Nose to the Grindstone

Buenos Domingo,

Marian laying it on the line waiting for the Fogo Island Ferry

Marian laying it on the line waiting for the Fogo Island Ferry

Marian and I are stepping up both our physical training and our Spanish language training in the weeks leading up to our departure for Guatemala and Tajumulco. It’s time to put our noses to the grindstone! We’ve been walking to work, hitting step aerobics class, and spent much of the weekend hiking (both in the city yesterday and out on the East Coast trail today). It’s important that we get enough “feet time” so we can enjoy every moment of the seven volcanoes we will be climbing.

The weather is brisk here these days with temps dropping below zero most days. Out in the coastal wind, the chill runs deep into our unacclimated bodies. And our noses ran constantly today we as hiked along the ECTA from Shoe Cove towards Stiles Cove. I wondered to myself, “Why do our noses run in the cold?” I alternately sniffed back or did the outdoors nose blow method as a way to stem the tide of postnasal drip. What purpose could this constant loss of liquid have? Turning to the source of all current knowledge (at least according to my students), I googled, “Why do noses run in the cold?”

TA with a very cold nose on Denali having just arrived back at high camp after the long summit bid!

TA with a very cold nose on Denali having just arrived back at high camp after the long summit bid!

After studying a few websites, I learned that ordinarily our noses produce about a litre of mucus a day to help catch all the nasties before they can reach our sensitive parts and give us colds, infections, and the flu. When it is cold out, the blood vessels that supply the mucus factory swell to increase blood flow to the area to keep our noses warm in the cold. This increased blood supply results in an increased supply of mucus, which we can’t keep up with in our normal manner (by swallowing) and thus it drips from our noses. Wow-who knew?

I was always amazed when reading of Shakleton’s expedition to the Antarctic that his men so struggled with dripping noses. Because their ship was caught in the ice, they faced an epic struggle for survival for nearly a year and a half in the far reaches of the Southern world. As they camped on ice floes etc. for all of that time, the extra mucus their noses produced would freeze into an icicle that would hang from their noses. If there were not careful in removing the frozen bit from their nose, a piece of skin would come with it. Eventually, most of Shakleton’s men ended up with ulcerated sores beneath their noses. Ouch! …this was only one of the hundreds of things they put up with as they fought for their lives (and miraculously survived living out an Antarctic winter!)

Two of my friends will soon face the dreaded dripping nose of Antarctica. Alan Arnette is off later this week to begin his quest: The 7 Summits Climb for Alzheimer’s: Memories are Everything. He’s climbing Mount Vinson with Phil Ershler and International Mountain Guides. I climbed Mount Elbrus with Phil in 2006 and enjoyed meeting up with him this year in Lukla on the way to Everest. Alan is climbing the Seven Summits in honour of his mother, Ida, whose life was ravaged by Alzheimer’s Disease. Alan’s goal is to raise 1 million dollars to help move the research to find a cure forward. I had hoped at one point to join both Alan and Phil on this climb but couldn’t get enough sponsorship on board this fall to join them. I wish them both good luck with getting to (and from) Antarctica on-time and getting safety up and down the mountain. (I hear flights to the ice have been delayed thus far this season). I will be eagerly awaiting Alan’s daily dispatches from the mountain.

Tigger in the Fogo Island Ferry Line Up

Tigger waiting in the Fogo Island Ferry Line Up...since the presentation was at 7:00 pm. It was critical that we make the 3:00 pm boat! We were early-no surprise there-I am my father's daughter.

A highlight of the week was presenting on Fogo Island at both the Church of the Holy Spirit and Fogo Island High School. Marian made the big road trip with me and we learned the intricacies of getting to Fogo when only a small ferry is running (spend two hours sitting in the ferry line up).

We didn’t end up getting to see much of Fogo Island but we need sample much of the local hospitality and even a pie from the bakery. The students paid rapt attention and their thoughtful questions made the ten hours of driving more than worth the trip. I thank the Church of the Holy Spirit for bringing me out to the island and making it possible for me to continue my youth outreach program.

My mom continues to heal well from her back surgery. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers for her recovery. I’m heading out to Edmonton next week so I can be there to recognize the end of the year of firsts on December 4th (as well as celebrate St. Nicklaus Day since we’ll be in Guatemala for Christmas this year).

Have a good week,


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