I’m willing to bet that you have at some point seriously considered checking out of your 9-5 and tossing in the towel on the everyday grind so you could pursue your passion full time. Most people have, but whether your passion is weaving, sky diving or climbing, it’s not likely to be your source of income, so you endure the day job in order to love your passion in the off-hours. But there are few lucky souls who can chase their passion first and do it effectively. Geof Childs is one such local adventurer. Originally from the Northeast, he lives now on the “quiet side” of the North Cascades, working crags and making summit bids all along the way. He is effectively the anti-weekend warrior. Instead of reaching for Friday  afternoon, full of hope and fervor for the activities of the following 48 hours, he has injected necessary income bursts into his otherwise headlong goal of “working” up the side of a mountain.

I first encountered him after reading his book: Stone Palaces – Following Dreams – An Interview with Geof Childs – It was the climbing book that carried me full force into the sport of climbing. Well, armchair climbing. I read it and read it again. It is clever, humorous and vivid. While I am not a climber myself, this book really moved me. For the longest time (and 2 full reads) I couldn’t figure out why. Then it became clear: It’s not the subject so much as the sentiment:  Life is an adventure. And that sentiment rings through Childs’ stories as well as his life.

Perhaps the desire for adventure trumps the need for security, or the love of a mountain blinds us from the desire for creature comforts, but somewhere along the path, those who choose not to be bound by the ropes of the societal norm move differently through life than the rest of us. As an eloquent writer and contributor to Backpacker Magazine, Climbing, Rock & Ice and The American Alpine Journal, Geof Childs is a shining local example of just such a man. He has sampled jobs and locales far and near, and lived life fully, all while keeping climbing at the front of his priorities.

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I need to point out that if you switch this scenario around it describes you or me, sampling backpacking and woodworking or quilt making, all while working your 9-5. So why is the reverse seen as such a revolt? The idea of pursuing adventure, of really living life to its fullest  is seen as a luxury that many of us choose not to chase. For most of us it involves exchanging comfort and security for unknowns and adventure. There is a great deal of weight placed on being comfortable and predictable, but those who can see past the comfort to the adventure see things from a different vantage. Which brings me back to Mr Childs’ book. It is a compilation of great adventure stories, many involving climbing, most with humor, some of loss or death, all with great storytelling and a unique perspective.

In his Introduction, he says, “Life at its richest, should be an adventure…. Moments of doubt in the company of good friends en route to someplace, something or someone that matters.”

When I had the chance to talk with him, I asked Geof about the intricacies of how he moved along the path he did. Here is some of what he said:

“I’ve pretty much had to work my whole life, though I used to have a rule that as soon as I got $3200 in the bank I’d quit whatever I was doing and climb until I ran out of money.  I have always liked the idea of enjoying life now rather than putting it off to some future point when it will be more convenient to participate in.  It hasn’t been that clever of a financial investment but, like I said, I’ve always had to work and I suppose I always will.  So it goes. ”

“There are people who intersect with your life on a diagonal, leaving you a choice. I think it is not which choice you make that matters, but simply that you make a choice and follow that path where it takes you.”

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Below are excerpts from his book that were, for me, most pivotal in reflecting this alternative view of life that so many of us miss while we run through the mazes of the rat race:

“At an age when most of my peers are beginning to think about retirement I am still twisting under the covers at night trying to figure out how to make a living. My wife and I often joke that having taken our retirement first, we will now have to work until the day we die. There is sobriety in the jest… But we still do things we can’t afford with money we don’t have simply because we can’t not do them.”

“While more sensible acquaintances have ridden the stock market to comfortable wealth, we have squandered our savings on expeditions and adventures as if somehow playing was more important than having had our noses pressed to the grindstone… or, more realistically, the nether regions of some supercilious corporate official.”

“Yes, it hurts sometimes, but if you have a sense of humor about it, and are really truly following your passion, then that is what matters, and in the end, there is no paycheck, no mansion and no sports car that can fill that void the way climbing can for a climber.”

Geof currently lives in Mazama with his wife and son, where he tends his garden, his orchard, and raises chickens. He can be found at the local ski and sport lodge when he is not out working his way up a familiar crag or considering his next summit.  His book is Stone Palaces
and it published in 2000. He is also currently working on a novel.

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