Admit it: most of us live very privileged lives. You’re reading this blog online, which means you have access to internet and electricity, probably in a climate-controlled environment, most likely with your favorite beverage less than an arm’s length away. We’ve evolved and innovated to the point where we are essentially living life on-demand. One unfortunate side effect of the Digital Age has resulted in a paradoxical effect: the more comfortable our lives become, the less we are required to adapt and evolve. To grow, to change, to improve.
A hundred years ago, Teddy Roosevelt harbored the same misgivings following the advent of the Industrial Age. He saw his military officers getting soft, adapting to their increasingly comfortable environs. His solution? MARCH. Officers were required to complete a timed 50 mile march in order to remain in service. Fifty years later, JFK published an article in Sports Illustrated voicing his concerns about the growing softness and lack of “vigah” of his fellow Americans. Ever the admirer of TR, Kennedy resurrected the 50-miler in an effort to instill the challenge and pride once present in an increasingly soft society. The results were overwhelmingly positive and well documented.
At Karamojo, we promote challenging oneself in nature as a medium to realizing your true potential for strength and growth. Our advocates are directly responsible for furthering this movement. What if we combined the challenge of Roosevelt’s 50-miler within a setting as majestic and unpredictable as the National Park Service wilderness areas along the Continental Divide, while testing out the latest products of the Karamojo line? As any seasoned practitioner of Russian Roulette will tell you, there’s only one way to find out.
Our motley crew of guinea pigs was drawn from a wide spectrum: a financial advisor/ultramarathoner, a plaintiff’s attorney/Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner, a mechanical engineer/CrossFit and yoga die-hard, a real estate appraiser/former collegiate basketball player, and a lifetime outdoorsman formerly tethered to a desk who felt possessed to start an outdoor clothing line. The end result was anybody’s guess - Vegas was not taking bets on this one.
One thing I remember our lead guide telling me on the first day of glacial mountaineering school some years back: You’re almost never comfortable in mountaineering. If you’re unable to condition yourself to this eventuality - if you’re unwilling to embrace discomfort - the battle you fight in the mental realm will pale in comparison to what you feel in the physical. How many of us shy away from achieving something meaningful and worthwhile simply because we’ve become averse to discomfort?
For the next four days we traversed 50 miles of trail and 6,000 feet of elevation gain with 40+ pound packs through all forms of weather: sunshine, clouds, rain, sleet, hail... snow. Our battle against blisters, fatigue, and altitude sickness was punctuated not by cries of frustration, but rather by the war cries of triumph - the unique byproduct of challenges sought and hesitation overcome. Each faced his own internal battle, but we were ALIVE - feeling the satisfaction and freedom that only occurs just beyond the realm of comfort and along the void of sanity.
Our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow came in the form of 12 oz cans, and all would attest that rarely has a beer been so satisfying. While the individual experience varied, each of us left that trail a changed man. The spoils of a battle fought against oneself are uniquely manifested in a newfound sense of purpose; a drive that was always there below the surface but required the nourishment of adversity to be truly discovered. Voluntarily immersed in a situation where only limited control was achievable, we learned more about ourselves and our capabilities than could ever have been gleaned inside four walls.
With the first Excursion in the books and plenty of calls for the next installment, we are already in the planning stages. At the moment, watching the snow fall from the other side of double paned glass with a mug of fresh brewed coffee is a luxury not to be taken for granted. The adversity taught me that. DC