(Not) Sleeping in the Airport IS “Worth It”

Hiking in rainy Switzerland was 200 percent worth spending a sleepless night curled up in the Zürich airport. Photo: A wonderful tourist whose name I do not remember.

There are very few things I’ll stay up half the night for. There are even fewer things I’ll get up early for. However, sometimes not sleeping, or sleeping in far from ideal locations, is worth the adventure it leads you to. Let me explain:

I need my 8+ hours of sleep most nights to be alert and energetic during the day–a feeling I very much so enjoy, especially when I’m climbing. Thus, I’m often “lame,” skipping out on late nights chatting with friends over beers to crawl in bed at a reasonable 11 p.m….occasionally a reasonable 9:30 p.m. I also frequently eat breakfast while getting dressed, driving to work, or driving to Eldo in order to sleep in for an extra 10 minutes. However, there are a few cases where I break this habit, and 99 percent of them involve climbing, hiking, or some other outdoor adventure.

I spent a night curled up on the marble floors of the Zürich airport in order to climb at Gimmelwald with Jonathan Siegrist. I did not sleep. I took a 12-hour overnight bus ride to hike in the Austrian Alps. I didn’t sleep then either. I’ve ridden on a mini school bus for 24 hours straight to get to Horse Pens 40. And, you guessed it: I didn’t sleep. Nor did I sleep on the 24-hour ride back. I’ve also spend chilly nights tenting in the white mountains (not sleeping), praying for 5 a.m. to finally arrive so I could start trekking across the 23-mile Presidential Traverse. All of these times were “worth it.”

It’s important to take care of ourselves: Sleeping well, eating well, de-stressing. But it’s also important to avoid getting stuck in a comfort-zone rut. Don’t say no to climbing the Diamond because you cringe at the idea of waking up at 2 a.m. to start the approach. Don’t skip out on a weekend camping at Rifle because you don’t want to deal with dragging your tent out of storage and actually setting it up for a night or two. Don’t turn down an after-work summer bouldering session outside or night scramble to hangboard in the gym for an hour.

This summer (and fall and winter and next spring) embrace adventure. Say “yes” when your friends invite you to check out a new area instead of going to your favorite local crag for a seventh Saturday in a row. Sleep on a crash pad or in your car or in the airport if it means you’ll have the opportunity to explore an amazing desert tower, alpine boulders, or make a first ascent. You can skip your favorite Netflix shows for a few days to catch up on sleep afterward. You won’t remember most of Breaking Bad. You will remember the times you accepted adventure.


Never say no to “jug of margarita” in Switzerland with Jonathan Siegrist. Yes, I am intoxicated in this picture. Photo: Chris Weidner

Featured image credit: Carolyn Cook


One Comment Add yours

  1. allezgirl says:

    I am with you on this one! I need a certain amount of sleep to feel functional, and have a really hard time sleeping on planes/long drives. Oh the joy! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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