February 10, 2023 | SPORTS | By Pierce Sullivan
Seemingly endless quotes and idioms preach the following sentiment, but my personal favorite interpretation comes from Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.”
On a more grounded level, I would like to explore this idea within outdoor sports. Often fast paced and high-consequence, skiing, biking, climbing and the like do not make the time to “stop and look around every once in a while.”
We so often find ourselves outdoors, enveloped in these beautiful, raw environments, but how often do we really take the time to stop and take it all in?
Last spring, I set out to ski a couloir, a steep, narrow gully, near Loveland Pass, which had been at the very top of my bucket list for quite a while. With the pre-dawn start, I ripped skins perched atop a heap of avalanche debris and booted up the seemingly vertical wall of snow in front of me. I was focused on getting to the top, nothing more.
My focus narrowed to my immediate proximity. I watched my crampon-clad boots jam into the snow in front of me. One foot in front of the other. Step after step.
My time-bending tunnel vision trance finally broke when I reached the top of the couloir; its conclusion was sparked by nothing other than the Nalgene of water which had worked its way through my system.
I stowed my pack, carefully traversed to the side of the ridge, and with glee finally answered nature’s call.
Mind you, this was not just any old pee. It was truly one of my best. Nay, the best.
It was one of those pees where you are so caught up in the moment you don’t realize that the entire contents of the aforementioned Nalgene just arched through the mountain air directly onto your left ski.
The profoundness of this moment was not because of my relief, but rather because it was the first moment I really had the time to look around me; the first time all day I paused and took it all in.
That really is the beauty of peeing while out in the mountains. It is the only time where you can’t be doing anything else. The only thing to do is to let yourself be enveloped by your surroundings.
It is a mandatory pause. A chance to catch a break from the endless sense of urgency in alpine travel.
I often hear people say that they get out in the mountains as a way to forget everything else; to leave society behind and embark on their own little Chris McCandless-style transcendental journey.
But I question that rationale.
It is hard to truly appreciate the mountains which we are lucky enough to be nestled at the base of. They can easily start to feel like a place to get away from the rest of the world, and nothing more.
This may feel like an unnecessary distinction, but if we let peeing show us anything, it’s clear that getting caught up in the action is not a conscientious choice. Rather, it is something that seems to be inherent in these sports.
This is why it is so much more important to be conscientious about making time to pause and take it all in. Not just when your hydration is starting to catch up with you, but pausing to be present often and intentionally.
The beauty of these spaces which we call home is far too easily overlooked, and it feels crucial to not let time in the mountains be taken for granted. Stop, drop your pants, and take in the beauty around you. It feels like that is the way things were meant to be.
We do call it ‘answering nature’s call’ after all.