The Gear Check

The packing/gear list for these trips always seems to occupy at least 3 single spaced pages and to contain various incomprehensible descriptions such as “soft shell guide pants.” And there is a dreaded moment of truth when you set everything you have for the trip on the bed in your guest bedroom. My stuff on one side of the bed; husband’s on the other. Shared equipment in the middle (such as the multi pack of carabiners – the use of which we only have the vaguest idea).

That’s the moment where (a) somehow despite hours of shopping you seem not to have certain pieces of what could be essential equipment and (b) even if you have it, you don’t have the faintest idea how to use it.

This is what happened on Mt. Hood in June 2012. This was to be our first climb that involved anything as complicated as a climbing harness and a rope – all of which, fortunately, were supplied by the guiding company that operates Mt. Hood climbs. When we got off the snow cat with our guide at 1 a.m. or thereabouts – having taken off or not put on all of our equipment – we were met with over 40 mile an hour winds that rapidly increased to plus 60 mile per hour gusts. This is what I learned:
Cheap dark ski goggles do not provide night vision.
Goggles cannot be pulled over helmets.
It is impossible to pull up a zipper without a long tie when you are wearing thick gloves.
Gaiters outside your pants will let in snow.
There is apparently no such thing as a water proof glove.
Oh, and if you don’t really know how to attach your ice axe to your back pack in a high wind at night said ice axe will definitely be lost. (Husband and I managed to lose both of ours.)

So, lessons learned. And despite the 80 plus degree heat in Florida I plan to spend quite a bit of time rehearsing how to use all my winter climbing gear for Mt. Elbrus. Now, if I can just remember again how to attach my brand new crampons to my boots.

Training to train.

Four years ago, when I started to train to climb Kilimanjaro, I encountered the same problem facing anyone who lives in Florida and hopes to climb a mountain – how do you train to go up? As I worked (and work) in a 16 floor office building the answer seemed obvious – simply climb the stairs.

I started out in a basic fashion. I simply changed my work shirt for a t shirt, found the door to the fire stairs and started up. As my office is on the 10th floor there was some calculation as to how to count floors 10 to 16 (ultimately I decided that was half a set of the building but I could count a full set if I finished with 1 to 10). I spent a long time wondering if a 16 floor building is really 15 and not 16 floors because you start at 1, not zero.

As my number of sets of the building increased so did my methods for stair climbing. First, I realized an hour on the stairs really required a full change of clothes. Second, just keeping track of how many times you went up and down was difficult. So, I started a routine I keep to this day: set 1 – every step, 2 – every other step, 3 – alternate flights of every and every other. I’m presently refining the succeeding sets so they involve flights of side steps, every other, and yes, even walking backwards.

I’ll leave for another post scintillating topics such as: adding weight as you get closer to the actual climb, “how to read and respond to work emails while climbing stairs,” and how to explain to the security guard in your building that “no you are not a homeless person with a backpack who snuck into the fire staircase.”

But now it’s time to go off for what may be one of our last super long hikes before leaving for Mt. Elbrus. Happy Saturday!

How It Began.

Four years ago this past April my husband asked me what I wanted to do for my 50th birthday, then a year away. And unhesitatingly, I blurted out, “let’s climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.” Now, I had always had a penchant for high mountain adventuring; I had gobbled down Into Thin AIr and the Seven Summits by Dick Bass and Frank Wells, and watched all the movies on TV about K2. Why, I didn’t know. There was just something that drew me to those tales of adventure – so separate and apart from the more mundane peaks and valleys of my daily life as a lawyer.

So in June/July 2011 we did indeed summit Kilimanjaro with a small company called Serengeti Pride Sararis. We took the long 8 day route, Lemosho via the Western Breach. More on that later. But that experience was enough to get us hooked. Since then, we have hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, trekked up and down the Grand Canyon, tried to summit Mt. Hood (another story for another day), and climbed Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. And this summer, in about six weeks, we leave for Russia to climb Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe and what we hope will be our second of the seven summits.