Payback Time

The Grid has turned into The Grind.  Last year I was busy with a high-pressure job, and every Catskills weekend was a chance to escape the office and leave behind the rigors of the corporate world.  What I recall most about last year’s mountain adventures is exhilaration and joy.  Now I’m between jobs and have all the time in the world.  But hiking in the mountains is morphing into work.

This is partly because of the commitment I’ve made to completing the Grid’s remaining ~100 peaks in 2018, rather than letting even a handful slip to next year.  The commitment is questionable, perhaps it’s insane, maybe I just haven’t freed myself of the sense of urgency and focus on results learned over a career in finance and before that the military.  In this regard, I am my own worst enemy.

The winter is also my enemy.  Someone inquired, if I was going to take some time off from the corporate world, why not do so during the summer, instead of the winter?  (The timing of these things is often outside ones control.)

True, the Mountains served up a gift in February, with the last few days of the month featuring beautiful warm temperatures, as high as 60 F, enough to melt most of the snow and let me scamper unhindered across the ridges.  But now it’s payback time:  March opened with two serious nor’easters, three to four feet of accumulated snow, and a return to freezing temperatures.

Half-way through the month, I’ve endured some of the toughest and most miserable hikes of my Catskills career, and while I’ve completed seven peaks so far, there are nine left to go.

And as I write this post, it’s snowing yet again….

But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you ambush yourself in caverns and forests.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

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Payback Time

Back to the Cats: Completing the February Grid

“There’s no rush.”  Wise people counsel patience when I explain I’m trying to complete the Grid for the Catskill High Peaks, an obscure project that entails climbing the thirty-five peaks in each calendar month.  But the project is important to me, and I feel a sense of urgency to get it done.

February has been weighing on my mind.  To start with, it’s a month of challenging conditions — and not surprisingly, my log shows I’ve tended to steer clear of the Catskills during February:  only fifteen of the high peaks are complete, which means there are twenty to go.  That would be a lot for a full month, but with a trip to New Zealand scheduled for the first half of February, those twenty peaks will need to be climbed when I return, that is, within a two-week period, of which, after subtracting various commitments and appointments, only a handful of days is available.

Some nights I lie awake, reviewing different approaches for each of the twenty peaks, trying to devise the most efficient routes to get them done in the available time.  Be safe, I remind myself, it’d be fine to finish off February next year — but then I go back to calculating how to pull this off — and wondering whether I have the strength to do so —  and feeling vaguely uneasy.

And now the plane from New Zealand is touching down at JFK, and here I am back in New York…

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Back to the Cats: Completing the February Grid

Random Notes – Fall Hikes

With 232 Catskill climbs under my belt, I’m 55% of the way through the Grid.  I wasn’t able to put much of a dent in September, only 43% complete — there were too many conflicts, like the SRT Race and and a trip to the Adirondacks — but October is coming together nicely with 74% done and plenty of time left in the month.

Here are a few notes from recent hikes, the purpose being to document the experiences before they’re forgotten….  Continue reading “Random Notes – Fall Hikes”

Random Notes – Fall Hikes

Notes from Recent Catskill Hikes

Half-way through July, and I’ve completed just over half of the Catskill high peaks, many at night due to limited windows of opportunity during the day, but the rest of the month is tighter, and time is running out.  The Grid has become a burden, and I feel a little like Sisyphus, doomed to push a rock up the mountain only to see it rolling back down again.  But without burdens, life would be unbearably light, which is why Camus wrote that one must imagine Sisyphus happy.

Without enough time to write full articles on each climb, here are some notes from recent hikes, mostly for my own purposes in keeping track of the Grid Experience:

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Notes from Recent Catskill Hikes

May in the Catskills

The mission was to complete the remaining twelve peaks needed to scratch the month of May off the Grid, and accordingly I arranged to take a week off of work.  But the Rock The Ridge 50-miler left me with a sore ankle, which required a reduction in speed and mileage.  In Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Walking,” he used the word “saunter” to describe the act of sallying forth into the woods, which was for him the adventure and escape of his day, and he likened this daily saunter to the motion of a stream flowing downhill to the ocean:

The saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea.

— Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”

To complete the Grid for May, I’d need to saunter instead of run — and rather than pushing myself, I’d need to “flow” through the mountains, just like a stream, except I’d be going uphill as well as down…

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May in the Catskills

Sights and Sounds of Winter

Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist philosopher and author of Walden, wrote an essay on the colors of fall foliage.  But what about the colors of winter?  With this question in mind, I set the alarm for 5:30 AM and went to bed early.  Tomorrow’s agenda would be to climb four of the Catskill high peaks with the goal of making progress toward the Catskill 3500 Club winter patch, as well as the Grid.  And perhaps I’d see or learn something along the way that would help me better appreciate the winter mountain landscape.

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Sights and Sounds of Winter

Visions of the Gunks

In a post last fall, I shared a photograph taken from the summit of Twin Mountain and made the point that after years of admiring the Catskills from the vantage of the Shawangunks, I had for the first time made the reverse connection.

Last weekend I returned to Twin Mountain, but this time with my friend Steve Aaron, who is a talented landscape photographer.  And this time I saw something new….

Mohonk View From Indian Head (1 of 1)

Northern Shawangunks, seen from Twin Mountain in the Catskills.  Photo:  Steve Aaron Photography

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Visions of the Gunks