Learning To Play Again
I first heard about the MAST program in 2003 while tree planting from my friend Jeremy, who had recently graduated from the program. I remember feeling so hungry for that type of training program and experience at the time, but I was slated to start a Masters of Urban Planning the following September. Fortunately, another planting friend Carolyn had settled in Fernie and so I had occasion to visit over the years. About every five years I would feel a serious drive to do the program. But life can unfold in seemingly very linear ways and my Masters somehow lead into a PhD and then to teaching and practicing in Montreal. I turned 40 this year, and with the encouragement of this dear friend and Rockies hiking pal, I decided it was time to take a “sabbatical” (unpaid leave, as I am a contract lecturer at Concordia and McGill), take a year for myself and learn how to ski tour in the Rockies, as well as become an all-round more competent mountain adventurer. Who knows, maybe I can even find a job in the mountains during the summer months when I am technically unemployed?
So far, there have been many memorable experiences with the MAST program. A top experience for me was our five-day hike into the Steeples range, via Maus Creek. While in mid-September, it snowed every day and we got just soaked. But somehow, the sun dropped in on us when we needed it most, and we managed to haul all our soggy gear into the sun and dry everything out. That afternoon after drying our gear, myself, a couple other keen students and Brian Bell casually summited one of the nearby peaks, gaining perspective and seeing the Lizard Range from the opposite direction. Those moments up top were a window of opportunity that passed as quickly as it came, and I feel so thankful for having been there to experience that range in the sunshine.
More recently, as part of our AST 1 outdoor training, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to ski tour on the back of Morrisey Ridge in the Fernie Wilderness Adventure’s tenure. Starting the day atop Heaven Ridge, again the clouds parted for us to gain perspective on the valley from the opposite direction. That day I experienced my very first true powder day with ‘hero’ snow as I glided effortlessly through the terrain, deepening my addiction to ‘pow.’
This year has so far been about pushing my boundaries and walking the absolute edges of my comfort zone, not unlike the moments we spent walking the ridgeline in the Steeples. More generally though, it has been about taking time to learn to play again, follow up on lifelong dreams, and draw strength and inspiration from the rugged beauty of the Southern Rocky Mountains. It is refreshing to be the student again and I am thirsty for more learning and adventuring with the MAST crew. Thanks to my Fernie buds for taking me into their fold.