The Declaration of Mountain Independence! (Volken)
I would be lying if I said that I became a mountain guide to interact with a large diversity of people. I simply wanted to go to the mountains and needed some type of job that would make this possible. Being from Swiss Alps made becoming a mountain guide seem like a logical conclusion.
What I did not know then was that some of my best friendships would arise from people who were so-called clients of mine. Not all of them became friends, but a lot of them live very interesting lives that have captured my attention in many a hut or tent. I've had the pleasure to roam the mountains with doctors, surgeons, dirt bags, lawyers, carpenters, accountants, nurses, teachers, scientists, physicists, CEOs, CFOs, (and SOBs), house wives, cops, marketing managers, engineers, restaurant managers, slackers, industry reps, photographers, software developers, electricians, construction workers, movie producers, fighter pilots, marines, home builders and many more. They seem to come from a large diversity of socio economic back grounds though most of them make a decent living.
I have been with these people on short trips, long trips, trips that were casual and trips where we all were scared, where the weather was on our side or where we were not invited in the mountains. I have been quietly observing these people for many years now and how they adapt to the unpredictable situations that the mountains will throw at them. Many of them get taxed to their maximum physical and emotional ability and very quickly the true colors start shining through.
Once we make the commitment to come to the mountains, we all get reduced to pretty much the same class. What we want needs to be carried on our backs and right here the first switch occurs. In the "civilized world" we generally acquire more goods and services to make our lives better and more comfortable. Of course once you have to carry all your belongings on your back, the story changes almost instantly. We start paying attention to what we really need and what we could possibly leave behind. Once this switch had been made, many of my clients have experienced some sense of liberation.
The mountains of the Pacific North West have been special that way, since there are no huts, helicopters, gondolas or porters that might help out. But even in a place like the Alps with its amazing infrastructure, the story does not change all that much. Once we leave the last gondola behind, we still have to carry our belongings from one hut to the next on our very own backs. We are all pretty much the same that way no matter what our background may be. We keep returning to the mountains because we have experienced a great sense of freedom and fairness out there and have created some of the happiest memories of our lives.
So as I was writing this short piece, I realized that this sounded curiously similar to the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
I wonder if Jefferson, Franklin, Chase and company would have liked mountain climbing.