So. About that Denali Climb.

So fresh and so clean: Wednesday, May 13th, 2015, before flying onto the glacier to begin our climb. Photo c: Jenn Carter.

So fresh and so clean: Wednesday, May 13th, 2015, before flying onto the glacier to begin our climb. Photo c: Jenn Carter.

When we left for Denali, and again after we got back, the Girls and I promised that we would return to blogging, and share more in-depth information on our prep, what worked, what didn’t, and how the trip went. We wanted to share our stories, and we wanted to do it through this blog, which was such a great asset as we prepared for Denali, and which triggered so many wonderful conversations along the way.

What we overlooked when we made those promises, however, was that when we returned, it would be summer. Full-blown, gorgeous, glorious, Seattle summer. The time of year when Seattlites burst out of doors and don’t come back inside until the fall, when it turns rainy-er, and darker, and we remember there are other things to do besides climb and scramble mountains, hang from rock walls, and sleep in tents or bivvy sacks all over the gorgeous state that we four call home.

For me, personally, this summer was also a summer of change. Big climbs, big trips, and long breaks from the usual create space for us to reconsider the shape of our lives from a new vantage point, and for ourselves and those who love us to step back and consider whether we are each living our lives in the way and in the places that we seek. When I returned from Denali I experienced a big change in the shape of my personal life, and as a result ended up spending far too much of my summer looking for new housing, before eventually relocating to Seattle’s lovely and welcoming Magnolia neighborhood in early August.

In the midst of a period of so much transition – so much change – it was hard to even think about Denali – hard for me to remember we did it, hard for me to find the time to process what it was, what it meant to me, and what I want to do next.  I was so consumed by the effort required to make necessary changes to my life and my housing that I didn’t really get a chance to stop and think about what it meant to me – to begin telling friends my stories, and to even finally look at the other girls’ photos – until two weeks ago, when I finally began to find my way to the other side of all that change, and found the time to really dig into what it meant to me.

The incredible upside of all that change is what an immense joy it has been to rediscover our Denali climb – to begin to pick it apart, dissect it, turn it over again and again in my mind, and relish all that I learned about myself and my friends, about climbing big mountains and the community of people who habitually climb them. I’ve found that now that I’ve re-opened those memories and begun telling the stories, and dissecting the experience, I can’t stop – it brings me too much joy.

So as Jenn mentioned in her previous post, we’re going to resume the blog, and tell the story of the climb as it went down (or up! All the way up to the summit!), and I personally am going to commit to a weekly post starting this Wednesday (“hump day” posts seem appropriate for a successful summit attempt), moving through the days of the climb incrementally, and also incorporating bits and pieces of data, called ‘beta’ by climbers – the stuff you’d need to know if you wanted to climb the mountain yourself. I have all my receipts in a shoe box that moved with me to Magnolia, and I’ll go through them and itemize what was worth it, what it cost me, and how I used it, and also talk about what we might do differently, knowing what we know now.

Each of the other ladies will participate and add her own blog posts as she sees fit, and as work schedules and busy lives allow.

And for those in the greater Seattle area, you are welcome to join us at the Mountaineers’ Climbing Committee’s inaugural “Beta Night” on Tuesday, November 10th at 7pm, when Leigh Ann, Jenn, Carolyn, and myself will give a presentation on how to prepare for a Denali climb, with lessons learned from our own trip (and photos! And beer!)

[Editor’s Note: If you do plan to come, please RSVP at the link above!]

In the meantime, we’ll get busy writing posts and organizing photos(!) for the Denali Girls blog, so feel free to post and ask questions as we go!

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to return to sharing our story with you. 🙂

Much love.

M

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!