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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Proof of Life?

The man in the mirror, Jan 2012

A year ago to date I had my chest port removed after chemo.  I had taken all my nutrition and hydration though that port for months as well as the poison that cured my cancer, the medicine to keep me alive and the pain killers to stay that way when I wondered if I would.

Mark's 02 comments mean something to me personally.  More than the obvious stir of the pot in mountaineering.   And thankfully not  what they mean to you in all likelihood.  I made the journey to attempt an 8000m peak, once.  From that experience I decided not to support that economy or life style...over 30 years ago now.  I was appalled that simply clean water and soap could have gone a long ways in easing the suffering I saw.

My thought then was. "things will change here once these people get  a hand on a AK47".....and rightfully so.

Rarely have I regretted the decision to stay away.  But I have regretted it at times.

Last year I rushed to the outdoors, a place of refuge for me, literally hours after being untethered from, literally,  life support.   I appreciate a lot of things differently now.

A year later, to the day I realise now, I  was on what to me could have easily of been a "make a wish"  day trip.  Almost surreal.

I was back country skiing with two guys that many, myself included, would have been happy to pay for their time just to be a fly on the wall.  Dream trip from "Make a Wish" if you are into that sort of thing.  I just wanted to go skiing, but the moment and situation didn't escape me.  I was just too busy with MY life to really appreciate it.

I had dinner the night before with an old friend who by any measure has nothing to be insecure about. But he shared with me that his entire career was/is based on insecurity.  He simply wanted to be liked by and impress his peers.  He just never realized that, he had, and no one cared.

Climbing at any level means nothing.  It isn't the climb or the difficulty or what you learned while you were there.  It is who you are now, today, and what you offer the greater human community, your family or your friends.

It costs you nothing to show that you appreciate your family and friends, offer a word of support to a co-worker or the homeless guy on the street.  Or that your buddy's last climb did in fact impress you.  I might be jaded and hard to impress but I do find the words come easier and with more meaning if I practice being a more supportive person.  "Fake it, till ya make it",  may not be a bad motto for us A type personalities.

MITM's partner, Jan 2013 

Only guy you need to impress is the man in the mirror.  He is the only one that came in with you and he is the only one that will leave with you.  Doesn't hurt to kick his ass once in a while and remind him of the fact.


Tim Rogers said...


Thanks for everything. And by that I mean all the great content.

Obviously I'm biased, but I can't help feel that this is the direction your most recent posts are headed in...

Doping, cheating, humanitarianism. As the general awareness of our (society's) collective consciousness continues to expand, subjects like these will likewise evolve. Our ever-growing reach and understanding of the interconnection between the mind-body and material-industrial world will continue to refine our standards of "light and clean" alpinism. What are mountains to a race which creates mountains of waste each day?

I hope I'm not too off-subject but I'd love to hear your thoughts. Sustainability in society, in climbing? My partner and I have given up flying, driving, and general mechanization in our transportation for life and recreation. I realize this isn't popular or possible for most folks but I have to think it's on many of our minds.

I don't mean to intend that I'm spraying about our choices or our accomplishments but in light of your recent posts I have to wonder... Where do we draw the line? Why does not placing bolts or using oxygen take precedence in our ethics over the tens of thousands of miles of fossil-fueled transportation that it takes to get to climb the mountains who's environment we're subsequently damaging?

I believe my choices to be a sign of the times more than my selflessness or ego, and I suspect we'll see more of a movement towards sustainable mobility in mountain recreation soon enough, as we're seeing in the urban environment now.

The connection I see? When faced directly with the fragility of our mortality we're inclined to realize a more sensitive relationship with the emotions evoked from a life in the mountains. Sounds, sights, smells, sunrises, things get real the closer you get to understanding nothingness. What is a mountain but a summit for ourselves? What's the point of climbing one or relying on a bottle of oxygen to get you to the top? Better yet, just because it's the norm for our current society, what's the point of using a car, a plane, fossil fuel, or any of the other myriad materials we rely on to achieve our alpine endeavors?

Where and why do we draw the line to climb, to live, when the rewards are at a cost to our bodies? Our conscience? Our Earth?


Dane said...

Hey Tim, I have to say as the blog has gotten bigger I have gotten more uncomfortable voicing my opinions. I am just a guy that has been at it while and much more open to offering an opinionated gear review than a broader perspective that obviously means nothing to anyone but me.

I want people to make informed decisions not be swayed by mine. Even when I think I am right. It is the conversation that is important I think.

I have a huge ego but hopefully check it as required when I am over my head.

I posted some time back about the waste making ice tool picks. That realization shocked me actually. But not enough to stop mixed climbing...just enough to make my own personal picks last longer. I won't stop climbing...but I was discusted enough to think about it seriously.

I had a conversation the other day with a climber who said his climbs and relationships climbing were "sacred to him". I had thought that but don't believe I have ever voiced it . I was shocked even though I wasn't surprised. I have forgotten to honor that thought at times. And I find myself now trying to better reflect my own ideals.

Climbing means a lot to me. It has helped me live a full, rich and wonderful life. But soemthing I never really understood untill I realised I too was mortal. There is an end to this stuff. No one gets out alive. I have tired to give back to the community in a small way by the blog. Hopefully I'll be able to do more.

It is always a fine line we draw. And like climbing and the choices we make in life style they are ...only limited by our imagination.

Unknown said...

Well said Dane, all the best to the both of you.
Family , friends and forests.

Bob Shattuck said...

I check in here now and then, but really glad I sat down here tonight and found this particular post. Nicely said . . .

Anonymous said...

If you think you come into the world and that you will leave the world that is your delusion.

paraphrased Zen teaching

Dane said...

Ha, ha, man this is getting crazy. People quoting Zen to me now. Or quoting me? I gotta stop writing down the silly stuff going through my head and get out more!

PurpleJesus1994 said...

Don't do that the crazy stuff is the good stuff.

let the haters hate lol ;)

Kevin Landolt said...

Nice points Dane. Being a young person and currently twenty months into an ugly fight with AML Leukemia, I've often found your posts regarding cancer to be rather uninspiring and at times downright whiney - especially in regard to the treatment you received and over the frustration/isolation you felt as a climber/athlete. It just seemed to me you were pretty lucky in a lot of ways - not to mention you're already old and have lived a life you can reflect back upon - I know you were just writing honestly about how you felt, and I respect that. Too much is sugar-coated bullshit in the cancer world. I'm glad you always gave your wife a lot of credit and praise - it's difficult to be dependent upon others, and resenting that can lead to even more depression and pain than accepting the love and sacrifices others make on your behalf. Congrats on getting through your treatment and returning to the mountains. I went into remission briefly after an allogenic bone marrow transplant after six months of chemo, and was back to climbing / skiing within sixty days. I had my chest tube removed and then relapsed a month later and had another put back in. Round two has been difficult in many ways - the one thing I've learned is that it can always get worse.

Be thankful you had such an easy/quick time with cancer and always remember the lessons you learned from the experience, A lot of people turn their backs on it and try to forget it. Remember it, grow with it. Enjoy every day out climbing and skiing and slogging through the woods.


Kevin L.

Dane said...

Hey Kevin, I learned a couple of things from Cancer that had escaped me previous. "Everyone's cancer is different. No one survives it. And how we treat the people around us more important than dwelling on the fact you ground your own teeth to pulp."

I write for myself first here and on my other blogs. I don't know how to other wise. And I whine. But I have never compared or complained that my journey was any worse or any better. I embrace it because it is mine. And I am grateful for every second of the journey.

If you are going to have cancer, no doubt I had the "cancer light" version. Easy to cure.

I never wanted to be a poster boy for Cancer. Just part of my life's experience now so I write about it.

As you said, "it can always get worse". One look around the chemo room will tell you that. If you found my comments uninspiring I am sorry. I was trying to tell the story. Not cheer anyone up. Not much to be happy about once Cancer says hello. If nothing else use my experience as an example of how not to live your life. Do it better.

I wish you the best my friend. It's not the card any of us signed up for, just what we got.

I had no idea. Sorry doesn't cover it. And I wish it weren't so. If there is anything I can do just ask.

Kevin Landolt said...


I wasn't seeking an apology - I read many blogs (and try to maintain one of of my own) and enjoy the individual character of each and the style/voice of the blogger. I think way to many cancer victims do try and sugarcoat issues and cheer others / themselves up, and I think that is unhealthy. Some of your posts just moved me the wrong way. Not only is everyone's cancer and treatment different, I feel that cancer in your teens and early 20s is a completely different experience from that of cancer later in life. Please don't take offense to my comment, I only commented because I enjoyed and related to your "Proof of Life" post. Your blog's content is mostly technical - which I love (if I beat this cancer thing, I'd very much like to begin writing gear reviews and thoughts on training for climbing / ski mountaineering) and it's refreshing to hear you talk of personal experience. You are an inspiration sharing your thoughts honestly (no tasty talk) and returning to your sports quickly and passionately. I hope to join you soon amigo, for me it's simple - live and climb or die and rest. Win win : )

Take care,

And feel free to email me anytime if you'd like to discuss any aspect of cancer and/or climbing.

Kevin L.

Dane said...

Hey Kevin,
No worries. On a personal level I was a shocked and then concerned about you from your comments. You may envy my longer life. And we both cry for the children in the cancer ward.

We climb. We accepted this lot a long time ago or should have. I have always ignored Cancer. But done something similar in climbing. Ignoring what is really happening. I went to my first funeral at 27. I was shell shocked. The best of us was gone. Without the emotional support I couldn't keep risking my life on hard (for me) alpine objectives. So I learned how to rock climb instead. It has only been recently (last decade or so) that I felt mentally solid enough to climb hard again in a risky environment. More focused than I have been in years. But that started years before my diagnosis.

I was mid treatment as well when Jack died. We had planned another trip to the Alps that winter. It was really tough to call him and admit I wasn't going to make it back that winter. I cried when I heard about the fall. I'll climb with Jack in mind if I go back this winter.

Don't kid yourself. We all die. No one gets out alive here. No one survives. No one dies, "doing what they loved"? You fuck up or your luck just catches up with you. Worse yet I suspect your body just gives up at 70+ soem where. I'd bet Jack would have traded another day with Pam and Cisco for any given month in the mountains. I'd rather go down fighting and wretching my guts out than with Alzheimer's like my Dad did a couple of eyars ago.

"Do we deserve it? We all deserve it"

My biggest worry at the bottom of it? That I had dissappointed my customers, family and friends. How would my dog react? How bad is the situation I was leaving my wife in. Not that I missed a day in the good as they are. For me anyway I have always gone there to hide if the truth were known.

I wouldn't presume to think I know what the experience is for anyone. Or how we deal with loss or pain or tragedy.

I know I wouldn't trade my cancer experience for all the other good experinces and the life I have lived. Tracy can't understand that either. Not sure I do. But I know that the journey for me is better than any experince I have had to date b ya large margin. All the near misses have only been a tease of what the end result will actually be. I plan on being around a long time yet. But as we both know things can change in a heart beat. If so I would still have some regrets. But I'm trying to clean up my life so they are less every day. That is my goal. No regrets. None of those are climbs I have missed. Although I still have a hit list I want to do badly. Any one of them could easily get me killed.

I could say some tripe about hanging in there. But I know what laying on the floor in your own puke and shit is about. Nothing good about that...other than knowing you aren't the only one to pay that toll on a lonely road.

send my your email!