The Darkroom. Everyone knows it, even if they don’t know it by that name. It’s the pits. The low point during an activity. The point at which you want to give up, go home and cower. It’s playing the pain game.
And it’s required.
You can’t have a great time in the mountains or on the trail without getting into the Darkroom once or twice. Inevitably, at one point during your ride, you’ll ask yourself: “Why the hell am I doing this? I’m miserable. My lungs burn. I can taste blood. I’m sucking wind and everyone is going faster than me.”
You’ve just entered the Darkroom.
It’s a dangerous place, this Darkroom. It can make you quit. It HAS made you quit. It’s full of hoodoos and demons and all sorts of doubt. It engulfs you and shakes you up. You can’t focus on anything but stopping and turning around. It hurts.
There are those souls out there who intentionally put themselves in the Darkroom. Society calls them masochists, I typically call them some of my more hardcore friends. My buddy EFreson calls it “Type A Fun”. Putting yourself out there, knowing you’ll soon be in an extremely uncomfortable environment takes a certain type. Admittedly, I’ve opened the door to the Darkroom on purpose from time to time. I get inside and wonder what I was thinking when I turned the knob.
“Ouch!” I say, “Why did I want to do this?! My legs burn!” as I make my way up a silly steep boot pack.
“What were we thinking when we thought of this?” I’ll moan as we bushwhack down an increasingly narrow runoff canyon.
“You thought this was going to be fun?!?” I’ll lament in the midst of a 70mph gust on a snowy, exposed ridge.
Luckily, most Darkroom experiences are with other people. You may be in the Darkroom, but at least you’re with other people. They can bring you up, unlock the door and get you out of there. It’s lonely in the Darkroom, and it’s valuable to have partners who know how to rescue you from the depths.
But I’m glad there’s a Darkroom. Cliche, yes, but how can we appreciate the good without the bad? Being positive and happy in the mountains all day long is not realistic. It just doesn’t happen that way all day. The Darkroom has a way of teaching you appreciation and giving you perspective.
When you get into your Darkroom, how do you get out? What helps? When have you willing entered?