Everest-007 February 2006

Happy Pisces! 2/19/2006
Yes, you’re right! I had to stretch to find that greeting-perhaps you would have preferred Happy Birthday Nicolaus Copernicus? According to Wikipedia, “Nicolaus Copernicus was a Polish astronomer who is remembered for providing the first modern formulation of a Sun-centered theory of the solar system.” How’s that for a Sunday afternoon? Rather than ponder just what is the center of the universe (besides me :-), mostly I’ve been struck lately with how quickly time is passing-I’m leaving for my kayak expedition in just three weeks. Wasn’t I just in Utah? Or Tibet? Or on Denali?

The title of my book is “A Year on Denali.” Each chapter is a different month. I’ve written up through May-this week I tackle writing the story of actually being on the mountain. I’m eager to get the first draft done and out to a few readers. It’s been most interesting to reflect on the process of preparing for Denali while I’m beginning preparations for Cho Oyu. My third week of training went well and I saw strength gains this week from being back in the gym. My long run yesterday topped the 1.5-hour mark and I reveled in the beauty that surrounded me as I ringed Quidi Vidi Lake twice then finished with my favorite downtown loop. Even the trim colors on the fishing boats seemed brighter yesterday as the wind whipped across the harbor. I’m always grateful for the training because it gets me out of the house and into my surroundings where I can’t help but be moved by the everyday splendor enveloping me.

Speaking of splendor, I had an amazing Vanilla Dip experience this week. I had a multi-week hockey scoring streak come to an end Monday night. I grieved it. Mourned it. And the band played on. Tuesday night, before my next hockey game, after my evening hill running session, I had a Vanilla Dip. I scored a pure* hat trick on my first shift. If that isn’t a rationale for consuming my favorite multi-colored spiritual snack, I’m not sure what is? The streak continues (both scoring and donuts)…(*three goals in a row with no other intervening goals)

People often marvel about my ability to keep up with the demands of training. I often marvel at their ability to pick up the phone and call someone (I’m a bit shy when it comes to phones). I’m often asked how do I do it? How do I manage to fit all of that activity into a day? A weekly plan helps. Some efficiency strategies help…some luck helps…and mostly what does it for me is discipline. But not discipline in a military way, but discipline is a Buddhist way. A teacher of mine defined discipline as the combination of bravery and gentleness. This meaning strummed a deep chord within me and I’ve tried to live with that combination since-bravery to get out of bed into a blinding snowstorm, bravery to lift a weight over and over again to the point of failure, bravery to push hard over the crest of a hill and always combining that bravery with gentleness and compassion. Allowing myself to have variances of energy and performance. Celebrating successes and consoling losses. Cradling my efforts with acceptance. Knowing that good enough is enough some days while other days, I won’t settle for anything less than giving everything I got. Using gentleness to imbibe everything with fun and humor. Seeing both the view of the mountain and the footsteps to get there and using discipline to maintain a commitment to both. That’s how I do it. I think. Given that I already have courage tattooed to my right leg, I’m thinking of adding the character for compassion beside it so I have a constant reminder of the power of discipline in my life.

There is a quote I recite when I give presentations about my climb of Denali. I use it to explain that although one cannot stay on the summit forever, there is value in going. Here is Rene Daumel’s quote:

You Can’t Stay on the Summit Forever
You have to come down again.
So why bother in the first place?
Just this:
What is above knows what is below,
but what is below does not know
what is above.
One climbs, one sees.
One descends, one sees no longer,
but one has seen.

Since having the privilege of standing on the summit of Denali, I’ve felt like it is my responsibility to share what I saw up there. Both outside of me and within me. It was in reading this quote that I pledged to write my book and to deliver as many presentations on the climb as I could. It was this quote that planted the seeds of wanting to be a Bodhisattva mountaineer within the fertile soul of my spirit-wanting my adventures to benefit as many people as possible. A Bodhisattva is someone who dedicates their Buddhist practice to the benefit of everyone–committing to delay their enlightenment until all beings are enlightened.

This past week, I gave a Denali talk at my friend, Boyce’s. He is the one who wrote the article in the Dot newsletter (see the media section of my website) about what I learned about Buddhism by climbing Denali. He and his family invited four other families over for pizza and beer and I showed pictures of how I climbed Denali. There were folks aged from one to 50 and I loved answering the multitude of questions they asked. I loved being in their living room-it felt like I was giving a house concert. Given the recent Ring of Fire Challenge of playing my accordion in public, I may be giving house concerts yet…maybe that’s way I can raise money for the next climbs.

I met with the folks at AppleCore to take a look at some potential logos and other things for a potential fundraising. We hope to host a big public talk about Denali in late April-I’ll keep you posted. I also met with a group of folks from the Faculty of Business to gleam ideas about potential fundraising efforts. I’ll be honest with you-the idea of fundraising scares the s_ _ t out of me!!! Give me supreme cold, wind, and 1000 foot drop offs any day…give me eyeliner for a year…give me a dance floor…anything but having to ask folks for money. A Ring of Fire of the truest kind…as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” So just like eating an elephant and climbing an 8000 meter peak, I’ll do it one bite and one step at a time. Seeking out information, support, and a belay as I take on the challenge of getting to the base of the mountains in order to be able to climb them.

Keep sending those Ring of Fire challenges and fundraising ideas along.

Take good care.

With deep gratitude for having you on the journey,
TA

Happy Winter Olympics to All, 2/12/2006
I was quite moved the other day, when watching the Opening Ceremonies, to hear that over 2 billion folks had access to that TV feed…how amazing to think that two billion folks could be reached with a message of peace and international cooperation. It’s being a challenge to fit my training around all of the Olympic watching that I want to be doing. I had a great week– I got five more chapter drafts written and a bunch more training in.

I’ll start by saying that I think I’m seasonally challenged. I’ve got what I do in what seasons all mixed up. Friday, in the midst of a pretty good blizzard, Ian, Dan and I went out for a paddle in Witless Bay. The day’s forecast began with a prediction of light winds and 2-4 centimeters of snow-sounded like perfect paddling weather to us. By the time we’d loaded up the boats and driven down to Witless Bay-the forecast had changed to 10 cm. Never wanting to give up too easily, we thought as long as we could get our cars out of the beach parking lot, all would be okay. So we got the boats off the car in a driving snow, suited up, and launched off the steep beach into minor surf. Ian did the most amazing seal launch. We headed up into the wind so the snow was a bit obnoxious-it kept pelting me in the eye. I felt like a boxer in a ring with someone who was in a higher weight class. I lusted for my ski goggles and imagined the even funnier looks I would get wearing my ski goggles sea kayaking than wearing them running. I turned my head as far round as it would go and I sometimes had some success in avoiding the snow punching me the eyes. When my eyes got all teary, I gave them a break by paddling with my eyes closed.

We paddled up the coast, stopped at a surf play spot, and then went a bit further north around a point until it was time to turn tail for home. It was good timing all round as the wind began to pick up and the snow was hurling itself in all directions. The trip home was much easier on the eyes and we zoomed along nicely with a following sea. The steep beach was a bit tricky to land on but we all pulled it off one way or another and then it was quite comical to drag the boats up the cobblestones covered in 10 centimeters of snow. The coldest part of the day was tying the boats back up on the racks in the driving snow. I drove back to town in my wetsuit because I couldn’t imagine undressing in the storm. It was one of those “I can’t believe that I’m doing this because it is so ridiculous but it is so ridiculous that I love doing it”moments.

Then the next day, I went snowshoeing. I loved being on the new fleet of snowshoes the University bought for the program-they were the same ones we used on Denali. I had lots of memories fight for top billing as Marie and I made our way through half-meter snowdrifts in Gallows Cove. Then I realized that I was camping in snow and experiencing minus 30 degree Celsius weather in June…I’m all mixed up seasonally…as Wilma would say…TA’s nuts.com!

As I’m back hard at training, I’ve come once again into my Vanilla Dip affection (errrr addiction). My new boss, Mary, asked me to assist her in a computer drawing project. I said I was willing, but I said she need to provide the coffee and a Vanilla Dip donut. Mary had never seen a Vanilla Dip and so headed off Monday morning in search of one at the Tim’s outlet across the way. I’d neglected to tell her that they had sprinkles on them so she was quite traumatized because she didn’t know if she was bringing the right one back. When she arrived in her office, I was sitting in the chair with a sign pinned to my chest. It said, “Will draw for donuts.” And I did. And I reassured her that she bought the perfect Monday morning Vanilla Dip. I always want to train my bosses early.

Of course, it was a long week since I had my Vanilla Dip allotment by 10 am on Monday morning…I had to give in yesterday after the big snowshoe and let Marie buy me the second one of the week. The week before I went over to the Tim’s to get my one Vanilla Dip of the week and was dismayed to see that they only had the dismal Valentine’s Day version with red hearts and pink things instead of sprinkles. “No can do,”I said to myself. I asked the wonderfully polite young man if he had, “A real Vanilla Dip?” He said, “No.” My heart sank. I might have to settle. Then he said, “I can make you one.” A glimmer of hope and the sense that all was well with the world, and the most wonderfully fresh Vanilla Dip I’ve ever had. That might be a record…eight Vanilla Dips (make that nine) in one paragraph.

I was relieved in training this week to realize that I hadn’t lost as much strength or fitness as I thought I did. Lost some here, gained some there but overall, other than some small tweaks here and there, I was able to train at levels close to where I’d been in September before I left for Windhorse. I’m very glad about that since I heard this week that my advanced sea kayaking seminar may need to be cancelled and if that’s the case, I may try to move the climb of Cho Oyu up into this spring (April and May). We’ve been busy working on the website-rearranging it some to list things by adventure (to have the training journals, written accounts and pictures grouped all together to make it easier to navigate. I wrote apiece about why I wanted to climb Cho Oyu and I’ll conclude this week’s update with that.

Turquoise Goddess: A Mountain of Healing

Cho Oyu is considered a prerequisite peak for climbing Mount Everest. This expedition will give me the opportunity to climb at extreme elevations to prepare myself for the ultimate challenge of Everest. The climb will take seven weeks to complete and begins in August 2006. Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world and is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet. It is 8201 meters (26,906 feet) high.

Legend states that Padmasambhaya, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, buried sacred texts on Cho Oyu. He wrote these texts called “Cho”to help heal the world from chaos. “Oyu”is the Tibetan word for turquoise and probably refers to the color of the ice on the flanks of the mountain or the surrounding lakes. Thus, Cho Oyu is often translated as “Turquoise Goddess.”

We are in a time that begs for individual, family, community, national and planetary healing. Our lives can be filled with the chaos, angst, and health issues of 21st century living. I am climbing Cho Oyu in celebration of my own personal healing process and I am dedicating my efforts on this climb to inspire others along on their own healing journeys. Healing can be likened to climbing a mountain; both are arduous journeys fraught with risk and hardship. Facing that danger and suffering holds the promise of tremendous growth and freedom but it demands a mountain of courage to begin such an expedition and even more determination and perseverance to continue when the journey becomes difficult, terrifying, or the way is lost.

In scaling Cho Oyu, I will climb the mountain over and over again, climbing up and down the peak to move supplies and gain acclimatization. In my healing process, I have toiled equally hard. Both journeys are filled with crevasses so deep; I cannot see their bottom and the way around them seems impassable. Mountaineering and healing both require tremendous exertion to achieve both my goal of reaching the summit and my ultimate goal of climbing beyond the past.

There is clarity and liberation that comes to me from hard work. It is a clarity resulting from pushing beyond and not settling for anything less than all I can be. I aim to push, to overcome, to breakdown, to fail, to fall and get up again. And again. And again. I want to do the simple yet profound act of placing one foot in front of the other. For hours and days and weeks at a time. I want to dedicate my entire self to Cho Oyu and to all who have or who will embark on similarly arduous healing journeys.

Thanks to all for your support. Keep those Ring of Fire Challenges coming-I received one this week that suggested that I play my accordion in public (how many of you know that I play the accordion)…and perhaps play it in public while busking money for the climb…I’ll keep you posted as to where and when to find me. Also a reminder again for the slide show on the Windhorse Expedition February 23 at 8:00 pm in Room 4015 in the Science Building at MUN at 8:00 pm. I’ve attached a photo of me in my running blizzard bug outfit-you know I’m all about being a fashion diva.

Have a good week,

TA

Happy Sunny Super Bowl Sunday, 2/2/2006
Today dawned bright in St. John’s. I hadn’t planned to see the sunrise today as I was actually hoping to sleep in but my body had a different plan. Funny thing when you get up early all week-suddenly my body forgets it’s the weekend and 5:00 am on a Sunday seems like a brilliant time to be up. Having done my long run yesterday, there was nothing to do but step into a phone booth and transform into my alter ego, “Domestic Diva.” In a flurry of kitchen-based energy, I constructed maki rolls for tonight’s Super Bowl party, pumpkin pie to free up space in the freezer and apple crisp to use up the apples in the fridge. I won’t have to cook all week now, which is a good thing-since training is vacuuming up my extra time and I’m having to iron out the energy requirements of my new schedule. I even did the dishes.

I spent much of the week glued to my black Ikea chair writing my book. It’s been great fun to revisit last year. Sometimes I even laugh aloud when recounting some of my ring of fire challenges such as the denial of baking Denali brownies. I’m in the market for some more Ring of Fire Challenges. Cho Oyu is 2000 meters (6000 feet) higher than Denali and the expedition is 3 weeks longer so I once again want to train and practice being outside my comfort zone. Please send along your suggestions and I’ll put them in the hat to pull out when I’ve got the space and energy for some extra trials.

I think one of the biggest Ring of Fires I face in climbing Cho Oyu and beyond, is not the climbing itself but the fundraising. It absolutely terrifies me in a way that cold and ice and steep slopes do not. I met with the folks at AppleCore this week to start thinking about a fundraising plan…holy excitement Bat Man…I’ll keep you posted as events/plans/opportunities unfold. If anyone out there would like to be a fundraising mentor/task master-drop me a line-I could probably use someone kicking my butt in that regard. Just like left-footed crossovers, it’s never as fun or easy to practice the stuff we’re not quite as good at…Please also send along any suggestions or contacts you might have…

Speaking of events, I know I’ve always failed to give you enough notice of my slideshows so I’m trying to amend my ways…I’ll be giving a presentation to my camera club on February 23 at 8:00 pm in room 4015 at 8:00 pm on my Windhorse expedition from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu, Nepal. The camera club has gotten used to the presence of TA’s fan club so please feel welcome to come.

One of the other things I’m looking for is ways and ideas for my expeditions to have greater impact/benefit. During last year people would send along stories of how my training was inspiring them and I was always so thrilled to receive such news…I’m now wanting to cultivate ways to give back to the wider world so if you have any ideas-let me know…I’m talking to a group of young folks in mid-February, a Buddhist group in late February, and a Beaver troupe in March.

This week I welcomed training back into my life. It’s always an adjustment to increase the physicality in my life so dramatically but I do love the intentionality, focus, and organization that come from its introduction. Tuesday was one of my favorite kind of training days…full to ridiculous…but a fullness that transforms and inspires me. Woke up early to have a first go back at intervals-those wonderful uphill sprints that just beg philosophy to flow in the neural spaces in my mind. I can’t quite describe the upswelling of gratitude/focus that comes from running up steep hills at 7 in the morning. After the run, I spent 3 hours at the keyboard crafting sentences then headed up to the U for Pilates class and a meeting. I heard a snowstorm was coming the next day so I feared the gym would be closed so I “pre-worked”out. Did my Wednesday work-out in the gym one day early, then headed over to run class for my second run of the day, then off to hockey…I was going to kayak after that but had a bit of a quadraceps pull that I thought needed icing so I headed home for my bag of frozen peas. After this day of many clothes changes, I fell into bed a puddle of mush.

Wednesday was indeed a snow day and Thursday I got to don my “bug” outfit to go for a run during the blizzard. I love the looks I get when I’m out in my ski goggles in the blinding snow and howling wind. I don’t get much more alive than that…wrapped up the workout week in the gym on Friday and with yesterday’s run. Looking forward to the upcoming week now that my body is getting used to the old routine.

I was looking at a gear catalogue this morning. It had the dimensions of the tents we used on Denali. The four of us lived in 65 square feet for 32 days. Small. Tight. Intimate. Can’t wait to do it again. Hope you had a good week-do send along your ideas, challenges, quotes, and whatever else you’d like to fill my in-box with-I look forward to hearing from you.

Hugs,

TA

2/5/2006
I’ll start by saying that I think I’m seasonally challenged. I’ve got what I do in what seasons all mixed up. Friday, in the midst of a pretty good blizzard, Ian, Dan and I went out for a paddle in Witless Bay. The day’s forecast began with a prediction of light winds and 2-4 centimeters of snow-sounded like perfect paddling weather to us. By the time we’d loaded up the boats and driven down to Witless Bay-the forecast had changed to 10 cm. Never wanting to give up too easily, we thought as long as we could get our cars out of the beach parking lot, all would be okay. So we got the boats off the car in a driving snow, suited up, and launched off the steep beach into minor surf. Ian did the most amazing seal launch. We headed up into the wind so the snow was a bit obnoxious-it kept pelting me in the eye. I felt like a boxer in a ring with someone who was in a higher weight class. I lusted for my ski goggles and imagined the even funnier looks I would get wearing my ski goggles sea kayaking than wearing them running. I turned my head as far round as it would go and I sometimes had some success in avoiding the snow punching me the eyes. When my eyes got all teary, I gave them a break by paddling with my eyes closed.

We paddled up the coast, stopped at a surf play spot, and then went a bit further north around a point until it was time to turn tail for home. It was good timing all round as the wind began to pick up and the snow was hurling itself in all directions. The trip home was much easier on the eyes and we zoomed along nicely with a following sea. The steep beach was a bit tricky to land on but we all pulled it off one way or another and then it was quite comical to drag the boats up the cobblestones covered in 10 centimeters of snow. The coldest part of the day was tying the boats back up on the racks in the driving snow. I drove back to town in my wetsuit because I couldn’t imagine undressing in the storm. It was one of those “I can’t believe that I’m doing this because it is so ridiculous but it is so ridiculous that I love doing it” moments.

Then the next day, I went snowshoeing. I loved being on the new fleet of snowshoes the University bought for the program-they were the same ones we used on Denali. I had lots of memories fight for top billing as Marie and I made our way through half-meter snowdrifts in Gallows Cove. Then I realized that I was camping in snow and experiencing minus 30 degree Celsius weather in June…I’m all mixed up seasonally…as Wilma would say…TA’s nuts.com!

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