Appreciating Awesome

Having moved around and traveled a lot, and now living half of the year in England and the other half in America, I’m not used to seeing my close friends very often. Most of the time I spend with them are brief, intense let’s-catch-up-and-do-everything-in-a-day-whilst-never-being-able-to-do-or-say-enough kind of reunions and lots of wish-you-were-here-themed emails.

Trapped in the crag-deprived cities I inhabit, mountaineering and I are like long distance pen pals. Except instead it’s more “wish-I-were-there.” And just like after a while my emails to friends start to use the same phrase that I feel obliged to say, even though I feel them, just maybe not all the time as earnestly as I say – I get into the habit of scrolling through pictures of pretty mountains on Tumblr and saying I wish I could go there, just because I’m used to wishing.

Sometimes, however, my focus returns in a vivid moment of blinding wide-eyed passion and I really, really want to find a mountain and climb it. Now. Today I had one of those moments at Colonel Henry Day’s talk as he spoke about his ascent of Annapurna (the second ever, in 1970). His speech was accompanied with photos – at first a pretty mountain would appear on the screen and, as my mind has been trained to do, I would think vaguely, “Yeah, I want to go there.” But then he proceeded to explain the details of where he was and what he did and how, using a laser pointer to show the precise routes he took. Suddenly it was like finding a valuable piece of syntax that makes you appreciate literature beyond skimming for plot.

A new image came up on the screen and Colonel Day said, “It was looking pretty awesome I have to say.” And he didn’t mean “awesome” in the way that it is commonly used today, particularly by Nerdfighters. He meant it in its original form: awe-some, worthy of awe. And I realized that in my first glance of the image, I see awesome in the casual colloquial sense. Once I pause to feel the implications of it – the surroundings beyond the edges, the smell, the harsh cold rasps of breath, peaks and more peaks, jutting into the sky! It is truly awesome in the pure, original, careful, focused way.

I’ve been won over by outdoor adventuring for some time now, and perhaps in the midst of freshers trying out climbing my enthusiasm for it has become automatic. Sometimes I need reminding that yes, this is what I love to do, and yes, this is why. And when I stop to appreciate those moments, I appreciate the awesomeness.

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