By: Chad Valenti
It’s not often I get to spend a weekend away with my kid brother. With our schedules pulling us in different directions constantly and living a couple of states away from each other, it makes the time we spend together more important. So when he asked me if I was interested in doing an ice climbing event in the White Mountains for a weekend, I jumped at the chance! Having plenty of hiking and outdoors experience (yet no ice or rock climbing whatsoever), I felt comfortable with Jordan taking the lead and showing me the ropes.
Saturday we spent the day at Champney Falls with a small group of people who share the same affinity for the outdoors. As I strap into my harness with ice axes in my hands, I can’t help but notice how exhilarated and tense I am- a feeling that is pretty familiar to me. As I slowly climb the falls, the tension seems to give way to more excitement with every successful axe chop and crampon click as I slowly climb up. When I reach the top, Jordan, who is my belay partner, yells “Now just lean back and launch yourself off the side- I’m ready for you!”
I sort of laugh in my head and say to myself “Launch? Oh crap,” before I confidently yell “OK, here I go!” My heart starts to slow down as I feel the tension in the rope grab hold, and next thing I know I’m safely at the bottom, beaming with pride.
The next four hours we can be seen going up and down the falls- I’m doing my best to pay attention to our guide as she is telling stories of her adventures while giving tips and advice. I find myself infatuated with her lifestyle and her ability to effortlessly climb. After hiking back to our vehicles and heading back to the lodge for the night, I can’t help but notice how exhausted I am. I hope with a decent night’s sleep our plans to hike up and ski down Cannon Mountain the next day aren’t too bold.
After my second night of about four hours of sleep, we pack up the car and head to Cannon. As I’m driving, I notice how drained I am, and I start to think about how heavy our packs will be trudging up Kinsman Ridge Trail through the wind, ice, and snow. Of course, being the older brother, I can’t let Jordan know just how tired I am, but I’m sure he might be feeling the same.
We pack up our skis, boots, and gear, and get on our way. We both joke with how heavy our packs feel (felt like 50 pounds), but both don’t want to be the one who shows any weakness. The weather can be great for hiking this time of year (low 20’s), usually only needing a couple of layers to start out. About 30 minutes in, I notice my brother struggling with his footing, so we stop to sort of assess what our plan is. As big brother mode kicks in, I tell him “I’m ok with turning around, but if we are, we should do it now.”
Jordan looks at me and says “Well I packed my skis and we’ve already started, so let’s keep going.” Proud and not surprised of his mentality, I lend him my extra pair of crampons and we continue.
The next few hours are spent with periodic breaks, and great talks of politics, girls, and old times (in no particular order). I can’t help but feel nostalgic to our days of when we grew up and used to just get lost in the woods, build forts, and set up booby traps. We are physically and mentally exhausted, but our camaraderie keeps us moving forward as we battle the low hanging branches covered with snow and ice. It seems about every 20 to 30 feet our skis above us clip and branch and send snow falling down our necks, but we laugh it off and just keep moving.
Towards the top the tree line shrinks, and the winds pick up- our views are starting to get a bit more skewed with the cloud cover quickly coming and going, but our spirits are high and we are having a good time. As we near the top, we both get a small kick of adrenaline, and even with the wind chill bringing temperatures in the single digits, we climb the summit tower to see if there were any views to be had. We spend a few minutes looking at the 360 degree (somewhat cloudy) views, and relish in what we had just done.
We hike over to the lodge to warm up and grab a hot lunch- with an ice cold beer to celebrate our little adventure, of course. It’s amazing how simple a pulled pork sandwich and cold brew can taste after working your butt off! We both look around and get a kick out of all the skiers who took the 10 minute tram up top- yet we willingly chose the most difficult route just because.
Finishing up lunch, we slowly and painfully make our way down the mountain- the past couple days events have taken its toll on our legs. After deciding to take the difficult route to the bottom in order to shorten up the walk to the car, I get to the bottom and look up to find my brother sliding down the mountain on his side with one ski- the other about 30 feet up the trail. I can’t help but laugh because I know just how tired he is. I wish I was smart enough to take out my phone to snap a picture- it was my only regret from the weekend.
As we take our skis off and walk towards the car a very familiar feeling came over me- a feeling of accomplishment. Reflecting upon what my brother and I had done that weekend, I was proud of the way we pushed each other physically. But more importantly, I was so happy to have had the opportunity to connect with my brother again. He’s the one person on this planet who is most like me. Most brothers are, ya know.
Looking back at these feelings, I notice now the strong translation into the CrossFit world. The anxiety of what is to come with the unknown reminds me of my first open last year. Being slightly scared once we do know is like any competition where the workouts are released ahead of time. A quick laugh during warm-ups listening to a friend’s story from the weekend, a smile when someone hits a PR. The feeling of physical and mental exhaustion, second nature to me now since starting CrossFit 18 months ago. But most importantly is that last feeling, the feeling of accomplishment when something is over. A true sense of pride that I tested my limits, and succeeded in doing so. I’ve learned it’s really how we grow as people, and how we become better human beings.
It’s why I continue to do what I do - chase adventure- and why I won’t stop anytime soon.
And let me ask you this...what's your next big adventure? Is it ice climbing and skiing? Is it signing up for the CrossFit Open and pushing yourself? Or is it traveling abroad and finding yourself in foreign places with close friends and new ones alike?
Whatever it is, I urge you to never stop chasing adventure. Life is short, sweet, and tough all in one. Don't let the moment, the chance, the opportunity slip you by.
~ Chad Valenti.