As I hiked alone into the Winds, I stopped and chatted with a man on his way out. He reminded me of my late grandpa Les Viereck. Tall and lanky, an easy, quiet smile, unkempt white hair and a short, friendly white beard, an external frame army-surplus-style pack from the 1970s or 80s, jingling pots and gear hanging from its many straps. He told me he'd been snowed in, tentbound for a few days, celebrated his sixtieth birthday alone in his tent and loved every minute. He said with some emotion and reverence that he'd been coming into these mountains his whole life and asked where I was headed. I told him my plan and he looked off into the distance. "When I first set foot on the knife point glacier decades ago, it reached a full mile further down than it does today. It's changing up there." He'd watched climate change affect these mountains firsthand.
Yesterday was the United Nations designated Mountain Day. Mountains matter for watersheds, wildlife + biodiversity, economies, and shared heritage. And retreating glaciers + ascending treelines are like a canary in the coal mine. For those of us who live, work, or play in the mountains, the immediacy of climate change's impacts should be evident and urgent. Whether we donate to organizations like #protectourwinters, volunteer our time to help, spread awareness and advocate for policy shifts, make changes in our lifestyles, or all of the above, let's make it more than just one day a year. #mountainsmatter