Steamboat,Snowshoes,Champagne Powder…………..and the Matterhorn.
These last few weeks here in Steamboat with the Sloop family,my gracious hosts and good friends,have given me time to take care of some things that needed to get done to the bike before I head out for Year 2 on the road,and I also got to substitute two wheels for two skis and a belt(thanks Peter),so we headed up to Rabbit Ears pass to go play in the powder.I never realized snowmobiling was so much work!!.After only ten minutes on the thing I was exhausted.
Meanwhile the bike has had a full service with all fluids replaced,valve adjustment and throttle body sync,and I also replaced the battery with a brand new one.
For $135 it`s worth it for peace of mind,especially since i`m riding in colder climes these days,which really draws down a battery very fast.
The comfort of a real bed,a shower not 15 feet from my bedroom with very hot running water is a little piece of heaven and a far cry from my North Face Himalaya 35 Tent,though in terms of camping,it would be hard to better this bombproof shelter.The 50-60 mph winds that decimated,nay,tore to shreds my 3 season Kelty tent in Wendover wouldn`t even make the Him 35 shiver.The downside,it`s heavy,12 lbs to be exact,but worth it if you`re staying more than a few nights in one spot in cooler weather.A North Face bivy that weighs in at a mere 2 lbs is my backpacking tent I take with me on two or three day climbs,using the Him 35 as a base camp tent.
And speaking of climbing,as I posted about my fellow countryman in the last two posts,the late Sean Egan with whom I crossed paths with on a couple of occasions,once in Europe,the climbs I did when I was in my teens came back to me,as I have recently embarked on starting to train for High Altitude Alpine climbing again,one of my first loves and passions.
At the age of fourteen I optioned to leave school and start working in a trade.In Ireland at that time you either became a Priest(lucky that didn`t transpire)a cop(ditto) or went into a trade,a carpenter,electrician or painter.I chose the latter,and for four years served an “Apprenticeship” to become a Coachpainter.I wasn`t a big drinker at that time.
In January of `77 on my fifteenth birthday I took a solo backpacking and climbing trip to Europe,hitching a ride with a friend who was a trucker,and made my way to Zermatt in Switzerland,and headed for the Matterhorn in the Pennines,right on the Swiss Italy border.
A stunning behemoth to be sure,with four steep faces overlooking glaciers and the beautifull ski town of Zermatt.I started climbing in Ireland at age 14 and was soon hooked on the sport,so when I arrived in Zermatt at 15 and saw the Matterhorn,it just took my breath away.In my mind I was already half way up.
So I got a place to stay,a Youth Hostel in town,and got friendly with some of the climbers staying there.A night of food and climbing talk led to me joining them for a “little” climb the following morning…………which started at 4 am.
Well,the drowsiness quickly wore off after lots of strong coffee,and at 5 am we were on the way up the Hornli ridge on the North East side of the mountain.
At 4,478 metres(14,692 ft) the Matterhorn is not exactly one of the monster peaks when compared to K2 ,Everest or Annapurna, but it`s not one to be taken lightly either.It does have the distinction of being one of the deadliest peaks in the Swiss Alps,500 or so deaths so far can attest to it`s level of difficulty.The North Face wasn`t climbed until 1931 and it resides among the six Great North Faces of the Alps,the Eiger coming in at #2,made famous by the Trevanian novel “The Eiger Sanction”,also a pretty good movie with Clint Eastwood.In fact the Eiger,Matterhorn and the Grandes Jorasses are known as the Trilogy,because these three are considerably harder to climb.
Anyway,our “little” 3 day climb took us to base camp on day two at around 3200 metres,just below the Hornli Hut,and on the third day,four of the eight climbers in the group summited.
Me,I listened to my inner voice and chose not to summit ala Ed Viesturs, whom I didn`t know about at the time,but always talks about this thought process when deciding on the best course of action when attempting a summit.Many times he has forgone a summitting and listened to that “Inner Voice”,even though he may have only been a few hundred feet from reaching the peak.He never let “Summit Fever” take over his thinking.
But when I came to the U.S. in the eighties and took up climbing again,Viesturs became an idol for me.Reading his book K2,Life and Death on the Worlds Most Dangerous Mountain just made me want to climb all the more.He is only one of 21 people to have climbed all Eight-thousander peaks,of which there are 14,all in Asia,and also the first American climber to acheive this remarkable accomplishment.
And all this is going where?.
How did we go from a “Motorcycle Photojournal and Travelogue” to an article on climbing?.I thought quite a bit about whether to get this personal in a blog,but I feel that maybe someone out there might be reading this and be influenced in a positive way by something i`ve said or done,or both.
When drinking became a full time career instead of a part time and socially fun hobby,it quite literally sucked the life out of me and killed any and all of my spirit and sense of adventure.
It`s only since I quit drinking that I feel somewhat “human” again.
I was an avid health enthusiast and fitness buff,able to do one handed chin ups with ease,and had a diet that was loaded with the most nutritious foods on the planet.Cost me a bloody fortune though.
So as my motorcycle journey and this blog develops and heads into it`s second year,I find myself settling in to a comfortable rythym of sorts,and even though this blog was initially intended as a “Motorcycle Travelogue and Photojournal” for what was to be a two or three month motorcycle trip,my passions and pursuits are starting to come to the forefront of my life A.B.,(after booze)and integrate themselves into this online diary.So it`s not just about motorcycling anymore,I never set out for it to be exclusivly so to begin with.
It`s becoming quite a bit more personal for me,this coming from one of the most private and reclusive people there was.
It is now much more obvious,to me anyway,that my motorcycle just happens to be my favorite mode of transport(yes,even in winter).As a mode of transport I really feel that nothing else compares.The smells of the forests and mountains,the feel of the wind rushing by(except when it`s -10 wind chill),all the things you never get to experience in a car.And most of all the freedom to go places fast and efficiently.I find it incredibly empowering to realise that I can live on what I have packed on the bike…………..indefinitely.
As I was packing for what I thought would be no more than a two or three month motorcycle trip,I came across my old climbing boots that I bought when I was fourteen. They got me two thirds of the way up the Matterhorn, and I didn`t give them much thought at the time………………..until I did a post about Sean Egan.
Now,I know i`m no Sean Egan,but i`ve always had a passion for the outdoors,and mountains,BIG mountains.
Sean attempted to summit Everest at 63 years young,16 years my senior.
Me,i`ll set my sights on something a little more realsitic,but a sizeable monolith all the same.
I was fortunate enough recently to be in a position to aquire a gift certificate to the AAI,the American Alpine Institute in Bellingham WA,for an Expedition and High Altitude course.They run anywhere from 8 days in Alaska to 28 days in Nepal,and various other locations in between.
Needless to say the Nepal trip would be my choice of courses,but as my first serious climb,returning to Zermatt to summit the Matterhorn is at the top of the list for me.
Funding for this trip so far will be coming from the sale of items,(Shite I don`t need and should have never bought in the first place) that I foolishly accumulated while I was comfortably pickling in booze.
I have a truck,a Ford F350 thats needs to go,and my beloved 1976 FJ40 Toyota Land Cruiser.My friends who know me know that I love that FJ40,but the possible realization of a long dreamt of passion of climbing one of the massive mountains that this planet has is probably akin to the feeling Sean must have felt as he started to train for Everest and finally saw the mountain in the flesh.
Not to mention that the trip and pictures alone would be worthy of a few “WhereTheHellisMurph” blog postings,right?.
Whichever course I decide on,it will be with the theme of this blog,in other words if it`s the Nepal course I choose,i`ll travel there by motorcycle,same goes for the Alaska course.It all depends on funds and sponsors.
KRIEGA US is the first official sponsor of the blog.Scott Conley has donated some product that i`ll be putting up as booty for next months “Where Am I” blog contest.But,I need more sponsorship,so any individuals or companys reading this post who would be interested in a sponsorship program,please contact me at the email address in the header.