meg, I know, is similar.

I walked out of town, accompanied by a new friend from the hostel, doing her best to distract me from my morbid state of mind. Admirable effort, but I still found myself thinking about the times Meg and I had shared together as climbing partners. I thought about the reasons we go into the mountains. I thought about why we do these things which we know could kill us. And I thought about what Meg would want.

Here it became clear to me, the story of a broken person in need of help wasn’t the story she would want told. That’s not Meg’s story. I wouldn’t dare to write it.

Instead, I want to tell the story of the day we climbed Long’s Peak.

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Book Review: Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer

Eiger Dreams original cover

Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains” was first published in 1990. Well before the cultural zeitgeist embraced the outdoors as the hippest, healthiest place to play, and long before #adventure became chic, Krakauer began his book with this epigraph:

“Having an adventure shows that someone is incompetent, that something has gone wrong. An adventure is interesting enough in retrospect, especially to the person who didn’t have it; at the time it happens it usually constitutes an exceedingly disagreeable experience.”

There’s something to be said here about the wisdom of your elders, but considering the name of this website, I’ll leave it hanging.

A collection of climbing and mountaineering essays and articles written for Outside Magazine and others, “Eiger Dreams” was the first book ever released by author Jon Krakauer, who would later go on to find literary fame with two heavy hitters: “Into The Wild” and “Into Thin Air.” By nature of being an essay collection, “Eiger Dreams” doesn’t demonstrate the thematic and narrative tightness of those later books; some essays are worth reading, others will likely have you skipping ahead to see how much longer until the next one.

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