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Bridging the Gap

Think your outdoor buddies have to be your own age or gender? These locals beg to differ

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Local climber Mallory Duncan looks up to older climbers for expertise and camaraderie. - DAVID SWORD
  • David Sword
  • Local climber Mallory Duncan looks up to older climbers for expertise and camaraderie.

Outdoor experience and adventure are integral to the DNA of living in Central Oregon. Surrounded by snow-covered mountains, dense forests, crystal clear rivers and spectacular rocks, many who live and visit here do so for the diversity in the landscape, and for the myriad options available for "getting out."

The high desert, it seems, has the perfect combination of elements, giving the seeker a chance to engage with people of varied ages. Take a look at the groups gathering on Road 300 queueing for mountain bike laps on Lower Whoops, at the base of The Dihedrals at Smith Rock State Park, or hiking up South Sister, where it's common to see multiple generations banding together to recreate.

Here, locals talk about the benefits of having a mixed-generation/gender community for playing in the outdoors.

Bikes: A level playing field

Local dirt hero, Carson Galbreath, 22, says, "There is something about 'the game' that levels the playing field. I'll ride with anyone that enjoys the dirt and has a great outlook on life. I ride with my dad and younger brother, high schoolers and with friends older than me," he says. "It's a different experience when riding with my age-group friends. They are much more 'in the now.' We call them party rides—we take long breaks and sometimes just hang out. Older riders came up in a different era of technology, so their setups are different. Their outlooks and preferences are different. They are into Strava and other apps that track mileage and time. It's the approach," Galbreath says.

"But regardless of the ages, it's all a shared experience," he adds. "It's always outdoor-driven and that keeps things fresh. There is no hierarchy. Some are slow; some are fast. My crew is always about fun, and riding with varying ages adds a dynamic that can be interesting. Respect is the key. We all know that everyone has a level of knowledge and skill that someone can learn from. It's the perfect dynamic in the workplace, and at play."

Skiing: A group dynamic

Backcountry skier, Ross Muir, 52, likes to keep the young guns around. "They remind me of the purity of enjoyment that often gets lost as you get older. The fun-loving and collaborative attitudes make for a great day in the mountains," he says.

As with any group, the personalities are what make or break the dynamic. "For longer, or more technically challenging ski trips, I choose my partners more carefully. I surround myself with like-minded and adaptable individuals," he says. When asked if being around the younger generations keep him feeling ageless, he responds, "To a point, sure. But I also think I offer insights and knowledge that younger folks are looking for," he says.

"Plus, it helps that I act like a teenager sometimes," he says, laughing. "Finding the correct blend of knowledge, skill and motivation is key to success," he continues. "Age is irrelevant to me when it comes to social and recreational interactions. Humor is king. If we gel, we gel. If we don't, I look elsewhere," says Muir.

Mountaineering & Rock Climbing: Teaching and learning

Mallory Duncan, 25, is a mountaineering and rock climbing rope gun who enjoys the dynamic of mixed-generation experiences. "Hanging with 'the elders' gives me both a sense of history and a different look at skill and technique," he says. Many of Mallory's climbing partners started climbing before the era of climbing gyms and sport climbing, so there's much to discuss—especially when it comes to traditional climbing, where placing gear on lead plays a major role in the climb.

"There is so much information and knowledge to glean from them," he continues. "One of my mates climbed Karate Crack at Smith Rock 20 years before I was born! Plus, they have been gear collecting longer, so we never run out of cams or wired stoppers for the longer crack climbs," he muses. "I think that the influence of the young brings out something really cool in their personalities. The inner child, if you like. There is definitely some friendly competition that develops the more we hang out together. I don't want the old guys to sandbag me (they always say its only 5.9), and I know it kills them to see a whippersnapper climb something they can't," he says with a grin. "I like that each of us can bring something unique to the table. We all have fun and we each learn something new. It's a win-win."

Girls and Boys: Looking for the same answers

"I am my healthiest and happiest when I am moving my body outdoors," says the self-proclaimed adventure nut, Allie Hofmann, 32. "Being active in nature is the equation that I have found works for me to be my best. The physical benefits are obviously huge, but the fitness and strength of my body is absolutely secondary to the emotional calm and fortitude of my head and my heart," she says. For partnerships in the outdoors, Allie has found that scheduling, skill and attitude are the most important considerations. "I prefer biking and skiing with guys. I grew up following an older brother rip around the forest, so I honestly prefer to push myself to keep up and be inspired to step up my level," she says intensely.

When it comes to climbing and surfing, however, "I bond better with gals. They are much more supportive and communicative. There is less ego and focus on outcome with women and more 'you can do it, girl' support. There are always exceptions, but these are the tendencies I have found which align up with my outdoor desires and needs," says Hofmann. When it comes to age, Hofmann says she has no age preference in the slightest. "If you have a happy heart and healthy body, and we jive well, let's get outside together and play."

As you search for partners for your next climbing, skiing, cycling, fly fishing or moto outing, these outdoor enthusiasts encourage you to look outside of your generation and gender group, as you might be pleasantly surprised how well it turns out.

After all, finishing the day around a campfire, eating chips and salsa, and drinking a beer is as timeless as the activities you'll share.

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