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Mountain Man Memories

I’ve mentioned my father was also deaf and, like me, had a great love for the outdoors. He spent most of his youth hiking, camping and snapping pictures in the Japan Alps. I recall asking him why he loved the mountains so much.

“Only after you make the effort to climb are you rewarded with the awe-inspiring scenery,” he replied. “You haul up a heavy pack, use your experience and make the weather your friend. It’s rough at times, but there’s genuine satisfaction in the effort.”

Back then sign language was still an oddity; there were no subtitles on TV and the public’s understanding was minimal. Yet the mountains remained equal to all. Actions translated directly into results for everyone.

Yet mountain information was limited to a smattering of books and magazines, so climbers had to study the gear and techniques of climbers around them. My dad first packed a large, heavy sleeping bag from the U.S. army-surplus. You can imagine his excitement the first time he laid eyes on someone carrying an ultra-light bag.

Information came from studying magazines and searching mountaineering shops. “You couldn’t allow your lack of knowledge to put you in danger,” he said. So he would always try to improve his hardware, knowledge and technique.

My dad loved meeting people on trips to the hills; you bonded quickly while experiencing the merciless side of Mother Nature. Foreigners were among those he befriended as language was secondary to a mutual love of the mountains.

We enjoyed looking through his pictures, and I cherished hearing about his triumphs and failures. His signing about the mountain’s freezing temps and difficult environs drew in my childhood curiosity.

A collapsed bridge forced him to wade through the water. Awakened by something pressing on his head only to find it was mounting snow outside his tent. One night his tent shook so fiercely, he thought there was an earthquake, he looked outside to see a helicopter landing nearby. It was a world of surprises and thrills.

Although my father has passed on, he lives in my heart and his spirit has a great effect on my life. My hope is I can share stories nearly as exciting as his.

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