Thursday, July 28, 2011

Climbing heals with Ti Conkle in Alaska

Part II

Ti Conkle works full time as an internal auditor/investigator for the government in Alaska but every chance she gets, she find ways to get outdoors and explore the world outside from every angle. And she means every chance ... she commutes to and from work on her bike during the spring, summer, fall and parts of winter until it gets colder than -20F/-29C. She blogs at Element 22

Talking to Ti about climbing, a simple question about cameras showed me just how inspirational she is. 

Why climb with a camera? 
So along with all the gear we talked about here Ti always takes her camera along. And it's for much more than the family album. She says: "A series of traumas over a span of several years left me coping with long term memory loss and experiencing gaping holes in my own personal space-time continuum.  By accident, I discovered that photography helped store memories and allowed me access to my own recollection." 

She explains without her photographs she would have "little memory" of what happens from day to day. And of course that loss would block conversations, exchanges, all the intimate things between us that we rely on memory for without ever appreciating it. "Twelve years went by in which I did not write at all and, in fact, spoke rather little as well. In discovering photography, I found my voice."

All the amazing photographs on her blog are not just for us as readers but a key part of who she is. It makes you look again at these shots doesn't it? She says "I enjoy sharing my photos, my window to the world. My hope is that I can bring just a bit of the experience, the moment, the nuance of light and shadow to others."

Italy's boot AK
Climbing with the next generation
Ti blogs beautifully on the joys of introducing her daughter to kayaking and climbing. So why should adventurous parents should make the effort to induct their kids into that love of the outdoors? She says "Largely, my job as a mother is to provide an environment where my daughter can learn to assess risk, make informed choices and explore the world outside and within herself with absolute confidence." Explaining her idea that risks are just "unexplored adventures" she says people are always afraid or nervous of the unknown and aren't able to properly assess risk until we have all the information. So I guess that's why the whole notion of "winging it" freaks most of us out so much.

Ti finishes by saying "There will be failures. There will be mishaps. There will be falls and drops and missing toenails and blistered hands. There will be rainy, stormy days and days overflowing with sunshine and laughter. If I have done my work properly, she will know that all of these things are a healthy, normal, required part of life. The most inspiring way to encourage is to lead by example, to simply go and do."
Winter Biking
Tips for new climbers
But if you don't have a climber mum to get you op the ridges, where to start? Ti says "the best way to train for climbing is to climb." Before worrying about the technical aspects or equipment, she says you need "strength, endurance and cardiovascular stamina" from some other sport - presumably to get up the rock-face in the first place. But there's something even more important than that "More than just carrying your own weight, physically and existentially, a good climber needs to understand the team dynamic, foster excellent (verbal and non-verbal) communication skills and be prepared to give more than they take," says Ti.
  •     Prepare, prepare and prepare; mentally, physically, emotionally.
  •     Know your gear, inside and out.
  •     Rehearse and practice your knots, anchors, belay and ice axe technique.
  •     Under duress, we do what we have memorized. The simpler you make things, the better.
  •     Don’t wait. If you have the desire to climb, the interest, a spark of longing… don’t wait. Do it.
And her final word on why climbing simply rocks (pun intended):
"Climbing will not bring you happiness, but you can bring happiness to climbing- or any other endeavor you undertake. The mountain does not care if you climb it, nor does it care if you fail in the undertaking. Mountains are the perfect foil for the ego, as they simply are."

Ice fall
The first part of this interview is available here on ISW


Anonymous said...

Thank you again, Niamh, for taking the time to interview me and to corral the flow of thoughts and words into this format. It is good to be a part of a network of strong, independent, active, creative women who 'fly with their own wings'. Exploring the nuances of what drives us to do what we do and do it well- that is the stuff that should be passed along, shared with others and carried forward.

Though each one of us carries a passion for different sport(s), we are all so much the same, foundationally.

One step at a time, one decision at a time, we move forward, onward, upward.

Brian Miller said...

Largely, my job as a mother is to provide an environment where my daughter can learn to assess risk, make informed choices and explore the world outside and within herself with absolute confidence...right on that whole part of the interview on raising are doing a great job with the interview thank you niamh

niamh said...

@Titanium - don't thank me, you're the one doing all the hard work. It was fascinating going back and forth and learning so much from you. Passion, that's what it's all about! No matter what you do as long as you feel something for it (well ahem, as long as you're not hurting other people while doing it)...

@Brian - thank you for dropping by! She's an inspiration. Oh - and there are some other fab mothers dotted through the blog if you take a poke around *shameless self-blog-promotion*

Snowcatcher said...

Excellent interview, Niamh. You asked the perfect questions that offered Ti the opportunity to show what she's really made of.

And you don't have to shamelessly self-promote; you do an excellent job with what you are doing. I always enjoy my visits here! (And I've noticed other blogs are picking up your content and running with it...)

niamh said...

@Snowcatcher - And you know I like to ask questions, I think Ti was sucked in by your interview ;) Thanks for the kind words - it's all about the fab women I have on here!

Tina C said...

Absolutely fascinating. Love this, too: "Mountains are the perfect foil for the ego, as they simply are."

niamh said...

@Tina - It's an incredible story. And yup, doesn't sound like there is room much too many egos up there at all

Caitriona O Malley said...

Great interview Niamh, I absolutely loved the quote on parenting - think I'll write it down and remind myself of it from time to time when I'm struggling with that job myself !