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Breaking Up (With a Mountain Range) Is Hard to Do

Author: Emilie Drinkwater

May 14, 2020

Dear Adirondacks,

It’s not easy to tell you this, but I’m leaving you. You know it, I know it: We’ve grown apart.

I know you’re wondering if I met another mountain range. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner, but I’ve actually been seeing mountain ranges all over the world for quite a while now. I even moved in with one, the Wasatch. I met most of the others online. They drew me in with their promise of adventure, prestige, and the glory of dry snow, infinite granite ridges and endless sunshine. I was intrigued with them and a little bored of you, so I went. Some of the mountains had huts with espresso and cake; some had exotic culture and porters who would help me carry my gear; others were just big, the biggest in the world. And let’s be honest, sometimes bigger really is better.

SHOP WOMEN'S ROCK CLIMBING COLLECTION

I’m not telling you this to hurt you! We had a lot of good years together and there was even a time I thought we’d be together forever. I always thought you were beautiful with your lakes and ponds, dark, starry nights and fall foliage so brilliant it hurt my eyes. I liked it when your rocky crags provided so many wild blueberries that I could gorge like a black bear and still come back for more the next day. I liked it when you formed ice climbs that lasted six months of the year. Oh, and your smell—balsam and wood smoke, apple blossoms and mountain breeze. What could be more romantic?!

We tried the long-distance thing for a while, but every time I came back you seemed … different. A bit old-fashioned and, well, just sort of long in the tooth. Which makes sense, because your mountains are 1000 million years old and share the same rock as that found on the moon. Don’t get me wrong—those rocks really made for some of the best climbing I’ve done anywhere in the world. Your perfect little crags tucked away in shady forests or perched over secluded ponds taught me the true meaning of adventure, even if it was in the form of bushwhacking or post-holing.

SHOP MEN'S ROCK CLIMBING COLLECTION

Fall colors along a lake in the Adirondacks.

Over time, I’ve grown to appreciate that your inhabitants didn’t much care for climbs with bolts or hardware, and that moss and lichen were to be expected. Before my trysts with other crags I knew only of climbing what you taught me: scary runouts, traditional gear placements and thin, technical stand-on-your-feet climbing. Looking back, I can’t thank you enough for teaching me to be a durable, resilient, adventurous climber. And for showing me that your small, rugged mountains were the perfect training ground for the bigger mountains I’ve come to love. I will be forever grateful that you never made me altitude sick, or sunburned the inside of my nostrils the way some of my glaciated flings were so insistent upon.

SHOP WOMEN'S RAIN COLLECTION

But for all our good times, you did do some things I just can’t get over. Remember that time (and it wasn’t just once) that you let the black flies chew me up so badly I couldn’t show my face in public for a week? What about all those days when you rained on my well laid plans—or just rained on the perfect snow you made only the day before? Remember when you decided to let Hurricane Irene come to town and wreak havoc like a Greek Cyclops?

But what I really can’t get over is your owls, bobcats, fishers and other elusive wildlife … that undoubtedly ate my pet cats, Bigfoot, Francis and Dracula. I’m sorry, but none of this is forgivable and I needed to get that off my chest once and for all.

I hope we can still be friends. I can’t imagine never visiting you again. But please don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not looking for anything more.

Sincerely,

Emilie

Emilie Drinkwater

Emilie Drinkwater grew up in New Hampshire where she learned to ski at young age after her parents unknowingly signed her up for a race team. Luckily it all worked out, and she went on to ski competitively at St. Lawrence University, where she earned a degree in Anthropology and was introduced to rock and ice climbing. She began guiding in 2001 and, in committing to a low income, high quality lifestyle, she and her husband lived for eight years in an off-grid, remote access yurt in the northern Adirondacks of NY state. Today she is the 9th woman certified as an IFMGA/UIAGM American Mountain Guide and has abandoned yurt living in favor of easy, suburban living with Utah’s Wasatch Mountains as her new backyard.