Back to the Blog – Post trip post – Can you ever be ready?

We got an email from Meredith that it’s time to get back to the blog and write about our climb now that we’ve had some space to digest it all. I didn’t think I had that much to say, but I guess I might.  Here’s random thought #1:

You can never really be ready for a trip like this. People told me this and I read this and I told myself this I think I even blogged about it but really, really you can never be ready. Listen to me people” YOU CAN NEVER BE READY.  AT SOME POINT, YOU JUST HAVE TO GO.”   All the training and reading and  talking to people and working through spreadsheets and gear matrices… it’s great to be prepared and it eases your mind and makes you feel more in control than not training.  It will never be enough.

I’m not saying not to train.  If nothing else, the confidence you gain from training is invaluable, after all, and I lack confidence, for sure.  This is without a doubt my biggest weakness.  I think women more than men struggle with this (See Amy Cuddy’s TED talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en)

It’s this idea that we can’t be fully prepared for life.  It’s like if we could research the heck out of something and train away all our self-doubt, we could somehow glean some control over the uncertain world.

And women worry about appearances more than men, I think.  I don’t want to look like the foolish, middle aged lady who doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into. I definitely don’t want some guy to have to rescue me.  That would be proof of my incompetence.
So if I were to say there was one big lesson from Denali that I knew before I left for the climb, but now has finally been hammered into my dense skull it would be: prepare, train, yes; but then in the end, just go.

So I’m starting to train for two new projects and here are my new thoughts about being ready:

Project #1:

* A Big Wall Climb of El Cap. Maybe Lurking Fear or Triple Direct?

http://www.supertopo.com/bigwalls/yosemite/bigwalls.html

So I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time ever since I went to Yosemite for the first time and saw it.  I think anyone who loves rock would look up at El Cap and say to herself “I need to do that.”  And for the full experience, I really want to do it big wall style.  And now I actually have a partner and we’re starting to plan.  I’ve convinced Stef that in 2017 for her 50th birthday, the two of us are heading up.   Stef asked me early on, “Do you think we can be ready in time to do this?” And my answer is “no, of course not!”  Neither of us have done more aid climbing than the occasional french free and the bolt ladder on Monkey Face.  We need to climb together and we need to learn how to aid climb.   But we’ll figure it out.  We’ll hire someone to help us.  We’ll train.  We’ll practice our systems together.  We’ll read the book (I shamelessly just bought my copy of “How to Aid Climb” and have been taking notes, even). And in the end it will still be a mind blowing experience where we’ll make lots of mistakes (small ones, we can recover from only, please) and there will be some Euromacho guy who will want to pass us just because we’re middle aged ladies (and maybe because we look like we don’t know what we’re doing, but I doubt that.)

Project #2

*Kimchi Suicide Volcano, Coflax.

http://www.colinhaley.com/colfax-peak-kimchi-suicide-volcano/

I was at the gym a couple of months ago when Anita turned to me and asked me to do this route with her.  I, of course, said “Sure!” as I always do before I even know what I’m getting in to.  And here is a different preparedness dilemma than El Cap.   I’m not sure I *can* do this route, like ever.  It may be over my ability.  While I may never *feel* ready for an El Cap big wall I may actually never *be* ready for this climb. So in this sense training for it takes on a different element. I’ve started training and I’ve started climbing with Anita every chance I get.  I may never climb this route, but I’m going to be a better person for training for it and I’ll be a better climbing partner to Anita for training with her.  And even if I can’t do this route, I would love to skip up there and have a look and maybe do the route next to it.

Some pictures from the trip

At the start. Getting ready to fly onto the glacier with TAT.

At the start. Getting ready to fly onto the glacier with TAT.

Base camp. A single carry up to camp one.

Base camp. A single carry up to camp one.

Home sweet home on the glacier.

Home sweet home on the glacier.

Our deluxe bathroom.

Our deluxe bathroom.

Photo by Carolyn. Me and my trusty sled.

Photo by Carolyn. Me and my trusty sled.

Headed upward...very slowly.

Headed upward…very slowly.

14,200 camp from above. A small village.

14,200 camp from above. A small village.

Leigh Ann keeping hydrated.

Leigh Ann keeping hydrated.

Selfie.

Selfie.

Meredith enjoying a melted peanut butter cup.

Meredith enjoying a melted peanut butter cup.

17,000 camp.

17,000 camp.

View of the fixed lines from 17,00 camp.

View of the fixed lines from 17,00 camp.

Mountain ninja returns from summit.

Mountain ninja returns from summit.

Back at base camp.

Back at base camp.

Selfie.

Selfie.

Crazy hair after 24 days of no washing!

Crazy hair after 24 days of no washing!

We finished off the Bailey's before the flight!

We finished off the Bailey’s before the flight!

Waitng for the weather to clear at Base Camp.

Waitng for the weather to clear at Base Camp.

Here's our flight! We're going home!

Here’s our flight! We’re going home!

Why no summit picture? Because: Jenn was a big meanie

So we reached the summit 15 mins after “turn around time” (our designated time to start heading down) on Sunday night. It was cold, windy and I was freaked out about getting the girls down.

I don’t know why I suddenly felt such an ominous responsibility. Meredith had been doing a great job as our team leader. She really was the one that got us to the summit in so many ways. She was the one who convinced me I could do it in the first place. And with a dream team of four strong, experienced climbers, there was no reason to expect that any one person needed help getting down.

I can’t explain it but I had this sudden feeling that I alone was responsible for getting “my girls” down and that I needed to keep the girls moving at all costs. It was totally unwarranted, but that’s how I felt. I felt completely responsible for all 40 fingers and all 40 toes as if they were all mine.

I don’t think I even looked around at the summit. I certainly don’t remember if I did. I remember barking at the girls that we were going down NOW. No pictures. No spreading of ashes. No celebrating. I was a big meanie.

Meredith would say later that it was pretty much the most anticlimactic summit of her climbing career. I would have to say, I agree. All those months of hard work, planning, training and I didn’t even look around. I regret that.

But I don’t regret leading the team down to 17,200 camp with no mishaps. I don’t regret pushing the girls a little aggressively at times.
We crawled back to high camp just after 1:00 AM in time to see an Alaska summer sunset/sunrise that rivals any I’ve seen.

And that view from Denali Pass of High Camp in pinks, oranges and reds from an unlimited sky – with our tents in sight – was perhaps better than the view from the summit.