Town: Salt Lake City, Utah
Quote: “It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back” – The Invitation, Oriah Mountain Walker
About Alexa: My head of sometimes unruly red hair feels like an accurate manifestation of my inner self. I feel like I constantly work to stabilize a passion for family, spiritual beliefs, stewardship of the natural, and physical endeavors. I am confident that I have not yet discovered all of my emotional and physical limits and am in truth a bit diffident about where those limits might be. My name is Alexis Crellin, I am 29, a wife, and mother of a year-old SheJumper, Marlowe.
I spent six years working with at risk youth in wilderness and residential settings prior to having my daughter. Those years instilled in me a deep appreciation of each human life, and the passion to see each succeed in their own sphere.
I admire the SheJumps organization because it encourages women to explore, discover, and challenge their limits. To err is human, but also it is the beautiful experience of life. With a community, women are strengthened to break down notions about the impossible, and share the doubts, fears, and failure that shape success.
I worry that my story is not good enough, not inspiring enough, but I need to break that notion to explore a limit…
Arc’teryx selected four women who #DefineFeminine to gather at their headquarters for and adventure in their backyard of Quadra Island, British Columbia. From my husband’s nomination, I was selected, and it was an amazing trip (despite missing my daughter like crazy). I am defined by what I do, we are defined by what we do, we #DefineFeminine. However, the trip was just recognition, it could have been any four women.
After the Arc’Teryx trip I waited to write, until an experience transpired…
On August 9th when a girlfriend Stacey Pearson and I completed a ridge line traverse in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, known as the Wasatch Ultimate Ridge Linkup. The WURL or “BURLY WURLY” as it has been called, is a 32 mile Ridge line link up, comprising a total of over 20,000 ft in elevation gain and loss, over 20 peaks to bag, and 90% of its Class 3 to Class 5 hiking, scrambling, and climbing. A daunting task that we understand less than 15 people have ever done. It sounded beautiful, dangerous, miserable, and amazing, so of course we wanted to do it. We also knew the female record was 38 hrs and it seemed fun to challenge that.
Our mutual friend, Matthew Paul Irving, a very talented photographer, decided to join us, so we were lucky to come out with some beautiful photos.
We started at 10:15 am with a 6,000 ft hike to the top of The Broad Fork Twin Peaks and the first thought I had was, “what have I gotten myself into”. The month leading up to our attempt had been what I can only describe as maddening. From the first time I tried a section of the WURL, I was hooked, or should I say haunted. The more sections we pieced together, the more my dreams were filled with ridge lines and scrambling. Not only was I losing sleep to my 15 month old daughter Marlowe who was having a rough time with teething, but I was experiencing anxiety over this beast of a task that loomed in front of me. There are truly dangerous sections on the WURL, and I experienced real anxiety in the time leading up to the attempt. As a mother, was this responsible?
Attempting the WURL really highlighted two fears that have been a struggle in my life since having my daughter…..
First was the fear of my daughter’s welfare. Before Marlowe I had a greater threshold for risk taking, but since that little miracle entered our life, things have changed. As much as I love climbing, trial running, and outdoor adventures in general, the joy I have found as a mother has far outweighed those activities, though not rendered them obsolete. I have found that I take less physical risk, which is motivated by a fear of missing out on a full life with my family. The second fear the WURL roused inside was simply a fear of failure.
While I experienced anxiety over the WURL I also knew that I could expect it to hover in my dreams until I knocked it out. So on August 9th, we gave it a go. Standing on top of the Broad Twin looking across the ridge to my West I had a moment of doubt….we had just done a huge ascent up Ferguson canyon and my legs already felt spent. Yet we had just begun and I could see the entire cloud spotted ridge line that lay before us. Thunder grumbled somewhere in the clouds to the North of us and when I started to look for an excuse to bail off early, a piece of advice someone had given me snuck its way into my head: “Don’t think about all that is still in front of you, just focus on the next peak”. And that’s how we succeeded. Literally one peak at a time.
We had a few hiccups. Due to the closing of the canyon, no one was able to meet us for our first food stash. Luckily I had hiked up and left water for us earlier that week, so we were able to eek it out until our next stash. But if I reflect back on the experience, whether it was right after the sun went down and we were traversing 5.6 climbing on Devil’s Castle in the dark, or 3 in the morning slogging across what seemed to be the never ending ridge line of White Baldy, there was no time at which I ever felt we wouldn’t succeed. But let me be clear, it was hard, very hard. Hardest thing I’ve probably ever done physically, however the trick came in staying in the moment. I didn’t ever think about the miles, peaks, and scrambling that lay ahead, I only thought about that next peak, and it saved me so much mental anguish.
Not to be trite, but the advice was good advice about staying focused on the now. It’s advice that I could apply directly to my life at this time. Among other things I suffer from an illness known as FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. A condition that only worsened with the birth of my first child. I often find myself pining after the adventures of others and getting over focused on everything I’m not doing instead of being grateful for the things I can do….a very human experience I am sure. My FOMO was muted on the WURL though, there wasn’t much time for anything else. The hours sped by, the sun set and rose and before I knew it, we were running! Running the last 4.5 miles of trail out of Bells Canyon. But with the anticipation of being so close to the end my mental veil dropped. It was like all the sudden all the pain, fatigue, and elevation that my body had been enduring lit up. And despite feeling good most of the traverse, I think the first thing I said to my husband at the car was, “I’m never doing that again.” We had started at 10 AM on a Saturday morning and finished 27 hrs and 25 min later, reducing the female record by 10 hrs.
I wish I could say that after the WURL I felt pacified and reconciled….and maybe I did….for about a day. But then back came the FOMO, back came the scheming, and back came that desire to do something more. It is this avarice to keep going and keep doing that I see as being a double edged sword. In one aspect I recognize it as a problem, an insatiable mindset that not only can imbalance my life, but skews my perception of the beauty of the now, and the gratitude I should reflect on for having the physical abilities I do and the support and sacrifice of my husband to accomplish the goals I set in my life. In this aspect I know I can improve and still have much work to do. Yet the other side of that drive and avarice is what allows me to have success. I am not speaking about just physical endeavors. The truth is, whether it’s an ultra race, a big wall climb, or some other gnarly adventure, it is all relatively easy when compared to real life. Having bone cancer, that’s hard. Losing a loved one, that’s hard. Divorce, that’s hard. Mental illness, that’s hard. Figuring out what role you want to play in this life, that’s hard. And being a Mother, that is hard!…Doing the WURL, relatively easy.
I think that’s why I do these things. Because if I can prove to myself that I can conquer difficult physical tasks – whether that means finishing them or just being at peace with what I do accomplish- then I find I start to build an axiom in my conscience that I can handle whatever life sends my way. I’ve also come to realize (admittedly slowly) that more important than conquering, is handling defeat. Because for every successful summit experience, there are usually 2-3 attempts that didn’t work out. And if there is one thing that life and being a new parent never stops reminding me of, it’s that you never really get things figured out, you just learn the skill of not giving up. So let’s not give up, especially on ourselves.