Another Rich and Full Week 1/27/2007
Another busy week has unfolded on the Road to Everest. I received a gift from my niece in the mail. Rayne is four and a budding artist. She painted me a picture of Mount Everest. She wanted to put me on the top but there wasn’t quite enough room so she painted a heart. Beside the summit in the sky, she painted the moon. Rayne’s middle name is Ameris which means moon. She put her handprint in the middle of the mountain so I would have a hand to hold when the mountain was steep. Let’s just say that despite the stormy cold weather here this week in St. John’s, I melted on the spot. I have the painting prominently displayed and looking at it has become a key part of my visualization practice.
I welcomed my friend and Tibet bike trip companion, Greg, to St. John’s this week. He came up from Los Angeles to film a documentary about my preparations for Everest. We’ve had some fun times this week shooting scenes from the top of Signal Hill in freezing drizzle to a crowded Pilates class to a staircase in the Education building. Greg hopes to have something ready for the Feb. 18 show at the INCO. Ticket sales are beginning to pick up so please be in touch if you’d like to get one. Also, tickets are available at Arthur James and Wallnuts. Given the filmmaking, I find myself quite reflective on this whole Everest project and what it means to me and to the community. It also has rekindled my passion for filmmaking so who knows where that may lead.
I’m excited to attend the Banff Festival of Mountain Films tonight because it will both inspire me and motivate me for the next while. Greg and I will also get to see the film Asimut that our friends Mel and Ollie made in Tibet. Many of my worlds and experiences have come together this week. We’re also hoping for a good night of t-shirt, carabiner, and ticket sales.
I spoke to a wonderfully engaged group of children at Holy Trinity Elementary in Torbay this week and cut the ribbon to open the new Good Life Fitness center in the Village Mall. I hadn’t realized a head of time that I would be the only “celebrity” at that event. I was a bit startled when I looked around and realized I was it. They were very kind to donate a membership so I can have a state of the art facility to train in over the next months. They have a rotating stairway machine! This means I’ll be able to climb continuous stairs without having to take the elevator down…..yahoo!
Folks have been asking me about how to help…there are many ways big and small. I’m still hoping to secure a major sponsor so if you have any connections that you could introduce me to…that would be great. I need lots of batteries: double A’s and triple A’s to power everything on the mountain. If you’ve cooked up a big pot of something and want to send some leftovers my way to stock my freezer, you’ll save me from cooking a meal. I would love to have some inspirational notes to take with me on the mountain-they need to be small and light. Satellite phone airtime. Buy a carabiner. Tell a friend about the climb. Chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Lot of hugs ?.
Time to hit the gym…take care and have a good week.
Total Vanilla Dips the past week = 3, Total for the Climb = 30
Walls are funny things. 1/21/2007
Walls are funny things. Sometimes they are solid, other times permeable, and sometimes they blown over by a wolf with big lungs. Walls separate, walls divide, walls stop forward progress, walls protect. Been thinking a lot of walls since I wrote last week of hitting the wall in my training. Thanks to those who wrote with encouragement–your words comforted me and propelled me forward.
Monday morning I continued to lag and struggle. Training felt hard and I didn’t like being there. My first thought was to take a break and to stop the uncomfortable feelings by running from the gym. Buddhism has taught me, however, to stick with less comfy spots, so I just observed my mind, hung in, and made my way through my work-out. After yoga, I headed down to the lab for hypoxia training. I have a new training protocol that involves running intervals under hypoxic conditions, in essence a pretty tough work-out. I didn’t know how the session was going to go, given my mental state.
I got all hooked up to the machine and started the warm-up. When the beeper rang for the first interval, I began to run. It was the first time I had run in months because of injuries. And I ran and rested. Ran and rested. Ran and rested. Ran and rested. Ran and rested. Ran and rested. Running at a decent speed on the treadmill while hypoxic took every ounce of focus I could give it. Very quickly I was sweating up a storm, dramatically out of breath, giddy from the exertion, and thrilled to be running again. I noticed that instead of running away from the wall, I was running though it.
Paradox had reared its confusing head once again. When everything in my being was screaming run away from exercise and towards inactivity, I found it was critical to actually run towards exertion. I did as Pema Chodron often suggests, “Run towards the biting dog.” Rather than training less hard this week, I trained significantly harder. I added five hours of training to my agenda and pushed myself through the wall. After Monday’s step class (again the first in months because of my ITB injury), I knew the wall had dissipated and my training would become self-motivating once again. So, overall the week’s training went quite well and being back to some traditional training activities was terrific–I made it to three step classes with a 30 pound pack and did 4 runs on the treadmill.
By Friday, my body was filled with the lovely fatigue of a week’s intensive effort and my mind was satisfied with its renewed commitment to the training process. I’d hoped to do my long session on Saturday but the universe offered up a Ring of Fire challenge instead. Given the bitter cold weather, I spent much of the week camping out in my house without water. The pipes got hypothermia and refused to allow any icy cold water to flow through their veins. Fortunately, from years of outdoor living experience and a few other occasions of frozen pipes, I was well versed in strategies for getting along without running water.
Imagine my surprise when I came home from work on Friday and found my toilet just about to overflow. The pipes had thawed during the day and the toilet had stuck on thus sending a trickle of water down the sewer pipe that after a few hours clogged the opening like a ripe case of arteriosclerosis. In a moment of unskilled problem-solving, I flushed and sent the water cascading all over the bathroom and down into the utility room below. After I rescued my hockey gear from the flood (I had two game to play that night by god), I threw down a gauntlet of towels to stem the flow of water. I deftly turned the water off at the toilet and began to reconstruct the events that led to the moment at hand.
I enlisted the help of my neighbor, Brian, to strategize the best course of action. We decided that I need to thaw the sewer pipe so I positioned a small heater to do the job and went to fix my supper. A few minutes later, I heard the toilet empty and I gave thanks for the easy fix. Then I heard gushing downstairs. Never a good sound. I rushed down to see the utility room now overflowing with a reeking noxious brown liquid that won’t be described further (some things are best left unsaid). I quickly ran to summon Brian and we realized that there were two blockages and only one had thawed.
I turned to the miracle named the Shop Vac, removed its dry suck innards, and quickly tried to vacuum the unmentionable before it spread too far. Of course, I had to pause to think about why the universe appeared to have it out for me. There was no choice but to go with the flow as they say and see if I could get enough cleaned up so as to not miss hockey. Having to clean up such a mess was a disaster but missing hockey would be a travesty. Fortunately, the mighty Shop Vac came through and I got the room to a state where I thought it could survive without my attention for a few hours.
I skipped the post game refreshments to come home to my mini New Orleans. It was hard to progress in the clean-up since I still had no ability to access the city’s sewer systems. I recalled the actions of the plumber the last time he was here and got brave and did what he did. I removed the trap and risked a greater short-term mess in order to achieve the long-term radical goal of water in, water out. After surviving the necessary brown geyser akin to Yellowstone’s finest, I had access to the deep recesses of my plumbing and could send down boiling water to begin to dissolve the icy plaque that was stopping the flow. Four treatments later, very slow progress was had and it was now long after midnight and time for rest.
I woke up at 4 wondering about the state of the disaster zone and couldn’t get back to sleep so I went down to check. The hot water had finally done the trick and I now had a functioning sewer again. With the modern conveniences of water and drain, I could now begin the clean up in earnest. I knew on so little sleep that a long training session was out of the question so took Saturday as a rest and clean-up day.
I’ve heard it said, ”It’s a mark of leadership to adjust.” That’s what this week’s Ring of Fire taught me…adjust, deal, don’t cry over spilled milk or other unmentionable liquids, just set to, take it step by step, take frequent breaks, thank the chemical industry for Febreeze, change the plan, plan the change, and know that in the end, at some point humor will find a way to make any hard situation a bit less hard.
From what I hear and have experienced in the past, this week’s Ring of Fire may be perfect training for the outhouse experiences at base camp and Camp Two on Everest. It’s a fact that groceries go in and garbage comes out whether we’re at sea level or 8000 meters and practicing flexibility and humor are two of the best skills I know how to deal with such messy situations.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the week had some awesome moments as well. I spoke Thursday at the Newfoundland School for the Deaf. I felt a deep connection with the audience and enjoyed the experience of speaking using an interpreter. I often use gestures while I speak and I liked seeing how the interpreter signed things like Puffer Fish and crampon. There are some pictures on my website from that talk. Here’s the URL: http://taclimbsdenali.com/dynamic_photos.asp?strAdventure=everest It was great to be back speaking to young people and watching their reactions to the various stories I tell.
Time continues to breeze by and I’m amazed that I’m leaving for Everest in eight weeks. It seems hard to believe that after so many months of talking about it and fundraising for it that my departure could be so close. There is much to do between then and now. Like climbing a mountain, the only way to get through my big to do list is to break it down into manageable bites and steps. Step by step. That’s the only way. So I’ll keep stepping, breaking through walls, sitting with lots of fear and excitement, and adjusting my schedule to get it all to fit.
Along with tickets to the Feb. 18th event, I’m selling small keychain-sized carabiners as a fundraiser. The carabiners are inscribed with my website and have the mission of the expedition screened on a small strap. The carabiners are $5 each. I usually carry a supply around with me and I’ll be selling them at the Banff Festival of Mountain Films (Jan. 27/28) here in St. John’s and at the Feb. 18 event. The carabiners are your change to “Get Linked” to Everest-007.
Hope your week was less eventful than mine…take good care.
Total Vanilla Dips the past week = 2, Total for the Climb = 27
TA Named to Most Influential Women in Sport List 1/16/2007
The dominant performance by many of Canada’s top women athletes at the 2006 Winter Olympics, and the people who helped them get there, had a significant impact on the 2006 edition of CAAWS’ list of the Most Influential Canadian Women in Sport and Physical Activity. Five of the women named to the list were medallists at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, along with two of the coaches who worked with them.
The list is compiled by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS). Twenty women were named to the 2006 list, and one young woman was named as “one to watch“. The list recognizes women who have made a significant impact as athletes, administrators, advocates, board members, coaches, executives, officials, policy makers and volunteers. While many of the women named have had significant careers, the selection to the list reflects their influential activity in the calendar year 2006.
This is the fifth time CAAWS has announced its Most Influential Women list. In presenting the 2006 names, Winnipeg’s Janice Forsyth, Chair of the CAAWS Board of Directors outlined what constitutes an influential woman, “While many of the women named to our list this year are truly outstanding athletes, what makes them influential is often what takes place in addition to their competitive careers. We have been inspired by the stands that they have taken to keep sport drug-free, to focus attention on people who are much less fortunate and to give back to the sports they love. Others have chosen to exercise their influence in many different ways, by opening up research forums, speaking and educating others, from recreational participants to the elite level of athletes in sport. These women also represent people who have made sport a professional career, as well as those who serve as volunteer administrators and officials. They have all made the Canadian sport and physical activity world a better placed due to their contributions this year.”
The Olympic athletes named to the list were Cindy Klassen, the dominant athlete at the Torino Games, Clara Hughes, who matched her Gold medal with a pledge to raise funds for Right to Play, Chandra Crawford, the Gold medallist who is encouraging girls to participate in sport, Cassie Campbell who retired after Canada’s Gold medal in Ice Hockey and has already made her presence felt in hockey broadcasting, and Beckie Scott, who won a Silver medal in Torino, and is now serving on many sport governing boards and committees. Recognized for their coaching capabilities were Melody Davidson, the first full-time coach of the Women’s National Ice Hockey Team, and Xiuli Wang, who coached her speed skaters to outstanding performances in Torino.
Several of the women who were new to the list this year have been the first women in their positions, or have invested their time and energy to encourage, inform and inspire others. New names on the list include Women’s Tennis Tour President, Stacey Allaster; Wendy Bedingfield, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at Acadia University; Slava Corn, an international gymnastics official; Sylvie Fréchette, now an Administrator with the Canadian Olympic Committee; Marielle Ledoux, a leading sport Nutritionist and Professor at the University of Montreal; Moira Lassen, a Weightlifting Volunteer and Official; TA Loeffler, Professor and outdoor educator from Memorial University; St; Allison McNeill, the Head Coach of Canada’s National Women’s Basketball Team; and Kathy Newman, Executive Director, BC Wheelchair Sports Association;
Returning to the list were Silken Laumann, Author of the book Child’s Play; Nancy Lee, who left the CBC to head up the 2010 Olympic Broadcast Services in Vancouver; Chantal Petitclerc, who maintained her athletic competition at the highest level, and Carla Qualtrough, the new President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
Named as the “One to Watch” was 11-year old Holly Micuda of Oakville, ON. After watching the 2006 Olympic Winter Games on television, she came up with the idea of helping raise money for athletes’ training, coaching and living expenses. Now, more than 17,000 of the $3 wristbands have been sold with the proceeds going to Canadian Athletes Now, a non-profit organization that raises funds to support Canadian athletes prepare for international competition.
The 2006 Most Influential Women (in alphabetical order) are:
Stacey Allaster, President, Women’s Tennis Association Tour; Toronto, ON (St. Petersburg, FL)
Wendy Bedingfield, Dean, Acadia University; Wolfville, NS
Cassie Campbell, Athlete, Ice Hockey and Sports Commentator; Calgary, AB
Slava Corn, Official, Gymnastics; Toronto, ON
Chandra Crawford, Athlete, Cross Country Skiing; Canmore, AB
Melody Davidson, Coach, Ice Hockey; Calgary, AB
Sylvie Fréchette, Administrator, Canadian Olympic Committee; Montreal, QC
Clara Hughes, Athlete, Speed Skating, Glen Sutton, QC
Marielle Ledoux, Nutritionist and Professor, University of Montreal; Montreal, QC
Cindy Klassen, Athlete, Speed Skating, Winnipeg, MB & Calgary, AB
Moira Lassen, Volunteer and Official, Canadian Weightlifting Federation; Whitehorse, YK
Silken Laumann, Author and Children’s Advocate; Victoria, BC
Nancy Lee, Broadcaster, Olympic Broadcast Services Vancouver ; Toronto, ON
TA Loeffler, Professor and outdoor educator; Memorial University; St. John’s, NL
Allison McNeill, Coach, Women’s Basketball, Burnaby, BC
Kathy Newman, Executive Director, BC Wheelchair Sports Association; Vancouver, BC
Chantal Petitclerc, Athlete, Paralympics, Montreal, QC
Carla Qualtrough, President; Canadian Paralympic Committee; Vancouver, BC
Beckie Scott, Athlete, Cross Country and Athlete Advocate; Vermillion, AB
Xiuli Wang, Speed Skating Coach, Calgary, AB
“One to Watch”
Holly Micuda, Fundraiser; Oakville, ON
Hitting the Wall 1/14/2007
After we summitted Aconcagua, we descended back to high camp dehydrated, hungry, and downright exhausted. Hitting camp, we began to toss back food and water to help our bodies recovery from the Herculean effort and to prepare for the next day’s descent to base camp. We plunged down 2000 meters to be greeted by beer and pizza. We spent the afternoon in celebration and looking back towards the summit asking the question, “Did we really stand up there yesterday?” At times even now, I stop and ask the same question.
The afternoon we moved to high camp, I really doubted whether I would even have a chance to try for the summit. After setting up camp by moving lots of rocks to make the tents super solid, a big jackhammer set up residence in my skull. A pounding headache battered my brain with the tenacity of a two year old who wants a treat. Waves of anticipated disappointment washed over my being and I slumped into the tent with my water bottle. I sucked back quart after quart of three-week outdoor cooking infused snow melt and began to breathe.
Water and air were the only hopes of mitigating the jagged throb that was now my existence. I lay in my sleeping bag drawing in deep breath after deep breath. I did the Buddhist practice of Tonglen whereby I drew in my pain and the pain of all others with altitude headaches with every breath and then sent out relief with every exhalation. In. Out. Hope. In. Out. Can’t ascend with a headache. Breathe. Drink. Hope. In. Out. In. Out. Hope. In. Out. Can’t ascend with a headache. Breathe. Drink. Hope. In. Out. As you already know, it eventually worked. The headache eased and I was able to give the summit a go.
My homecoming continued through the week. I allowed myself to slide back into life slowly and relaxedly by taking the week off from all physical activity. I started training again on Monday because I felt rested enough to begin and I feared losing too much ground.
It’s been a roller coaster week of both intense highs and lows. I had fun appearing on TV twice, giving radio interviews, and reading the media accounts of my Aconcagua climb. I’m adjusting to my new life state of “being famous.” This week people stopped me on the street, in the bank, in the grocery store, and all about town to congratulate me on my latest summit. It’s touching to me that folks are moved to do that but I do find it a bit strange as well.
A groin pull is every hockey player’s nightmare. On my first stride of Monday night’s game, the dreaded sensation crept into my awareness. I skated gingerly for the rest of the game and went right home to my ice pack. I made the very mature (for me) decision to give up my Tuesday and Wednesday games to give the pull time to heal. I swathed it in arnica, took Epsom salts baths, and sent lots of healing energy towards it. I skated two games Friday night with it wrapped up tight and I’m thrilled that it did pretty well. A nasty tumble backwards however, has given me a bruised butt on the other side so at least now I’m even. Took another Epsom salts bath this morning!
Fortunately both injuries are minor and I’m confident I’ll heal right up but given I am leaving NINE (eeekkk, terror, oh my god, time is flying, ahhhhhhh) weeks from today I am aware that the time for healing is ever shortening and I’ll need to be mindful of getting hurt. It’s tempting to wrap myself up in bubble wrap but I know that hockey is an integral part of my training and indeed, my life…so I’ll play up until the night before I leave.
I continue to receive stories of how folks are taking on new challenges, getting more active, changing their lives because of what I’m doing. I am moved every time I hear of such stories. After I did a talk at St. Francis of Assisi School in Outer Cove, they launched a physical activity program at the school where the children contribute physical activity hours as a way of moving a climber up a mountain painted on their gym wall. I heard yesterday the climber is moving up quite nicely. The phone has started to ring off the hook and I booked over 10 presentations in last two days. No worries of me getting bored before I go.
Along with transitioning home, the week was filled with the intensity of loss. A student I was close to from the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, died on Tuesday. It was a tough week grieving his passing and staring impermanence in the face. He loved to work out and frequently chatted with me in the Strength and Conditioning centre. He encouraged me to take my “greens” to help my body recover after big training sessions and he was a big fan of my Everest climb. I know when times get tough on Everest, the memory of his hard work and persistence as a student and as an athlete will spur me on. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this most difficult time.
Sundays are my long training days. Today was a rare Sunday where I didn’t feel like training at all. It took a shoe horn to lever me out of my warm bed into the cold dark morning. Trails were icy and the whole session was a mental struggle. At some point the metaphor of a marathon came to mind. I’ve been training for ten months now, and with the small taste of training freedom I got when I first returned from Argentina, I’m now hitting “The Wall,” the part of the marathon where the body and/or mind doesn’t want to go on…it may be a time where I have to revert back to the system of rewards or treats to keep myself at it for the next two months. In reality I have 7 training weeks left–not many–though I remind myself that this time, training can’t stop when I hit the mountain. The expedition is so long that I’ll have to sort out how to keep up my strength and conditioning over the acclimatization period.
I imagine that I may have to rely on some will and determination over the next while to keep me focused and putting in the training hours. Recognizing my training fatigue, (and knowing I’ve gotten through this point before in preparing for both Denali and Elbrus), I could use some encouragement from you all this week. Please drop me a note with a funny story or a moving story or just tell me to get off my butt and out the door…
Tickets for TA’s Road to Everest II are on sale now. The show is on February 18th at 7:30 at the INCO Theatre on the MUN campus. The show promises a dramatic opening and lots of new images and stories from my Road to Everest. I’ll be highlighting the adventures I had on Elbrus and Aconcagua. Currently I’m selling the tickets…I may try to get a few other places to sell them as well. Let me know how many tickets you would like or if you would be willing to take a few to sell. Tickets at $10.00.
Have a good week. Thanks for all the kind congratulations. Take good care and send hugs.
Total Vanilla Dips the past two weeks = 4, Total for the Climb = 25
Happy New Year 1/4/2007
How do I distill three weeks of intense experience into words that can share the intricacies and nuances of that time? With great difficulty it appears…I know my preferred writing style is often chronological but I think I’ll step out and push myself to reflect on my Aconcagua experience in a different way.
What do we do when faced with a diminishing time schedule and 130 kilometer per hour winds? We do as the Chinese Proverb suggests, “We have little time so we must proceed very slowly.” We were already at Camp One much longer than we wanted to be…the weather forecast wasn’t great but every team except ours moved up. A delicate study in peer pressure and restraint resulted in much logicisticating, gnashing, and impatience as we sat idly for our third day in a row. That night as the wind imitated runaway freight train after runaway freight train, our thoughts drifted to the higher camps and we worried how the others were surviving such a vicious night.
The next day as we sat once more, the mountain bled teams down its flanks. Battered humans limped down from higher camps and fled the mountain in disgust after being hammered through the night by the unrelenting winds. We sat, unscathed, and able to climb higher the next day when the weather finally broke. Patience, in the impossible face of thinning time, is indeed a virtue.
Coccoon. My tent often felt like a nylon cocoon. A safe place to crawl into, to rest, to sleep, to recharge, to escape the pounding of the elements. I marveled at how the thin walls offered such protection and respite and gave thanks for every gust they withstood. Inside its walls, the temperature would rise to a bearable warmth, layers could be shed, and thoughts could be thought. The thin orange wall held the line between life and death, comfort and pain, sleep and exhaustion.
We meet some Pentitentes on our third day trekking towards basecamp. We’d all read about them, seen pictures, and thought of them as beautiful from afar. Meeting them up close brought a different view: a slick, sharp, dangerous obstacle course that demanded agility, patience, and great effort to surmount. Pentitentes are the icy remains of snowfields sculpted into kneeling snow parishioners asking for their sins to be absolved. Given more time and oxygen and my digital SLR, I could have had lots of fun photographing these unique South American snow formations.
Altitude is the ultimate humbler. It stripes away speed and replaces it with a necessity for slow movement. Any rapid action results in severe panting or lightheadedness. Slow. Steady. Rhythmic breathing. One step, one breath. Even after days. Even after coming down from high. Slow is the way. The only way. It’s hard to imagine at sea level just how slowly we move at altitude. The memory is short. Try it sometime. Breathe. Take a step. Breathe again. Take another step. Imagine a slow moving sloth in the zoo. Move like him. Deliberate. Overcome the lack of oxygen with deliberate movement and deliberate thought. It’s like being drunk for weeks without the buzz just the intense need for mindfulness and focus.
When venturing into environs where the body isn’t designed to go, the mind needs to make up the difference by being even stronger. You must will yourself to eat. You must will yourself to drink. And drink. And drink. One liter for every 1000 meters of elevation…so near the top we are drinking close to two gallons each per day. What goes in must come out and sleep is always interrupted by both the altitude and the need to “dehydrate.” The 12 hours nights become a series of cat naps interrupted by high risk adventures with the pee bottle. Indeed, a urinary “incident” almost costs me my summit attempt by dampening my only set of long underwear but I manage to get them dried in time. The smallest of details can stand in the way of the summit.
Hardship. That’s life at altitude. Vision. Views from high places. Stark understanding. Rising above. Seeing nothing higher. Seeing in new ways. This is what makes the hardship both bearable and worth it. Seeing and then coming down having seen. Pushing through. Giving up comfort. Working with my mind. Finding small pockets of fun and absurdity and laughter and connection. Seeing the morning light dance circles. Watching the evening sun drain from the hills. Sinking into a rich rhythm of physical exertion. Learning the lessons that come from days and days of outdoor living, the whispers of the stars, and the drone of the wind. All are my teachers and the mountains exact deep lessons.
Rocks. Aconcagua is a mountain of many rocks. Small rocks. Big rocks. Brown rocks. Dusty rocks. My new boots are beaten to a pulp, they prefer snow but I was glad to get to know them. The Stone Sentinel is an apt name. Talus. Scree. Gravel. Everywhere. Erosion lives. Both externally and within. New layers are constantly revealed. The mountain falls from the top. It’s not the prettiest mountain but there is rugged beauty in its failing flanks like the wisdom bore witness by wrinkles in the face of a Navaho elder. There is solidity in standing when all else is falling.
Groceries. Don’t run out of these. We talk of food being our gasoline and water being our oil. We need both to run. The trick is when it is too cold to stop for long. Breaks must be rushed to keep blood in toes and fingers. Eating, drinking, peeing, and sunscreen must be squished into mere minutes of inactivity. Keep the engine revved or motivation wanes.
The Windy Traverse. Cold. Windy. In the shade. Early morning. Rising gently then much more abruptly. Wonder if I’ve got the climb in me. Have a discussion with myself about the potential of stopping. Of turning around. Of failing in one definition. Realizing it would be OK to stop. Folks would understand. Then thinking of all of the children I’ve talked to over the past year, remember my friend Deb who got through the rigorous and dangerous journey of chemotherapy and realize I can’t stop just yet. We take a break. I feed. I water. My steps become lighter and easier. I was out of groceries. Decide to never make a “go down” decision without oil and gasoline. This lesson will serve me well.
Alone. I alone must take the steps up the mountain. It is my will that makes the boots rise to meet the challenge. It is my heart that hangs in…in the face of doubt, in the face huge avalanches of doubt, in the cold dark sleepless hours of a high altitude night…but it is the love and care and support of those who have gathered me in their collective arms from afar that keeps me stepping. I’ve come to count on the support circle that collects me in, celebrates with me, commiserates with me, and fills me with inspiration when my tank is empty. Alone and together. That’s what we are in this life and on the mountains and while at sea and at home. Both alone and together. Thank you for being part of my together. You helped me up Aconcagua and through so much more. I wish you the very best of 2007 and I cherish your presence in my support circle.
Summit. Can go no higher. Smile. Big smile. Amazed that I am standing at the top. As I flew into St. John’s, the pilot announces that we just passed through 23,000 feet. I look out the window amazed that I stood at the elevation just days before. Imagine. Standing where planes fly. And imaginations run wild. And dreams come true.
You can find pictures of the Aconcagua adventure at the following URL: http://taclimbsdenali.com/dynamic_photos.asp?strAdventure=aconcagua
I’ll be on NTV News Hour tonight (Jan. 4th) and on the CBC Morning Radio Show here tomorrow if you’d like to tune in. Please keep Feburary 18th free for my next fundraising slideshow…I’ll be telling many more Aconcagua stories.
Take good care,