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July 31, 2009

Hi Folks,

"You got to suffer, if you wanna' sing the blues..." (David Bromberg)

This tune kept running through my brain as I hammered my way up the back side of Hurricane Mountain Road on Monday and it came up again on on my way back from a long ride on Wednesday down here in Philadelphia where I am visiting my in-laws. (And no, family events are not sufferfests, at least for me!) In one of the recent vignettes on a Tour de France rider last week, the interviewee described how they embraced the pain & suffering as a way of life. While I dearly love to ride, I've realized that I simply don't like to hurt that much.

I've also realized that this inability to willingly embrace pain is certainly what has kept me from ever being a serious mountaineer. It's always been clear to me that if you want to climb the big hard routes in the mountains, you better enjoy suffering. Over the years I've gone to slideshows by folks like Ed Webster, Mark Synnott, Mark Twight and others and always been amazed by the abject suffering these guys go through to attain their goals. While I've always felt as if, rightly or wrongly, I was probably technically and physically proficient enough in my younger days to climb that stuff, I just never wanted to go through the pain to to get there. I don't have the mental toughness to turn off the hurt!

Over the years I've climbed plenty of difficult routes in the Whites and in the Canadian Rockies, and even soloed a moderately long one, Mt. Athabasca, and needless to say sometimes there has been pain involved. My feet and hands have hurt so much I've cried, I've shivered & shaked, and I've gotten pretty darn scared, but I'm always sure that it's going to be over within a day. When I ride the bike hard and long my butt hurts, sometimes my hands get numb, my legs feel as if they are going to fall off and occasionally I feel as if I need a lung transplant. Serious mountaineers and cyclists are able to push their bodies and minds past the point of where any normal person would, and that's truly impressive, but not for me.
I've touched on the edges of it, but always backed away. Like most people I want to be a part of those things, the long hard routes and long fast rides, but never enough to make me want to embrace the suffering that's required as a way of life to be successful at it. A weakness of character I suppose, but one I have had to make peace with as I have gotten older. I realized that I'll settle for the occasional full day of enchainment of routes in Huntington Ravine or the 4 notch 85 mile ride through the Whites. All the while knowing at any time I can put my foot down and take a break or rap off and hike back to Ho Jo's. At this stage of my life I can look at the accomplishments of the "big guys" and truly appreciate how much it took for them to accomplish what they have done. My hats off to them all.

But I still hear the sound of that refrain; "You got to suffer..."

PS - I'm with the family in Philadelphia this week on "vacation. I whipped this Report out while dealing with lots of kids showing off Lego creations and family members trying to get me to go off to Ikea. But I would hardly call it suffering. Hope you are all having a great week...

Bug Report:
No blackflies, but lots and lots of mosquitoes everywhere. This wet weather has really made for a bug-laden summer! Keep that bug dope handy folks.

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Remember - climb hard, ride the steep stuff, stay safe and above all BE NICE,

Al Hospers
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire

As far as I knew, he had never taken a photograph before, and the summit of Everest was hardly the place to show him how.
Edmund Hillary, referring to the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay
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