The Uncomfort Zone / by Natalie Segal

Hiking up Grands Montets at the beginning of June for some early bird turns, Photo- Patric Lundell

Hiking up Grands Montets at the beginning of June for some early bird turns, Photo- Patric Lundell


"What lured him on was of course, the great adventure, the eternal longing of every truly creative man to push on into unexplored country, to discover something entirely new- if only about himself. "                  

                                                                               - Heinrich Harrer, The White Spider

These days to find unexplored, unknown country is quite rare, if not impossible. Finding the uncomfort zone, however, is not so difficult. For me there is always something about the unknown that is slightly disagreeable- sometimes just not knowing will make me cringe.

Despite loving all things pleasant, I'm a big believer in the 'uncomfort zone'. Yes I know, it's a made up phrase but you get the point. It's the place where you stop feeling comfortable and start feeling challenged and at times slightly awkward. It's here that I have always learnt new things about myself, about others and gained respect and love for life.

Earlier this year I made a big decision, which for most could seem trivial but from my perspective, it felt like I had decided to start living upside down. For the majority of my adult life I have  been chasing winter. My focus has been skiing; earning money to ski and getting fit to ski. Other things like future careers, hobbies and sports outside of skiing have slowly but surely ended up on the wayside.

However, this year, for a multitude of reasons, including feeling totally and utterly burnt out doing one of the things I love most in the world, I decided to step out of the wintery comfort zone and try some warmer temps on for size. This summer, I moved to Chamonix, France.

Hanging out mid-climb with Celine and Klara.

Hanging out mid-climb with Celine and Klara.

Living here for the last two months has been incredible. However, I would be lying if I didn't admit how often I have been out of my comfort zone since the beginning of June. Luckily I have met some generous souls along the way, who have agreed to hold my hand and explore the mountains with me.

For instance, in my first week here, the lovely Heather Swift, without hesitation took me up the Aiguille du Midi for my first mountaineering route.

Heather Swift showing me how to climb rock in crampons on the Cosmique Arete

Heather Swift showing me how to climb rock in crampons on the Cosmique Arete

She cooed calming thoughts to me as we descended the Midi arete, which in ski boots seems absolutely manageable but in normal boots and crampons felt death-defying; was patient anytime I was scared and then walked me through the idea of trying to rock climb with my crampons on. Without her, I would have spent most of the summer staring up at the Midi, wondering what the temperature was like up there.

I guess you could say that this first climb was a slippery slope to addiction. I have spent all of June and a large part of July mincing around on rocks. Like I said before, it hasn't been an easy transition. I'm often scared on routes, especially by the height and exposure, I get disco leg more often than not, which usually ends up with me talking to myself.

Unlike skiing where many things come naturally to me, I feel like I am constantly working hard just to get the small things right. But I guess that's the point right? It's in this unexplored territory, away from our cocoons of comfort that we discover a new and better understanding of ourselves.......or at least a great love for good quality climbing equipment and well planned trips.