By: Robert J Lester
My passion for mountaineering was born out of my love for skiing. Waiting on lift lines, looking up at the huge untamed mountains that surround ski resorts, I knew I those were what I truly wanted to ski. From that point forward, the goal became getting to the summit of those mountains so I could access those lines. I needed to get there; but I don’t have a helicopter lying around to use as I please, so I turned to a touring set up.
In those early days the seeds of an obsession were planted, and it wasn't long before they took root. Soon I lived and breathed mountaineering. I spent countless hours looking at mountains on Google Earth, watching videos on new techniques and safety, and endlessly reading stories and reports of famous mountaineers such as Doug Coombs, Conrad Anchor, and the man that grew to be my hero Alex Lowe; among countless others.
The next steps were expanding my skill set into climbing and ice climbing. I had dabbled in these areas before, but they took on a new importance in pursuing my passion. Committing time and energy into these new skills was exciting and further fueled my drive and desire.
In hindsight, it was a gradual progression, but at the time it seemed as if one day I was considering what career to pursue after graduation, with no real commitment to anything. The next I had decided I was going to commit my life to mountaineering and was racing to finish up school as fast as I possibly could so I could devote my time to being in the mountains. Throughout this entire journey there has always been one primary focus, that I consider above all else. Safety. The activities I so love are incredibly dangerous. Full Stop. As anyone who participates in them should, I dedicate an enormous amount of time and brain power to thinking about the safest ways to do things and mitigating risk for myself and anyone I am with. My first few times in the backcountry were by no means filled with powder and glory. My partners and I learned lessons by the mistakes we made, and took our fair share of knocks and bumps along the way. But, those hard lessons are the important ones. The ones I will never forget. They keep me safe to this day. Many great mountaineers including my hero Alex Lowe have died in the mountains. There aren't many old great mountaineers, but I plan on being one of them.
This would be a great point for this story to end, but the truth is I don’t know the ending. It’s still being written. Every trip into the mountains adds a new chapter. All I do know is I am as excited as ever to see what that next chapter is going to say.
- Robert J Lester