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The struggle is beautiful: What rescue volunteers see deep in the woods

Sometimes as Seattleites we can think that we’re more urban, but honestly we are mountain people. That’s who we are, and we need to own that in a real way and be intensely proud.

Because we don’t have anything to prove – being the people that live here – that makes us so awesome. We’re awesome in the summer, we’re awesome in the winter, we’re awesome all the time.

Bree Loewen is a volunteer with Seattle Mountain Rescue and the author of the book, “Found: A Life in Mountain Rescue.” These are excerpts from a talk she gave at The Mounatineers.

And I think we’re really compassionate people, too. Really compassionate people grow out of the mud here, because they just realize how slippery life can really be.

I get to share space with people in some of the darkest times of their lives … when they’re really hurt or really lost and can’t get out without help. They call me. And that’s such a gift, because my goal is to forge that same kind of connection.

I think the struggle is beautiful, knowing that you can struggle for a long time and lose makes it all the more poignant.

I’ve been watching the struggle, studying the struggle for a really long time, and I’ve seen two things that I used to think were really incongruous, but now I don’t.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Mountain rescue", "fid": "137548", "style": "offset_left", "uri": "public://201707/rock_wall.jpg", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy of Bree Loewen"}]]The first thing is that people are way physically and emotionally stronger than we give them credit for. We are physically and emotionally way stronger than we give ourselves credit for – whether that’s lead climbing in overhanging roof pitch at Vertical World Seattle, or crawling towards help for three days after falling off of a cliff and becoming paralyzed from the waist down, or just heading out on the trail despite debilitating depression.

We pull off these things that no one else, and oftentimes we ourselves, don’t think we’re capable of – but we are.

For 20 years I’ve been getting called out for people. And I have a really good sense of what’s survivable and what’s not. But I get called out for people that I am sure are dead, and I get there, and they’re not. All the time.

People are so strong. And at the same time, people are so incredibly fragile. We are both these things all the time.

Our goal with [Seattle Mountain Rescue] is just to be with you when you need someone to be with you, especially if you need someone to be with you so that you don’t die alone.

Or because your partner just did. Or maybe because you sprained your ankle and you just need someone to splint it so you can get back out in six to eight weeks

It isn’t always about the person who had the accident, it’s actually figuring out how to bridge what sometimes becomes an enormous hole in the community.

[asset-images[{"caption": "A Seattle Mountain Rescue gathering", "fid": "137549", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201707/IMG_9671.JPG", "attribution": "Credit Courtesy of Bree Loewen"}]]

This interview has been edited for length. Listen to the full version of her presentation below, or the podcast version above. Bree Loewen  spoke at The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center on June 7, 2017 as part of their “Be Wild” series.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.

Listen to the full version below:

Year started with KUOW: 2006