Posts Tagged ‘Alan Bard’

Following Your Gut Feelings


Mtn Guide & Writer, Ken Wyle

When the Mountain Bites Back, And What Are the Lessons To Be Learned
Mountain guide, writer and longtime friend from Outward Bound days, Ken Wyle is writing a book about his accounts the day he was caught in the La Traviata avalanche in Canada that killed seven people. I had heard through the grapevine that Ken had been caught in a big one, and I felt a wrench in my gut. Mountaineering accidents, in which friends are involved affect me more than most things in life. Alan Bard was one of my ski-guiding mentors, and he goes and dies on the Grand Teton. One’s teacher isn’t supposed to do that. There was a cloud over me for a time after I had heard the news, and I did’t feel comfortable on the rock for a time too. There have been other friends too that are no longer with us, and I ask myself the same questions that we all do about events like this, and the meaning of it all.

Reading a few of Ken’s Facebook posts and on his blog, give me the impression, he too has been asking some questions. And while the answers are secondary, the questions he’s asking have weight, at least from my humble perspective.  While compassion is one of outcomes of teaching an Outward Bound course, it looks like Ken is living it.
I caught up with Ken on Facebook last week, and he suggested I check out his blog The Energies of Adventure. Some glimpses of what will most likely be included his book can be seen on his blog.
Here’s the lead-in to his first post on that blog:

Seven Cairns
Chapter 1, “Lost in the Fog”

January 20th 2003, deep in the Selkirk mountains of Canada’s British Columbia. It is overcast and white out.  Snow flakes are lightly falling from the clouds.  The air is moving softly out of the southeast. Two groups of backcountry ski tourers collect at the frozen, snow covered, Tumbledown Lake for our first tea break of the day. My smaller group of read the rest of this story..



Joe Simpson’s Beckoning Silence


Bravo, Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson’s documentary, The Beckoning Silence, is a well-done re-enactment of Tony Kurtz’s infamous climb on the Eiger. It’s part adventure, part history and part personal reflection. It shows the insight of wisdom that, in this case, comes with age. Having almost died more than once, the first time in Peru, Simpson has arrived at place in his life that is refreshingly thoughtful. Simpson is a climber who is growing older and facing his own mortality. Congrats to Simpson for making this “on the edge of your seat” film and letting us into his personal growth.

I reflect on Eckhart Tolle who writes in his first book The Power of Now about thrill seekers such as climbers who get addicted to the calm that comes with climbing, where past and future fade away and one must focus next move or ice axe placement,  because “taking your attention away from the task at hand, even for a split second can mean death”. Tolle  adds, “Fortunately you don’t have to climb the north face of the Eiger in order to feel the presence of the moment,  you can do it, right here and now*.”

I just did a bit of leading on rock yesterday, for the first time in a while, getting out from behind the desk here in New Zealand. It was great to clear the head and be on the  cliffs right outside our house here in Kingston on Shirttail Cliffs.

Top of Shirt-tail Cliffs, Kingston, NZ

Great quality climbs in a spectacular setting. Moving on the rock again felt great, and motivating, being on the sharp end. However,  I’ve never had that wild-eyed look of adrenaline, pumped, on the sharp end, need of the thrill . I like to test myself, but my survivalist instinct is too strong to be too bold. There are old climbers, bold climbers but not a lot of old bold climbers.   I know quite a few fellow climbers who I’ve lost to the mountains over the years, including one of my mentors, Alan Bard. I think of these things too, as does Simpson, as we have a baby boy expected to arrive in four weeks.  It’s good to be in the mountains, but to those hardcore dudes, don’t be afraid to take the easy way up, it won’t kill you.

*A free translation