Moving Mountains

Denise Whitaker and I at the Lunch Counter on Mt. Adams

“Climbing is for the adventure, summiting is for the ego”

I’m so happy that I learned this phrase from Denise’s climbing guides because you might set off to move mountains when you climb, but sometimes the mountains end up moving you.

Changing Up Your Moves…

Ever since my doctor limited my running back in May because of plantar faciitus (PF) and bone spurs in both heals, I immediately changed my routine and started stair training to prepare for another adventure I had talked to Denise Whitaker about, climbing a mountain. I prepared for the last couple of months by reading books, running trails, training on climbs like Poo Poo Point, getting cortisone shots in both my heels (which is very painful) and increasing water intake, making high-protein carbohydrate bars for the trip and of course renting my mountain climbing equipment from the REI Seattle flagship store.

Since I have never summited a mountain, even after living in Colorado for 6 years, I was trying to do everything I could to increase my odds of success on this first peak. I definitely felt like my change in movements from pavement running to stair and trail training would help me get there, but just like most things in life you never know how truly prepared you are until you start the task.

Moving Right Along…

The entire trip to Mt. Adams was wonderful; traveling through our absolutely amazing state of Washington and catching glimpses of the rural communities along the highways or the beauty of lush, green forests along the logging roads was such a treat. I grew up going to many of these small towns for a variety of festivals, outdoor activities and events but even my memories couldn’t compare to the reality I have missed lately.  The valley around Mt. Adams alone will leave you with such awe of the mountain’s majesty!

I was very lucky to have Denise as my guide for this trip. She is a very experienced climber who has trained for years, summited most of her mountains and was so incredibly kind with her advise and guidance on my journey. She is such a passionate climber and advocate for CLIMB to fight breast cancer, a local nonprofit that benefits the Fred Huchinson Cancer Research Center. She described how wonderful her first adventure was with CLIMB and helped me understand that when a person signs up with them they can choose to climb peaks all over the world as well as getting the benefits of professional guides and a very supportive group of participants right along side you encouraging each other while helping out a great cause. Denise said the experience of the group camaraderie alone is worth signing up with CLIMB, and I after hearing about them I would sign up with CLIMB too!

Denise Hiking Trail to Mt. Adams

The Mountain Moves Me…

Our plan was to hike to the lunch counter in 4 hours, rest and then attempt a summit afterwards. While I tried to do everything I could to keep climbing, our plan turned out to be a bit more aggressive than I thought since it took me well over 4 hours to just get to the lunch counter! I found that the rocky trail was an intense stair climb for me and the glacier’s cool breezes and frolicking climbers (even dogs) helped little to cut down on the eye-watering, snow-blindness that kept overtaking my sight.  I also did not feel like eating most of the time, which wasn’t good since my energy levels crashed into the fourth hour on the side of the glacier.

But even in the growing reality that I would not be able to summit this trip, I kept thinking back to that quote and the adventure our climb was already becoming for me. I started to appreciate the smaller experiences that I was having, experiences that I would rarely come upon in life except while climbing a mountain like… feeling the freezing water rush your hands while getting drinking water from a glacier stream, waking up to the most intense howling winds you’ve every heard as they rushed down the glacier-less valley in the middle of the night, the constant warmth of the community during our friendly exchanges with climbers and park rangers, watching an absolutely electric sunset over Mt. St. Helens from the campsite or even the dangerous (but super FUN) glissading down a glacier!

I tried moving Mt. Adams but she ended up moving me!

Mt. St. Helens view from Mt. Adams Campsite

Make Your Move…

Yes, I will be honest with you, climbing a mountain is truly the HARDEST sport I’ve ever attempted; but it was also worth EVERY SINGLE SECOND I experienced the adventure! I can tell you first hand if you have ever thought about climbing a mountain, have overheard your climbing friends talk about summiting, seen organizations like CLIMB in the news, or passed by the climbing equipment being rented at REI and thought to yourself “I really should try that one day”… your time is NOW, make your move!

And when you start climbing remember the quote above and allow yourself to take in the beauty, the curiosity, the amazement, the lessons and all of the adventure of climbing; and regardless of summiting or not, regardless of ego… be with the adventure and I bet your mountain will move you too, one step at a time.

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