Oh, how my heart broke to hear of another life taken by our mountains. So young and handsome was that young man, swept away by a tumultuous flurry of snow. I think of his mother, his family, his lover and his friends and how they must all be clinging together, in a desperate measure to move forward without his smile and spirit.
I hear too, the angst of opinions regarding back-country touring. I read the comments on the article about his death and was appalled at the brashness of judgment: stupid choices, he should have known better, when will these people learn?
And while I can understand the passion behind this, my first thought was please do not say these things while this young man’s family and loved ones mourn his passing. He died! Regardless of how, the ones who love him must move forward in some manner of normalcy, fumbling around for sense and seeking solace. They never have to hear negative comments, they should not read that he should have known better.
You see, when you love the mountains, you do know all the inherent risks. You challenge yourself, you educate yourself, you knowingly take the risk for the love of life experience. For every life taken too soon, there are countless others enjoying the beauty, the rush, the thrill of the back country. On any given day in the winter, we see trucks laden with snowmobiles, groups of smiling faces placing skins on skis, snow-shoers packing tea and compasses to take with them. They do all this with a passion. A passion of recognizing the risk that the mountains give and yet they embrace it fully with the love of the experience deep within. It’s not like they want to die doing something they love; rather they get off the couch with intent of living their own life with adrenaline-infused experiences that give them something they need.
I ski, and I ski fast. I wonder…. if I crashed and died, would others come down on my choices? Would my death be found riddled with fault? Would I be blamed? I hope not.
As we all live in a place where mountains give us joy, we need to accept that some people take that joy and run with it. They love what they do, they do it wisely. These back-country folks who seek thigh-deep powder and fresh tracks are not uneducated buffoons who trek willy-nilly into the wilderness. They have the avalanche courses, they wear the beacons and they do NOT want to die. It is the risk they take. It is the risk anyone would take doing what they love to do.
I admire them. I hope no more lives are taken but I would never dream of telling anyone to stop. Our lives are our own choices, and to be truly alive with every cell in your body is worth it to so many.
May the family of this young man find solace in one another and his light shine on in the smiles of everyone he loved.