• Dan Hilden

Alaska 2018: A Full-Value Life Experience

"It doesn't have to be fun to be fun."

-Mark Twight

I'm a strong believer in personal growth through discomfort. If the strange path that I've taken in my life has taught me anything, it's that stepping out of our comfort zones gives us the best opportunity to learn who we are and what we're capable of. When I was 16 I spent many of my fall and winter weekends bushwhacking in the wet, sometimes snowy foothills of the Cascades learning about land navigation, survival, and first aid with the local search and rescue group. Before that winter I didn't have all that much going for me. I was a middle of the road student and was always the slowish guy with bad hand-eye coordination when it came to sports. But on those soggy winter days and nights my self-image began to change as I came to realize that I was good, exceptional even, at tolerating physical discomfort and mentally stressful situations. A year or so later I started to dabble in alpine climbing, and before long pushing my physical and mental limits was a full-on addiction.

Fast forward six or seven years, and I’d built my life around pushing my boundaries in the mountains. In the winter I worked nights at a ski area so that I could ice climb or ski almost every day before work. I would climb alpine routes or ski tour on almost every day that I had off. In the summer I would rock climb at the crags near my house before or after work most days and go on as many as three separate trips into the mountains each week. Eventually the Cascades began to feel small, so I knew it was time to go to Alaska.

The Cascades nurtured my young ego; opening the gates of possibility just enough to make me want to see how far that road went. The Alaska Range brought me back to reality. I've now spent almost 70 days in the range spread over three trips. I’ve successfully navigated some extreme situations, but have also been humbled and overwhelmed by the mind boggling terrain and objective dangers. My 2011 and 2012 expeditions were the beginning of the end of my serious alpine climbing days. I came to realize that I’m just not willing to accept the kind of objective dangers that one must face on big routes in the greater ranges, and when I let go of my biggest goals many of the smaller ones crumbled too.

Still, my experiences in the mountains have made me who I am. I don’t get stressed out at work because I’ve faced the stress of things like descending big, glaciated mountains in storms, or of being 4000 feet up a steep ridge in Alaska at dusk with no sleeping gear. I know that I can handle sleepless nights because I’ve done it more times than I can remember, and I know that I can stay active for days with hardly any food. Personal growth through discomfort.

On April 9th my special ladyfriend, Lyndsey, and I flew into the heart of Alaska Range in search of some good skiing, epic views, and a little adventure. We got so much more! Incredibly cold temperatures, troublesome crevasses, and then a couple of massive storms that dumped 15 feet of snow in 10 days and made us miss our flight home and very nearly run out of food made this trip an exceptional opportunity for personal growth. There were times when we agreed that we might never come back to the Alaska Range, but when we stepped off the plane and stood on dry ground for the first time in 24 days we agreed that the whole thing hadn’t been that bad and that we’ll probably do it again next year.

I plan on writing a few stories about the trip in the coming weeks and months, and will hopefully have time to put together a video. For now I’ll let the photos do the work.

#photography #mountains #Adventure #stories #skiing #Alpine #Alaska #AlaskaRange #Denali

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