A Spotify Music Challenge: Issued


When I was halfway up Half Dome last summer, I seriously considered the idea that I might die.


It looks almost vertical, doesn’t it? IT IS.

The Yosemite National Park management sure puts a lot of faith in climbers’ own sense of self-preservation on that route. There are cable wire handrails on both sides, with stakes every 6 feet or so anchoring them into the sheer and slippery rock face, and a 2×4 board anchored at each set of stakes, so the whole effect is like a ladder with absurdly widely-spaced rungs. For the 3 or 4 steps between boards, you’re relying almost entirely on upper body strength and adrenaline to haul your ass up what seemed like a 60-70* angle, with floppy borrowed gloves on your hands and massive drop-offs on all sides. There are no safety features. At the time, I thought it was probably the hardest and scariest thing I had ever done. I thought of my mother telling my dead body, “I told you so.” I thought of how I’d promised my fiancé that I would be absolutely safe and fine. I thought of how I had chickened out two years earlier at Angel’s Landing in Zion and regretted it almost immediately. And then Eminem started rapping in my head.

“You better lose yourself in the music, the moment,

You own it, you better never let it go.

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow.

This opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”

Call me cheesy, but Eminem got me up Half Dome. I focused on the lyrics (yes, I can rap along with Em) instead of the fear and helplessness that I felt, and angry and fired-up replaced scared. Eff this mountain. If 200 other people a day can do it, I sure as hell can do it. And I did, and I still say it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it felt damn good.


That would be the teeny tiny path behind me to the left. This is my “are you kidding me” face.

My point is that music is transformative, and engaging, and inspirational. I know headphones are controversial on the trail – you’re there to connect with nature and bond with your fellow hikers, etc., and I absolutely respect that. I’ve actually never backpacked with music before, but I know without a doubt that at some point in the 5ish months I’m on the AT, I’m going to need some good playlists to keep me going.

So I’m issuing a challenge to the 40,000+ (!!!) people who follow this blog. Use Spotify to come up with a ~2 hour playlist that captures a particular mood or moment that you anticipate or have experienced on the trail. You can join for free, but with a paid account, Spotify playlists can be made available offline to listen to in airplane mode without needing any signal or significantly draining your battery. Perfect for the trail.

Lazy rainy shelter morning? Give us your best indie acoustic. Racing across the balds ahead of a thunderstorm? Maybe the epic Braveheart soundtrack makes you feel like a warrior. Rocks of PA making you question your badassity? Share some Girl Power (Spice Girls??) that’ll keep you upbeat and confident.

I made one to get you started. For those moments that I feel like I did on Half Dome: weak, scared, like I’m completely out of my element, I created a playlist called “Get Pumped” under the username Skylar Young (my husband’s account). Judge my choices all you want but these are songs that either make me want to dance or run or punch something, and I’m sure I’ll need that kind of fire at some moment next summer.

2016-01-20 17_10_22-Beta Radio - Sitting Room

Sneak preview…

Of course, it has Em on it.

Email me (nichole.fortier AT gmail) your playlist name and username or post it in the comments below, and include a quick description of what mood or moment you’re capturing. I’ll share some of the best in a future post, and who knows? Maybe you’ll help someone finish the AT.


(Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with or sponsorship by Spotify. I just really like their service and think it’s by far the best option for my hike. But if they want to throw me a little somethin’-somethin’, I wouldn’t say no!)

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Comments 5

  • BevoHi : Jan 22nd

    I don’t have one of my own, but I did stumble across this one about a month ago. I plan on using it for my AT thru-hike this year. https://play.spotify.com/user/125759228/playlist/55uRaieUcOo6EIkaBku3Ai It is titled “Songs I could listen to for 2,189 miles.” 🙂

  • Laurel : Jan 26th

    I just made one in a bout of desire to do SOMETHING related to my thru hike- Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. It’s mostly folksy type songs from my “driving to the mountains” go-to collections with a few others thrown in that have some lyrics/emotions that really seem to go along with the hiking the trail!

    • Nichole Young : Jan 26th

      Sounds perfect, can’t wait to give it a listen!!

    • Nichole Young : Jan 26th

      What’s it called? 🙂

  • Jonathan Necco : Feb 11th


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