Summits – The To Do List

Part of the broken trekking pole
Part of the broken trekking pole

We have reached that point of every major travel adventure where the to do list seems as daunting and insurmountable as we fear the summits of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo themselves might be. So on Saturday I suggested to husband J, as he struggled with a new computer which seemingly has no spam filter, that perhaps he would feel more organized if he made a list. He didn’t follow this sage advice, and for that matter, neither did I. But I did think about what I would jot down in one of the many notebooks I have left over from the daughters’ school days that I use for such purposes (I can’t bear to throw away unused paper), if I were so inclined.

1. Go to Iceland. Now that may not be first on most people’s list of mountain climbing preparation, but it is a fact that we will be spending five days in Iceland in the beginning of March. And that upcoming adventure has created other subset of to do lists that I won’t even begin to address here.

2. The gear check. This is an inevitable part of any expedition and one that I both anticipate and dread at the same time. Certainly we are in much better shape than we were back on 2011 when we climbed Kilimanjaro but now we have broken gear to deal with and new and unusual gear to get. We are in good shape for crampons, but have never before had to buy any rope. Since the guide company supplies rope I’m still not sure why we have to have our own as well – an emergency supply in case we fall into a crevasse on the way to an outhouse? The possibilities are not reassuring. We have to call Travel Country to see if the balaclava/face mask I ordered has arrived and if climbing helmets in a smaller size are in stock yet. And we have to replace the trekking poles that somehow daughter #1 managed to break on Mt. Washington. I still don’t know how she hiked the last 5 miles not realizing that one pole was 12 inches shorter than the other. And this is just a fraction of the gear issues.

3. Order zinc for lips. As those of you who followed our climb up Mt. Elbrus know, it never occurred to me that my allergies to regular sunscreen meant that I couldn’t use Chapstick with any sort of sun protection. In fact, this didn’t occur to me until I was on the side of the glacier on summit day, realizing that I looked and felt like I had kissed a hot burner on a stove. Never again.

4. Write to do lists for work, training, family and trip. Yes, this is a circular blog post. But I can’t think of any other way to try to have some certainty about what remains to do for the next few months. Should it be one giant list, or multiple lists for each area? I’m trying to make some order out of chaos – but I’m afraid that if I overthink it I’ll be doing the reverse. Wish me luck.

Originally Entitled Motivation – Or Lack Thereof

The Little Big Econ Trail
The Little Big Econ Trail

Yes, the original title of this post was “Motivation or Lack Thereof.” Only a few days ago, when I started this I was overcome by the the fact that as of that moment I had no clear goal in mind. Since 2010, I have trained for Kilimanjaro, Inca Trail, Mt. Hood, Grand Canyon, Mt. Elbrus, the Muliwai Trail in Hawaii (which turned into Mauna Kea). There has always been some journey out there that caused me to climb that extra flight of steps. And I was finding it increasingly hard to climb that extra set, even without carrying any extra weight in my backpack.

But thanks to the Labor Day weekend, and the time to spend messing about with airline reservations, we at least now have a trip to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire planned for mid-October. I am under no illusion that it will be anything like Mt. Washington in winter, when we had really wanted to climb it, but at least it is something uphill! And, in contrast to the Barrels on Mt. Elbrus, we will spend two nights with daughter number 1 and boyfriend at an inn originally built by the Baldwin family – as in Baldwin pianos. Somehow that seems significant. Due, I suppose, to 10 years of piano lessons.

So, in celebration of at least committing to one summit in the foreseeable future, yesterday we donned our faithful hiking boots and ventured out to the Little Big Econ trail. (Econlockhatchee, for you non- Florida readers.) We hiked out the orange trail to what we have always heard referred to as the Boy Scout bridge. It’s the one trail in Central Florida where you are on what could (kindly) be described as a bluff overlooking the river. The river is remarkably still and very red, due, I believe, to the types of leaves absorbed into the water. Didn’t see any alligators sunning themselves on the very white beaches but did enjoy the many wildflowers that somehow were surviving the heat. A yellow gold flower shaped almost like a stalk of wheat, pinks formed like orchids, and all about palms, short, skinny, bushy, spiky, all different shapes and sizes. After the bridge we hiked away from the river on the white trail. Not many people take this path, presumably in part because of the 16 inch grasses that whip your legs as you walk by. But it’s beautifully shady, with Florida pines casting shadows over the undergrowth. Every now and then we went through a semi-cool spot – almost as in the ocean, when you encounter a sudden cool current. We were kept good company by a cadre of spiders who had created their own spider suburbia out there among the pine trees – their webs the equivalent of spider McMansions.

It was good to get out there and rev up the hiking engine again. With Mt. Washington anchored now in time and place, the next stop needs to be the rock climbing wall. I need to figure out if I have the courage to step off a sheer precipice and to trust the rope – both of which appear to be requirements for the Grand Teton climb we hope to do this summer. Motivation back – now if it will just stop raining I will see if I can make myself run a few miles.