Gratitude on the Exum Ridge

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Thirteen years ago I built a sleeping platform in the back of my Subaru and drove west with my buddy Sean to learn the ways of the alpinist. We climbed for a month in the Wind River Range and Tetons. Our last mission was to climb the complete Exum Ridge in a day. We bailed after the first half of the route on account of parties ahead, the late hour, and building storm clouds.

I went and finally completed that mission today with my friend and climbing partner Eric. We left the trailhead at 5:30 am, simul-climbed the complete Exum in three long pitches, topped out on the Grand at quarter til 2 in the afternoon, and walked back to the car by 7pm. It wasn’t the hardest climb I’ve done, nor did we move particularly fast. We did have the mountain largely to ourselves though, and a massive wildfire to the west had cast a smoky haze over the entire range.

Walking down through Garnet Canyon, the setting sun cast long shadows down the valley. The peaks were lit in orange and grey and misted by smoky haze. Sunlight glittered through the falling droplets of a waterfall pouring down over black rock. Being present at that moment in such an incredible place, I felt an upwelling of gratitude and contentment. Far more than accomplishment for simply completing a goal from my early adulthood, I felt so thankful for having the health, friends, partners, and lifestyle that allows me to live, work, and play in the most beautiful places on Earth year after year after year.

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