Monday, September 10, 2018

Saturn Return

28 Laps Around the Sun

It's funny that I was feeling the desire to finally let the larger online community know a bit about what has been going on in my life. Until Saturday I felt as though I had turned the cusp and was perhaps on the downhill after a year of crazy— and then I got rocked (along with my close friends) by a hard, but necessary visit to Imp Peak - the site of our dear friend Inge's accident on October 9, 2017. As I sit writing this on July 23, 2018 I feel like a big wound has been ripped back open, and it needs to once again heal. Then again, perhaps I never dealt with it in the first place. 

I recognize that my challenges this year are trivial compared to those who live in third world countries. I know where to find my next meal, and that I will have a roof over my head, even in the worst scenario. Yet, within my sheltered world of white priviledge I have been completely rocked.

It feels as though my life has done a 180 degree turn. I moved back to Bozeman after living in a remote mountain town of less than 100 people for over 4 years. I ended a relationship of 4+ years. I gave up freelancing and got a full time job. I'm craving social experiences and community instead of solitude and mountains. I would rather sit at a computer than stand in avalanche terrain.

...and we lost Inge. 

Two days after Inge died I had to leave for a field season working in the Arctic. I somehow packed my bags and departed in a zombie state. The entire fall I was pretty much in survival mode— wake up, do necessary work, sleep, repeat. I am fortunate to have some really great friends and coworkers who supported me through two very difficult months. 

After a long field season a friend scooped me up and took me to the desert where I was finally able to do some healing. I mostly slept in late and drank rounds of coffee for entire mornings, but we did climb three towers. I hadn't climbed much for the last 5 years, and I felt that Inge would have been proud of me for dancing up towers in the desert. The second tower we climbed was Castleton, an iconic feature of the southwest. After squirming and grunting up an akward offwidth we gained the summit block, and there in the register was a picture of Hayden & Inge. Aparently others were also finding solice & healing in the desert. The last tower we climbed was Ancient Art. After observing a que of many parties we decided to nap away the midday heat and climb it under the full moon. I was shaking as I began following the first pitch. I felt clumsy and out of balance. I wasn't sure how to use my feet and hands. I wanted to bail. I didn't have the emotional strength for challenging experiences. And then I started hearing Inge whispering in my ear. She was cracking jokes and telling my I was being silly, that this was incredible, that I needed to trust the rope and focus on being light on my feet and keep moving. I stooped on the belay ledge and cried. Then wiped my tears, and said, "lets keep going." I stood for a moment on the narrow summit, then sat, and crumbled a handful of lavender from her memorial into my hands pausing for a moment before blowing it into the abyss below. 

It's been a big transition. In the midst of it all a friend told me, "Of course you are going through all this change, it's your Saturn Return!" 
"This is the astrological period of our life when the planet Saturn completes its orbit around the Sun, coinciding with the time of our birth. It happens every 29.5 years, so if you have skated by in your late 20s, this period could get you in your late 50s. Now’s the time to get prepared!We often feel the rumblings of this orbital transition a few years before it begins — prior to the big 3-0 or the big 6-0. This time is, in essence, a metaphorical rebirth. But what does this actually mean? Careers will take off — or completely flop. We will meet the love of our life — or bolt from the partner we thought would be our happily ever after. The pressure can feel insurmountable. If you are in it, take a deep breath, because your so-called “quarter-life crisis” could just be part of growing up." Read more...  
It is now early September and I'm just posting this. I'm living in Bozeman, surrounded by friends and community, leaning on them as I shift into the next phase. I've always been fiercely independent and it's really difficult for me to accept and welcome support.

I started working full time at Polar Bears International after contracting and working part time with them for years. It's so good. Like that deep good, that you weren't ready for before but now it just feels right.  It has given me some peace to pour my creative energy into something else - something other than skiing - something rooted in nature - and something bigger than myself. I like that I go to the office instead of into avalanche terrain everyday. It's what I need right now.

I still love skiing. I will always love skiing. I need a break from skiing right now. I'm not sure if I will ski much this winter, or for the next few. I need to let that part of myself go and only ski when I want to. I'm afraid if I don't listen to that feeling I might not ever come back to it. I have a lot of anxiety in the mountains right now, be it skiing or climbing. Exposure and risk cause me an unhealthy amount of stress. So I am recognizing those feeling, acknowledging them, and letting them be. I'm working on forgiving myself for putting so much pressure around my love and identity of being in the mountains.

If there is anything the last year has taught me it is that life is a big freaking journey, and no matter how much my type-A personality loves finish lines, and accomplishing goals, and checking boxes I have to go through the process. Right now I feel like I'm still thigh deep, but I know I will come out stronger and learn heaps along the way.

So, here's to embracing the mud and my Saturn return, and knowing that clearer waters will come again someday.

the woman who is re-finding & re-defining herself

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Birthday Tradition — Twenty Seven Laps Around the Sun

The moment has arrived again. Another lap around the sun. Another whirl around the great hot one.

It's wild to ponder getting older. My birthday has become a little less exciting than it once was. I now understand the desire to freeze time. I don't want to get any older, I like my life, my body, my mind where it is at right now. But alas, time continues on. Today is another day, and then tomorrow comes.

This year feels strange. Strangely good. Strangely challenging. Strangely anticlimactic. My life has become so full of extraordinary experiences, that I sometimes feel numb to the marvelousness of it all. It's strange when climbing a seldom visited peak, or running 20+ miles through the wilderness is normal. It's strange when beautiful views are standard, and when seeing a wolf (new this summer) becomes something fairly 'normal.' Not to mention polar bears...

I feel like I've been digging deeper this year. Deeper inside my mind & spirit. I've questioned a lot and spent time slowing down (instead of talking about it). I'm on the tail end of a #digitaldetox. I've been less inspired in some ways (photography, skiing), and more inspired in others (writing, reading, education). I've been following my curiosity.

I feel like in some ways I was crushing my creativity with sensory overload. After a serious slow down I feel my desire to create and express coming alive again, in perhaps a more sustainable way. But I also know that life is waves— ups and downs. And just like a surfer we can check the forecast, watch the weather stations, train, anticipate, and ultimately ride— expressing ourselves all along the way. Life is a process, and the way we each choose to live is a style, an art, a way of life.

And so, here I sit, reflecting on the past year. It's funny how the things I think back on most fondly are not the big events, the awards, the articles published, or photographs taken, but the experiences, the people, and the moments. It's been another wild and wonderful one. Here are 27 moments from the last year to celebrate my 27th birthday! Late twenties here I come...

Photo: Beau Fredlund
Standing atop Republic Peak 6ish miles into our 140 mile traverse from Cooke City to Old Faithful. This project was hands down the most physically difficult thing I have ever done, but also one of the most rewarding... at this exact moment I was scared, excited, filled with anticipation and marinating in our first steps out of familiar terrain and into the wildness. 


Feeling little in big mountains is one of my favorite things. In this moment I paused to take it all in while scrambling down the scree on Granite Peak. I somehow reasoned that it would be reasonable to guide a 1 day trip up the mountain 3 days after finishing our 140 mile run across Yellowstone. Sometime you just have to give'r. There is a beauty in exhaustion, in pushing yourself to your complete limit. It makes doing the dishes a whole lot easier. 


Beau, the Good Doctor, and I got out for a late season day of fishing. We didn't catch a thing, but there is something about those boys. I just love their company. There's nothing like an adventure with a few good friends in a wild place (or wild to us at least). I still haven't run out of backyard nooks & crannies to explore. In fact the can just keeps opening, and opening... 


For the first time in 5 years, I spent some time in Montana in the fall. It was a little weird, but I sure sure did enjoy watching the seasons change and slowing down the pace of life a bit. For the last 5 years my falls have been spent working in the Arctic, so being in Montana was mild and relaxing in comparison. I have been talking about slowing down a bit for a few years, but not really making it happen. This past fall I finally did. I finally set aside some time to re-charge. Yet, I still felt a bit empty. 


I had a lovely early morning drive through the southern part of Yellowstone down to the Tetons to attend the SHIFT conference. It was neat to see so many friends gathering for the festivities. I was definitely honored to be nominated for the Adventure Athlete Award, although I never feel like I do or have done enough. I suppose it is along the lines of 'the more you know the more you know you don't know.' But I just feel like there are so many challenges to be addressed, it's hard to swallow, nevertheless start to chew. I read a quote by Aldo Leopold last night that has been marinating in my psyche the last 24 hours— "I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, and written not a few myself, but I suspect that the best one is written not with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land. Signatures of course differ, whether written with axe or pen, and this is as it should be."


I did go up to Churchill for a few weeks at the beginning and a few weeks at the end of the polar bear season. I experienced two firsts. 1) I didn't take any pictures other than on my iphone. 2) I didn't see any polar bears [for the first time ever in my 5 years, and 7 trips up there]. These days it is more about the people for me. It's about helping out where help is needed, seeing a few friends (and puppies), and supporting & participating in the seasonal community. I'll be headed up for my 6th season shortly. I'm looking forward to hanging with my co-workers, and the bears, and soaking up the Arctic beauty which is so abundant there. 


I tried hunting for the first time ever. It was hard. It was intimidating. It was challenging. I learned a lot. Hunting is a practice in patience and ecology. It tested my courage and perseverance. I never got anything in the end, but I learned so much. I look forward to continuing my education in hunting, and supporting my locavore lifestyle. Fortunately I have a partner who hunted successfully. Nothing better than a freezer full of local, organic venison! Fingers crossed... and eyes, ears, and nose wide open, this fall. 


There's always a few of those fleeting days, or in some cases hours. Beau always seems to sniff them out and insist on a photo session— which usually turns out moderately epic. :) Oh, December deep daze... 


Double sparkle sundog rainbow. WTF, seriously, this is REAL. This sort of thing makes me think heaven truly is on earth, and if we don't live for extraordinary moments like this then what on earth do we live for? Does it really get any better? And if it does, is there really so much harm in pretending (and celebrating like) this is all there is? I suppose it depends on how you like your tea. 


Family time.

This year (and every year) I've been surrounded by a lot of love. And that alone is a lot to be thankful for. 


I've heard for years about the amazing skiing in Canada, but never made the journey north to experience it for myself. This year I finally had a chance to spend 3 weeks up there, skiing and learning from the massive mountains in the Revelstoke area. The trip started off with an eye-opening day out with Christina Lusti & Fred Marmsater. It was such a treat to follow Lusti around, even just for a day, and watch how she moves through the mountains. I don't get to spend time with a lot of other female backcountry skiers, so that was a treat. 

I then dove into an AMGA Ski Guides Course. It was a wonderful opportunity to hone and expand my skills. I definitely left the course feeling much more confident guiding ski terrain, especially the down, and with a list of skills to continue to build on. 

I wrapped up the trip with a few days skiing with Leah Evans— another rare opportunity to get out skiing with a strong female. It was wonderful to explore her backyard in Revelstoke and continue to scratch the surface of the ski potential in the area. 


I returned to Cooke City in late January just in time to experience our 'Atmospheric River' event. A storm that dropped 11" of SWE over the course of about 9 days. I skied into a familiar area on about the 3rd day of the storm to discover the largest avalanche debris I've ever seen in my life. It came down and crossed the gully which is usually the 'safe sneak' to the more mellow terrain on the other side. Mother nature has no limit in the ways she can blow our minds. Watching this avalanche cycle is definitely an experience I will remember for a long time. 


In an effort to make more friends and get to know my community better I initiated a ski club this winter. It was so fun to get out, no matter the weather, and ski around with some of the locals (and a few visitors)! I am so thankful for the friendships I made, and the experiences we shared. Can't wait for next year!


An important moment this year was testing my new camera. I finally decided to try out a micro 4/3 to save some weight in the backcountry. After shooting Canon for years it has been a bit difficult to transition, but I'm excited about the image quality and weight of the new gear.

This was a strange year of photography for me. I was having a harder time finding motivation and being inspired. I've been trying to be ok with that and ride the wave, knowing that the inspiration will re-surface. Seasoned photographers often say you just have to keep taking pictures through those phases, kind of like writers have to keep writing even when it feels bad or is hard. So, here's to perseverance and finding beauty in the little things.


One of the upsides of the Atmospheric River events was supportable rain crusts in the low country! I have never had such good crust cruising in the valleys. It didn't last long until it became isothermal mank, but those 3 days were pure bliss...


Another Women's Backcountry Ski Course in the books! This crew was incredible. We laughed hard, learned lots (myself included), and saw some beautiful country. 


We had some wonderful visits from friends this winter and were able to get into some more interesting terrain. Thanks to all (you know who you are) for the company. :) 


My friend Erin Williams returned after the Women's Backcountry Course to ski more and get into some bigger lines. We had a wonderful weekend of mind boggling snow, and wild mountain experiences. Thanks Erin. :) 


Winter Wildlands Alliance gathered some friends for an exploratory ski trip into the Middle Fork Lodge deep in the River of No Return Wilderness. I don't really have many words for the experience. I have not been so relaxed and at home among a group of people in a long time. In the quiet and the calm I was nourished and rejuvenated. 


Wildlife in winter is one of my favorite things. I love how adapted animals are to snowy environments. Like this family of mountain goats for example, snoozing away, along cliffs high in the Greater Yellowstone. 


New Routing is always a delight. This season was no exception. Although I was a bit more hesitant than I often am this season, Beau & I still finished a few projects and explored a few new nooks and crannies in the backyard. 


Whew. I decided to start a podcast this year called the Powder 8 Podcast (not that I needed more projects). But I felt there was room for a backcountry specific podcast that really spoke to skiers who are out there, a lot, navigating and playing in the snow (or perhaps for those who want to be). It's been an amazing learning process recording and producing episodes. I was hoping to keep it going through the summer, but things were just too busy, so I look forward to getting some more episodes out in the fall. Who knows where this project will take me, but I'm excited to keep it going and growing and participate through it in the greater ski community. 


Beau & I finally thought there might be enough snow to go finish a multi year project of ours in the high country after trying 3 times (I think) about 3 years ago. We went back and put the puzzle together— and a complex puzzle it was. What we thought would be a half day outing turned into 12 hours and 5 or 6 rappels, but we completed it. After thinking it might be a classic, I now see it as more of a climbing route in which you bring skis, but hey... I like climbing. 


Another Beau vision... that guy. 


I moved half my things over to Gardiner, Montana this summer to take a job instructing for Yellowstone Forever in the park. It's be a different, interesting, rewarding in a new way experience. Although sometimes I feel like I am melting (Gardiner is HOT) it has inspired me to explore new-to-me places in the GYE. This ecosystem is vast, complex, and inspiring in so many ways...


I grew up in Bozeman, just 80 miles from Yellowstone National Park, but I barely spent any time there as a kid. There are so many amazing places to explore in Montana, and Yellowstone is so crowded in the summer, that we often went elsewhere. But this summer I have had the opportunity to dive deeper into all things Yellowstone: the thermal features, history, geology, wildlife, traffic, tourists, pit toilets, wildflowers, trails, and more. I've learned more about my backyard that I could have imagined, which of course opens the endless flood gates of learning more. There is so much here. It's hard to even comprehend really. This summer has given me a deeper appreciation of this wild place I'm fortunate to call home, of the greater ecosystem, and of the interconnectedness of all things. 


Dear twenty-seven, 

              This is the year of the little things... the year of looking deeper, of listening more intently, of smelling the rain, and smiling at the wind. This is the year of sweat and of tears, of digging deep, of working hard and of swinging the axe. This is the year. As every year hereafter shall be. The time is now. Let us go forward humbly marveling. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016


The subtle things, that make you smile. And grateful that you aren't anywhere else in the world...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

why #WeAreTheArctic, no matter where we live

I'm fortunate to have experienced the expanse of Alaska multiple times, and a few regions of the Arctic across Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Norway in my short 26 years. The Arctic mystifies me, captivates me, and has altered my perspective on nature and it's role in modern human life.

The interior of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is filled with incredible peaks. I hope to someday ski there. Anyone who has been to Alaska understands the immensity and vastness of the mountains there, like this image from the Chilkat Mountains of Southeast Alaska. 

When you spend time in the Arctic it is hard to deny it's importance and significance. It has provided hunting grounds for indigenous people for centuries— healthy food, rich with vitamins, that sustain life in a harsh environment, clothing, shelter, traditional knowledge and inter-generational wisdom. Through extended time spent surviving in wild places people learn to read the natural world, to understand the wind and the sun, to learn the language of ice and animals. 

“All the wisdom is only to be found far from the dwellings of man, in the great solitudes; and it can only be attained through suffering. Suffering and privation are the only things that can open the mind of man to that which is hidden from his fellows.” ~ a Caribou Eskimo once said to Rasmussen

Reducing humanity's dependence on fossil fuels is key to preserving the Arctic. 

Yet in a warming world the Arctic is threatened by modern man's greed, by the myth that development will solve our problems and that the earth's resources are plentiful, if not unlimited. 

“Once Rasmussen asked a shaman, ‘What do you think of the way men live?’ The shaman answered, ‘They live brokenly, mingling all things together; weakly, because they cannot do one thing at a time.’ I tried to do less and less everyday, tried weeding out the mind. To obtain awareness was once thought by the Inuit to be an essential aspect of personhood.” ~This Cold Heaven

As the world continues to warm, melting their sea ice home, polar bears face a dire future.

Those who have spent significant time challenging themselves and struggling to survive in the wilderness understand that nature is more powerful than humans are capable of comprehending. As technology grows the human ability to impact increases. In a desire to make life as easy and comfortable as possible we are slowly destroying the very resources that sustain us. We are poisoning our water, melting our ice, and destroying the habitat of animals upon which we depend.

Fortunately we do have time to turn our actions around. We can choose to live more sustainably and respectfully. We can use technology to save us instead of destroy us. We can protect wild places that are important, significant, and essential— such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge of Alaska. 

A rare caribou sighting in northern Manitoba along the coast of Hudson Bay.

Right now we have the opportunity to protect one of the most vast wilderness areas on earth. Protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is important for many reasons; it sets precedent that drilling for oil in the Arctic amidst fragile wildlife habitat is not the future, it protects the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou Herd, and helps preserve the Gwich’in indigenous people's way of life.

Although the Arctic may seem far away, the impacts there trickle down to the lower latitudes. We must choose the health of the planet over oil and money. We must speak for the land that cannot speak for itself. 

“The real is fragile and inconstant. The unreal is ice that won’t melt in the sun.” ~This Cold Heaven 

Sea ice north of Svalbard, Norway. A different, but equally important and beautiful region of the north. 

Please join me, sign the petition to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

Shared in partnership with Care2.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Summer in Yellowstone

Stumbled across some photos from a day touring around Yellowstone that I forgot to edit, until now. Pleasantly surprised by how some of them turned out. 2016 was a good summer for Yellowstone adventures... ;)