It was a pristine, blue-sky day in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and I had just climbed up Flagstaff peak, which sits at just over 10,000 feet.
As I prepared to ski down, I scouted out the lines on the back of the north-facing slope. This was rugged backcountry, defined by cliffs, chutes, and deep powder. As I took my first turns, I quickly realized I had chosen the wrong path down, and there was a 200-foot cliff approaching. I took my skis off and put my climbing gear back on but found that the slope was too steep and too narrow to traverse back up. I was a sitting duck at this point, unable to walk back to the top or arrive safely at the bottom.
I attempted to hike up the steep chute only in my ski boots, making progress with a few exhausting steps. But the snow was waist-deep, and I was breathing uncontrollably. I took another step and instantly sunk into a hole up to my chest. I was stuck. After I caught my breath, I remember thinking, "I might die here, and no one would ever find me."
Know all that you are capable of...
Obviously, this experience didn't kill me. After one hour, in what was one of the most tiring experiences of my life as an outdoor adventurer and endurance athlete, I was able to claw my way out of that hole and back up the steep mountain. As I lay on top of the peak, saddle on my back, riddled with exhaustion, I realized all that the human body is truly capable of.
As we begin a new year and make resolutions, it's easy to sell ourselves short and settle for average. So ask yourself, "If I had only six weeks to live, what would I do with my life?" As I discovered, we really never know when our last day will be, so live full-out!
...and express it.
The day after the experience, I couldn't stop thinking about my life and the people in it. The people who I would have regretted not apologizing to if I hadn't made it out of that cliff. We are all human, and by nature we put up walls to protect ourselves. We get busy, and it's not always easy to be vulnerable and just tell the ones you care about that you're sorry. Don't wait until you have a near-death experience to make that phone call, make that drive, send that letter—do what you need to do, today. It will set you free.
Other individuals who have nearly died have reported asking themselves one simple question in the moments leading up to the event: "Did I love?" This is something I, too, asked myself. The money and accolades you have collected don't matter in the end; what matters is how deeply you loved and how often you expressed it. Make a point to tell and show your loved ones how you feel every single day. After all, love is the powerful force on Earth.