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Project Zero: An Effort Toward Zero Avalanche Deaths

Monday, November 16th, 2015

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Project Zero is a collaborative effort striving to change perceptions of avalanche risk and shift the goal toward zero deaths.

By Shaun Nauman

The experience of backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the alpine is bliss beyond words. Snow carpets the alpine landscape and shimmers like diamonds when the first light hits. On the approach through snow covered spruce trees, humanity is left behind. It has a peaceful resonance, and tranquility that no words or pictures can truly capture. As you break tree line you are beckoned by a landscape bigger than the mind can comprehend. Rocky crags paint the landscape in an ocean of winter bliss as you work your way to the summit. Within the blink of an eye all that can change. A large persistent slab can shatter across the slope like a windowpane of glass, and the tranquility is suddenly changed in to in to a surreal nightmare.

pz_pres3In the past few years we have lost many legends, and, on a personal level, a few friends. The fact is, if you spend enough time in the backcountry you are eventually going to know someone that has died in an avalanche. If you don’t already, you will. At some point it becomes personal, for all of us. The sobering fact is that the more we read through avalanche incident reports, we see a recurring theme – same avalanche – different face. It has forced many of us to step back and evaluate why this is often happening to people with avalanche training.

The power of avalanche education is the industry-based framework that places everyone on the same page, with the same terminology and understanding. This process forms stronger communication of group dynamics while evaluating avalanche hazards, snow stability and terrain choices. However, it seems that even when armed with these skills we do not see a reduction in accidents and fatalities.

As educators, instructors and industry leaders we realized a need to look beyond teaching just the techniques of avalanche safety. Is the message telling people to get a beacon, shovel, probe and take an avalanche course fragmented? Is there a deeper layer that needs to be addressed? Avalanche safety and rescue techniques are a critical component, but not the entire picture. There is mounting evidence that a pattern of human factors is emerging. People tend to get pulled in to presumptuous and general rule-of-thumb behaviors, often referred to as heuristic traps. The common denominator lies not in the training but in the patterns of evaluating avalanche hazards.

pz_presHow do we address the bigger picture? Project Zero was launched as a collaborative effort with the mission to shift the perception of avalanche risk and to move the goal toward zero deaths. It is a ground-breaking unity of avalanche forecast centers, educators, equipment manufacturers and industry associations across North America.

When I first learned of Project Zero, the message struck me on a personal level. I sought a way to become a part of the initiative and was invited to take a role as a Project Zero Ambassador. I gave a presentation at the 2015 Silverton Splitfest in Silverton, Colorado under the current campaign, The Backcountry Starts Here. At the core of the campaign are the “Backcountry Basics” one should follow before entering backcountry terrain. These are five call-to-action pieces that serve to reinforce the baseline of a positive backcountry experience.

Backcountry Basics • Get the Gear• Get the

The first three call-to-action pieces are relatively self explanatory. (1) Get the Gear: Includes a beacon, shovel, and probe. (2) Get the Training: By taking an avalanche course, it puts you on the same sheet of music, same terminology and same understanding as others in your group. (3) Get the Forecast: Check weather and avalanche forecasts before deciding on an objective.

The next two call-to-action pieces are more complex and are the key components I elaborate on to streamline the complexity of “Get the Picture,” which is the importance of a routine. Backcountry users need to have a rigid, rule-based routine much like any other high-stakes industry. The analogy, as Bruce Tremper of the Utah Avalanche Center puts it, “is much like that of a commercial aviation pilot, performing pre-flight checklists.” The use of a method-based routine prevents us from making assumptions and rule of thumb shortcuts.

alptruthTo fully grasp this concept, people need to put their mind in an analytical mode that seeks and filters facts and look for clues. The clues are everywhere, and are often referred to as nature’s billboards. Systems that are employed for environmental traps such as ALPTRUTH, originally developed by avalanche researcher Ian McCammon, is an acronym used to stay on course and give you mental clues during pre-planning and while you are out. From a practical perspective, when ALPTRUTH is employed as an obvious clues system, it can help us gauge the bigger picture. As McCammon put it, “If I run through this checklist and notice one or two clues it gives me a gauge. If I start to see three or more of the ALPTRUTH clues, I know I am getting pretty far from shore and it’s time to reassess my goals.”

The amount of information, data and resources available today can be overwhelming. In order to make good decisions we need to be able to sort and prioritize information and filter these facts. The mountains are not static. A complex understanding of terrain and snow science is essential to make fluid decisions. When making key decisions in avalanche terrain I always ask myself how I could be wrong. I emphasize to others to always be willing to reevaluate and change their plan based on new information. Employing a method such as ALPTRUTH can help keep you on track identifying environmental traps.

facetsThe final call to action – Get out of Harm’s Way: Daily, we make hundreds of decisions both large and small and we must make them efficiently. We are largely unaware of making them, even when they are critical decisions. Our decision-making is heavily affected by our biases and reliance on success of habits. Intuitive decisions are made on almost an unconscious level whereas analytical thinking is systematic. These intuitive decisions, or rules of thumb become “heuristic traps” when they are applied unconsciously and can be deadly when we use them in avalanche terrain unconsciously. McCammon also developed an acronym for basing decisions on familiar but inappropriate cues known as FACETS. Like facets in the snowpack, we want to avoid them. Heuristic traps account for the lion’s share of avalanche incidents. Basing our decisions on familiar, but inappropriate clues.

Employing system acronyms such as APLTRUTH for environmental factors and FACETS for human factors are a few tools for developing a routine and helping us stay on track. Consistent use of such routines and changing the mindset of backcountry recreationalists may help evolve the patterns of avalanche accidents and, ultimately, that is the goal of Project Zero. These are practical tools that can help novices recognize the conditions and events that have taken lives in the past and start them on an advanced routine in the backcountry.

This post comes from Shaun Nauman, a blogger ( and Boulder, CO resident. When Shaun isn’t studying snow hydrology and forecasting avalanches, the AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Instructor is finding new adventures in the backcountry on his splitboard. Watch for more adventures, gear reviews and fun reading from Shaun and other Ambassadors of Tahoe Mountain Sports.


Saturday, October 31st, 2015



With forecasts of El Niño ushering a potentially epic winter into the Sierra, Tahoe Mountain Sports’ upcoming Avalanche Education Series will help ensure the safety of you and your backcountry partners.

Tahoe Mountain Sports’ 2015-16 Avy Education Series presented by Ortovox is a free, three-part opportunity to learn practices that can keep you safe while participating in backcountry snow sports.

In addition to free, hands-on activities aimed at learning rescue techniques and how to use and service beacons and avalanche airbag packs, TMS will offer special, in-store deals each night during the series and raffles benefiting the Sierra Avalanche Center.

While the series is not intended to be an end-all education on avalanche safety, it is an exceptional opportunity to learn directly from Truckee-Tahoe’s resident mountain guides, avalanche safety instructors, meteorologists and local non-profits, such as the Sierra Avalanche Center.

All events are free and held at Tahoe Mountain Sports; 11200 Donner Pass Rd. in Truckee. Doors open at 6 p.m. Programs start at 6:30 p.m. For more information contact TMS at 530-536-5200 or

Part I – Reading Avalanche Reports, Understand Mountain Forecasts & Making Good Decisions
Weds. Nov. 18 – 6:30 p.m.
Zach Tolby, a NOAA meteorologist, will discuss mountain-specific forecasts and what a strong El Niño means for the Sierra. Don Triplat from the Sierra Avalanche Center and Steve Reynaud from the Tahoe Mountain School will discuss problem solving in winter scenarios and safe backcountry movement. Interactive weather and decision-making scenarios will follow in a small group setting. Great raffle will cap it all off. Ortovox presents this event with additional support from The North Face and Black Diamond.

Part 2 – Beacons and Beers
Weds. Dec. 9 – 6:30 p.m.
Learn the basics of avalanche rescue including proper transceiver and shovel use and group-rescue strategies. Jared Rodriguez of Ortovox and Steve Reynaud of Tahoe Mountain School will discuss the history and tech behind avalanche transceivers. Attendees will break into small groups for outdoor beacon practice including burial scenarios. TMS will offer discounts on products in the store this night only. TMS can update Ortovox, Mammut, Barryvox and Pieps transceivers for $5 this night only. Ortovox presents this event with additional support from The North Face and Arva Equipment.

Part 3 – Avalanche Airbag Sessions – Rep War & Party
Weds Jan. 27, 2016 6:30 p.m.
Learn the physics behind avalanche airbag packs and understand the differences between passive and active backcountry safety gear. The night’s highlight will be the “Rep War,” where representatives from major airbag companies debate each other on who makes superior airbag systems. TMS will offer free exchanges of all air or gas cylinders this night only in an effort to practice and to test your system. A season-ending raffle supporting Sierra Avalanche Center will follow with the grand prize of a Mammut airbag pack ($900 value) highlighting the evening. Ortovox presents this event with additional support from The North Face, Black Diamond, Mammut and Backcountry Access (BCA).



Polar Opposites: A photo journey of Antarctica in Truckee

Monday, October 5th, 2015

Todd Offenbacher and Tahoe Mountain Sports host an early season pow wow for pow featuring Todd O’s slideshow from Antarctica.

Who: Todd Offenbacher – Mammut athlete, mountaineer and Tahoe local
What: Polar Opposites: A photographic journey of ski mountaineering in Antarctica and Svalbard
When: Oct. 21 | Doors-shopping specials: 6 p.m. | Program: 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: Tahoe Mountain Sports; 11200 Donner Pass Rd. Truckee
Why: Get stoked for snow and raffle benefiting Sierra Avalanche Center

Truckee, CA — Join Tahoe Mountain Sports on Oct. 21 to get psyched for snow with Todd O and his Polar Opposites slideshow.

TMS will host its free, all-ages, in-store season kick-off with adventure skier and climber Todd Offenbacher (Todd O) as he takes us on a photographic journey of ski mountaineering in Antarctica and Svalbard. Along with Todd O’s stunning photography, Tahoe Mountain Sports will feature a raffle to benefit the Sierra Avalanche Center, of which Todd O is a board member.

“Penguins in the south and polar bears in the north,” Todd O says about Polar Opposites. “With a little bit of big wall climbing thrown in for fun.”

From 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., TMS will be offering shopping specials for those stocking up on their stoke due to Todd O’s adventures.

“It is a funny and inspiring show,” he says. “I try to explain how to get invited, or invited back, to the best trips in the world.”

The South Lake Tahoe resident and Mammut athlete is also a guide for Ice Axe Expeditions, the host for Outside TV Lake Tahoe and the creator of Tahoe Adventure Film Festival, which will premier this year on Dec. 11 at the MontBleu in South Lake Tahoe.

Tahoe Mountain Sports – 536-5200

Peak Baggin’ the Eastern Sierra Nevada

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Who: Chris Cloyd
What: Trail Running/Peak Baggin’
Where: Banner Peak and Mt. Ritter
When: Sept. 12, 2015

In mid-September Tahoe Mountain Sports Ambassador Chris Cloyd set out from the Rush Creek trailhead (37.78227°N/119.09786°W) off the June Lake Loop on the eastside of the Sierra with Bill Clements and Luke Garten for a dayshot effort on Banner Peak and Mount Ritter. Check out their day in the high Sierra!
And check out the huge selection of topo maps and guide books at Tahoe Mountain Sports for your next adventure…

Using the Rush Creek trailhead for an approach of Banner Peak and Mt. Ritter isn’t the most economical (it’s closer to start at Agnew Meadows trailhead  37.68296°N/119.09263°W out of Mammoth), but Bill, Luke and I had run the River Trail before and wanted to explore a new zone. Seeing the cable tramway up from Silver Lake, the dam at Agnew Lake and new trails was well worth the extra work.

We ascended North Glacier Pass from Thousand Island Lake and refilled our water supply at Lake Catherine. From there, we ascended just north of the glacier via rock and talus to gain the saddle between Banner and Ritter. Ascending Banner was a glorified walk up via the southwest face — and well worth it.

Views of Thousand Island Lake, Mono Lake and Garnet Lake reward your efforts. Retracing our steps to the saddle, our next challenge was the north face of Ritter. Muir waxed poetic on his ascent and our route was every bit as awesome. We utilized a chute rising from the apex of the glacier and gained the summit ridge, summiting our second peak of the day in fine style.

We opted to descend down the SE face of Ritter to Ritter Lakes to take in some new scenery, regrouped at Lake Catherine and then ran back to the trailhead retracing our route. Just under 10 hours!

Chris Cloyd is a TMS Ambassador and lover of endurance sports. When Chris isn’t training for his next big run in the mountains or out exploring the Eastern Sierra on bike, he’s managing the Performance Training Center by Julia Mancuso. Watch for more race reports, gear reviews and fun reading from Chris and other Ambassadors of Tahoe Mountain Sports.

TMS and Boreas Introduce The Pack Tester Adventure Team!

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Boreas Gear is an exciting new outdoor equipment company that states that “The best gear is neither complicated nor expensive yet as versatile as the person using it.” The undercurrent here is that Boreas has figured out the secret formula for such gear, or, at least, is working hard to find that formula.  How does a new company find the secret ingredients that it needs to be the best? It partners with Tahoe Mountain Sports to put together a pack testing adventure team! This team will be responsible for testing and providing real world feedback on the stylish backpacks. Who are the lucky seven  that have been chosen for the pack testing team, you ask? Let’s meet them, shall we?

Introducing The TMS/Boreas Pack Tester Adventure Team!


Name:  Ted Teske

Pack Testing: Buttermilk 55

“My job requires that I travel to some fairly remote and inhospitable locations. I’m always looking for gear that can keep me organized, dry in the field and stand up to the “not so gently” rigors of modern travel. Boreas packs interest me with their flexible  sleek designs that seem to hide the rugged construction under their well thought out features and aesthetics. We’ll see!”



Name: Andy Pattison

Pack Testing: Buttermilk 55

“I spend at least 2-4 weeks on the trails every year. As a result, I have become picky about packs and gear. This is why I am very excited to be a pack tester for the Boreas Buttermilk 55 and why I’m looking forward to checking it out during the second half of my honeymoon this fall.”



Name: Michael Detwiler

Pack Testing:  Repack 15

“I own a few Dakine packs and they have treated me well over the years. I’m interested in testing out a different brand to see what more modern-designs and different manufacturers have to offer. When I’m on my bike the Dakine packs seem to flop around a bit, I’m hoping the Boreas pack fits a bit more snug.”



Name: Adam Tirella

Pack Testing:  Lost Coast 60

“As someone who works at a job involving the outdoors, being able to play around with new gear is one of my favorite perks. I especially like the opportunities I get to try and support new brands that are pushing the envelope as far as form and function goes. I know firsthand, Boreas is one of those companies!”



Name: Anne Greenwood

Pack Testing: Lost Coast 60 Women’s

“I am working on completing the Tahoe Rim Trail this summer.  I have been solo backpacking and find my Gregory Pack to be like hoisting a bag of bricks onto my back. I am really looking to lighten up so I can move faster and not feel so broken after three-four days. I did get my pack down from 49 lbs (ouch!) to 28lbs, and I think the Boreas pack will get me down to 22….a very reasonable load! I may actually be able to bring a stove!”





Name: Sandy Jean Borden

Pack Testing: Lost Coast 60 Women’s

“I’m a gear junkie! I’m always critiquing and analyzing gear this is why I’m excited about this opportunity to share my experience with a Boreas Pack. Practicality, durability, comfort and unique features will be what I will be checking out and reporting on!”



Name: Mike Rommel

Pack Testing: Lost Coast 60

“The reason I would like to test Boreas Packs is that the pack looks innovative in design, contour and light in weight. I will be testing the pack on a full day high alpine, multi-pitch climb in the Palisades at Temple Crag. I look forward to the pack being comfortable with its ergonomic design.”


For the next month, these courageous testers will be embarking on grand adventures with their Boreas packs, giving them the ultimate “real world” challenge. Will these packs hold up against the vigors of our  outdoor adventure test team, or will  Boreas  actually wear out our mighty seven? Regardless of the outcome, this test can only make the world of outdoor adventure, a lot stronger.  Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the Boreas/TMS Pack Challenge!

See Previous Post “Gear Testers Wanted: Boreas Backpacks”

After Summiting Denali, Reflections on Training for the Climb

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Brad Miller and Clay Kimmi of Adventures for Action set out last May to climb the West Buttress of Denali (Mt. McKinley) to raise awareness and funds for the International Health Partners of the United States and Tanzania (IHP-TZ). This blog post is the third in a series Brad and Clay are writing for Tahoe Mountain Sports, who is helping to gear them up for Denali. In past posts, Brad mused on the difficulty of big mountain training and how they were training for the summit.

Anyone who participates in a big mountain expedition inevitably gets asked the same few questions over and over again. One of which is this one:
“Did you train hard enough?”
In the case of Clay and I the answer is yes and no.
However, when it was all said and done, we were definitely prepared enough to get up Denali, which we did in a very respectable time. After being stuck in weather for 4 days at 17,000 feet, we were able to summit on day 12 and were down on day 15. We were definitely up for the task.
Climbing Denali is definitely not easy. We both had times where one of us would crash and were hurting by the end of the day.  More than once I had to fight tooth and nail just to stay awake in camp long enough to quickly choke down as much food as possible before passing out in my sleeping bag.
Most amateur climbers occasionally have a few of those days where you think that you should have trained harder because you feel like you just can’t go on.  But, those days are one of the reasons we all get out there in the mountains.  Those days are the tests we seek; they are the proving grounds.  During the times when you feel like you are at the end of your reserves, you have the opportunity to grit your teeth, dig deep and find the hidden strength to succeed.  And, after all, that is what big mountain climbing is all about.


Once on the mountain, Clay found that there was a distinct hole in his training regiment that left him hurting up to 14,000 feet.  When I asked him if he thought his training was adequate, his to-the-point reply says it all:
“Overall . . . no.  It was quite simply the lack of sled training that kicked my ass.  Not living and training at altitude was a small part of it, but the lack of strength training with the sled was what really affected me.”
No matter how much altitude you do with a heavy pack, everything changes when you pull a 70 lb sled. You have another item to deal with that is constantly trying to foul and trip you up.  You use different muscles than when just packing loads on your back. And combining all of this with skis makes everything that much more difficult.
In Kansas, Clay focused on stair climbing and running. While those activities certainly helped prepare him for the mountain, he neglected training with a sled and paid the price. Having trained up to 70 lbs with a pack while in his hotel stairwell in Kansas City, he felt fit and prepared. However, adding another 70 lbs on a sled that constantly fought upward progress showed him just how possible it is to take yourself to the end of your energy reserves while hauling heavy loads.
In addition to the hard work of pulling a sled up, Clay, a Kansas dweller, was not able to practice skiing downhill with a pack and sled. This missing skill set was desperately missed on our descent.  Add to that bad breakable crust snow conditions, the descent was a constant fight instead of a pleasant cruise back to base camp.
In reflecting back on how he trained, Clay said that aside from obviously adding a heavy sled element, he would have focused more on interval training in place of long distance running as he feels the intervals were more beneficial.


For my part, training in the Tahoe region served me well.  Throughout the summer months I was able to pack very heavy loads to altitudes of 10,000 feet on a regular basis.  The winter months allowed me to train in a manner that exactly reflected the work we were to undertake on the mountain.  Being able to work up to a 65 lb pack and 70 lb sled while skinning  up and skiing down packed forest service roads helped my mind and body comprehend and prepare for the task ahead.  Doing all this work at an altitude of over 6,000 feet made me that much more fit and I feel like Clay underestimates how much working out at 700 feet set him back.  Although he spent a week in Colorado before flying to Alaska, I don’t think this “acclimation trip” helped him much.  To access Denali’s West Buttress route you fly in to base camp at 7,200 feet. While my blood was already accustomed to this “daily living” altitude, Clay had to immediately started acclimatizing and so was handicapped from the start.
I agree with Clay that interval training was very important, surprisingly so in fact.  It is counter-intuitive to think of interval training as preparation for mountain climbing because there are no sprint-rest periods like in soccer or football.  What we discovered, however, was at 17,000 feet and above, a simple slip or stumble that requires a fast movement to correct constitutes a sprint.  These snap reactions skyrocket your heart rate and breathing and intervals definitely helped in recovery during these situations.  Intervals also greatly helped me lower what I call my working heart rate — the heart rate level I maintain when slowly slogging up the hill in a pace where I can climb for an hour or two without stopping to rest.

Mammut Alyeska Jacket
Mammut Alyeska Jacket
MSRP: $698.95

For the Love of Training

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Brad Miller of Adventures for Action sets out this May to climb the West Buttress of Denali (Mt. McKinley). This “adventure” is to raise awareness about the “action” they’re striving to achieve, which is currently fundraising for the International Health Partners of the United States and Tanzania (IHP-TZ). Read more about both the Adventure and the Action of Adventures for Action on their website. This blog post is the first of a series Brad is writing for Tahoe Mountain Sports, who is helping to gear him up for Denali.

I have never been fond of training and I think it is a safe assumption that I am not alone in this feeling.  I dislike activities that are physical prerequisites to the “real thing” and because of this feeling, most training that I have done has felt joyless and perfunctory.  I have been very fortunate in that much of my life has been actually living the “real thing.”  I have lived in Yosemite, trekked in Nepal and climbed in many countries abroad.  In these places I did not need to train because I was always doing the activities one might train for.  We did not train to climb; we climbed. And I was physically the better for it.

Since childhood I have always hated to practice and loved to play.  My father would tell me that I had to take the good with the bad and that I was not allowed to participate if I did not put in the work. He left the choice up to me, never forcing activities upon me and so I was able to think on my young priorities and decide what was worth sticking with.  Boy scouts was not; I loved camping, canoeing and learning to shoot, but the meetings and merit badges where too much to put up with.  Wrestling was worth the bad, even though practice was brutal and I often found myself close to vomiting due to the effort.

This feeling about practice has remained unshakable into my adult life, and now training equals practice.  It does not matter how or what I am training for—on a hang board for climbing, riding intervals or hills for an upcoming road or cyclocross race—it’s all the same.  I am ashamed to say that I don’t even particularly enjoy skills training, although I recognize it as absolutely necessary and so strive to learn the necessities that help keep my partners and me safe.  Compared to skills training however, physical training has always seemed to me to be like clockwatching.

And so it was, when faced with the challenge of making an attempt on Denali in May 2012, I was presented with another challenge.  A challenge, I dare say, equal to that of the climb itself. . . the dreaded training.  Training for a climb like Denali is a long affair and despite the ability to peak bag that Tahoe affords, inevitably the process turns repetitive and mundane.  These feelings are accentuated for me by those days when I cannot afford the time to get into Desolation Wilderness.  This inevitably leaves me running, which I loathe, or humping weight up a long forest service road still thinly covered by a weak winter’s ice and snow.  These are the types of things that I would never, ever do for fun, and so I see them as the biggest of chores.  That is, until recently.

On December 9th my brother Russ, who by trade is a climber on a tree trimming crew, was crushed by a 1,500-pound log.  The trauma from the accident broke and dislocated his hip, fractured 4 vertebrae, ripped the meniscus from its mount in his knee and tore 40 percent through one of his bicep mounts.  To say that Russ is lucky to be alive is, for him, as true as it is bitter.  Although thankfully not paralyzed from the accident, Russ is an avid climber and runner and the great log squashing with four subsequent surgeries spread across five months has taken away the physical activities he loves for a long time to come.  With lots of future hard work, many months of time and a fair amount of luck, my climbing partner, brother and best friend will make a good recovery.  But for now, his inability to exercise is taking a physical and mental toll.

In late February Russ and I spoke for a long time about what exercise and outdoor activities mean to us.  He talked about his love of running, how he loves to push past the inevitable “bad section” of a long run and move into the part where he feels like everything is right and he could go on forever.  Pre accident Russ would do this often, running 10 or more miles in a session.  He runs not only for the positive physical effects but also for the love of the movement and the way it makes him feel.  Upon being asked how his run is, it is common for him to answer, “It was the best ever.”

Although Russ sometimes runs 5k races and half marathons (a stress fracture prevented him from participating in the Phoenix marathon), he does not run to train.  He runs to run.  For me, exercise as training for the main event is one thing but running to run is another beast entirely.  This idea, if not totally foreign to me was once hard to understand. I would never run for the sake of it, and in training daily to get fit for another activity I find it hard to maintain motivation.  Often when I am out hauling heavy loads in preparation for the physical toll on Denali I find myself wishing I was already done and counting the minutes or steps until I can quit.  Having set out with a specific session goal, I oftentimes have to consciously fight the pull to quit early and I sometimes lose.  After the conversation with my brother in February, however, that all changed.

I have often said that you don’t need to lose something to really appreciate it, you simply need to occasionally meditate on the things you have.  Similarly, when you see someone else go without or lose something dear to them it makes it even easier to appreciate what you maintain.  I experienced this while traveling through India and seeing the poverty and strife that is rampant there.  My brother’s accident and our subsequent conversation also poignantly illustrated this idea.

In our conversation he expressed a worry that because I tend to not want to be training that I miss out on so much while I am doing it—that I am so focused on the end goal that I lose sight of the journey.  This struck a chord which rang true.  Russ made me realize that I should be more in the moment, that I should appreciate every day that I am out there enjoying nature, pushing myself and getting stronger.  That I should not take even one day for granted.  I should remember, he told me, that he can’t get out there and won’t be able to for a long time, and getting after it is all he wants to do.

When I go out to train now I make sure to do whatever it takes to enjoy myself.  Sometimes that means slowing down and appreciating my surroundings; sometimes it means picking up the pace and really pushing.  Mostly, when I start to get down on myself and thoughts of wanting to quit creep in, or thoughts of not wanting to even go out at all arise, all I have to do is think of my brother.  I think about how much he wants to be out there, not training but just moving.  All I have to do is think of him and I am reminded of how lucky I am to even have the opportunity to train and all that negativity goes away.  In a way I am not only training for Denali, I am also training for him.

For over 8 years I have wanted to stand on the summit of Denali, and long ago I asked Russ if he wanted to someday try with me.  Despite his love of rock climbing he is not a mountaineer and knowing the high and inherent dangers he simply replied, half serious, half in jest, “Sorry bro, but I have no desire to walk into a white death with you.”  Accident or not, Russ would have never come to Denali with me in body, which is probably for the best as any long stormbound stint in a small tent would have lead to an inevitable murder.  Mine I suspect, as he is far stronger in both body and mind than I.  He will however come with me in philosophy.  When I find myself up there suffering—cold, tired, hurting and wanting to quit—all I will have to do is think of him and how he just wants to move and all that appreciation for where I am and what I am doing will come flooding back.  At least, I hope it does. . .

We appreciate Brad’s honesty. Training is hard. Do you struggle with training for mountaineering or other sports? Share your story in the comments.

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