As we wind our way in April, there’s a lot on our minds and several items on our to-do lists, although each of us is focused on and working hard to address different things. Over the next few days each of us will post a “10 Questions With:” blog entry, to each answer the same 10 overall questions and share what we’re thinking, what we’re doing, and where our head is at with regards to the rapidly approaching Denali climb.
1. What has been the biggest change in your day-to-day life since beginning to train for this climb? What are you doing this spring that you wouldn’t normally be doing, at this time?
It seems like every non-working minute is Denali training or prep of some kind. Normally, this time of year, I would be gearing up for the rock climbing season. I typically spend a lot of time during the spring at the climbing gym, over on the cliffs of Vantage or Tieton and I head down to Smith Rock and/or Red Rocks for sun and rock climbing. This year the rock climbing is on hold.
Rock climbing at Vantage, my spring home away from home.
I do miss the dusty cliffs and free (but really terrible) camping at Vantage: the way it smells over there, trying to warm up fingers enough to climb in the morning, hanging out around a camp stove with a large cup of tea. It seems like such a big piece of my spring is missing.
I’m already fantasizing about the long weekends in Squamish with the Denali Girls when we get back. Moderate routes, here we come! (I won’t be in any kind of rock climbing shape this year, so it will be all about the moderates!)
2. We’ve each purchased or borrowed a ton of gear for the trip – what two or three new Denali-specific new items are you absolutely loving right now, and is there anything that simply didn’t work for you, and that you returned right away?
I’m loving my Arch-Teryx bibs. They were way more expensive than any pants should ever be, but they are really well designed and fun to wear. I feel bullet proof in them! Leave it to the Pacific Northwest girl to totally love her hard-shell, waterproof pants. I plan to get many years out of them, for sure (and given what I paid for them, I better!)
I’m also loving crevasse rescue with an ascender. Why have I not done that before? Prussiking up a line has never been so easy!
I’m excited about the pee bottle concept (thanks, Gretchen!) I used a pee funnel for the first time in a harness last weekend and that was pretty revolutionary as well. Peeing while STANDING UP, IN all my clothes…. mind blown. This is the secret world of men, here.
Not to mix my intake and my outtake… I also love the GSI Fairshare mug with my 40 Below “boot”. The sea -to-summit thermal mug and the sea-to-summit folding spoon both nest perfectly in the bigger mug. It’s turning out to be the perfect system for meals and hot drinks.
The sled has been a little bit of a trick. I started out with a commercial sled borrowed by Larry from the Washington Alpine Club. It wasn’t practical in terms of tying into a glacier rope. Then, my friend, Badger, helped me with a kiddie sled. I’m still undecided about the polls. They make the sled more awkward to handle then just cordage and when Badger ran the models at work (he’s an engineer), they didn’t give any mechanical advantage. They are also really heavy. Gordy’s comment was: “sleds on Denali are instruments of torture. Do double carries with a pack.” We need the sled, at least for the first carry and probably at least to 11,000 camp; we’ll see after that how it goes…
3. Which logistical or planning-related decision are you feeling most thoughtful about, or has you worried?
We still have some work to do around food: getting that together, packaged and ready for the caches. Deciding how many calories to take, the right combination of things, etc.
My “this is serious” Mountain Rescue Face.
I also have some work to do around a formal emergency response plan. I’ve got to get a document together and work with our people on the ground here to set expectations.
I don’t think you can ever really prepare for a trip like this. I mean, really prepare. At some point we just have to head out there with what we have and hope for the best! With that said, I think we’re doing great. We have a lot yet to do, but we’re getting there. Lots of less prepared people head to Denali all the time. As Bree would say: We’ve got this!
4. What’s your go-to snack for food on the mountain? The Denali Girls are planning for hot breakfasts and hot dinners – what will you be eating the rest of the time?
I really like jelly beans, seaweed, rice crackers,nutella on tortillas, peanut m&ms and smoked cheddar cheese. I’ll also take the usual suspects: bars, bars, and more bars.
5. What new food or drink products have you added to your daily life since starting preparations for the climb? What do you like the best?
I’ve been trying to add more protein to my diet and also generally gain weight. I’m doing a couple of protein shakes a day and I’ve started on the weight gain powder. The stuff is interesting. It’s like drinking cake batter. Actually, I’m not sure if I should drink it or eat it with a spoon.
6. What’s the most interesting, most complicated, or most useful skill or technique you’ve learned or perfected over the last few months?
I’ve learned to pee standing up! With all my clothes on! and in a harness! That pee funnel is really a fabulous invention.
7. What’s still on your Denali to-do list? Give us a sample of the things you’re about to get to, or make decisions about, this week.
Best dog ever.
This weekend’s to do list includes:
*Download Alaska maps for GPS.
*Take tent to Hilleberg for repairs and advice.
*Formalize emergency response plan and send that out.
*Take apart stove (and put it back together) for practice.
*Print off USGS maps for the Girls.
*Buy a gagillian stuff sacks for food.
Anybody want to house sit for this incredible guy?
*Make sure all my clothing has appropriately large zipper pulls and that I’ve sewn tabs in all my glove/ mittens.
*Buy some new socks for the trip.
*Do core, strength, endurace and cardio workouts.
*Gain some weight.
*Find a house sitter/ dog sitter. Anyone out there interested?
8. What does your training or conditioning schedule look like this week, for example? Is there any one part of your physical conditioning that has most noticeably changed your physique?
This week: hiking at least 3,000 feet of gain with 55b pack (usually over 2 days) + at least 2 days of strength training/ weights (30 – 40 min each) + core (sit-ups and crunches) 10 min everyday + if I can find time for a run, I’ll do that because I love to run and it helps with my mental well-being more than anything else.
I wear normal clothes…. sometimes…
One thing that I’m discovering is different than past training I’ve done, is that I need more rest days. I usually can exercise every day, but with this training being so intense, I’ve been giving myself more days off for my body to recover. I wake up after carrying the heavy load and my whole body hurts! When that happens, I give myself a rest day to let my body recover, stretch, do core work (sit-up, etc) and stock up on calories. Reading Steve House/ Scott Johnston’s book: Training for the New Alpinism really convinced me that it’s important to let your body recover. Exercise breaks your body down. If you continue to break your body down, you can’t make the gains you need to get stronger. OR… maybe I’m just getting older and that’s my excuse…
I went to put on my skinny jeans the other day, I couldn’t get them over my calf muscles! Ha! AND I have incredible abs right now… too bad I can’t wear a bikini on Denali. No one will even see this awesomeness under 5 layers of down.
9. What are you reading or listening to right now? Denali books, or training books, or books to give you a break from all of the above?
I’m not getting much reading done which for a librarian is terrible!
Here’s what’s on my nightstand that I am pretending to read:
The Best American Essays 2014, Edited by John Jeremiah Sullivan (has a great essay by Emily Fox Gordon about growing older)
Living with Thunder: Exploring the Geologic Past, Present and Future of the Pacific Northwest by Ellen Morris Bishop.
On the back of my toilet that I glance at during “business”:
Ties that Bind: Stories of Love & Gratitude from the First Ten Years of Story Corps, Edited by Dave Isay
And in the car on audio:
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
10. What, to you, would make for a successful climb? Is there one moment or experience you are most looking forward to?
I think even if we stopped at this point and said “we’re not going,” I would still feel like this has been a valuable experience. I’ve learned so much from the other Denali Girls about teamwork, leadership and training. I’m grateful for those lessons. Thanks, Girls!
That said, I’m excited to see Alaska. I’m looking forward to flying in to the mountains. Just landing on the glacier will be a victory!