The founder and designer of Fairmean sought adventure in solo mountain excursions, until he ran into trouble. His realisation of his love of the mountains? To come back. Written by Christopher Baker
Some beings are cosmic. They give to you even when you’re not aware. They carry you on their shoulders of good vibes and wisdom. They share their lessons with you, and the more time you spend with them, you un-conscioulsy start to receive lessons from them. Jules, my new friend, an Australian via England and now in Japan is one such person.
Jules is an outsider through and through. If we all have purposes in life, one of Jules is to roam through the lands seeking out new adventures and breathing in the beauty that nature freely and readily gives to us. In prehistoric days, he would have been the hunter that went out and came back several days later empty handed and still smiling wide. It wouldn’t have been him trying to catch the animals, but him vs the animals in a race to see who was the fastest, and then a high-five at the end of the race and a promise to meet up next week at the same time for another good hearted competition.
At the start of October, Jules took us on a trip out to the Japanese alps. A 5am call time in Tokyo with the clothes on our backs, a road bike and a rucksack for an overnight adventure in the mountains. The plan was to ride the train to a small station at the base of the alps, depart and continue onwards with a 5 hour bike ride into the mountains and to the start of a 90 min hike that would top out at 1900m where we were to camp overnight under the gaze of the beautiful snow-capped Kitadake.
Sharing his experiences and wisdom over a coffee in some super hip and rad cafe in central Tokyo. Filling in the voids in our knowledge, taking our half packed rucksacks and promising to fill them up with all the necessary equipment and food. And then as we got to the mountains he started to give us his energy. We became aware of an extra level of ‘aliveness’ attaching itself to him. His hoots as we ran across bamboo fields 1800m in the skies calling out to his fellow animal beings that he was back to play, returning to his second home, super charged us all.
On the morning of the second day, Jules gave me more wisdom. A lesson he was sharing, and the unintentional lesson I was pulling from it. The story he told was of an experience 11 months earlier when he had gone on a weekend expedition and pushed beyond his limit, resulting in the loosing of flesh and bone via frostbite. He explained to me that prior to this trip he has always thought that going out to the mountains (which to him meant with minimal gear and sleeping out) was a deep part of his psyche. He had to see how far he could push it in a challenge against nature. 48 hours later sitting in the hospital he remembered asking himself, is a night out on a mountain with minimal gear, the peak of his offering to those around him; the people he loved and needed and those people who loved and needed him. What he realised, and what had been echoed by Reinhold Messner* was not the challenge against nature, but in facing himself and grasping the physical world in an untainted way. That was what mattered most. What he was sharing with me, was that if he could be wise, he could grasp both of those lessons and experiences in a way that minimised the risk of distressing those aforementioned people. That you can move through forests, run across snowcapped peaks and ride along at speed, but the real challenge is finding peace in doing that in a way that minimises risk, and with the main concern being to get back safely. It doesn’t reduce the level of challenge, rather it gives reason to the challenge, the ultimate goal is to remain alive long enough to come back. (JAMES - this links nicely into John backer and Ron - the ultimate challenge for john was not to climb without ropes, it was to be at peace with climbing with ropes. should we add a line in here?)
And the lesson I unintentionally learnt? It was focused around the words ‘I go out to come back’. What I realised, as I was in the middle of a world wide wondering cycle that had no route, destination or end, was that one has to come back (not necessarily to the same physical place). It’s only with reflection that one can add the newly gained experiences to their prior knowledge and turn it all into the wisdom that will inform the next decisions in ones life.
* Reinhold Messner was the first man to summit all 8’000+ peaks. In a story that has had its circumstances debated for 45 years, Reinhold tragically lost his brother to an avalanche on their combined first summit of the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat. After setting out separately from the last high altitude base camp and in deteriorating weather they found themselves on the summit pitching an emergency bivouac without tents, sleeping bags of a stove. Six days later Reinhold returned to the valley alone and with severe frostbite (six his toes had to be amputated) According to Reinhold on the descent he and his brother Gunther had become further and further separated and his brother had been killed in an avalanche.