“Mom, wake up!”, I hear my 12 year old son urgently whisper in my ear. We are at high camp on the north side of Mt Baker and I had over-slept. I turned on my headlamp and lit up the stove to make a cup of coffee, pulled a jacket out of my stuff sack (which was used as my pillow) and handed Grady his Cheerios. After a quick breakfast in bed, we roped up and grabbed our packs, which were under the watchful eye of the snowman he had made the previous day. Following frozen tracks under a full moon, we climbed towards the summit. The sound of my breath, in rhythm with the crunch of the snow under foot, the soft cool breeze on my face, and the ever-expansive views , as always, lead my soul away from the bustle of modern society. I have eagerly anticipated sharing this alpine climbing experience with my teenager so that he might discover the same solace in the mountains should the need arise.
But mountains are being endangered by climate change. On May 29, I was part of the Climate Change March in Durango, Colorado and gave the keynote speech. The mountain environment, which seemingly offered me permanence in a changing world, has become a litmus test for climate change. So what can each of us do? There is tremendous power in voting for the environment and purchasing only from businesses that are environmentally responsible. We can also adopt lifestyles that embrace minimalism, or voluntary simplicity.
One of the lessons I have learned through alpine climbing is the basic tenet of minimalism. A feeling of freedom I get through understanding the things I can do without, and a greater appreciation for what I have. Furthermore, as the www.simplicitycollective.com website states:
“Voluntary simplicity is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures. It does not mean living in poverty, becoming a monk, or indiscriminately rejecting all the advantages of science and technology. Rather, by examining afresh our relationships with money, material possessions, the planet, ourselves and each other, the simple life of voluntary simplicity is about discovering the freedom and contentment that comes with knowing how much is truly enough.”
Thus the alpine climbing summer escape becomes not only a way of extracting ourselves from cars, phones, money, and computers, but also a way of re-focusing on what makes our lives the richest.