Guiding Mountaineering Can Be A Slog. So Why Do I Miss It?

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by Lindsay Mann


Mountain athletes categorize fun into three types.


Type 1 Fun: Is fun while you are doing it and fun after the fact i.e. a powder day.

Type 2 Fun: Is not fun while you are doing it but as the memories of suffering fade you come to reflect fondly on the experience.

Type 3 Fun: Not fun ever i.e. severe injury.


I would categorize guiding Denali as type 2 fun, with moments of type 1 and type 3 fun interspersed.

Due to a knee injury, I am not able to guide this season and often find myself staring at a computer screen intermittently checking climbing blogs and mountain weather conditions.

I am surprised by how much I miss carrying 100 pounds between my backpack and sled, sleepless nights, and stormy mountain weather.

This has led me to the question, Why do I miss the slog?


The Beauty of It.

I had a moment of type 3 fun last year on Denali. Two sleds were poorly tied behind me while snowshoeing down a feature called “Ski Hill.”

Not an easy descent. My sleds were either flipping or nipping painfully at my achilles.

In this moment of absolute physical and mental frustration, my gaze happened from the sleds to the surrounding majesty. My self pity was redirected.

Pink and blue exploded from the sky, alpenglow engulfed the skyline. 

The sheer beauty of it commanded my attention.

After twenty-one days on Denali, deep in the slog and suddenly I realized I was sad to leave it.

Denali has ugly moments filled with howling winds and ferocious storms, but in her moments of beauty, she is one of a kind.

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Clients Give Me Perspective.

People ask how I can climb Mt. Rainier 10-25 times a summer. No doubt, climbing Rainier is a slog…ascending nine thousand feet and descending it all in thirty-six hours. Denali is one trip a season verse Rainier which is multiple trips a season.

My Answer? The Clients.

A few years ago guiding Jenna from Alaska, she exclaimed, “This is breathtaking!”

We had just come through Cathedral Gap getting our first views of the upper mountain.

Headlamps lite up the trail on the Disappointment Cleaver. In the foreground, the moonlight illuminated the Ingraham Icefall in all its glory.

I take a breath.

These raw reactions to the scenery remind me of how lucky I am to work on Mt. Rainier.


Camaraderie Through Adversity

I’m boot packing up a steep couloir in the Tetons. With each step, the snow gets deeper. At one point we come to a split.

Me: “We should call this the Y couloir.”

Climbing Partner: “Like WHY are we doing this?”

The truth to her comment brings us to hysterical laughter.

The friendships formed in the mountains are based on actions and not words.

We have built trust by the camaraderie formed through being in adverse situations together. They are there for the type 3 fun and turn these challenging situations into Type 1 moments.

Some of us will climb together again, and others won’t. We are united by the memories we shared in the mountains.

There is a simplicity to these relationships that is refreshing.



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