Alpinist, writer, outdoor educator, and former NOLS instructor Szu-ting Yi reflects on her 2017 traverse of the Wind River Range and its impact on her personal growth as a climber. She and her husband, Dave Anderson, also a former NOLS instructor, managed to climb 33 peaks in the Winds over the course of 20 days despite challenging conditions.
“September 12, 2017: The wind blew under the edges of our pyramid-shaped tent, cold blasts of alpine air that seemed to stretch the thin fabric toward a breaking point. With each blow, my imagination filled with visions of the granite boulders that teetered on the slopes overhead. I sat up in the darkness and grabbed the vibrating center pole just as it bent to its limit...
I'd been searching for a milestone to mark my progress in climbing. In the Winds, I'd found something other than a set of numbers: the pleasant crunch of crampons as I skipped past delicate ice sheets, the sensation of riding the gusts of the winds and the momentum of my own legs as I ran down rolling talus and jumped onto flowery meadows. My imagination had translated the contour lines on the map into potential routes on rock and snow, and my hands and feet had fine-tuned the final trajectory between lakes and ridges, summits and slabs. Instead of a single direction, I'd discovered multiple paths that rose up and down many varied kinds of terrain that branched outward, intertwined and looped back, and yet kept going forward. When I voiced my decision to retreat on the last summit, I'd relaxed, as if every part of me were connecting and falling into alignment, becoming whole. More than forty-three summits, this is what had mattered: to make my own choices and to feel comfortable about myself.”
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