Airport Codes: SEA-JFK-GVA

March 31st, 2006

One year, around the world. Listed were the number of planes, boats, taxis, tuk tuks, and motorcycles; the quantified moments of Andreas and Kasi’s dream adventure, its multimedia presentation a prelude to their stories to come over the next hour and a half. Captivatingly gorgeous images were made whole with humorous and insightful dialogue, cute and intimate in its stammerous indecision over who would tell which story to the standing-room-only crowd of friends, family, and community at Seattle’s Feathered Friends retail store, the alma mater for many in the room, including myself.

The slideshow was supposed to be on Thursday, the 30th, however at my request (so I like to think) it was moved to Wednesday evening for I was leaving early Thursday for my own trip. While my journey will be only five weeks in length, their show was an appropriate send-off. Many at the after party, possibly reflecting on Kasi’s words that ‘anyone can do this’ wished for their own opportunity to travel. I happen to be fortunate enough to be doing so.

I think I’ve always had this thing with stuff. Gear. My Possessions. You know age is taking root in your psyche when you begin repeating stories your mother insists on telling. She tells them to friends. To girlfriends. To *potential* girlfriends. She’s got one about my favorite toys at something like age four: the fire truck, the wicker basket to carry it in, those OshKosh train engineer’s overalls–not a couple sets of the same kind, we’re talking the same PAIR. I may be older now, but I’m still affected by the same clutch. Comfort through systems, systems designed around gear.

And so, for the last week, as I’ve explored a new packing scheme, I’ve whittled away at that which is “necessary” and “unnecessary.” Tele skis, boots, shovel, avalanche transceiver, ice tools, crampons, rope, harness, helmet, goretex shell, sleeping bag, digital cameras, backup hard drive, laptop, the list goes on. And somewhere in there, stuffed around all the gear, are the clothes I am to wear for the weeks I’m in the city visiting editors. It’s more gear than it is clothing, but I made weight. The zipper closed. Although I am wearing my climbing boots, La Sportiva Trango Extreme’s, on the plane because I couldn’t fit them in the bag, a Patagonia Weather Max rolling duffel. (yes, blatant product endorsement. if you watch movies, you’re used to it by now).

So it’s off to Chamonix, to sleep on the couch of a 21 year-old climbing partner who is ‘studying’ French and entertaining his Swedish classmates. The female ones. He said, “As long as you can keep me away from the booze while here, we’ll do some cool mountain shizzle….”

Well…last night at the Elysian brew pub during the after-party, as Roger Strong imparted some of his ever-youthful enthusiasm, he proclaimed Chamonix as one of the climbing meccas to which he has yet to make a pilgrimage. As he rubbed my shoulders down, I agreed wholeheartedly; I have spent most of the last year apathetically pursuing the climbing lifestyle, distracted and disabled with tendonitis brought on by my own stupidity. It will be a refreshing experience to get back to the mountains, to go out there with my camera, to be in a foreign land, to be in the home, no, the birthplace of alpinism.

But Chamonix is only one stop. I will not be as extensive and diverse as Kasi and Andreas with their round-the-world-tour, but I will be making the most of things. With all my gear.

In the vein of Andreas and Kasi’s “Slacker Reports,” stay tuned.

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p.s. I’m standing in the night air at the tourism office in downtown Chamonix using their wi-fi to send this. I’m standing in my boots and the clothes I wore on the plane as my duffel and ski bag didn’t make it. I think they’re still in New York. But Colin has enough spare gear; we’re off to climb the Cosmic Arete or something of that sort–it’s mellow Alps classic. So much for my gear.

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