By Ben White
A long day in the mountains is always fun. As strength increases and the desire to explore persists, what was once previously thought to be a long day becomes a short day, and then eventually a walk in the park. If there’s a big objective to the day, or you’re just still feeling strong as the sun sets, sometimes it’s necessary to start the day earlier to pack more fun in.
I’ve never been a late sleeper, waking up at 7:00 on the weekends was standard for me all through high school and still is in college. However, I wasn’t really a super early riser until I started going for long backcountry tours in New Hampshire. Waking up at 5:00 to ski a peak on the list would happen, then 4:00, 3:00, with the earliest being 12:30 AM to ski seven peaks in a day, 20 miles and 9,000 feet of vertical gain to traverse the Presidentials in New Hampshire. There was an objective to meet and waking up early was necessary to complete it. I’ve always held an appreciation for watching the sun softly explode over the horizon, but it wasn’t until that Presi-Traverse sunk in that I really began to appreciate the sunrise for what it is.
In the Tetons with George, we slept in until 4:30am (intended for 2:00) and missed the window of opportunity to summit The Grand and nail a classic ski descent. We still had a blast and saw an incredible sunrise, a moment I’ll never forget.
Although not a particularly long day, waking up at 3:30 to ski Mt. Superior in Utah let us skin up under a day-past full moon and ski an amazing line before it got sun affected and stick, leaving the rest of the day to ski a couple laps at Snowbird.
Waking up at an hour that some people go to bed at only to get more tired seems like misery for some people, but once sunlight starts to make the world warm and bright, it’s a complete re-energizer. A new day has arrived with fresh sunlight and fresh adventures to be had and something about that, even after waking up at 12:30 with four hours of sleep, seems to make me feel like I had just gotten up with a full night of sleep and a full day of energy ahead. The best part about waking up early is that it gives so much time to do things. Sometimes waking up early begins to blur the lines between sleeping and just staying awake.
It’s not for everybody, but neither is playing outside. Waking up at 4:30 and hopping in the car to go somewhere cold or dangle from a rope on the side of a cliff sounds miserable to a large portion of people. Waking up at 10:00 or 11:00 or noon to stumble into the kitchen to make pancakes and watch football in the afternoon is much more leisurely and easy. However it’s more fun to live in the calendar on the wall than to look at it at the end of the day and go “damn, where did all the time go? I wish I climbed mountains like that one.” I like to look at pictures of my friends at sunrise and say “Damn, that was awesome”