Becoming a Champion of the 60 Hour Adventure (A Guide to Weekend Warrior-ing)

What is The Sixty-Hour Adventure

We live in a world of constraints: time, money, location—they all determine what we can do;  who we can be. But for sixty hours every weekend, we are free. The question is, what will we do with those sixty hours? Will we squander them away? Or will we step into the void and discover what it means to be alive? Once the clock strikes 5pm on Friday, we can challenge ourselves to make the most out of every moment until 9am on Monday. You’ll be surprised to see just how much you can accomplish in those sixty hours.

A year ago, I had never set foot on a mountain before—or hiked for more than an hour. One of my biggest fears was and still is, is my fear of heights. Up until recently, even the thought of using a ladder scared me. Then, Chris Brinlee, Jr. and our friend Hilary Matheson took me for a scramble up Tricouni Peak outside of Squamish; not far from where I lived in Seattle. The experience left me terrified, but feeling oh-so-alive. The next weekend, it was my first trip backpacking in the wilderness, for two days. The Sunday after that Chris took me rock climbing for the first time—outside. Climbing up terrified me. The feeling after topping out and lowering down, however, left me unequivocally elated.

After those experiences, I realized that there were a lot of things that I wanted to do in life that would inevitably force me to face my fears (especially of heights,) but facing those fears is tricky thing. Too much; and you can overdose. Face too little; risk life getting stale. What I have discovered is that in 60 hours, I can experience just the right amount. Enter the 60 Hour Adventure.

My 60 Hour Adventure: Fox Glacier

I live in the South Island of New Zealand now, which is unequivocally a world capital for adventure, but the constraints of life still apply. So, in-between projects and responsibilities, I made time for a 60 Hour Adventure. It would be a chance to get back to the roots of my love for adventure—those trips with Chris were and continue to be a cage match with my fears. What better way to face them all (heights, exposure, and water) than by combining them all into one trip? A mission to Fox Glacier would do just that.

Fox Glacier is one of only a few glaciers in the world that dips down into temperate rainforest. That, combined with the fact that its terminus face is located just an hour from Fox Glacier Town (a five minute drive and a 50 minute hike,) make for unparalleled access to one of the world’s most dynamic geological features.

Glaciers are constant moving—either growing or retreating—and as such, they possess incredible features like crevasses (deep cracks within the ice;) ice caves; and a volatile terminus face, where ice and rockfalls occur. Fox Glacier, which falls 8,500’ and is nearly nine miles long, contains all of those features; as such, most guided tours take a helicopter both in and out—but since our friend Ryan Colley is a Fox Glacier Guide and Chris is an alpinist, I would be in for the full mountain experience.

The helicopter dropped us off onto what seemed like a new planet. Towering walls of ice and rock surrounded the landing zone on all sides; they were so high that even when I lifted my head I could barely see their tops. The perspective looking down was equally overwhelming. Cracks in the ice stretched down so far that darkness took over.

Shortly after landing, we came to a crevasse and were presented with two options: down climb or set up an anchor and use the rope to lower. Totally new to glacier hiking and ice climbing, I asked to be lowered. I knew the systems from rock climbing: how to tie-in; do double-checks; and knew that the rope would hold me—but in that moment I realized that what I didn't know (anything about ice) out weighed what I did. In my mind I thought that glacier ice and the snow that I had seen in my backyard were the same. I couldn't comprehend how the ice was supposed to hold my weight. To keep moving forward, I would have to take a leap of faith—literally. After a few minutes of contemplation, I mustered the courage to lower into the crevasse. Chris and Ryan downclimbed after me and we continued moving deeper into the glacier.

Every fifty meters the ice kept throwing us curve balls: tight squeezes, exposed steps, and then another lower to the area where we would set up the roped ice climbs. By the time we got to the climbing zone, I was mentally exhausted. It started raining and so I found shelter under an overhung ice wall.

The weather continued to deteriorate, so Ryan suggested wrapping up; as Chris was on his way to clean the wall, I shouted out, “I want to try.” There it was again, that all too-familiar feeling of my heart dropping into the deepest part of me. I grabbed the ice tools and I dashed up the wall, practicing the techniques that they taught me earlier in the day.

The first few movements were a bit frightening, but as soon as I got the swing of things I couldn't believe how much fun I was having and how comfortable I felt on the wall. I topped out at the anchor, 20-meters above where I had started, and came down with the biggest smile on my face, screaming with joy that echoed off the icy walls.

As soon as I finished, we packed up and began our descent. The helicopters had stopped running for the day because the good weather went—which meant that our walk out would be four hours longer than planned. Two ice caves and multiple crevasses later, we came to the next crux of the day.

To transition from the glacier to the moraine (a rocky feature at the glacier’s edges) we would have to rope up and downclimb through the icefall along exposed icy fins covered in grit. It proved to be the hardest and most mentally-taxing part of my day, with exposure that was well beyond my comfort zone. At that point, we were no longer glacier hiking—we were mountaineering.

I had never felt so much relief as I did when we got off the ice, but that relief was short lived as we entered what was actually the area’s most dangerous feature. To reach the valley floor, we had to scramble through “Suicide Alley,” a serious and sustained rockfall zone. Granted if I knew what the gully was called beforehand, I would have never gone through it.

Night fell as we reached the valley floor, so we donned our Head Lamps for the short hike out. Back at the car, I was exhausted—not entirely because I physically spent, but because I was mentally drained from facing my fears all day. My willingness to feel fear has placed me in many situations where I felt paralyzed; those experiences force action and growth. My willingness to face them head on has allowed me to feel more alive. Combined, they represent a greater dynamic of human emotion than I knew existed just a short year ago.

After our exhausting ten hour mountain mission, we spent the next day recovering, resting, and reminiscing. We had set out to make the most out of sixty hours; but for me it turned into one of my life’s greatest adventures. What more could I want out of life that a well-executed 60 Hour Adventure like this one would provide?

Know Where to Place Your Trust (When it Comes to Team & Gear)

Showing up for a mission is only part of the equation. As uncomfortable as my venture onto the Fox Glacier was, there were two things that I could count on. Ryan and Chris were looking out for my best interests—and that we had all of the right gear to make our way down. I can’t imagine facing my fears with people that I didn’t trust; the same goes for my crampons (the spikey things that attach to boots for walking on snow and ice.)

Since our mission led us well into the darkest hour, we couldn’t have gotten down safely without a source of good light. Head Lamps, to be specific. Knowing that they were bright (up to 320 lumens to slash through the night)—and their batteries were good-to-go (fail-proof USB charging and an easy-to-understand charge indicator) made all of the difference in my confidence. Just as we carefully choose the team for our missions, so too should we choose the right gear.

Tips for Becoming the Champion of Your Own 60 Hour Adventure

Make a plan (and stick to it.)

We only get sixty hours of freedom per week. Excuses, improperly prioritized obligations, and distractions can easily whittle that down to only a few. The solution? Look ahead. Make a plan (it doesn’t matter what or where, just plan to go somewhere and do something that will excite or challenge you)—and then stick to it.

But don’t be afraid to pivot.

The thing is though, things don’t always go according to plan, so don’t be afraid to pivot. Adapt. Adopt this approach to planning; they will never go awry.

Face your fears.

As humans we are meant to evolve; to learn; to grow. The process can be scary though, but it’s worth mustering up the courage to face your fears. This is best experienced with people who you trust (and sometimes after learning to trust yourself.)

Bring along the right gear.

Experiences are enabled or enhanced with the right gear. Forget an important piece at home; it could put a difficult or unsafe twist on your adventure. Our advice: make a packing checklist before each trip; make sure to reference it as you’re gathering stuff.

Just go.

It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, so long as you do go. Some of my most memorable experiences have been of sleeping under the stars above city lights, out of earshot from traffic while surrounded by scented pines, after an enjoyable hike. That’s a 60 Hour Adventure.

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