Go Fast. No Rules.

This piece was written by one of NMLFF's original Ambassadors Hannah Lippe. 

I looked up at the thin, shimmering line of ice above me.  Water dripped out the sides of the ice, dampening the rock underneath the tenuous frozen line I was supposed to climb up.

“So, um, how do I do this?”

My climbing partner, a guy I’d met skiing only a few weeks before, gave me a bemused look. He was probably wondering why he’d invited me on the first ice climb of the season in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  He replied, “Go fast. No rules.”

He checked that my carabiner was locked, turned his crampons uphill, and swung his tools into the fragile ice.  Within a few minutes, he was out of sight.

I stood there, feeding out rope as he moved quickly up the pitch, shivering and wondering why I’d thought ice climbing might be fun.

Pretty soon, I heard the call from above: “BELAY OFF!”

I took the rope out of my belay device, pulled off my enormous puffy coat, and put on my thinner climbing gloves.  I waited until I heard, “ON BELAY.”  Here goes.

I swung the ice tool into the first patch of ice I saw.  Ping!  It bounced right off.  I kicked my crampon into the ice at my feet. The ice shattered. There was too little ice and too much rock.

“Oh Jesus,” I thought. “How the hell am I going to get up this cliff if I can’t even put these sharps things in ice? Isn’t that the whole point of them??” My heart pounded as I envisioned the catastrophic embarrassment of yelling up to my new climbing partner that I couldn’t do it.  Then I remembered: Go fast. No rules.

I took a deep breath and reached up to hook my ice tool behind a rock.  I lifted my opposing leg to wriggle my crampons in between two rocks and started moving, forcing myself to let go of how I thought I should I use my tools and crampons, and instead used the sharp objects attached to my hands and feet as wedges, levers, hammers, and hooks.  I grabbed, pulled, stabbed, jammed, wriggled, and clawed my way up.   

I reached the belay about 70 feet later, with my Arcteryx bibs torn in a few spots and feeling utterly victorious.  

My climbing partner quickly tied me into the anchor and we prepared to set off for the next pitch. I followed him up the next two pitches, forcing myself to keep my heart rate down and experiment with different ice tool and crampon placements to move quickly, though maybe not gracefully, up the ice.

As the sun began to sink below the mountains, we topped out on the top of the Black Dike, one of New England’s most iconic ice climbs. I pulled on my enormous down jacket, a little stunned and very proud. I couldn’t wait to do it again.

Photo Credit: Mickey Hardt

Go fast.  No rules.

These words have continued to ring true for me in many ways.  A year after this experience, I keep reminding myself, when I get stuck or lost or confused: Hannah, go fast. No rules.

I have always loved rules. Growing up, I played team sports, where rules abound.  I loved school because I knew the rules: study hard, listen to the teacher, get good grades, go to a great college.  When I was class president in middle school, I loved helping the school administrators enforce the rules.  I saw things pretty black and white -- either you did the right thing and followed the rules, or you did the wrong thing and broke the rules.  

And, when it came to following the rules, I certainly did not go fast.  I went sloowww. My sister’s favorite story to tell is about the time I visited her at her college on a weekend. I spent the entire weekend in her college library studying for an upcoming plant biology test.  When my sister swung through the library on Sunday with friend to check on me, her friend asked me, “Oh wow, is your test tomorrow?”  I said “Oh no, it’s in three weeks.”  Slow. I would read, re-read, and re-re-read every essay I had written and agonize over every decision I made.  Slow.

And, because of my love of rules, I’ve struggled with a lot of anxiety, fear, and depression for the eight years since graduating college. During that time, I was in search of the “right” career and life path that I thought followed all the rules -- find a good career path, get a great job, find a husband, buy a house.  For one reason or another, though, these things didn’t happen as quickly, at all, or in the order I thought they were “supposed to,” even though I was following the rules.

I spent a lot of nights panicked and wondering how I’d gotten so far outside the rules. I dwelled in a slow, indecisive pool of anxiety.  I wanted a teacher to tell me that I was doing the right thing in life and give me an A, and without that, I didn’t how how to discover my own path forward.

In the last year, climbing and learning how to navigate the unfamiliar terrain of ice and rock has flipped my perspective.  With the mantra of  “Go fast, no rules,” I started to see how I limited myself with my own perspective and desire to do the “right” thing.  In climbing, there’s no one path to the top, and it’s rarely straightforward.  You always have to be prepared to respond to a turn in the weather, an unexpected change in the route, or just not feeling at your best.  You have to move fast and be decisive.  Rather than looking at these hiccups as barriers or negatives, I learned to look at them as part of the adventure.  I never know exactly what’s going to happen, but I keep my stoke high, reframe each problem into a new opportunity, and go fast.

Photo Credit: Mickey Hardt

Climbing has helped me discover, as many of you probably knew way before I did, there are no rules in adult life.  There’s no one way to live your life -- no right job or path. Not only is there no right way, but there’s no wrong way. I used to fear what I didn’t know about what life would hold and would worry that I wasn’t doing the right thing.

These fears still pop up from time to time.  But now, I’m more comfortable with ambiguity and not knowing what path my life might take, or if the decision I’m making is the right one.  I make decisions more quickly, creatively, and fearlessly, whether it’s jumping into a new project at work or flying out spontaneously to join a friend to for a bike and ski adventure in Oregon.  I am excited about a life of discovery and exploration rather than rules and answers.

Right now, I’m nowhere I ever thought I’d be, and I’m happier than ever.  I have a quirky job working in innovation at a massive financial services company and many friends that will laugh through the hail and windstorms with me. I am pouring energy, time, and passion into my adventure life.  I don’t have a set career or life direction, and I’m having a fucking blast.  

And when I start to panic, I keep my heart rate down and experiment with unexpected movements and handholds, forcing myself to move quickly, though maybe not gracefully, through life.  Then, every so often, I look at what I’m doing and still feel a little stunned, very proud, and can’t wait to keep doing it.

Aisha + Kathy go to Austin, TX

Kathy and I had just 48 hours to spend in Austin, Texas. Since this is our second trip to Texas in the last few months, we are returning more seasoned and ready for Segways. While the trip was short, we did get the essentials before the big event. We made it to Jo’s Coffee for breakfast tacos and Iced Turbos, the Big Top Candy Shop, Allen’s Boots, and made it to the bridge just in time to see the stream of bats launch into their nightly feeding frenzy. 

The event - a fundraiser for Casting for Recovery, was stupendous. The Yeti Flagship store is revolutionary and includes all of the necessities for a good time: a bar, good people and indestructible coolers. Who could ask for anything more? A powerful and impactful cause? Check. Casting for Recovery does incredible work and we look forward to teaming up with these ladies every year. CfR was our first tour stop, so coming back here is a great marker for how far we have come and it feels like coming home.

Lise and Susan, two of the figureheads in the company have fostered an amazing community of diverse women who are all connected by two elements: breast cancer and fly fishing. Casting for Recovery provides women affected by breast cancer a free weekend-long fly-fishing excursion, granting these women an opportunity to step away from their diagnoses and be with others who understand their journey.

We are honored to be a part of this incredible organization and are looking forward to years to come. Casting for Recovery gives us hope and reminds us that humanity is rooted in good. See you next year, Austin!

Aisha + Kathy go to Dallas, TX

Photo by Trenton Wheeler.

Photo by Trenton Wheeler.

When in Texas, do as the Texans do. Or don’t and you will be publicly scolded.

Kathy and I spent the past 48 hours scouring the Dallas city streets in search of food trucks and meaning. To begin the day, we started at the museum of modern art. After trying to enter an exclusive exhibit cloaked as educators, we lead ourselves into the rest of the museum that is open to the public. Did you know that if there is not a fence in front of a painting, that is not an invitation to get within inches of the masterpiece? We found out the hard way.

In addition to this BBQ and art fueled journey, we screened NMLFF courtesy of our lovely host - Summit Gyms. Summit has a handful of climbing gyms scattered throughout the state and we held our event at the Carrollton location. These gyms are as focused on climbing as they are on supporting and promoting the budding climbing culture in Texas. The couple running the Carrollton event, Audra and Mario are newlyweds on a mission to diversify climbing in the area. These two are passionate advocates for people of color in the sport. These two confront issues of diversity in the outdoors sharply and unapologetically.

Photo by Trenton Wheeler.

Photo by Trenton Wheeler.

The event was intimate. Guests sat on the bouldering mats while Hazel Findlay and Tiffany Hensley spoke separately about their experiences as climbers. The excitement was tangible, given that the celebrity ratio was nearly 1 to 25. Hazel spoke with incredible poise and blunt resolve about her latest send in Squamish. Tiffany presented on her climbing organization in Mexico with a delicate mix of passion and puns. The two-night event was a great introduction for many into the climbing world and a welcoming bear hug for those already embedded within the sport.

Dallas - you are different. But we will be back.