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Zoe Hart: What I’ve Learned

IFMGA and E.N.S.A. guide, alpinist, mother

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Having a goal is a good thing, but trying to draw the path that leads to that goal is limiting. All the opportunities I’ve gotten are because of steps outside the path.

***

Like meeting Sue [Sue Nott, mentor, killed in Alaska in 2006]. The path I saw was people leading me to places. The path that Sue took me on was sharing the lead. She was definitely stronger, but she expected me to bring as much as she brought, in whatever way I could.

***

Question your motivations. When Sue died, I was angry, I was sad, I was lost. I felt like there were a lot of expectations to fill. I had to become the next Sue Nott, I had to be that good, and it all had to happen today.

Then I had a big accident outside of Ouray. I fell about 60 feet soloing ice [breaking her hand and ribs]. I had to stop and look at whether I was climbing for the right or wrong reasons. Doing things for “should” reasons is not fulfilling in life, and in climbing it’s definitely not safe.

***

Being a climber is who I am, and it’s really important for keeping me present. When I wasn’t climbing, was just being a mom really intensely for a while because I had two little kids [now ages 2 and 4], I was with them but not with them. I was trying to fill myself with being busy, and I would try and do too much with them, and doing a hundred things at the house. Now I make my schedule so I have days with them and days with me. And when I’m with them I don’t try to do other things at the same time.

***

I want to change the future by changing our kids, the future generation. The best thing we can do is foster [a] passion for simplicity and nature and minimalism.

***

Climbing taught me the fundamental importance of being with people you respect and trust and care about in the team. When I climbed Deprivation with Max [Maxine Turgeon, now her husband], it was the best climb and the best partnership of my life. We supported each other and knew each other and didn’t have to talk and felt safe.

I had other another experience where I climbed the North Face of the Eiger, where [a partner and I] didn’t know each other very well. And I didn’t pull my weight, and he didn’t feel supported. … It should have been one of my greatest accomplishments, and it wasn’t.

***

Sometimes we have partnerships or friendships that don’t move us forward or inspire us to be better people. If you consciously choose the people you surround yourself with, you will push yourself to change.

***

I’ve learned to recognize attributes beyond your own repertoire as good. Not everyone has the need to go high speed like I do, or it would be pretty chaotic [laughs]. lWe need people to change the world, and people who are constant, too. Max is the constant in my life, he’s more even, but that does not mean he’s not ambitious.

***

I don’t need to go to Alaska now or Pakistan on month-long expeditions where you spend most of your time in the tent. A lot before was these big accomplishments and big peaks and pushing myself, and now it’s about pushing myself with less risk.

***

Sometimes it feels like cheating if you have to take risks to feel growth.

***

I know there’s other women who, after having kids, feel comfortable taking the same amount of risk, and I don’t judge that, and I sometimes wish I felt that because those are some of the most amazing experiences of my life that taught me the most. But I feel like one of the threads of learning has been risk versus reward. And to me the rewards of a Deprivation aren’t worth the risk.

***

Watching Sue and other friends die around me, and knowing that maybe I’ve taken as much risk and come home, I learned that I was lucky.

***

Climbing’s great for me, but does me going climbing make the world a better place? I felt like doing my Masters [Harvard Extension School, 2015] would help give me the tools. [I want to use] adventuring and adventure storytelling to inspire other people to care about nature and protecting wild places, to get inspired to change something in their life or the life around them.

***

I want to write a book and give a lot more talks on a corporate level and in schools. One of the biggest lessons that climbing can teach people is how far they can push themselves outside of their comfort zone.


This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 235 (July 2016).


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