Everest 3.0: Visualizing the Whole Hog

In three weeks time, I’ll have just arrived in Kathmandu after 24 hours of travel. It’s starting to be the time of count-downs and calculations. How many hockey games left to play before I go? How many pounds of snacks do I take? Will everything fit in my duffel bags? Will I make the weight limit for my luggage? How are my training numbers changing? Are they changing fast enough? Lots of questions…though lots of answers as well. 15 hockey games (give or take). Likely 8-10 pounds of snack food (it’s always good to have food you know you can eat at altitude). Yes-everything will fit in the bags-it just takes a few tries to get it right. Weight limit-I won’t sweat it. It usually works out. Yes, my training numbers are changing. Fast enough-probably as I’m still on the upswing-it seems as though I’ve managed not to peak too early this time.

Visualizing…I do that lots these days. I imagine the early waves of the icefall. The steep ice undulations which humble and pummel the ego with their unrelenting ups and downs before you’ve really warmed up and you’ve before found a rhythm that will pace step with breath. The icy slopes that cause you to question and wonder why you are climbing such things in the dead deep black of early morning. I also imagine the steep and also unrelenting icy slope known as the Lhotse Face. A steepness that steals your breath with each attempt at a step. A steepness sharper than the hard blue ice it is made of. A steepness that demands and rewards patience. In training, when stepping up or when running hard, I imagine myself traversing these places on the mountain with perseverance, with patience, with determination and a deeply committed will. I imagine this over and over again. I see myself moving up. Slowly. Ever slowly. Up. Climbing beyond doubt. Climbing through fear. Up. Up. Up against the pull of gravity and the desire to descend. Up. Up. Up.

Other times, I rehearse getting dressed in my mind. Wrestling myself into my down suit when just rolling over causes me to be out of breath and sitting up causes the world to spin. I visualize the order. I pull on the suit. I zip up. I pull on my harness. I do up the buckle. I back it up. I pull on my left boot. I fasten the inner boot. I zip the outer. I pull on the right. Over and over again, I imagine. Doing it efficiently. Doing it quickly. Doing it as an act of focus and relaxation. For I know when I do it for real, my heart will be pounding like a jack hammer in my head. I will be nauseous, perhaps scared. Maybe heaving. Maybe cold. I leave the tent. Crampons on next. Must be quick with those. Fingers will freeze if I’m not. Quick. Accurate. Tidy. I get it done. I’m ready to set out. Into unknown heights that I can only imagine…

The photo above is my vision collage from the Bishop’s University student leadership conference I present at each January. It’s always a surprise to see what comes of the collage because I seek to follow where I am led with the exercise. I page through the magazines and then cut out what calls to me. After I’ve amassed a pile, I glue them on the poster board in whatever position I’m moved to…I usually fill the sheet…though this year, there was a different shape. Likely easily recognized…and the theme thinly disguised…it was visualization within a creative container. It was rehearsal. It is/was a picture of the words I may most need to tell myself. It is the thoughts I want to think. Over and over again. When steps are hard. When steps are easier. When it seems like the next step will never come no matter how much I want it to or will it to…the picture will be my map, my direction, my path from here to there…wherever there ends up being by going the whole hog…both in my mind and on the mountain. Whole hog. Face and eyes in. All in. Let’s go…

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2 Responses to Everest 3.0: Visualizing the Whole Hog

  1. Marie Tison says:

    You know why I’m happy that you’re trying Everest again? It’s to be able to read great blog posts like this one. Good luck!

    • TA Loeffler says:

      Thanks Marie…I’m appreciating when I can create small windows in which to write…pre-mountain time is always rich…it’s a shame when I don’t have the opportunity to capture it 🙂 I have another primed and ready to go as well…I suspect it will resonate with you as well.

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