Before I discovered the mountains, I ran track. I was mostly a distance runner, but I sometimes got pulled into the 4×400 relay. In track meets, the 4×400 comes immediately after the 3200m (2-mile) run, so I would finish my race and then jog over to the starting area to try to eke another lap out of my legs, fueled mostly on the adrenaline of the audacity of trying to link those two events and the support from the rest of the team.
Unsurprisingly, this strategy didn’t always work, but most of the time it worked out passably well and I got to collapse into a tired and happy heap at the end of the track meet. This, I think, was the start of my love affair with the idea of being an all-arounder. There’s a lot to be said for only trying hard at one thing, all the time (this is how people set new standards and win World Championships), but from what I’ve seen, it’s far more entertaining and rewarding to try hard at a lot of different things and then take the secrets you’ve learned from one discipline and apply them to another, one of the key tenets of all-arounding.
When I started mountain guiding, I didn’t actually know much about mountain guiding at all, but I knew how to deal with the cold, and I knew how to manage ropes, and I knew how to teach people, so I took those and faked it till I made it. Then, when I began to explore ice/mixed climbing, I used the try-hard I learned from the aforementioned track combo, ski racing, and other sufferfest-y experiences and combined it with the risk-management I’d gained from guiding to have some stellar adventures in the mountains. I’ve since used the equanimity learned from alpine climbing to keep things in perspective when I compete at World Cups. I don’t think winter climbing would be nearly as fun as it is for me if I wasn’t able to pull from such a diverse set of experiences.
Another advantage of all-arounding is that it keeps my stoke high for pretty much anything I do in the mountains, because I never feel like I get to do it enough! It also keeps me humbled because for the sports I do less often, I rarely feel 100% dialled- it turns out it’s hard to be proficient at everything, all at once. For example, I did my first ski mountaineering race (a fundraiser for the Leadville Trails Association). My teammate and I missed the race start and spent the whole race simultaneously trying to catch people and learning how to use our skimo gear in real-time. On the flipside, however, I got to draw on my ski-racing background to skate up some hills that I definitely wouldn’t have been able to skate up otherwise, and Alan and I ended up gritting it out to a podium finish!
On the whole, I think the all-arounder attitude is a super valuable mindset to have. It keeps me constantly engaged and learning, and I get to explore endless facets of climbing and other outdoor adventures. For me, there are so many amazing things to do in the mountains that trying to explore all of them is not only an (admittedly slightly unrealistic) goal, but a necessity.