Monday, July 29, 2013

Quick Rainier Update

We are alive and well!!! J and Fire Marshall Mac beat the mountain and hit the summit at 5:45 am PST ... on the other hand, the mountain beat me at a little over 11,000 feet. 


A more detailed account will come ... soon!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mountaineering Training Complete!

We did a full day of training today with our RMI guides right under the shadow of Rainier.

It was exhilarating, frightening and encouraging all at the same time.  Even though these pictures may make it seem like we are just playing in the snow, it was not easy. This is brand-new territory for us. We learned how to self-arrest, team arrest, rest step, pressure breathe, rope walk, walk uphill, walk downhill, use our avalanche beacons ... entirely new jargon and methods from backpacking.










I still can't believe we are going to attempt to climb this beast. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rainier is upon us!

After stopping in Seattle for a brief overnighter (and seeing Rainier from a distance for days and family!), we are in Ashford (with WiFi!!!) and had Day 1 of our 5-day summit climb attempt.




We basically just met our guide (not Dave Hahn as we originally thought, but we did get to meet the legend) and did a gear shakedown.



We are carrying an insane amount of gear for this trek.

Fire Marshall Mac says he feels like the kid from Christmas story.

But we figure it is better to be prepared than unprepared because they do say the string of good weather they are having is turning a bit.

So tomorrow (Friday), hands-on training begins. If I don't chop off my finger with my ice axe, maybe I'll blog again. Saturday, we head up the mountain and will hopefully reach the top Monday morning!!! We have appreciated all the good vibes everyone is sending!!

Oh, and guess what? In mountaineering, you don't dig holes. J is very disappointed. Instead, we fill blue bags. Think of it like a doggie poop bag. Don't you worry, I will let you know how many bags J fills up.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rainier or Bust


We are leaving Colorado tomorrow to head to Rainier!!!!!!!! Our summit climb attempt is July 25-29!!!!!!!! Overuse of exclamation points is meant to express my trepidation!!! 

Just do us a favor and think of us specifically on Sunday morning when you are sitting comfortably in your home and drinking your coffee … because hopefully we will be hitting the summit around that time and high-fiving! UPDATE ... It's actually MONDAY we are summiting, but good thoughts are welcomed on Sunday too!

But before we leave Colorado, I want to wrap up our visit and say how much we enjoyed our time here. I've visited this state 5 times, but always in the winter. This year was the first time I've spent anytime in the summer here. All in all, I love Colorado in the summer (mountains! alpine lakes! wildflowers!) as much as I love Colorado in the winter (snow! mountains! cozy cabins!). 

As I said before, our trip here was perfectly timed for us to be in a state at higher elevation and with ample opportunity for hiking in prep for Rainier. I am really thinking that all this prolonged exposure to the reduced pressures at higher altitudes is helping me produce more red blood cells to offset the lower oxygen availability on Rainier. One can hope … 

Even though we've had a busy week with 2 presentations (thanks to all the friends and friends of friends who came!!) and a special side project for BP (will require separate blog post), we still fit in lots of hiking!!!


Earlier in the week, we followed the recommendations from our fellow BP staff and hit 2 trails in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. 

Last Sunday, we set out for a day hike up to Arapaho Glacier, one of the few remaining glaciers in CO, although it really has been downgraded to just a permanent snowfield. The weather was looking iffy for the afternoon, so we tried to scurry up the trail as fast as we could. Apparently Colorado is the #2 spot for lightening deaths in the country, so being above treeline with questionable weather is not a good idea. 

We intended to make it 6 miles up to the Arapaho Glacier Lookout at 12,700 feet, but we only made it 4 miles in to 11,300 feet before the fog and storms started rolling in. 

Can you see the glacier?? Yeah, not a chance. 

We did catch a glimpse of Boulder's Silver Lake Watershed and its string of lakes. Boulder still obtains 35% of its water supply from this. Pretty cool!

Monday, we set out on the Buchanan trail at Camp Dick and hiked 7 miles up to Red Deer Lake for an overnight excursion. We followed the sounds of a raging creek the whole time, which is always awesome in my book. The weather was threatening all day, but we made it to Red Deer Lake and set up our tent just as it started to thunderstorm. 



After the storm passed, we emerged from the tent for dinner, but had no view of the lake. Boo. 


But, we hoped we would wake up to clearer skies … and we sure did! 




The last treat came in the form of a moose sighting on the trail! Not only one female moose, but 2 babies as well!  

Later in the week, we hit 2 other day hike highlights in CO. One was 7 miles roundtrip to Spruce Lake near Breckenridge. I just can't get enough of these alpine lakes!!! Plus, we got to pop in and see our friends who are WAY overdue for giving birth!! And THEY fed us.




Then we headed to southern CO to visit our favorite priest RevKev. This is RevKev's last year at the Novitiate, so we will need a new connection in southern Colorado! As usual with our visits, we forced him to go on a hike with us. This time, we did a 5-mile roundtrip to the Crags, which reminded me of the red rocks in Arizona with the exception that we are also surrounded by wildflowers, aspen and spruce trees! 


RAINIER, HERE WE COME!!!!!!!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Rainier Training Hike #1


A lot of people have asked if J & I are still attempting to climb Mount Rainier at the end of July. Could be the fact I have not mentioned a single peep about it on the blog in a LONG time … 

Indeed we are! We were able to work the time in with our BP contract and, frankly, there is value to BP for us to attempt a big climb as Rainier. 

Unfortunately, our training has been close to nilch. Our last day of Insanity (Now) was April 19. We never even made it to 60 days of Insanity (Now). The month of March & April, we did it intermittently at best and made it to day 56 or so. And now we live on the road. Yes, we are active people. We hike, we run, we paddle (no more biking on the road). But, it is not really enough.

We are kicking our training into high gear this month. 

The truth is, our training "schedule" couldn't have worked out better. We are on the West coast, where the big mountains are. Training involves lots of altitude acclimatization. And our job "requires" us to backpack when we can. Perfect! 

Have I told you how prone I am to altitude sickness? One time at sea level, I tested my blood oxygen level and it read 87%. I think the norm is in the high 90s. So decreased oxygen at higher altitudes is a bit of a problem for me. I usually get a headache, definite shortness of breath after taking 2 steps and nausea. It is not fun, but I try to work through it. 

This long preface is only to share with you some absolutely gorgeous pictures of our most recent backpacking trip in the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming, aka Rainier Training Hike #1. It was a hike suggested by one of the BP editors who joined us at our event in Fort Collins back in May (http://www.backpacker.com/rip-and-go-medicine-bow-national-forest/destinations/14326). 

You can't tell me we don't have the best office view??!!



We did a 16-mile loop hike. The first day we got a late start on the trail (6:30pm!), so we only hiked about 4.5 miles. 





So the second day was stacked with miles. Most of the time, we were hiking between 10,000-11,000 feet. The elevation change was very gradual. I was winded, but no headache. I couldn't believe how many pristine lakes we passed. I lost count. This is a fisherman's mecca (Misti & Chris, put this on your bucket list, although I know you don't do well with altitude either). 


But, on day 2, we took a side trail up to the Medicine Bow peak at 12,013 feet. It was 2 miles up with an elevation change of 1,200 feet. We crossed snow fields, boulder fields and enjoyed some unbelievable views. 





The 2 miles took us (me) 2 hours, but I made it to the top!!! 


The trip was great. It was our first time backpacking in Wyoming and we fell in love. Besides the challenge of acclimatizing to altitude, the only other lesson I learned on the trip was while sunglasses were unnecessary weight on the AT and most East coast trails, they are a necessary item on these West coast trails and at higher altitudes. I believe I am squinting in 90% of these pictures. In preparation for some of our other high-altitute hikes, J & I have now invested in glacier glasses. J is happy to announce that even though he gets most of his gear for free these days, he is still able to wheel & deal, as proven by his score on glacier glasses. He hasn't lost his touch. 

We are planning to do another backpacking trip Sunday-Tuesday, again at higher elevations. AKA Rainier Training Hike #2. Wish us oxygen, lots and lots of oxygen.