At the age of 25 I felt OLD. This feeling appeared one day out of the blue, a manifestation of moments lurking in my sub-conscious. I had an unquenchable desire to take risks, and step outside my comfort zone.When the average human lifespan is 79 years, my 25 years of existence seems rather juvenile in comparison.
For me though, I measured my age in terms of athletic potential and maximums. I am always interested in being the best, and pushing myself to my absolute limits. One could imagine the sobering reality that strength and cardiovascular performance generally peaks for men at the age of 25. In my head it was all downhill from here, I had one year to live my life to fullest before my gains slowly started to wither away.
Essentially I had now rationalized an idea I loathed in my 18s’ and 20s’, Y.O.L.O. You only live once, also known as Carpe Diem is a generational idea that seems to get re-branded every so often. Throwing caution to the wind is almost always an ideal of youth, and whether this ideal comes from too much hormones or an inability to have foresight is not clear. Look through the lyrics of any song in the top 40 and I bet you’ll be able to pull out a line that promotes the same idea:
For all we know, we might not get tomorrow
Let’s do it tonight
As we all know, Pitbull is the modern day prophet of our generation, and his words here echo a sentiment constantly shoved down the throats of our youth. Y.O.L.O is a justification to do anything, and disregard consequences, it can free an individual from the constraints and norms of society or it can imprison them with the lifelong repercussions from a single night of irresponsibility. Artists like the Lonely Island have challenged this idea through the art of parody.
Despite all my past misconceptions about YOLO being an infectious disease of desperation, I found myself at the age of 25 non-ironically believing in the concept. I got invited to go to Vegas to run a Tough Mudder 10 mile competition. I said yes. Why? Simply because I was only ever going to be 25 once in my life and have the chance to go to Vegas and run this Tough Mudder. The time of David living conservatively and within his comfort zone had come to an end, 2018 is a year of pushing limits. I vowed to myself that I would not have any regrets in my old age about my wasted potential. During my 25th year alive, I would do, see and experience all that life had to offer me. I would drink deeply from the cup of life and worry about everything else after the fact.
…Besides… it’s all downhill after 25…. right?
If things were going to go downhill after 25, then I was gonna stick it to the man and go uphill. I took this quite literally. One could say I made a mountain out of a mole hill. Spring and summer of 2018 saw me freed my usual constrictive soccer schedule. Playing with only 1 team opened up my weekends and week nights.
Despite growing up with a cabin in the heart of the Kananaskis, the amount of hiking I did in my adolescence was limited. The fall of 2017 I pursued my first ever mountain peak, it was an ill-equipped and poorly planned hike that luckily managed to not end in disaster. We had gone after “The Wedge” which turns out is an intermediate to difficult scramble. According to Vern from Explor8ion.com:
A fall on the crux would severely injure or kill so take necessary precautions.
On this first peak expedition I wisely listened to my natural fear response and chose to not attempt the crux. The crux on The Wedge was the last 200-300m of elevation gain which was a straight scramble over some very lose scree, on a relatively exposed slope. Despite wisely choosing to not attempt to summit I still had a brush with near death. Helmetless and armed only with my sharp hearing I was able to react to a rock slide before it got to me. My hiking companions had chosen to attempt the exposed scramble and their movement up above me had caused a rock slide that was barreling towards my head. Luckily I was able to press up against a solid 5ft rock wall and the rock fall whizzed harmlessly over my head by mere centimeters.
Now in 2018 at the ripe old age of 25 I was ready to up the ante and start collecting peaks to store in my bag. Armed with my near death experience from the previous year, I was determined to do things the right way. I planned to hit the mountains every weekend I could. Soccer practices consistently cropped up every Sunday and games sometimes landed on the weekend, so throughout the summer I generally only had 1 peak I could bag each week. I started off in familiar territory, taking some friends out to Sarrail Ridge in the spring, and from there it quickly escalated.
Soccer is a sport that is diverse in its physical requirements. The sport asks you to be explosive in sprinting, but also conditioned in endurance. Typically for cardiovascular activities it’s easier to specialize in either endurance, or explosiveness, but yet soccer asks for both. Hiking/Scrambling on the other hand, demands heavily of endurance based cardio. The more fit I became for hiking, the less adapted I became for Soccer. I would go out for a 10 hour long hike on a Saturday, and then try to show up and perform for a Sunday morning soccer practice. I do not recommend anyone follow the routine I just described. I usually push my body to its limits through soccer and weight lifting, but climbing mountains was delightful new way to suffer. Every time without fail, the day after a long hike I questioned why the fuck I just put myself through so much physical toil. The day after a big hike you are at the peak of physical exhaustion and you’d swear you have perfect clarity. With that clarity you question what sort of mental illness compelled you the day before, and the prospect of doing it again is unfathomable. Yet, a few days later the weekend is almost here, and excitement flurries around you, as you plan the next peak to add to your bag.
As my list of peaks grew, so did my number of physio visits. Getting IMS started to become required for me to even function properly. The extreme stress and fatigue I was putting my body through each week just kept building. At my peak I would go to physio, receive somewhere between 60-70 needles and then die for a few days, and resurrect myself for the weekend. I can assure you, 60 needles is a lot. Even my physio was concerned, she proudly told me I took them like a champ, and the effects they had on me were profound and necessary. My level of physical activity between hiking, gym, and soccer was at the point where I need professional intervention to keep performing injury free.
As of writing this post my list of chronological hikes for this season stands as follows:
- Sarrail Ridge | 845m gain 8km
- Grizzly Peak | 850m gain 7km
- Ha Ling & Miner’s Peak | ~800m gain ~6km
- Loaf Mountain | 1000m gain 21km
- Windtower (Rimwall detour) | >1000m >10km
- Crowsnest Mountain | 1075m gain 8km
- Temple Mountain | 1600m gain 14km
- Lady MacDonald | 1325m gain 11km
- Turtle Mountain | 900m gain 7km
- The Wedge (Failed attempt) | 678m gain 5.34km
Throughout these hikes I’ve slowly accumulated some much needed hiking gear that has enabled me to attempt more difficult hikes. You can see my relentless desire to push for more difficult hikes in my mountain resume. I even manged to hit my first 11,000fter which is a special accomplishment. Many dedicated mountaineers deliberately chase 11,000ft+ peaks in the Rockies. Right now there are only 54 unique peaks recognized as being over 11,000ft tall.
Coming into fall I was armed with more gear than ever before. Thanks to Kijiji and a kind, generous old soul, I had acquired a much needed helmet, hiking poles. crampons and more. The purchase of new hiking boots early in the season radically changed my foot health and stability. If I thought that I felt comfortable on long hikes and scree before, then after getting new boots I may as well have been a mountain goat. I plunged myself into hiking communities and literature in an earnest attempt to strip away the ignorance and arrogance I suspected still lurked within me. The fact that I hadn’t slipped or hurt myself on a hike so far was great. My ankle stability and ease of travel on difficult terrain always rose to the occasion. I hungered for a real challenge.
For a few weeks I set my sight on the next 11,000er that seemed obtainable, Edith Cavell. With 2 separate routes to summit, you could choose between low grade climbing or arduous scree slogging. With many warnings and some great info from the hiking community I was advised that this mountain was beyond my capabilities. Being stubborn at heart I wanted this peak more than ever, but luckily some great down to earth info from Kris & Doug managed to convince me to delay my death wish until 2019 at the earliest. I armed myself with a list of recommended peaks to bag before Edith. If I snagged these peaks I could probably handle whatever Edith had to throw at me, assuming of course, that I brought the right gear.
September 3rd, Labor day saw me trying to vanquish demons of peaks unconquered. Equipped with more experience, knowledge, and gear, I would return to “The Wedge” to finally summit and put it to rest. Nature had other plans.
With great sadness, and defeat we were forced to turn around and head back. The lightning strike cracking above our heads, far too close for our comfort had been the final nail in The Wedge coffin. This peak would stay out of my bag for yet another season. Returning to Calgary and normal life brought new challenges. The carefully honed, mountain climber fitness I had developed was now inadequate for high intensity soccer. Soccer came racing back into my life with coed games, tryouts and more. Getting away on the weekend to see the fall colors and bag a peak now seemed impossible.
My lust for physical suffering and new accomplishments had pivoted from one of mountain sports and back to my original Mistress. Football was back in my life, with a spiked whip and no mercy. As I write this post I nurse my now, sprained MCL and reminisce of those beautiful summer days when the Raspberry Ale was flowing and the peaks were baggable. Let me leave you with one last nugget of wisdom from the prophet Pitbull to cause pause for thought:
Y, yolo, done
Home run, grand slam
I am, the man
You’re the biddy-bing-bing-bang-bang, that thang