The handsome graying of his beard is a physical manifestation of his guru status, an attestation to the wisdom acquired through trials, tribulations, and triumphs. These silvery trophies accentuate the laugh lines that themselves illuminate the joy with which he travels through life, the infectious delight of his orbit. Hunched now over his GPS, he continually orients the crew to the terrain, perpetually mindful of the changing topography, weather, snow conditions, and group morale. His role is a weighty one, but one that he bears with perpetual grace. Forsooth, without him, none of the group would be out on this mission. Given his penchant for slogs and mighty adventures, sometimes they pretend to prefer that outcome, but the truth is that they need him as much as he needs this.
Even her text messages radiate stoke. Giddy for it all, game for anything, she is a smile in human form. The first one to the trailhead, despite usually coming from the farthest distance, her presence is assurance that the comically early morning will not be in vain. When the rest are sleepily questioning their sanity, she is unabashedly delighting in each moment, no matter how painful, scary, or otherwise testing. Her thirst for knowledge is insatiable and her snow science game is commensurately strong. She appears to seek discomfort, or what others would consider discomfort. Her ability to go deep and solo, to really find herself and her limits, is inspirational.
He could have an ego, should probably have an ego, but he is as humble as a monk, if not so reclusive or recalcitrant. He moves quickly, but not recklessly. Indeed, his method of moving through the mountains has an inherent beauty that is a joy to watch and to follow. His transitions, especially as a splitboarder, are reflective of his skill, but more importantly his respect for the process and his companions. Technically, from a navigation and slope analysis and gear standpoint, he exudes competence and imbues confidence, critical traits in a partner when endeavoring far into the void.
She is the smartest member of a not unintelligent group. Not strictly intellectually, although that is probably true too, but she most fully and intuitively understands that in the flood of words that characterize a backcountry discussion, “no” is a full sentence. Partnered up with a team of adventurers that are results-oriented even when they know they should not be, she is sometimes forced to be the voice of reason. And forced is not the right word, because she is not one to do things that she is not keen to do. Her ability to see the big picture, in the mountains and with her family and in her career, has kept everyone alive, happy, and awestruck.
He is more of a blunt instrument, if instruments can be regularly terrified of high alpine undertakings. His capacity for suffering is a useful companion to and bulwark against the fear. By pushing relentlessly forward to the point of agonizing enlightenment, he can distract himself enough to make it to the summit without his brain short circuiting. Reluctant, but stubborn, he provides a useful heuristic balance that keeps the objective safe but still challenging and suitably audacious. A very accomplished talker with strong cardiovascular fitness, he can regale bored companions for hours in the skintrack, which is helpful when not really annoying.
Each of the quintet trace their own paths, often keep their own counsel, and tend to lose each other a little bit in the summertime, except for the two that are married to each other. Even as winter descends, there are many occasions when it is only two or three out on the journey. But it is on those fully united occasions when the group’s respective traits carry their most power.
As we round into yet another new season, the accumulated experience together portends even more Type 2 fun, intermixed with actual, normal people enjoyment. A plotted excursion to the old country will have the gang trodding new terrain, but with the same safe, hilarious, and comforting dynamic. My wish for this season is for everyone to find a team as dear to them as mine is to me.