Happy It’s Almost March 2/25/2007
For those of you outside St. John’s, you might not know that we were hammered here by a huge storm on Monday night that brought close to 2 feet of snow overnight. Shoveling was the order of the week and everyone seemed to think it would be excellent training for me if I did all their shoveling. I mostly answered with “shoveling is the one thing I don’t feel like I need to practice.”
I was thankful that the snow had the decency to hold off and let my fundraising event go forward. It went really well. The new show was very well received and Greg’s film was fabulous. All in all a very successful evening and a huge sense of relief when it was done as it had been a big bunch of work to pull off. I started using some of the new material I created in school presentations this week. I love watching the audience reactions to various part of the show-always relieved when they laugh at what I think the funny parts are. Thanks to all who attended the show and to those who purchased tickets that enabled some young people to attend.
I end each presentation with a question and answer session and I am always amazed at some of the astute questions that kids ask. I spoke to over 800 kids this week bringing the total number of kids reached directed by Everest-007 to around 5400. I’m guessing that number will reach 10,000 before I get on the plane on March 17. I get the sweetest emails from some of them. Here’s one from a Grade Four student:
Hi, TA I’m from Holy Cross Elem. school and you did a presentation at my school a few days ago. The last thing you said to us was “What is your Everest?” My Everest is to be a teacher. Some of the teaches in my school have inspired me. I would like to teach so I could touch children’s lives. Good luck!
Here’s where you can read more of them: http://taclimbsdenali.com/messages.asp
The snowstorm facilitated some much needed time at home for me and I did the first round of gear organization for packing. I have a bedroom dedicated to my Everest gear. I’m started to amass it all in one spot, check the lists over and over again, wait for gear to arrive via post, make shopping lists, etc. With the luxury of time at home, time seemed to slow this week and it began to look possible that I might be ready to go when the time comes.
There continues to be hundreds of details of take care of, hours of training to put in, leads to follow up, and website updates to do. I’m eager for my PDA to arrive this week so I can start patching all the tech pieces together that will allow me to cybercast off the mountain.
I attended a Buddhist training workshop this weekend. The timing was perfect. The mountains have been a critical part of my Buddhist path and my Buddhist path has been a critical part of my mountaineering. It is often on the mountains that I get an embodied learning of the Buddhist dharma (teachings). So I was eager for the workshop and the teachings it would bring. We spoke of daring, being a warrior, and about Right Effort.
I’ve been thinking much about effort and exertion of late. I continue to feel like the training path has been long. Over the past months, I’ve become more aware of what I’ve given up to follow the Everest path and on occasion, my mind drifts to post Everest life where time may be more spacious and I won’t have to ration my couch time. Right Effort has to do with discipline and gentleness and being present and going with flow-not pushing through but moving with grace and spontaneity. A good teaching as I ready for departure. Like Aconcagua, Everest will be a marathon. It doesn’t really matter what shape I start the expedition in, what matters is the shape I am in eight weeks in when summit week comes into clear view.
It is then that I must be rested, healthy, motivated, clear, determined, and full of will power. Patience. Compassion. Humility. These will be critical parts of my Everest path. Add a dose of Courage. Lose several doses of ego. Add generosity. Stir in bunches of motivation and a dollop of fearlessness. Mix. Bake. Freeze. Bake. Freeze. Protect with baby butt cream. Be open to the path, make the path the goal, listen for messages, and go gently forth with joy and gratitude for the opportunity.
My friend and AppleCore mentor Wilma wrote Tim Horton’s a few weeks back suggesting they come on board as a sponsor. They wrote back this week saying that they get hundreds of such requests and they would pass on the idea to their marketing folks. Most everyone says to me at some point that Tim’s should be my sponsor since I love Vanilla Dips so much (I did visit Tim’s three time on Thursday around the various school visits).
Anyway, along with the note saying “no”, they did send $10 in Tim’s Gift Certificates so you may all want to write Tim’s and tell them your version of the Vanilla Dip Queen story. At worst, you’ll get no reply and at best, at some point they may come on board as a way to stop hearing so much about the wild Newfoundland woman who loves colorful sprinkled donuts. Write to Paul House at email@example.com. This week it took until Thursday evening until a Vanilla Dip crossed my lips.
Some weeks I can turn over the writing of the weekly update to competent hands. This week I was on the cover of The Express, the weekly I write a column for biweekly. Kim Kielley did a fine piece about my preparations for Everest as well as the influence of Buddhism on my climbing. Here’s what she wrote and here’s the URL where you can find it on the web: http://www.theexpress.ca/index.php (click the cover story)
It is a real gift to inspire and motivate other people.
And that is a gift TA Loeffler endeavours to share when she speaks.
The adventurer, educator and motivational speaker tries to ignite others into believing in themselves.
Loeffler, once dubbed Newfoundland and Labrador’s most adventurous woman, is climbing Mount Everest in less than a month.
It is the greatest mountaineering mission this 40-something MUN professor of outdoor education has undertaken. She has already climbed Mount Elbrus, Aconcagua, Denali (or McKinley). Everest will be the fourth of the seven summits she intends to reach. (These summits are the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.)
On the Everest mission, Loeffler must take a page from her own book and inspire herself. A 29,035-foot mountain is no place to lose your nerve or stop believing in yourself.
The physical regime to prepare her body for Everest is grueling and, to the layperson, borders on cruel.
On average, she works out four to five hours per day for four weeks straight (she rests on the fifth week). She runs, lifts weights and deprives her lungs of oxygen during hypoxic training sessions to artificially create the high altitude and low oxygen of Everest. She plays hockey, too. Combine all this training with her teaching and speaking schedule and she is fortunate to squeeze in six-and-a-half hours of sleep a day.
Much of Loeffler’s drive stems from her spirituality. She is Buddhist and embraces the teachings of her faith in a way that makes everyday occurrences life lessons. “In some ways,” she says, “the mountains and the Buddhism have gone hand in hand. It’s also my Buddhist path.” Loeffler says she spoke with her Buddhist teacher in October after coming back from Elbrus, Russia, the highest peak in Europe at 18,540 feet. In some ways, she says he gave her permission to have “the mountaineering at the moment, to be my Buddhist path.
“Because I was struggling to get all my meditation in and I wasn’t reading as much Dharma as I should be.”
As an example of how she links her beliefs and exploits, Loeffler explains how she considered climbing with a rope team up Mount McKinley (also known as Denali) as a lesson in Buddhism. “You have to travel linked together. We were worried about crevasse falls. In Buddhism, there’s a concept that in our existences, we are both alone and we are together. We are both having to do this life, this path, this existence.
“We were 50 feet apart. We were very alone. We couldn’t talk with each other. But we had to move in step because that’s the only way that it works. “So you’re having to keep your rope at the exact tension. You don’t want it too loose and you don’t want it too tight, which is another Buddhist lesson. It’s not too tight, not too loose. You’re trying to find the middle path. “So there I was, desperately alone, in my head, breathing hard, taking the steps, but then having the sense that I was together with these people on my rope team, with the people on my expedition. And it was that moment of realization of both of those things at the same time. It was just like, ‘I get it.’ ”
On that expedition, Loeffler continues, if they all didn’t get to the summit, then no one got to the summit.
“Each one of them (the mountains) has taught me different Buddhist lessons,” Loeffler says. “If people are astute and step back when I’m doing my presentation, I’m actually sharing those Buddhist lessons, just not using Buddhist words.”
The Alberta native and bi-weekly ex/press columnist says with a chuckle that she “has been a Buddhist anywhere from 25 to two years.” It was in 2004, while in the middle of a mid-life crisis, that she revisited the religion. Then in April 2005, Loeffler took the vow to become a Buddhist.
“You have to participate in a refuge ceremony. You get a new name. My Buddhist name is Tsultrimygya. It means disciplined, great vision. The teacher you take the vow with is the person who gives you your name.
“It describes your path. And he saw my path as one of using great discipline to give great vision.” Once the vow is taken, Loeffler explains, being a Buddhist is basically dedicating your life to the service of others, hopefully assisting everyone towards their own enlightenment.
That’s why tackling Mount Everest this spring is about more than just climbing a mountain, she says.
“That’s where the idea of more than a mountain came out. It’s more than me. In some ways, I feel like, if I wasn’t reaching out to kids and adults with the adjunct things to the expedition, I might not have kept climbing. That’s where the deeper motivation was coming from.”
No longer could she say, with any conviction, that she would climb Everest ‘if ‘ she got the money. “(I) set the path in place for being able to go to Everest and basically decided to do whatever it took to be able to go. Someone did say, ‘If you’re not willing to take this huge risk, then why should anybody else?’ ”
And while lack of money is one hurdle she must overcome (she’s $30,000 short of her $65,000 goal and is less than a month before she leaves for Nepal March 17) death is also on her mind.
“I have to step over the remains of other mountaineers. Of course, I’m scared. There’s a Buddhism saying, ‘Death comes without warning.’ I want to be paying attention. My mission is to inspire people. I don’t want kids to have to deal with their hero dying. I am thoughtful to this.”
While fund-raising isn’t her forte, Loeffler hopes people from this province will support her and buy a foot at a time to cover her 29,035 foot climb to the summit. (To offer support, visit the web/link below.) She hopes her trek will benefit future generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. She wants children to believe in themselves.
“The mission is about inspiring youth,” she says confidently.
Total Vanilla Dips the past week = 1, Total for the Climb = 38.75
Happy VD Day to Everyone, 2/16/2007
Yes, I did receive a Vanilla Dip for Valentine’s Day! All three Vanilla Dips this week were gifts. My rate of consumption has risen considerably of late but perhaps that is because I am banking edible prayer flags for the journey to Nepal. Once in Nepal, I’ll be able to stock up once again on real ones. I am once again willing to bring back prayer flags for folks at a cost of $25 per string of 25 prayer flags. Let me know before I go if you’d like to order a set or six.
Another busy week is coming quickly to a close. I’m writing my update early to make one more plug for my last fundraising event on Sunday evening at 7:30 pm at the INCO theatre on the MUN campus. I’ve been burning the midnight oil polishing the new show and have enjoyed revisiting and reflecting on the road that has led me to be leaving for Everest in four short weeks. I’ve had fun pushing “Keynote” the presentation software I use to the limits of its ability (as well as my laptop’s) and expressing my creativity been joyful as well. Please join me for TA’s Road to Everest-007 if you can. Thanks to those who bought tickets to enable kids to attend in your place.
I spoke at several schools again this week and I loved some of the messages the kids sent me afterward. I’ll share two of them here:
I really liked the pressentation that you did today in our school it waz amazing. The funny picture that you had on the screen in our gym waz the one of you with the baby butt cream. I hope that you come to our school some other time and tell us all about the amazing hike that you went on Mount Everise. When I am older I want to be just like you climbing big humungas mountains. I loved the pictures that you showed us I hope you bring in some other good pictures too that are really funny.
This is a student from Holy Cross school wishing you good luck on your trip to Mount Everest. If i was you i would be jumping out of my socks because i would be soooo scared! You really dont know how lucky you are to have the courage to climb the largest mountain in the WORLD. Mount everest, WOW that is a huge mountain. Im getting scared just thinking about it. But me and my whole school are wishing the greatest for you. And i have this fantastic feeling that you are going to make it. Well when you have reached the top pleassssse come to Holy Cross Elemantary school and tell us about your great adventure. PS: we will be crossing our fingers for you , GOOD LUCK
It continues to be a challenge to fit everything that needs fitting into my days. It’s tempting to drop some training in the face of mounting to-do lists but I’m trying hard to stick to the plan. This week a few training things got left behind but I’m hoping to do better next week. I suspect the next four weeks will be a roller coaster of emotion as I make final preparations, start packing, and begin to say good-byes. I continue to vacillate between excitement and terror, energy and fatigue, focus and confusion, confidence and fear. I just wait patiently for the avalanches of feelings to wash over and then go about whatever it is I need to do.
My goal is to leave St. John’s reasonably relaxed and rested so I’ve decided to take no more speaking bookings until I return home. I have a few big writing projects to finish up and lots of logistics to think through.
I’m hoping some of you will send mail to me in Nepal. As you may know, I love to receive mail. They will bring mail into us at base camp a few times during the expedition. Here’s the address:
TA Loeffler (Everest expedition)
c/o Great Escapes Trekking
P.O. Box 9523
Please don’t send anything of value or that needs a customs declaration…your words, thoughts, encouragement, and news are all that need to go in the envelope. It takes about three weeks for mail to get to Nepal.
We made lots of updates to my website-there is a new section of Everest resources for kids, some Everest FAQ’s, and my Everest itinerary. Flat Stanley now has his own gallery as well. http://www.taloeffler.com
I’ll close this update for now. I’ll admit to being a bit pooped out and not at my most creative or reflective-my apologies…I used all that up in my presentation for Sunday. Thanks to Penny Cofield and Isabel Cumby for stalking my freezer with yummy healthy food this week, you’re the best!
I hope all is well with you,
Total Vanilla Dips the past week = 3, Total for the Climb = 37.75
Greetings from a Bright Sunny Sunday 2/11/2007
I woke to beautiful winter light as I emerged from my megamid this morning. A megamid is a pyramid shaped nylon shelter with no floor. It’s great for winter camping since it pitches quickly and allows one access to the snow floor it’s erected on. The night air had been brisk but my new Everest sleeping bag was roomy, warm, and down-right cozy. I crawled into bed at about 8:30 pm and luxuriated in 10 hours of bag time, sleeping nearly all of it.
I was out with a group of students in the deep recesses of Pippy Park. They slept in quinzhees they built during the afternoon. The weather was fantastic with the occasional fit of flurries to keep us on our toes. Being out in the snow, of course, turned my thoughts to Everest and the challenges of living outside in the snow for eight weeks. On the winter overnights before Denali, I remember being scared by the cold I experienced during the overnight and wondered what it would be like to be out in the cold for five weeks. Now, several years later, that kind of cold doesn’t scare me anymore–it just reminds me to live mindfully on the mountain.
Flat Stanley arrived in St. John’s this week and began to prepare for his ascent of Everest. He accompanied my outdoor activities class on their winter overnight. He helped dig a quinzhee, cooked over a camping stove, and spend a warm night in his new sleeping bag. Stayed tuned in the coming weeks for more of Stanley’s training and adventures.
This past week was a rest week and like so many other rest weeks, it seemed to be full of life challenges that filled the space that training normally does. It’s almost as though the universe ramps up life during rest weeks to keep me on my toes. Once again, the sewer was up to its old tricks again by freezing and spewing nasty contents all over the back room. This go round however, my humor was harder to find and the resulting emotions harder to tame.
In the end though, I was grateful for the life lessons of staying with frustration, working through hard spots, and eventually finding humor is the darkest and dirtiest moments. It also seemed that I was learning lessons in how to ask for help this week. As I so profoundly said, “When’s it easy to ask for help, it’s easy. When it’s hard to ask for help, it’s hard.” The week gave me some practice in the later case.
Around Thursday, I my body caught up with enough rest and so resiliency began to rebuild in my body and soul. I began to wake before the alarm and I started to look forward to training again. That’s always a sign I look for to know I’ve had enough rest. It’s amazing to me that I have just one training cycle of four weeks remaining before I go…the last week will be another rest week (hopefully less eventful) to allow for packing and managing the 100’s of details that will need to get done before I go.
After a year of fundraising, I’m still a bit shy (30 grand) of my goal and so this week, I put the Newfoundland Tricolor flag that I carried to the summit of Aconcagua for sale on EBay. Bidding started at one dollar and it is now up to $66. You can bid on the flag at the URL: http://cgi.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=130076238793
As a result of a press release that I sent out about selling the flag, Jennifer Pelley wrote an article for the Grand Falls-Windsor Advertiser…you can read the article at this URL:
There are still tickets available for my show on February 18th at the INCO Theatre. Once again, I am collecting tickets for a youth group-so even if you can’t attend, you can buy a ticket an enable a young person to attend the show. Contact me if you’d like a ticket. The toques have sold out again but I’ve got lots of t-shirts and carabiners.
I visited the International Travel Clinic this week and was thrilled to learn that the only vaccination I had to update was typhoid. My satellite phone arrived and I’m hoping all the rest of the cybercasting gear arrives soon as well. My goal is to send an update off the mountain as close to daily as I can. At some point, I’ll organize a system for people to sign up for daily or weekly updates. There are so many details to organize over the next month that I fear they may begin leaking out of my ears.
Anyway, another week on the Road to Everest has unfolded…life is rich and full (which is my code word for just shy of overwhelming.) I feel like I’m juggling many balls in the air these days and I hope that I don’t drop too many of them–as it seems inevitable that some will fall. I vacillate between excitement and terror and am trying to find the middle way between the two. I’m guessing the next five weeks will be a roller coaster of emotions leading up to the Big E.
Thanks to all who are pitching in and lending various hands to Everest-007. It truly is taking a village to pull this off. School presentations are continuing at three or four per week and it’s hard to describe how amazing it is to watch the kids respond to the photographs and stories. Reaching out to kids is what is keeping me going right now. I hope all is well with you. Take care. Drop me a line about what you are up to…
Total Vanilla Dips the past week = 3.75, Total for the Climb = 34.75
Newfoundland Tricolor For Sale on EBay 2/5/2007
I leave for Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, in six weeks. After a year of fundraising efforts, I am still $30,000 short of paying for the expedition. As a result, I have placed the Newfoundland Tricolor flag I carried to the summit of Aconcagua in December of 2006 on auction at EBay. I hope that there will be great interest in owning this flag given its potential for becoming a collector’s item. The flag is item 130076238793 and can be found at http://cgi.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&ih=003&sspagename=STRK%3AMEWA%3AIT&viewitem=&item=130076238793&rd=1&rd=1.
You can see a picture of the flag on EBay or in the Road to Everest Photo Gallery: http://taclimbsdenali.com/dynamic_photos.asp?strAdventure=everest.
Let the bidding begin!
Happy Six Weeks from Today I Leave Day 2/3/2007
I was supposedly taking students out winter camping this weekend but given it rained all night and it is supposed to rain much of today and tonight, I get to write to you instead. Instead of “sleeping inside a snowball” as my students call it, I get to catch my breath after an insanely busy week (even by my standards). I’m in my fourth week of training and the cumulative fatigue usually catches up and bites me right about now. Fortunately, the training plan allows schedules a rest week for when the fatigue dog bites and so next week my training hours will be significantly reduced.
There is only one more training cycle left between Everest and I. One more time through the Cosmic Yang and I’ll be pulled out of the oven and left to cool. Some days, these days, I declare, “Stick a fork in me, I’m done.” I did a VO2 max test the week before last and got the results this week. Fabien, my colleague who did the test and who is helping me with the hypoxic training, declared as a result of the test that, “You are ready for the big peak.” That’s been my sense of late but nice to have it confirmed by objective numbers. My goal for the last phase of training is to maintain what I’ve got, perhaps eek out a few more strength gains and maybe a more cardio fitness before heading to Nepal for the ultimate VO2 max test.
I also decided this week to climb Island Peak in Nepal as part of my acclimatization for Everest. It is 6180 metres high (very similar to Denali) and provides amazing views of Mount Everest. Depending on how things go, this climb can either spare me a trip through the dreaded and feared Khumbu Icefall or at the very least, will make my first passage through the icefall easier because I will be better acclimatized. What this means is that I will trek to Everest base camp, rest a few days, participate in the Puja ceremony and then trek back down the valley a ways to climb Island Peak. I’ll return to base camp a week better acclimatized and the route through the icefall should be ready for my to make my first foray through it. Here’s a link to an expedition that climbed Island Peak in 2005. http://www.nus.edu.sg/everest/newsflash/islandpeak.htm.
This was also an exciting week because I picked up my North face down suit and minus forty-degree sleeping bag from The Outfitters. They helped me acquire these high altitude specialty items. I will be making an appearance at the Aliant Winterlude tomorrow and I’m hoping that the temperature drops a bunch so I can wear the suit! It’s yellow so you might mistake me for Big Bird!
The Fog Devil’s hockey organization asked me to drop the puck at the game on Friday night. They were having Lady’s Night at the game and wanted a cool lady to drop the puck. It was very exciting to step out in front of the crowd. The game announcer told the crowd that the Newfoundland flag I was carrying was the same one that had been to the summit of Denali and Aconcagua and that I was hoping to take it to the summit of Everest. The Fog Devil’s team stood up and was joined in many the crowd-I was very touched by the gesture. They also put the Everest-007 logo on the scoreboard. You can see pictures at http://taclimbsdenali.com/dynamic_photos.asp?strAdventure=everest.
As I write this, I am realizing that it was a big week for many things coming together. A Grade Three class from central Newfoundland asked me several weeks ago if I would be willing to take Flat Stanley along to Mount Everest. Flat Stanley is a storybook character who had a bulletin board fall on him and left him flat enough to travel by envelope. Like myself, Flat Stanley loves to travel and see the world. He brings backs stories and pictures from his adventures. The teacher had an artist do a rendition of a Newfoundland Flat Stanley and he will travel attached to my expedition clothing. You can see Flat Stanley’s picture at http://taclimbsdenali.com/dynamic_photos.asp?strAdventure=everest.
Because Everest is such an arduous mountain, Flat Stanley will be undertaking a rigorous training program between now and then. He’s also hoping to have a website during the expedition. You can learn more about Flat Stanley at http://www.flatstanley.com/. This week we received copyright permission from Flat Stanley’s publisher so now we publicly announce that Flat Stanley and I will be climbing partners.
I also took the big step this week to order the satellite phone and associated technology to allow me to cybercast off the mountain. It’s been a long haul of learning about all of the options and sorting through which one made most sense in terms of features and cost. It was a substantial investment but I look forward to communicating with all of you and the youth of Newfoundland and Labrador throughout the expedition. Thanks to those to responded to my request for satellite airtime. I’ll be in touch soon with the details.
Thursday I appeared on the new TV show, Living Newfoundland. We shot the piece about two weeks ago. You can watch the entire episode on-line by clicking here: http://www.cbc.ca/livingnl/?page=segment&sid=637. I’m in the first segment of the show so I’m easy to find and you’ll get to see me training on the hypoxia machine and climbing some stairs.
Speaking of stairs, we launched the MUN Everest-007 Stair Climbing challenge this week as well. For the month of February (heart month), we’re hoping that individuals and/or teams of folks will take the stairs more often and try to reach of the summit of Mount Everest by using the stairs. There is no cost to participate and even if you don’t live in Newfoundland, you can jump on board and climb some stairs. See this website for details: http://www.mun.ca/humanres/wellness/stairway_challenge_2007.php.
I did several presentations this week to diverse groups of people. Wednesday I spoke at a 30-year employee appreciation luncheon. Thursday I spoke at a Planner’s Platter luncheon and then to the most wonderful group of girl guides and Friday I launched the Stairway to Health project. Slot all those in around some training and teaching and I can see why I’m a little pooped out come Saturday. I do love doing the presentations, especially the ones for kids-they ask the best questions!
I received my latest Everest-007 toque order and they are selling fast–I only have 14 left. Let me know if you’d like one before they all disappear. They are $15. T-shirts have also started to move and they are $20. Carabiners are $5. I’ve still got some tickets for the Feb. 18th show-bring a few friends and make a night of it.
Lastly for this week…a few other ways to help…if you have some digital memory lying around the house because you bought a new card for your digital camera-let me know. I’m looking for Sony memory stick or memory stick pro and for compact flash cards. I’ll use them to store photographs and data during the expedition. I could also use some hand and toe warmers (the ones you shake and they get warm) and energy bars/gels such as Clif bars, Power bars, or Gu.
I hope your week went well. I will confess that after my workout on Thursday that I ventured to Tim’s and they had a Chocolate Dip Donut with Sprinkles. Giving my love of chocolate, I thought it might have potential to dethrone the Vanilla Dip as “Donut of the Decade” but fear not–it was nowhere near the religious experience!
The sun has just ventured forth and I’m wondering what I’m doing sitting here writing instead of heading out to my snowball but like everything else, weather is impermanent.
Have fun and take care,
Total Vanilla Dips the past week = 1, Total for the Climb = 31