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In the dark early morning hours, I am lost in shifting hues as the sun nears the horizon. Color starts to emerge in the world as the day starts and the mountains around me become visible. The rhythm of my skis sliding uphill provides me a space for meditation. I am pondering my story of climate change and its relationship to my lifestyle.
I am by myself, skiing on the controlled slack country adjacent to Mount Bachelor near my home in Central Oregon. Maintaining my heart rate, I keep the rhythm of my skis gliding uphill. The only interruptions are quick transitions and fast descents back to the parking lot. The transitions are smooth, the terrain is familiar, I am feeling strong.
While removing my skins at the top of a lap, I pause to look over the Three Sister Wilderness. The sun is rising over those stunning volcanos. Under the late winter snow I can see the undulations of the glaciers that unlike the snow, are permanent fixtures. Or at least we like to think of them as permanent. As I slide my skins into my jacket and step into my skis I consider my relationship with these spaces and how they are affected by the society of which I am a part.
This is another rhythm, one on which we have learned to rely but that is changing. The ebb and flow of the cold of winter to the heat of summer. The snowy season to the sunny season. In terms of glaciers and snow, the accumulation season to ablation season.
As people who are focused on the mountains, we see these changes. We experience the lack of ice and the shortening or the winter season, we feel the increased heat of midsummer. For us, this is not a report that we hear about in the new. This is a story of climate change that we know well from first-hand experience. It the story of the places that we love and the mountains on which we love to play. It is a story in which we have a place and in which we are a character.
The interesting thing about this story is unlike many of the tales that we share, whether at the bar or on the skin track, this is one that is affecting a much broader community than our immediate crew of skiers and climbers. The story of climate change is one that is effecting everyone from those living in maritime flatlands of Florida, to the expanse of the Alaskan Tundra to those curating the flooding museums of Venice. In fact, a recent report stated, if unchecked, the climate crisis “will profoundly affect the health of every child alive today.” But, as I said, this is OUR story to share and in many ways that is a responsibility that we have as a community.
Engaging the Adventure Community
This is what I thought about as I turned my skis downhill, that I need to engage more within the adventure community, and outside of it to tell this story and push for the systemic change. We need this voice and pressure to solve the climate crisis. It is as simple as calling my representatives and letting them know that I support elevating climate policy or going to a local city council meeting to share my story and let them know that we need to look for solutions. And while these are actions that may require stepping out of my comfort zone, it is also part of my story. As adventurists, stepping out of our comfort zone is what we do. I challenge you to do the same.
So think about the changes that you have seen in your mountains. Think about what the future holds. And know that you have the tools and story to craft the change that we need.
For more info on the work that I am doing and for resources on how to use your story to make a difference, visit protectoutwinters.com
Location: Bend, OR
Skis: UltraVector 177cm
Facebook Business Page: Graham Zimmerman Climber
Born in New Zealand raised in the Northwest.
After being exposed to alpine terrain in the Cascades he moved back to NZ where he cut his teeth in the Southern Alps and became a strong part of the Kiwi climbing community. Then, after graduating from university in 2007 he moved back to the states and has been focused on climbing as it applies to alpinism ever since. This has taken him on expeditions from Alaska to Patagonia to Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan and all over the lower 48 and Canada where he has established dozens of significant new routes on rock, ice and snow.
He specializes in complex logistics having run over 30 expeditions and assignments to many parts of the world including Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Alaska, Argentina, Eritrea, and Kenya. For his climbing exploits, Graham won the 2010 New Zealand Alpinist of the Year and was a finalist for the 2014 Piolet d’Or (alpine climbing’s equivalent to an Olympic gold medal) and won the 2017 Cutting Edge Award from the American Alpine Club.
As a skier, Graham has skied steeps from Alaska to the Cascades to New Zealand. In the past, this has primarily been focused on training for alpine climbing but in recent years, he has started refining his skiing into a discipline of its own, resulting in immense joy and lots of excitement.
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