By Adam George
For the past week, we’ve followed climbers Chad Peele and Caroline George as they attempted a bevy of first ascents in Norway. Also on the trip is George’s husband, Adam, who gave us a sneak peek at what it’s like to tie into rope with your partner in climbing and in life.
Over the past four years, Caroline and I have shared literally hundreds of adventures and logged thousands of pitches together. We have spent countless nights sleeping in tents, huts, hostels, shady hotels in far-away countries, even the front seat of our car. Unfortunately, we have spent almost as many nights apart, in different countries, on separate trips. We have traveled around the globe climbing ice, rock, mountaineering or skiing, and it’s hard to say where we call home, or where we feel most at home—on an ice-covered face or sitting at our kitchen table. Often, our duffle bags don’t get fully unpacked while we transition from one trip to the next. For some people, our lifestyle is romantic, a dream come true. For others, it is chaotic and even a nightmare. So how do I deal with the time apart, the risk and the reward of being married to one of the top female climbers in the country?
Mountain guiding as a profession is largely seasonal due to regional climates and conditions. In order to make a living at it, a certain amount of travel is required. While we try to work from the same venue, we often work different trips and it has been fairly standard to go a week or two, even up to five weeks, without seeing one another. As anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship knows, this can be taxing. You miss each other when you’re apart, and then when you’re finally reacquainted there is a certain amount of adjustment that takes place as your individual lives merge together again. To complicate matters, we often go from one extreme to another as we spend weeks apart, followed by sharing a tent 24/7. There is no question that today’s technology makes life easier. Email, Skype and cell phones go a long way in keeping us connected. I also think that distance can make the heart grow fonder. We are just as committed to our lifestyle as we are to one another, and for me I can’t imagine living my life any differently or sharing it with anyone else.
In climbing there is a certain amount of danger and risk that is inherent to the sport. This cannot be argued and it cannot be quantified, it must simply be accepted. Yes, I do get nervous when Caroline is in the mountains, whether she is guiding or climbing with friends. I have 100 percent confidence in her abilities and her judgment, but I think it would be naive or foolhardy not to worry from time to time. However, when we are climbing or guiding on our own, I try not to dwell on the risks or dangers too much. It is when we are in the mountains or climbing together that things spice up.
When we are climbing together, if there is a particular pitch that is more dangerous, I try hard to take the lead. Maybe this sounds chauvinistic, egotistical, or maybe it’s something embedded in my genetic code, but I find it hard to watch my wife on a pitch, or in a situation, with elevated danger or risk. I don’t feel this “parental” or protective emotion when I am out climbing with other friends, and it is easier for me to try and control that situation by taking a dangerous lead rather than sit back and watch. As you would imagine, this is not easy for Caroline to deal with and has led to more than a couple of arguments. This is certainly the most difficult part about climbing together, but nonetheless, we continue to climb challenging routes, and an argument here and there seems like a small price to pay for being together and sharing what we are both so passionate about.
There is something unique and powerful about climbing and being in the mountains that keeps me coming back. Climbing can challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally like few other activities can. Sharing these experiences with someone you love can be incredibly powerful and extremely rewarding. When you are on a long or challenging climb, when your body is exhausted or when you’re scared, your being is stripped down to its core, exposing your true self to your partner. This will bring any partnership closer and when you’re sharing the rope with your wife, it can create some incredibly tight bonds. On top of that, you get to share some incredible scenery, landscapes and often hilarious travel experiences. So despite the time apart, or the occasional added emotional rollercoaster, at the end of the day there is no one else I would rather tie into rope with.
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