Everest-007 November 2006

Greetings from Early Morning, 11/26/2006
Last evening was a rare event. I was in bed at 8:50 pm. I was so tired I said, “Stick a fork in me, I’m done.” It must have been braving the pre-Christmas insanity at Stavenger (Commercial Hell) Drive that knocked me down so badly. It wasn’t the depletion day I had so thoroughly planned for, as I had to cancel it, because I pulled my quadriceps tendon doing a squat on Friday morning. I’d been having a fabulous day in the gym savoring strength increases on most lifts when I pushed the weight on the squat bar a tad bit far and got some immediate feedback (though I did set a personal best 🙂

It’s funny–I had said to myself that morning, “Be careful and mindful this morning-you’re extra tired and you don’t want an injury.” Guess I didn’t listen close enough to that voice but I got off lucky as the athletic therapist at work said it was a minor pull and I’ve been icing and using arnica since. I think it won’t keep me out long. I’m going to try a bike ride in a little bit. Learning to heed that inner voice is a key skill. I just finished reading Ed Viesturs book-he was the first US person to climb all 14, 8000 meter peaks without using supplemental oxygen. He has a strong connection with his inner voice and it kept him safe and healthy during 30 Himalayan climbs. His motto is, “The summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.”

The universe sent me a gift this week. His name is Ron Boland and he’s pretty excited by what I am trying to do with my Everest climb. He’s jumped aboard and he’s lending a much-needed boost to my fundraising efforts. With his energy infusion, we’re doing another public presentation at the INCO theatre on December 5th at 7:30 pm.

We’re calling the event: Everest-007: An Evening of Inspiration with TA. Tickets are $10.00 and available from me (or him). It will be a similar show to last April with a few new additions. So–if you had to miss it last spring or if you saw it and wanted your friends to see it, here’s another chance…T-shirts and toques will also be for sale at the event just in time for Christmas. In the first 24 hours of possessing the tickets, Ron already had 100 of them sold…so don’t wait too long to get yours!

I spoke this week at the Boys and Girls Club in St. John’s. It was amazing. I could look out and see the 10 year old girls “falling in love” with me. After the presentation, many of them came up to me and wanted to tell me their dreams, their plans, and check out all of the equipment. Usually I have to guard the sharps (ice axe and crampons) from the boys, but this time it was the girls. One young woman from the group dropped me an email saying she realized that leaving her abusive boyfriend “was her Everest” and that she now wanted to turn her sights to a more positive Everest by setting a goal of running a half marathon by next July.

I heard from another woman who saw my presentation in Outer Cove last week. She thanked me for what I’m doing by saying that she has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer and hadn’t known how she was going to get through each day. Having seen my slideshow, she connected with my message of “one step and at a time-just put one foot in front of the other,” and was beginning to see her way through. A 70-year-old woman with Parkinson’s disease in Ron’s fitness class gave him a donation towards the climb because she wanted me to get up that mountain. As you can imagine, I’ve been deeply moved by all of these moments and I continue to well up as I think of them.

Two weeks from today I begin heading to Argentina. My training thoughts and focus are changing day to day towards the big challenge of Aconcagua. These days, because of the time of year, I spend much of the time training outside in the dark. It’s been educative to notice the feelings of fear that arise in me because of the darkness. I’m more thoughtful about choice of activities and routes that I take. I worry more for my safety and fear being attacked. The other morning I thought, “Wow, if I as a very strong, very physically competent woman can feel this much fear, how is it for other women?” How many other women feel constrained or fearful of being outside after dark? How many folks move indoors or stopped being active because of the darkness?

I ‘ve known academically that fear of attack is a huge constraint for women in terms of actualizing their leisure and recreation but of late, due to the feelings that have arisen in me, I’ve grappled with the enormous reality of this constraint. I pondered what if anything, I could do to change it. With this question in mind, I set an intention for my Aconcagua climb. I like to have something to focus my mind and actions on while climbing or peddling or paddling–to have a cause that I dedicate the merit of my efforts to and so for Aconcagua, I am dedicating my efforts on the mountain to the eradication of violence in all forms.

I will try as I take each step up the mountain to hold an image of a violence-free world in my mind. As a survivor of violence, I know the enormous toil it takes on both the individual and collective levels and I long for such suffering to come to an end. Although this is but a tiny offering, my hope is that by climbing with such mindfulness, I can make some small difference in the world.

On Aconcagua, I will be climbing the Guanacos Valley Route to the Polish Glacier and then descending via the Normal Route. This combination uses the most remote access route to the mountain and ensures good opportunities for acclimatization. So as you settle down for Christmas or other holiday celebrations, send some good thoughts and warm hugs my way. Weather permitting, we’re likely to summit on Boxing Day (one month from today).

Aconcagua, which means “Stone Sentinel,” is the highest peak in South America and the highest peak outside the Himalayas. It is the third of the “Seven Summits” I will attempt to climb. Located in Argentina near the border with Chile, Aconcagua rises approximately 1300 meters above its neighboring peaks and it truly dominates the rugged Andes mountain range. I depart St. John’s on December 10th and return January 2nd. I hope to update my website from the mountain so I hope you’ll follow along on the climb once again.

Thanks for all of your tremendous support. It means the world to me. I hope to see some of you on the fifth! Have a good week.


Total Vanilla Dips this week = 2, Total for the Climb = 17

Howdy from an 18 Degree November Day, 11/19/2006
I’m confused–the weather is so warm and lovely it must be July–not November. So much for my acclimatization to winter temperatures for Aconcagua! A recent check of the temperature on the summit of Aconcagua revealed a balmy minus 29 Celsius so this heat wave isn’t helping me prepare at all. Even though the weather isn’t cooperating with my acclimatization, a colleague at Memorial University is.

Fabien Basset, one of the exercise physiologists in the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, is helping me train for both Aconcagua and Everest by allowing me to use the “Go2Altitude” system in his lab. This very fancy machine allows athletes and aspiring mountaineers to train as if they are at altitude. I tried it out this week and spent 10 minutes walking uphill at 4000 meters on Wednesday. The system hypoxinates the air you breathe through a mask and you can just watch your O2 saturation levels drop instantly.

On Denali, we tracked our O2 saturation levels daily as we ascended the mountain. At its lowest, my O2 sat was 69%. Just to give that some perspective, if I walked into the ER here in St. John’s at sea level with an O2 sat of 92%, they’d likely put me in the intensive care. Wednesday we brought my O2 sat down to 71% and Fabien was amazed that I was feeling very little effect during the trial.

Afterward, I did feel a bit off, lightheaded, and a bit headachy–just like altitude–for a few hours. I look forward to further workouts over the remaining weeks before Aconcagua to see what influence they have on my performance at 6500 meters. I also think it will be invaluable to have had practice breathing through a mask-as I will be using supplemental oxygen on Mount Everest.

You can see a picture of me wearing the gear (as well as a few other training pictures-and the Hampster Ball!) at


Headed out in the pitch dark this morning at 6:20 to do a long session on my bike. The road was damp from a night of drizzle and a fog hung low to the ground. As the sun came up, I was treated to a dose of some of the most gorgeous morning light I’ve ever seen. The fog was tinted autumn and the emerging light sparkled like fireflies on a summer’s eve.

It was another occasion where I thanked my intense training schedule for having me out to catch such delightful experiences. I completed what I’m calling The Tour De Avalon as I rode up the Avalon via Marine Drive to Torbay, Pouch Cove, Bauline, Portugal Cove, and St. Phillips, probably riding close to 80 kilometers before 10:45 in the morning.

Thanks to all who volunteered to drive me down Signal Hill. I’ll put you to work next weekend when I complete my last depletion day before Aconcagua-it will involve four hours of riding then four hours of climbing Signal Hill.

It was an exciting week in the Everest-007 outreach program. I visited St. Francis of Assisi School in Outer Cove for the second time this fall. This time, I spoke to the entire school, about 200 K-6 students. The school was kicking off its “Step by Step Healthy Living Challenge.” The custodian painted the most beautiful mountain on the gym wall. As the kids complete various physical activity challenges, a climber (who will be named next week) will move up the mountain. I love seeing the eyes of the kindergarteners get huge when I put my big Everest boots down beside them before starting my talk. After the event was over, I went and spent some time in both Grade Five classes. I can see that I’m going to have a very special connection with those kids before the school year is out.

That reminds me to tell you that my 8000 meter boots arrived this week-La Sportiva Olympus Mons. The are a triple layered boot system with an integrated overboot. They are pretty slick and I’m eager to try them out on Aconcagua. I deal with my ever-growing financial deficit by reminding myself that $69.00 a toe is a bargain for healthy, warm toes 🙂 . I’ll try to post a picture of the new boots to my website soon.

Along with St. Francis, I spoke to the Home Schoolers Support Group, an attentive audience of parents and kids aged 3-50. The organizer baked cookies in the shape of my Everest-007 logo and sold them after my presentation as an expedition fundraiser. A friend sponsored the printing of some postcards to be able to give away at such presentations. I tried them out with this group and the postcards were very well received. I saw them proudly held in small hands and I was even asked to sign a few autographs on them.

Along with speaking, I also held an introductory meeting with a local youth serving organization about potentially partnering up to further the outreach goals of Everest-007. I’m hoping we can come up with a program idea/focus that help the youth organization raise some funds while I’m actually climbing Everest. I’d hoped to meet with the provincial Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Recreation but the meeting had to be delayed until this week.

The toques and t-shirts have arrived as well. I’ll post a picture of them in the first gallery mentioned above. The toques are selling fast so do let me know if you are interested in one or a dozen :-).

Thanks for coming along on this journey-you help me cover the miles and climb the hills.

Much appreciation,


Total Vanilla Dips this week = 1, Total for the Climb = 15

Mid November Greetings to All, 11/12/2006
It was a week of settling back into home and training. The first few days the huge numbers of tasks requiring my attention threatened to overwhelm me but I keep remembering that the only way to climb a mountain (and reduce a to-do list) is one step at a time. In continuing to take every moment and experience as part of my Everest path, I recognized that practice in dealing with overwhelm was a keystone in my training efforts.

I learned this week who my personal sherpa will be for the climb: Mingma Ongel Sherpa. I was impressed by his performance during last year’s climbing season and requested him specifically. Sherpa people are named for the day of the week on which they are born. Mingma means Tuesday. When I trekked in Nepal in 2002, some of you may remember Dawa Sherpa who trekked with Liz and I. He was born on a Monday.

Mingma’s photograph and the following description of him are published on Wally Berg’s website. Mingma climbed to the summit of Everest both this fall and last spring. I look forward to meeting him in person and climbing with him.


Mingma Ongel from Phortse, is 29 years old. He is married and has one son and one daughter. On his farm, he grows buckwheat and potatoes and has 4 yaks. His first Everest expedition was in 2000, altogether he has been on five trips to Mount Everest with 4 summits (once via the North Ridge, thrice by the SE Ridge). He has been to Cho Oyu twice and has made the top once. Mingma has been up Parcharme, Mera and Cholatse. He has traveled to India and England and has attended the Khumbu Climbing School 3 times.

As some of you know, the Omamobile is wearing an ever-increasing coat of bumper stickers. Those who have little faith in my wondrous automobile chide that the bumper stickers are actually holding her together. Last week, I specifically got one to stick on near the lock on the driver’s side. It is an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “Do something every day that scares you.” This is my new life mantra and by placing it in spot where I can’t miss it, I make sure to push myself to life up to my intention. So, each day this week, I did something that scared me usually involving the phone: calling folks for information or to set up meetings or (heaven forbid) to ask them for something.

Friday, I did a very scary thing…well, actually it turned out not to be as frightening as I first imagined, but it was a huge step on the fundraising journey. A friend arranged for he and I to meet the CEO of a local large corporation. He greased the wheels and paved the way and then turned the meeting over to me. I had prepared a customized audiovisual presentation to show the CEO as I know how powerful the images tell my story and what I’m trying to do.

After I finished showing him the lofty pictures, he asked how far along I was in fundraising. When I said, “A third of the way there!” He whistled and sighed, “You’ve got a long road in front of you.” I answered, “I knew that, but that the climb was happening no matter what.” He looked at me surprised and I said, “I mortgaged the house.” He got a bit misty eyed and said, “You embody commitment,” a theme I’d emphasized in the presentation.

In the end, we had a grand chat and perhaps some sponsorship or speaking engagements will come of it but more importantly, I got my feet wet, I faced some fear, and walked through some of my stuff about self-promotion. I appreciated my friend being there as it felt like I had the benefit of training wheels of my first foray through the icefall of selling my expedition on the corporate stage.

Speaking of self-promotion, I was named by the Globe and Mail Magazine as one of five “Class Acts” in their recent University Report Card issue. They recognized university teachers who were known for their innovative and creative teaching. It was a tremendous honour to be identified on the national level. Here is the URL for the Globe’s piece and following that is the URL for my university’s weekly podcast that highlights my appearance in the Globe. It’s about three minutes in.


This is indeed, the weekly update of URL’s. I haven’t had a chance to post a picture of me in the hamster ball so if you can’t wait, you can check one out in this week’s issue of The Express. They published a picture along with my column about being a hamster. You have to download the most recent issue and I’m somewhere near the back.


One of the ways I train these days is to do multiple ascents of Signal Hill wearing my forty pound pack which will grow to fifty this week. Thursday I broke a personal record and did four ascents and descents. The down climbs are hard on my body and take away time from an elevated heart rate. I’m looking for some folks who might have some time to spare to drive me down the hill on some big training days-it would involve meeting me on the top and dropping me off on the bottom-you could even drive the Omamobile as a door prize! I could arrange it so several folks chipped in so no one would have to sit on the top of the hill for long. I’d like to work my way up to 10 or 12 ascents. Let me know if you’d be willing to be on my call list for such a thing-it would most likely be on a weekend day or Thursday.

Another scary thing that happened this week was finding out that because of a miscommunication, I need to submit another $10,000 US to the climb two months sooner than I thought. After a major inhale, I recognized it as another opportunity to cement my commitment to the process and thought, “Heck, what’s a few more months of interest?” It gives me greater drive to move my “merchandise.” I’m still having trouble seeing myself as having a “product line”…but I’ve got one and it’s coming off the manufacturing line on Tuesday or Wednesday (stop the planet-when did I start talking like an entrepreneur?).

I’ll be delivering the toques to folks who ordered them this week and I’ll be displaying my new, four color line of T-shirts frequently (am I really saying this?) While training this morning, I had a thought about the toques-every year around the holiday season there is a mitten/warm hat tree that folks can donate hats and mitts to-if you’re looking for the gift that gives twice-buy a few toques and then donate them to the mitten tree

I hope you are well. I highly recommend the practice of doing something that scares you every day…write and tell me about how you scared yourself this week.



Total Vanilla Dips this week = 4, Total for the Climb = 14

Greetings from the Minneapolis Airport 11/6/2006
I’m flying home from the Association of Experiential Education (AEE) International conference. It’s been a rich and full week filled with learning and lots of stepping outside the box. I dropped in to visit my family in Edmonton for 2.5 days on the way to the conference and dressed up as a Russian Czar to accompany Rayne and Xander on their trick or treat rounds. Those of you who have heard my talks will be familiar with the picture of Rayne and Xander at Halloween a year ago-Rayne was a giraffe and Xander a lion. This year I saw Rayne become Ariel and Xander the Great Pumpkin.

The theme of the AEE conference was “Out of the Box and Into the Circle.” This theme aptly describes my week. In my professional circles, I “came out” this week as an Everest climber. The conference daily newspaper announced the expedition to all 850 attendees and I assumed a new level of visibility in this quest. This visibility, both at the AEE conference and in my life and work in Newfoundland, is akin to many of the Ring of Fire challenges I undertook in my preparations for Denali. I knew the Everest path would ask greater and greater things of me and I am easing into these requests over time. Assuming a role of prominence and visibility is one of my challenges and growth edges as I would prefer in some ways to keep a low profile prior to the climb but Everest and my mission for my Everest climb demand much more of me.

My first presentation at the conference was to the Women’s Professional Group pre-conference. I shared some of the stories and images from my Road to Everest and the women were very moved and inspired by what they saw and heard–some being touched deeply by the idea of going after big dreams. One woman was so struck by the idea of “giving dreams” that she bought 15 of my expedition toques and plans to give them as Christmas gifts with little notes about how she was giving both me and her gift recipients, a dream.

At one point in the conference, many of the presentation attendees hid out in my room to be able to sing “Ring of Fire” as I entered the room. They also short-sheeted the bed and played a few other jokes as well. I felt like I came into a new circle of supporters and dreamers.

My second presentation was to another group that assembled at the main conference. Again, the audience was very attentive and they were kind enough to buy the remaining toques. It was so fun to see so many folks wearing them around the conference. I posted a picture of one of my wonderful support circle of toque wearers on my website in the Road to Everest photo gallery.

After this picture was taken, I went out to dinner with several of the folks. We started talking about sea kayaking in Labrador and one of the woman said, “TA, my Puffer Fish is starting to poke me.” In my presentations, I use the metaphor of a Puffer Fish to symbolize how dreams poke us from the inside out with their spines until we pay attention to them. They happened to be selling plastic Puffer Fish at the conference so I have a new prop for my presentations.

I also talk about how I know that a dream is truly a dream…”I know something is truly a dream because when it first appears, it appears impossible.” That perception of impossibility is a signal to me that I’m seeing a dream being born and I have to make a choice about whether or not to accept the invitation.

I had the great privilege of seeing the Body World Exhibit in St. Paul at the Science Museum. The ability to peer deeply into the hidden geography and topography of the human body was fascinating, horrifying, humbling, and moving. The complexities of our anatomy and function are miraculous in my mind and I’m lacking for words to describe the experience.

I didn’t train much during the trip. I find it very hard to find the discipline while traveling. Instead, I used the week to rest and mentally prepare for the last four weeks of hard training before I leave for Aconcagua in December. Over the next month, I need to manage the delicate balance of keeping the Everest mission moving forward while getting mentally and physically prepared for the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere.

Thanks for all your continued support. There will be a new order of Everest-007 toques and T-shirts arriving this week…just in time for easy Christmas shopping 🙂 I hope all is well with you.


Total Vanilla Dips this week = 0, Total for the Climb = 10

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