The Art of Getting After It

Words Paul Stevens
Date Sep 18, 2014

Imagine you are in the Southern Chilcotin, you are almost three hours into a climb that you shuttled to get to. You are blowing hard, the climb is steep, your pack is heavy, but you are doing it. You spent hours packing your gear, prepared for anything that mother nature might throw your way; a freak storm, a loose rock that kicks your derailleur through the wheel, an encounter with a grizzly, an unforeseen night in the alpine, you are ready. That’s part of the fun of it, that anything could happen. And if it did, things could go sideways faster than Finn Iles on Crabapple Hits.


Kerri-Ann Thibeau climbs above tree line to begin a lesson in getting after it.

Now imagine stopping for a breather, grabbing a Clif bar from your huge pack, when you look up and see Jen. Jen is a twenty-something girl from Squamish, and she has mastered the art of getting after it. I am pretty sure the first step of mastering this art is giving absolutely zero shits about anything. Jen was stood there in her Birkenstocks, miles away from, well, anything except us. She was completely alone, apart from a small pack, a six hundred dollar hardtail, and a pair of Ray-Bans for company. Jen was representing the true essence of getting after it.


It’s a long climb to the top of Camel Pass. Paul Stevens follows the single track ribbon high in the alpine.

My first reaction was that this girl was probably certified crazy. But we were so far away from even the closest town, let alone the nearest lunatic asylum, that the chances of her being a recent escapee were pretty slim. I looked around for the rest of her crew, but this girl was clearly alone. She had simply looked at a map, rallied her Toyota Echo out into the middle of nowhere, and was just getting it done.


Kerri-Ann half way through lesson two – The hurt locker- followed shortly by lesson three, the view of a lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning this Jen’s actions and decisions – for all I know, she could be inside a grizzly by now. But when you look around at our overly safety-conscious world where it is deemed necessary to warn you that your coffee could be hot, or that the playground will be wet when it is raining, or not to eat the packaging that your food comes in, you have to admire the minerals of the people truly getting after it, even if they are drastically reducing their life expectancy!


Paul begins the to reap the rewards of the long climb as the Camel keeps watch.

I won’t be heading out for an all day mission on my own in grizzly country any time soon, but there is a piece of me that is pretty inspired by people like Jen. So next time I hear my friends making weak excuses for not going riding, or begin to formulate one myself, I will think about her, and just get out there and take another lesson in mastering the art of getting after it.


Kerri-Ann Thibeau, High trail, Southern Chilcotin.

This leaves us with a question: if you go into the backcountry overprepared, are you still getting after it?



Sept. 22, 2014, 9:51 a.m. -  Dobbs

Cave are you EMS or WFR?


Sept. 21, 2014, 10:27 p.m. -  Jammer

Some people like to type more than ride apparently…


Sept. 19, 2014, 11:26 a.m. -  ExtraSpecialandBitter

Hungry Grizzly in nearby North Cinnabar Creek this August
But good on her for getting after it. Those first trips into an area are always the most exciting. A couple friends got lost off of High Trail a few years ago and were not prepared, but they lived the night and made it out okay. As long as it ends well, those impromptu adventures can be the best.


Sept. 19, 2014, 11:02 a.m. -  Cave Johnson

I view it as irresponsible. People who 'over prepare' tend to be people who have seen some $[HTML_REMOVED]!* go down. I'm not talking about the people you see 2 km from the trailhead with enough kit to summit Everest, I'm talking about the ones out there that you know are carrying a first aid kit, a sharp knife, some duct tape or zip ties, and probably a shell or layer for when Mother Nature decides you need to be reminded of her awesome power. These are the people who can Macgyver their bike (or yours!!) back together with a stick and chewing gum after some sort of catastrophic failure.

What she is doing is irresponsibe (IMO) because she is turning herself into a liability. If something goes wrong out there for her, and that can happen pretty quick, her chances of self rescue become pretty slim. So now she is a liabilty. I know if I came along and saw a rider down, with injury or mechanical, I personally feel I carry some sort of responsibility to render assistance. What about search and rescue? Who is going to pay for that when she doesn't report back after twelve hours because she taco'd a wheel and then got caught out for a night?

All these are what if's and worse case scenario type stuff - but when you venture beyond your local, highly trafficed trails into deep, highly exposed backcountry terrain it becomes your duty to think about those things. Be a resource in the backcountry, not a liability.

Just because you plan ahead to give yourself the best chance of survival if something goes down doesn't mean you aren't getting after it. It means you respect your environment and your own limitations.


Sept. 19, 2014, 1:30 p.m. -  Henry Chinaski

How do you know what she had in her small pack? The items you’re referring to would fit nicely in a small bag. How do you know she’s not McGyver? She found a way to get a $600 dollar hardtail working smoothly enough to access remote backcountry. Birkenstocks? She’s not getting any heal blisters;-) I wonder what your (or my) reaction would have been had Jen been a dude.


Sept. 19, 2014, 1:44 p.m. -  Cave Johnson

First off - implying that I think her being a female has anything to do with it is flat out offensive. Some of my best and most capable BC partners are women that I trust implicitly should anything go wrong.

Secondly, the article is set in a tone that implores the reader to divide the users into two distinct groups - over prepared and under prepared. Implying that Jen falls into the latter category. You may be correct, she could have an ultralight survival kit and all means to fix anything. But that is not what the article is implying nor is it the point of the piece. The point the writer seems to be driving at is that he is asking 'are you still hardcore if you go out into the wilderness over prepared?' Or is that moniker only reserved for people who go out fully exposed?

Male or female has nothing to do with it - you were very eager to white knight and accuse me of sexism. In fact Jen has little to do with it too. Neither of us has enough information to make an informed decision. But I stand behind my overarching opinion that anyone who goes out into deep country underprepared is a liability.

Sept. 19, 2014, 2:46 p.m. -  skydiveblake

The article did not imply that she was under-prepared, it stated pretty simply that she was outdoors alone and seeing some badass country. And all within reach of a vehicle. Why is this girl any more likely to miss the twelve-hour mark than Macgyver? You have no idea. I think you're afraid of being in the woods by yourself so you instantly denigrate anyone who is, simply as a defense mechanism. Lighten up bro.

Sept. 19, 2014, 2:59 p.m. -  Henry Chinaski

Sensitive like a motherfucker! Relax, Cave. I wasn’t accusing you of being sexist. I was mostly just wondering aloud if this would have been published had it been a dude on a 600 hardtail. Given the information provided, I wasn’t convinced that she was in any way a liability. Sounds like you get down with some pretty hardy women. Good on you.

Certainly the point of the article was to question whether being prepared precludes adventure. I think it depends on your level of experience and what you’re personally comfortable with. Outside of clear irresponsibility, suggesting that someone is a liability is rooted in opinion. I have family and friends that are minimalists, but all of them are prepared to deal with the consequences. They don’t set out to be underprepared, but being over prepared attenuates the experience for them. Personally, I have 3 young kids and a wife, so when I venture out, it’s always over prepared (to a fault). Adventure be damned!

Sept. 19, 2014, 3:31 p.m. -  Cave Johnson

Fair enough - if no offense was intended, offended overreaction retracted. My apologies. I have agree with you on one point and disagree on another. First - I agree with what you said about minimalist adventure athletes. I get that - simplistic gear choices and running that fine line are totally part of the experience for them. But everyone one of them that I know do exactly like you said: they accept the consequences when things don't go as planned. Also, they are some of the hardest MF'ers I know and survival is in their blood. If one of them told me tomorrow that they were going to go knock out a 100 km trail run with a garbage bag and a stick of butter, I wouldn't blink an eye. I would have full confidence in their survival instinct.

Here is where I disagree. Here is why I think she is a liability. It's not that she is a woman. We have covered that. It's not the small bag. You can pack plenty of survival kit into a fanny pack. It's not even the $600 hardtail. Plenty of people shred on low dollar rigs. None of that is a problem for me. Here is where I get stuck. It's the bloody Birkenstocks! Footwear is like your last line of defense in the backcountry. Your final option of getting yourself out under your own power is to walk. the Chilcotins are big country. I can't, for the life of me, wrap my head around birks being a responsible choice to help you be fleet footed when you need it most. That's what was off for me and why I am not convinced she was more of a minimalist athlete. And sure, that is just my opinion. Maybe Birks are the quintessential backcountry accessory that I underestimate but it still seems odd.

I could be way off base but I do know we live in a society that accepts the mentality that allows people to put the repercussions of their choices onto others. For example, being under prepared and then search and rescue footing the bill to get them out. This quote from the article is what I am driving at:

" But when you look around at our overly safety-conscious world where it is deemed necessary to warn you that your coffee could be hot, or that the playground will be wet when it is raining, or not to eat the packaging that your food comes in, you have to admire the minerals of the people truly getting after it, even if they are drastically reducing their life expectancy!"

I believe there are two camps of people who go out under prepared; minimalists who accept the potential consequences and people who don't know any better because they didn't do the research up front. Unfortunately, I think those are the people that also need the warning on their coffee. Minimalists I applaud and respect. People who wander in to big country and get in a bind? I struggle with that. Which is Jen? I don't know, I'd have to meet her and ask.

Sept. 19, 2014, 4:39 p.m. -  boomforeal

you're totally misunderestimating birks. minimalist, yes; but also some of the best made and most durable footwear out there

Sept. 19, 2014, 10:58 a.m. -  no one

if you're out there, you're getting after it. however you got there, your presence still puts you in the tiny minority.


Sept. 19, 2014, 10:51 a.m. -  Big D

you have to admire those folks, you find them in all zones, high alpine, rock climbing, surf spots, etc but lets face it it's nuts. High alpine history is full of them, they are great to read about and there is absolutely something inspiring about them. At some point this Jen will probably have just enough of a scare that next time you see her she will be a little more kitted out. Or she'll be bear poo….. one or the other.


Sept. 19, 2014, 9:14 a.m. -  jeremy

You had me in love with Jen until you mentioned Birkenstocks.


Sept. 19, 2014, 9:45 a.m. -  boomforeal

hah, i think those birks made me crush on her even harder!


Sept. 19, 2014, 8:36 a.m. -  Paully D

Great article. I usually side on being overprepared. Bear spray, sharp knife, way to make fire and a first aid kit are always in my ride pack. Also bike tools, pump, spare tubes (yes plural) and some candy. I over think routes, and plan too much. I like this girls gumption. Just fing do it. Go out there, ride what ya got, and have a great time doing it. I don't know if she was aware of the dangers, nor do I really care. I admire her. Thanks for inspiring me to just go do it.


Sept. 19, 2014, 7:57 a.m. -  Cr4w

It's kind of a balance, isn't it? Experience reminds you of the horrors that could await the unprepared. But being over-prepared kills your ability to be in the moment because you're too wrapped up in all the could-happens. The risk is part of the reward.


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