Denali Prep Bottom Ten: Kinda Sorta Really Not My Most Favorite Things…!

Yesterday I wrote a blogpost on my favorite things about preparing for Denali. Today, the Not so Favorite Things list (although there’s only 4 – phew!)

This is my "less than stoked" face, and for that matter, all the gear I usually carry that's not rugged or warm enough to bring.

This is my “less than stoked” face, and, for that matter, a photo of all the gear I usually carry that’s not rugged or warm enough to bring.

1. The Spend. Good god, the spend! Gear is so expensive! Taking shortcuts to save money is so scary! If I keep the slightly-less-expensive OR Women’s Luminary Glove as my functional, high dexterity, super warm pre-summit glove, and everyone else is wearing the almost twice as expensive considered-standard, the BD Guide Glove, will I live to regret it? And will my fingers? There is tons (and tons) of gear purchasing advice out there for aspiring Denali climbers, and it’s really easy to lose one’s composure trying to sort out where it’s ok to save a few $$, and where to really invest one’s dollars (it feels like the answer to the latter is “on everything”). Even with lots of great loaner gear and other forms of assistance, this climb has already turned out to be more expensive than I anticipated (or at least, it has been much more painful to shell out thousands of dollars to make it happen). I really struggle with the spend.

2. Random Internet Advice. This is not the same as the much-treasured “advice from friends,” or “advice from our community.” But there is simply so much advice out there, that you can drown in it. And a lot of it is bad advice. Advice from random people online who solo-ed Denali? Not really what I’m looking for right now. Advice from random people online who went “ultralight,” ie cut down on pounds by eliminating some of the warmer and heavier and more protecting items on a gear list? Also not interested.

When we started preparing for our climb we found the gear list overwhelming. There are some lists online, generally, on blogs and such, but the most comprehensive lists we found were on the sites of companies that run climbs, like that of Alpine Ascents International, Rainier Mountaineering Inc, and Mountain Trip. So we began the process of winnowing down the gear lists by making a long spreadsheet with everything our own common sense, experience, and research said we’d need, and created fields for what each of those companies recommend (and what they simply don’t allow). We created another column for Ed’s Denali gear, and populated it with the specific brands and items that he took along with him, which allowed us to more or less triangulate what would be a useful or appropriate piece of gear to bring, and what would not. This was a good process for me – we created columns for each of us on our spreadsheet, and shared it across our group, so that we could ask questions and offer feedback to each other, and also observe which way the other girls were inclined to go (this is where my obsession with the Guide vs Luminary Gloves comes from!)

Here’s a screenshot of our gear list, as of today (group gear, or shared items, are in yellow):

Denali Gear ListGetting gear advice from people online can be risky, though. I spent some time on the Mountain Hardwear website considering their Absolute Zero Parka the other day, and was totally irked by the absolutely useless and irrelevant review of a well-meaning woman who described her husband as a “true freezy cat” and so bought him this (NEGATIVE FORTY DEGREE-RATED!) parka as a Christmas present. I mean, c’mon, people. A negative 40 bag that costs $800 for your husband to take the dog out in the winter? I think your husband should suck it up and rally. Jeez. We spent a lot of time last weekend making fun of you, freezy cat lady.

3. The packing and unpacking of gear. I wrote about this on my “About Meredith” page, but good god I hate packing and unpacking gear – especially food. I could go on about this at length, but let it suffice to say that we have massive volumes of gear, and it all needs to be cleaned up and put away and dried or washed between each use, and then repacked. And when you’re using your gear several times a week, that gets old. The following may or may not be a photo of my not-yet-dealt-with gear from last weekend, which I’m headed home to repack for this weekend, tonight. And I do mean to say that everything you can see in the hallway needs to go with me…except the sled (orange).

 (Eeek. Don't tell the other Girls I still haven't dealt with my gear yet!)

(Eeek. Don’t tell the other Girls I still haven’t dealt with my gear yet!)

4. The Sheer Number of Things to Wonder About, and Look Into

Here’s a screenshot of my inbox – see anything “just for fun” or non-Denali related in there? Me neither.

My inbox. All Denali, all the time.

My inbox. All Denali, all the time.

There is a LOT to figure out on a Denali climb, and a lot of small details to go over. Food, nutrition (which is actually separate from food), funding help, tents to borrow, books to read – they’re all in there. We’ve been sending so many emails on Denali topics that sometimes it’s tempting to ignore one’s email entirely – but then again, a lot of these decisions are really, really, really(!) important, and require our time and patience to sort out how we want to go about doing what we’ve set out to achieve.

All in all, the Denali prepping isn’t too hard, terrible, or taxing – but those are definitely a few of my (least!) favorite things!!!

 

I Love to Train… Or, the Art of Suffering

I love to train. Yes, I am one of those people who could and does spend hours training inside and outside of the gym. It could be skill and technique work, strength and power development, or building endurance, it all depends on what my focus is at any given time. I don’t need a specific goal to train hard. However, when I have something to train for, I’m able to focus my training and justify all the suffering that goes along with it. Right now my focus is Denali.

Saying that I Iove to suffer may be a bit extreme, but it’s kind of fitting. Suffering is in the eyes of the beholder, right? Maybe that’s why I find it so fascinating. One person’s idea of suffering is much different than another’s, just like pain tolerance. One person’s 5 is another person’s 9. It’s all relative, which is pretty damn interesting if you think about it. No matter where we fit on the spectrum, we can all learn from one another. We can all learn the art of suffering.

So, how do you learn to embrace the suffering and make the uncomfortable comfortable? Dedication and perseverance. When I say “embrace the suffering” I mean accepting that pushing yourself – physically and mentally – is difficult and not whining about it. I hate whining. Getting stronger, faster, or fitter is hard work for everyone. Whether you’re a National Champion or play recreational Ultimate Frisbee, rock climber or mountaineer, pushing yourself toward a new goal is grueling work. All that being said, accepting that there will be suffering will allow us to focus our energy on training rather than getting stuck in a suffering loop!

The Suffering Loop

The Suffering Loop

I may sound like a bit of a hard-ass, which is kind of true. (Just ask Meredith, she’s climbed with me enough to know that I’m very matter-of-fact, which can come across as being a little gruff at times.) However, I believe everyone has the capability to accomplish great things. I really do! The issue is that some people lack the courage and fortitude to accomplish amazing things with grace (aka, not whining or bragging).

The world of mountaineering requires a little humility and a lot of perseverance. Once you’ve trained your body to carry heavy loads up and down thousands of vertical feet and you’re technical skills are second nature, success in the mountains is determined by your mental and emotional ability to endure. Some people are naturally tough and some people have to work diligently and continuously to manage the mental side of climbing. Not matter what, it’s an art that takes practice.

Choose a goal, work your ass off to accomplish that goal, enjoy the journey (including the suffering), be positive, and surround yourself with supportive people who are also working hard on their own project. We can all learn the art of suffering.