Bring Less Gear

by Chris de Serres


He began with a reunion.  He had spent many months in extreme high altitudes of the Himalayan Mountains.  The home of the tallest mountains in the world.  Everest.  K-2.  Annapurna.  These are places mere mortals dream about.

He was forced to sit in a tent while huge storms rolled over these mountains.  Waiting and waiting.  Yet, if you knew anything about Euli Steck he was always wanting to move.  This was the man who revolutionized the art of speed climbing high mountain peaks.  But he would not conquer the Himalayans on this trip.  This was a completely different beast.

So he decided to go home.  To the Alps.  Where he learned to climb.  Where he climbed 82 summits in 62 days.  The place where he ran up the North Face of the Eiger in 2.5 hours.  They call him the Swiss Machine.  He is the top alpinist of our generation.

He came to Seattle to tell us about returning home.  This was how he began the evening.  What struck me most was how he talked about the Alps.  How much he appreciated simply being there and doing what he loved.  His face lit up and he gestured wildly as he spoke about going up a mountain he had been on countless times.

I was taken by him.  It is important to be around people who are passionate about what they do.  It reminded me why I climb.  For so many years as a climb leader and instructor I had lost focus on the why.  I have been a mentor for so long, but i’ve seem to forgotten that I am also just a kid who is excited to be in wild places.

I love the mountains.  I love those quiet moments on a ridge.  I love seeing how small the world is thousands of feet down.  To have the priviledge of realizing how small my life is in this immense landscape.  It is a special gift in my life that I have found somehow.

I also love simplicity.

In the climbing world, climbers are in love with gear.  The more gear the better.  The gear allows them to minimize the risk of what they are doing.  They love talking about new gear.  How it allows them more options in the mountains.

Yet we climb for a reason.  We do it because there is risk.  We need to experience the fear and somehow find a way through it.

Towards the end of the evening an audience member asked Euli what his favorite piece of gear was?

He said,”I dont like gear.  I am always trying to use less gear.  I want it to be me and the mountains.  I want to experience the mountain with a minimum of things.  So I am always trying to bring less gear.”

In writing, we are always striving to remove all obstacles to the purity of the word.  We need less between us and simple act of writing.  No software programs.  No special pens.  No classy notebooks.  These are all distractions from evoking our god in the moment that we need to.

In writing.  In climbing.  In life.  Bring less gear.  It just gets in the way.