Max Ritter | Adventure Journalism
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Stories

Max is an adventure journalist and this is a collection of writings and musings

about exploring the great outdoors.

Purgatorio, 5.7 WI2 M4 Grade IX

Spending time in the mountains gives one lots of time to think. Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy is a story about a man finding himself by undergoing a series of harsh trials by entering Hell and facing the Devil, followed by an ascent of Mount Purgatory, and finally reaching the heavens. Every time I venture into the mountains, I feel a connection to the pilgrim Dante. I spend time in the unknown to learn more about myself and the world around me.

In Purgatorio, Dante literally climbs the mountain of Purgatory, watches souls repent for the lesser sins they committed on Earth, only to learn more about his own self.

The following is an alternate Canto, telling the story of a figurative climb up a route named Purgatorio (5.7 WI2 M4 Grade IX), inspired by the style of Dante Alighieri.

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And upon reaching the island on which stood

Mount Purgatory, I watched my guide

as he peered up the flanks of the great mountain.

His rope was neatly coiled, as it should be,

And his rack was neatly aligned on his harness.

I placed great trust in him as he climbed to the first circle,

Aggresively chilling.

Here we found those who tie not their knots correctly.

Enchained by ropes bound to their hands and feet,

they were forced to endure tying and retying their knots.

I placed great pity on the souls but discerned their

punishment to be fitting. A knot is safety, and a so fundamental

a part of our lives that mastery is imperative.

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My guide cruised up the first pitch. Above the knotted

souls, we reached an area of those who omitted bringing the

most important Piece of equipment on the mountain.

These souls had foregone bringing their ski boots,

putting themselves at shame. An easy item to forget,

yet destructive to any day in the mountains.

To learn from their mistake they were forced to sit like

dogs in the back of the car with a direct sight to paradise,

where their friends whooped and hollered in the snow.

I thought to offer my condolences and pity to the afflicted, but

my guide urged me on. They were here for a reason, he said, and had the

opportunity to work and repent their way to paradise to join their friends in bliss.

The climb to the next circle proved to be character

building. Dodging rockfall and ice, we moved our way

upwards through the Couloir of Repentance.

Battling my own ego was the challenge, as I soon learned

of my own inabilities, and was humbled. Fittingly, the third

circle contained those whose ego was too big for their own good.

These were the souls who constantly took self-gratifying

selfies to share on social media, and always bragged about

the latest and greatest line they shredded.

I was shocked at their plight, and thanked myself for still being alive and

promised to alter myself. I switched off the gopro on my head and swore

to only live in the moment, not to do things just for the story.

Virgil was silent, but nodded in approval. The souls were

forced to stand in front of mirrors and repeat the words of

self-disapproval over and over again.

“I am nothing more than who I am, live for myself and not others,”

echoed through the air. I covered my ears from the deafening sound.

I approached a shade staring into a mirror. “What is your name?” I asked him.

His answer came after a brief moment of thought. “I have

forgotten who I am,” he replied. Dressed in full gear, I could

discern his past as one with an ego that broke him.

We must move on, I heard Virgil say. In the true spirit of an alpine guide,

light and fast was the way. Were we to stay too long in one spot we risked

exposing ourselves too long to the elements and the vices of others.

We continued up and entered into a new circle. Contained

here were the souls too ignorant or lazy to properly check

snow and avalanche conditions.

I knew immediately the gravity of their offense, they put not

only their own lives at risk, but other’s too. Their punishment was

simple, forced to dig snowpits over and over and over again.

They were spared no time to ski and actually enjoy the fruits of their

labor. Meticulously documenting every snow layer and crystal, the fruits

of their labor were only beneficial to their friends in paradise.

We peered over the edge of the great mountain we stood on, and Virgil

Turned to face me. A storm was visibly brewing in the distance. Its

grisly clouds built up rapidly, his eyes reflecting the growing darkness.

The 10-second auto exposure just doesn't quite cut it for summit selfies.

“Friend, my time has come. I am merely a guide in this place,

and no longer feel I can safely fulfill my duty to help you attain

your goal.”I was shocked at this development.

We had come this far together, and now it came to this? I

begged him to continue with me, but was met with calm

rebuke. Perhaps he was not who I thought him to be.

Could I continue on my own? I knew not how to ask this

question, for fear of shame. He turned away and pointed to

the summit, a few circles higher, but ever so close.

With a tone of direct approval, he urged me to continue

climbing on my own. “You now have the skills and gusto to meet success,”

he said. “I am but an old man without the strength to continue.”

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