Up & around

Posted by Ken Campbell October 31, 2009 0 Comment 918 views

In climbing, it’s all about the summit. (That’s not completely true, of course, and most climbing literature acknowledges the journey as being the true reward, but the reality is that the summit is the cherry on top of the alpine sundae.) It is easy to envision the goals of climbing, even for those who are not involved in any related activities and have no personal experience with it. It clicks with almost everybody; whether climbing makes sense – as a pastime – to someone or not, people are in tune with the process from the start.

Kayaking is harder to relate. After all, high alpine adventure occurs in places where no one lives, where humans are incapable of living for any extended period of time. The mountaineering world is a place that, although it is clearly part of this same planet we all call home, feels like a completely different universe. Expedition kayaking, on the other hand, often takes the paddler through more moderate zones, where people live and plants grow, where there is wildlife on both land and sea and temperatures venture further up the scale. It seems closer to common experience perhaps, although it is not necessarily so.

As in climbing, there is no question that it is the journey that matters most. It’s funny, but often the things that stay in the memory the longest and bring back the fondest recollections are the little events that pass almost unnoticed at the time. The big goals are different, but there is a parallel to climbing in that, although there are no summits, there is the concept of circumnavigation.

Going around an island, seeing it from all its different angles, is a pursuit of knowledge. When a paddler has successfully negotiated a circle route around the edge of an island (or a peninsula, maybe), he gains a perspective on that place that he would never otherwise have had. Like the climber who, upon returning from the heights, feels a depth of knowing because of the journey, the circumnavigator has a similar level of understanding.

That knowing, that sub-cellular intimacy with place is what it’s all about.

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