Doug Bruns


In Adventure, Curiosity, Happiness, Life, Memoir, Travel, Wisdom on April 20, 2012 at 6:00 am

Flyby, Mt. Everest ©Doug Bruns

I took this photograph in April of 2009. The peak in the center of the frame is Everest, or Chomolungma. We were flying Buddha Air and the small plane was specially engineered for the high altitude. I likely will never get closer to that mountain. Tragically, two years later this flight crashed and all nineteen aboard were killed.

I have a friend, Chris Warner, who has been atop Everest, K2, and many other 8000 meter peaks. Chris is one of America’s premier alpinists. I climbed with him once in South America. It was during a period in my life when notions of climbing mountains appealed to me. Now, I prefer a canoe on Moosehead Lake.

With Chris I summited Mt. Cotopaxi in Ecuador. That took me to 19 thousand feet and change, the highest I’ve climbed. I don’t anticipate I’ll break that personal record for altitude. And that is just fine. Chris told me that his success in the mountains can be attributed to surrounding himself with highly accomplished climbers; that he learns from them constantly. What I learned from Chris was, in a manner of speaking, a hands-on tradition. It is a highly efficient way to learn anything and I recommend it. If you’re going into the mountains it is especially to be recommended.

As a young man I watched Robert Redford in the 1972 movie Jeremiah Johnson. The real-life Johnson (1824-1900) left the Civil War and went into the mountains, bereft and broken. His life turned on one adventure after the other. Watching the movie in a dark theater in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, I was spellbound. Upon graduating from high school I went to the Uinta Mountains of northeastern Utah, where the movie was filmed. There I experienced mountains for the first time. And so began a life methodology: turning curiosity into obsession.

One night in the Uintas I encountered a grizzled mountain man. He was a member of a team heading up to rescue an injured climber. They rested at our fire before advancing. The man motioned to the silhouette of mountains against the horizon. “I know what I need,” he said. “I need to see mountains.” I was seventeen and deeply impressed by a man who knew what he needed. Years later I came to understand the confusion that is wanting and needing. His wisdom remains among the profound lessons of my life.

  1. Getting high. Why does it feel so good?
    My son & daughter-in-law want to build a second story on their house in Leadville. The first level is already 10,500+ feet!
    I recall a tall pine tree from my elementary-school years that rewarded the determined climber with sap-coated hands and a glorious view over Morrison, Illinois. Later, the same exhilaration came at the masthead of a schooner.
    Good mood.

    • “Getting high. Why does it feel so good?” Wasn’t that a Dobbie Bros tune?

      I envy life at 10,500 feet. And yes there is something about altitude that appeals–at least to some of us.

      I’ve been to Lasha, Tibet, twice. Lasha is at 11,975. I recall the pleasure I felt knowing I’d landed in a place so high and hard to get to. There is something about a place that is not normal in it’s appeal to most that is exceedingly inviting, if that makes any sense. I enjoy the same sensibility related to latitude, and that is part of the appeal of Maine. I remember being in Terra del Feugo, south of the roaring forties, and taking extreeme pleasure in knowing that I was–again–in a place so remote and hard to get to as to put most reasonable folks off the trail. The closer I’ve gotten to the equator the less appealing the journey, I’ve observed. Likewise the higher the better. Leaving the crowd behind is a lot of it. I prefer to go where other folks prefer not to go. Maine and Leadville–wonderful places which appeal to fewer rather than more.
      Sap is a bitch to get off the hands, isn’t it?

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