Breaking Trail: the Evolution of the Hero

By Feet Banks.

There’s something inherently bad-ass about going first.

Not everyone is willing to step off life’s worn pathways or forge out into the empty spots on the map. There are always dangers lurking just below life’s surface and that initial step into the unknown can be incredibly nerve-wracking, but it’s an important one to make.

georgia May 2013
Peter Schon climbing during the 1st descent of Chatyn-tau’s 2000m southwest face, Georgia. Photo by Trevor Hunt.

From the very first tadpole that slithered onto land from a life-containing glob of primordial ooze to the buddy who quietly banged off a fistful of first descents last winter—progress is almost always made by someone taking a shot at something that may not even be possible. Just to see what happens.

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Breaking trail is more than simply slogging through deep snow or dropping into stuff no one else can stomach. It’s a mindset, a conscious choice to discover a new way and ignore what’s supposed to be undoable. It’s setting the alarm an hour earlier, finding the strength to climb higher, or conjuring up the nerve to jump first. Breaking trail is accepting the chance of failure before you even start, then doing it anyhow to test out what we’re made of.

“Each big winter storm wipes the slate clean for another wave of heroes to wade into the mountains and put down new skin tracks, or sled paths, or even shovel the driveway so everyone else can get to the hill on time.”

My home, the Coast Mountains region of BC, is a paradise for trailbreakers. Every snowfall creates a fresh landscape, something very similar to what’s always been here and yet never exactly the same. Each big winter storm wipes the slate clean for another wave of heroes to wade into the mountains and put down new skin tracks, or sled paths, or even shovel the driveway so everyone else can get to the hill on time.

Those who break trail are forging a new path for the future, but also leaving a piece of themselves behind for those who come next. It’s evolution. The people who go first are the ones pulling the rest of us forward.

Feet Banks is the Editor of ML – Coast Mountains.