My father, Mike Donahue, was a mountain guide who strongly felt that the best reason for mountain adventures was not athletic achievement, but rather for enrichment of the self. To this end, he encouraged people to slow down and take the time to absorb the more subtle elements of the mountain world. Indeed, when you’re surrounded by blindingly white glaciers and huge craggy peaks it is easy to miss the tiny pika munching grass under a nearby rock, or the way your mind and body are free of daily stress. Here are a five of his favorite bits of wisdom that he loved to share with everyone he spent time with in the mountains:
- You can’t go too slowly for the first mile. Starting fast in the mountains is a recipe for exhaustion and dehydration. Starting slow lets you get into the mountain's - and your body’s - natural rhythms.
- Everyone has two little people in their heads that are always at war with each other: the Positive and the Negative. The Negative is always telling you everything that could go wrong and reminding you of all the reasons you should stay in bed. The Positive can only win if you take the time to focus past the Negative and think about all the reasons you wanted to have an adventure in the first place.
- Stop to eat and drink often. Take lots of short rests with snacks rather than a few big ones. Your muscles will feel better and your energy levels will be more consistent.
- During the fiercest mountain storms, he would stop, turn around, hold his bare hand up into the maelstrom, and tell his guests: “Isn’t this great! How many people get to experience something like this!”
- Near the end of long day, stop at a little stream and soak you tired feet. It feels great and you’ll see something you would have missed if you kept walking.
Mike Donahue’s favorite achievements as a guide included leading blind and paraplegic adventurers to the summit of Colorado’s 14,255-foot Longs Peak as well as helping anyone overcome their fears to enjoy a personal victory in the outdoors. He would have loved to see the diversity of people whose lives are enriched by taking part in the wildly remote summer adventures with CMH.
Photo of Columbia Mountains reflections by Topher Donahue.