We all started somewhere, so before we were good, we were dummies. It’s not an insult, dummy is a cute word for a newb or new dumb dumb. I’ll never forget my first climb. I didn’t know what Yamnuska was, even though it had been climbed over 40 years before then, and I didn’t know about Sharon Wood, and if you don’t then you’re already a dummy. Read her amazing book Rising, about being the first North American woman up Everest, and why it took decades to write the book.
My then girlfriend told me that her brother tried climbing and that I might like it. I didn’t just like climbing, I went arse over tea kettle. But I was a dummy, I didn’t know what a lead climb was, or an ATC, or what factor-two meant, or who the first climber up Everest was. I wasn’t ignorant, I was just a dummy. I was mega new, so I had to learn. I didn’t even know that Peter Croft had free-soloed Astroman and the Rostrum in a day.
What I’ve learned over the past 30 years, is that no matter how much I think I know, I’m still a bit of a dummy. I try to look the part, I became an assistant rock climbing guide with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, I edit a national magazine, I write books about climbing, but I’m still a dummy. I don’t think I’ll ever understand climbing, or the people who do it the best. And to be honest, I think those at the top are a little dumb, too.
I grew up paddling things designed not to sink, like tin boats that had Evinrude outboards replaced with oars. So, I took up paddle boarding. It’s fun, and you can do it alone in windy weather. The board is light, and the paddling makes you look cool, but I don’t really think I know what I’m doing. I’m a dummy, despite countless YouTube clips and over 200 days out.
I also started to ride a road bike built for speed, some call it cycling. It hurts my groin and I don’t think it looks particularly cool, but it’s good fitness and you can go fast. It’s like spring ski groomers but on a bike – I guess. The Lake Minnewanka loop is now closed from Monday to Thursday so folks can take their two wheels around the multi-kilometre hilly lake-passing paved path without the intrusion of vehicles. It’s awesome.
I’m a total dummy when it comes to cycling, to the point where I slow down on the loop to let better cyclists pass so I can watch their technique. I “let” them pass. I suck on a road bike, but that’s the point. It’s good to suck at things, to be a dummy, and to start at dummy level. Try new things this season, like paddling, cycling, climbing or reading a book. Being a dummy has never been so cool.