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Monday, November 7, 2016

Ed Viesturs

          One thing that I completely and totally believe in life is that we’re never too old or too big to find some heroes and a whole lot more role models. I also believe that there’s a difference between being a hero and a role model. Anyone can rise up to be a role model. All we have to do is model the right behavior at home, work, in our neighborhoods, or in the woods (or wherever). To be a hero is something more. It’s about bravery and rising to save the day while putting life and limb at rick. It can be everyday or it can be extraordinary, but in order to be heroism, something more has to happen there.
          In my life, I’m a baseball fan, and while I still like many current players, guys like Mike Trout, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and Ichiro Suzuki, it’s not the same as 15-20 years ago as a Mark McGwire and Pedro Martinez fan when it felt completely star struck in respect for a sports achievement. It's not that I can't feel this way anymore, but these players are young enough to be my kid in some cases. On top of that, while I respect athletic talent, I don't idolize it.
            Additionally, I seem to prefer a lot of dead and retired MLB guys since nobody talks about PEDs, wife-beating, drug-taking, or other issues with them. Instead, I can get Bob Gibson’s intense competitive streak, Dimaggio's day in and day out approach, Ted Williams' intense desire, Walter Johnson’s windup, Lou Gehrig’s speech and his last full year in baseball, and Jackie Robinson’s home plate theft. There are a lot of competitors in black and white footage. I can watch that endlessly.
Then again, there’s still a lot of modern hustle. Game 7 of the World Series was fantastic. Watching Eric Hosmer score from third on a ground out to first in the 2015 World Series was also a moment for the ages. Nasty 12-6 curve balls are the kind of thing that makes me fist pump. And yes, I admit that while it’s not playing like he’s been there before, that Joey Bats bat toss after his game winner versus Texas was positively sick.
But this is about hiking, not baseball.
           On a mountain, the difference for a hero would be to risk life and limb to get someone out of a tough spot. To be a role model, a person could state the right choice of what to do, offer advice, or guide the way. I'll take either, but I prefer to go with people who make me want to enjoy the woods while giving me companionship and a sense of safety in the woods.
           Should he want to slow down to my pace, I could see enjoying a hike with Ed Viesturs.
          While I’ve never met him, I always looked up to the guidance of Viesturs. He’s climbed all of the world’s 14 8,000 meter peaks. He’s been to Everest repeatedly (seven times in fact). Hell, he even chose to turn around 1,000 feet from the top when he knew he couldn’t descend safely in the window of time after he would have peaked. That takes mature wisdom that most people just don’t have.
          In addition, he’s such an uber hardcore in shape dude that he did it without oxygen. In a world where adventure tourism sells Everest ascents to the physically fit for more money than I’ll make this year, there are still people doing it the old way. That takes endurance, intelligence, strength, and discipline. It might even take a little crazy, but that's OK, too.
          As a result of these things, I think of his words, especially the ones where he said, “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” I’d like to think most of the time, I live by them, both on the trail and in life.
          Seeing as my left foot has more tremors than when I was last hiking seriously (up until early 2015), I’m pushing through to get the rust off while also spending more time thinking about my balance in some of the tougher spots that I’m hiking than I did back then. 
          For instance, yesterday at Lehigh Gorge, I made it to the wall on the river side of the mountain (see above) before judging my leg too shaky for the climb up and over to the back side of the mountain. Prior to that, I was able to get through a lot of boulders and rock ascents, but the switch and concern with instability on balancing on the left foot when I made it over to flat ground was a problem. Had I made it there, I also had concern about whether I would feel safe going down and not doing a vertical feet-first belly slide down the rock slides, so I chose to sit in the cat bird’s seat (see below) and view the bridge, river, mountains, and glowing leaves of the Lehigh Valley (see very bottom) as I just enjoyed the world while my companions, Steve Dancha and his wife Tina went over on the other side to see the American flag graffiti and the rest of the path as well as the view from the windy side of the mountain.

          When they came back, there was a question as to whether I should try again. I questioned to whether I could get someone behind me for stability, which made Steve say that I should go with my initial gut instinct.
          He was right, and I didn’t try again. Why risk it all for something I’ve seen before, especially with rough wind that would keep me from enjoying things? Rather, it was better to go down the mountain, focusing on each step (being here now), while I safely descended so we could go to Glen Onoko to take on the first 2 waterfalls, the bottom of which (Chameleon) is in my favorites that I’ve ever seen anywhere.
          In the end, I’m glad he spoke out. Some people might focus on the man card or being tough, overcoming uncertainty, fear of heights, and nervousness, but he didn’t. I appreciate and respect that.

          As a result, it was a great day, and we all came back in one piece with a lot of great pictures. What more can a person ask for?

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