Get your nose against it

The pleasure of risk is in the control needed to ride it with assurance so that what appears dangerous to the outsider is, to the participant, simply a matter of intelligence, skill, intuition, coordination… in a word, experience. – A.Alvarez

I can’t remember when I first heard the maxim: “get your nose against it”, but it stuck. I repeat it as a mantra to myself, primarily in the mountains. Sometimes I’ll be standing at the base of a mountain and the terrain ahead will look steep, exposed, dangerous and complicated. The first few times I encountered situations like this I turned back and quit.

Looking up at everything I’d have to deal with to summit this mountain was overwhelming. Mountains can make you feel very small and insignificant if you don’t understand how you need to approach them.

The ethos behind getting your nose against it is simple. When you force yourself to stop standing back and touch the mountain or obstacle with your nose you see that it isn’t this large, ominous hulk of a thing, but it’s rocks, and soil and ledges and ramps and snow and ice and before you know it you’ve passed it.

It’s a philosophy akin to the idea of “baby steps”. When attempting something, anything, don’t quit or give up before you’ve started because you imagine the goal is too lofty. Just forget about the end result, and keep your nose against it, concentrate solely on the immediate next step. Sure you might have to quit anyway, but let it be when you’re right up against it, touching it. Understand why it is that you need to stop and don’t just assume you aren’t good enough to tackle it.

The mountains for me are like a microcosm of all life experiences. You, and everyone else, climb mountains daily, figurative mountains. It’s the literal mountains though that really shine a light into what drives us as humans. We get to see a literal representation of how we deal with our problems and goals day to day and what we need to change to become better.

Like with everything though, you need to temper this maxim with some common sense. Sometimes you can evaluate that the terrain ahead is too dangerous from afar, like during avalanche season for example.

But, if you take anything from this, have this idea of getting your nose against it always in your head. It will lead you to try new things, meet new people you may have avoided, have new experiences and above all else, make you more competent and rational as you move in the mountains and the wild, which is, after all, the most important thing right?

Author: Leigh McClurg

I grew up in County Dublin, Ireland and moved to British Columbia, Canada with my wife in 2010. I fell in love with being in the Backcountry and Mountains that are all around me here and try to spend all of my free time exploring those wild places. My main goals are to chase happiness, see as much of this planet and its cultures as possible and grow every day through knowledge and experiences.

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