Learning to Walk

Do you remember that moment, the one where your chubby hands pushed off the countertop and took your first few steps? Parents clapped, took film that they would inevitably watch when you went off to college, maybe you even got a cake. It was a big deal.

As we become grown, we start to take those steps for granted. We walk to work, to the store, to the refrigerator. It becomes just a mode of transport, something we barely think about as we go from point A to B. But what if we analyzed each stride as does a 100m runner? What if we watched slow-mo film of ourselves walking to the kitchen, through the halls, and perfected our each movement in order to achieve maximum efficiency. A simple act made precise, calculated.

It seems ridiculous, over the top. Maybe even Swiss. (“But Elliot, I thought you were from NorCal?! Aren’t you supposed to be chill or something?”) But there is a truth I must get off my chest. All the pictures I post on Instagram with an ice-axe in my hand, coil of rope slung around my shoulder, are a highlight reel of the sexy stuff. Out here, most of the time what I am doing is learning how to walk. Taking that everyday movement, and perfecting each transition, eccentric and concentric load, and turning it into a skill, an art. Melissa critiques me on each step, showing me how to lock my back leg, flex my butt, and perfect the ratio of step to rest. And once the uber-specific art of walking in high altitude becomes second nature (read: it hasn’t), next comes pacing. The “guide pace”, which ensures maximum mileage and minimal fatigue, is another beast altogether. There are different speeds for every gradient of every terrain imaginable, and I have just hit the tip of the iceberg. What we are doing is not extreme by any measure of the mind, but it’s a step (haha) in the process. I sit for hours in teahouse bedrooms, tying and retying simple knots. I intently listen as Melissa teaches me how to “keep my show tight”. It’s the little things, tucking in your straps, changing sunglass lenses at the right moment, that will eventually allow me to pursue the bigger goals I aspire to. And it’s hard sometimes, watching Conrad Anker hack his way up WI15 and feel like the levels are unnatainable. And I guess in some respect they are, because so few are able. But the only way to find out is to keep grinding away at the simpler skills that are so crucial. Oh, and keep my shoelaces tied.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Shannon says:

    You are so blessed to have her there teaching you these things!! This 47yr old from Louisiana (sea level lungs that struggle in altitude, but I keep trying) who just got into hiking really about 7yrs ago is intently jealous of you ladies and all you are doing. And I’m loving following along here as you learn.


  2. Lisa says:

    A few years ago, when I hurt my hip and lower back and could NOT walk for a spell, not even “to the refrigerator” (or coffee pot!), I was dumbfounded by the complexity of even a single step. That we, humans, can stand and ambulate at all is a miracle actually. God Elliot I love imagining standing in your shoes. Your blog is revelatory, transporting, and oh so humbling.


  3. Regan says:

    Eliot- thank you for being you and taking the time to share your journey with us. You are such an inspiration . Walk safe!
    Xoxo Regan


  4. Michael Metzger says:

    Incredible perspective and awareness coupled to an incredible talent for having the words to share your experiences. Thank you for taking us along on your path.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s