Monday July 12, 2010

I think I’m finally starting to get it.

It could have something to do with the perfect weather, the great mentors and the lung-burning, headache-inducing desire to get there.

Mt. Adams' shadow at sunrise.

OK. I may be a little dramatic right there. But, according to my climbing partners, I “ran” to the top of Mt. Adams. But at 12,200 feet, you don’t run. I just picked up the pace. I couldn’t help it. The summit was right there. I could taste it. I could almost touch it. I could see others on top of it. It was my turn.

Climbing Mt. Adams turned into a bigger deal than I thought. You don’t hear a lot of people boasting about it. It’s not technical. People do it in running shoes and ski poles. Rainier, Baker, Hood – those are the big ones. Those are the ones people have epic adventures on. But I was surprised at the feeling of accomplishment when I hit that ridge. I popped up on top, slowed down my pace and caught my breath. My altitude symptoms melted away. In front of me, Rainier stood above the clouds. I was then overcome with emotion and let a few tears fall. It hit me that I made it. Adams is 12,276. Rainier is 14, 410. It was my first time above 9,000 feet. I finally realized that it was really quite possible to be strong enough to stand on Rainier in five weeks.

A hug from Doug and Jack, some congratulatory greetings to others we met on the climb up, pictures on the high point (the snow-covered fire hut) and a few snacks, then time for some glissading back to Lunch Counter and to the car. Climb from LC to Summit- 3:15. Time from Summit to LC – 50 minutes.

When I dragged my wet gear and miscellaneous bags into the house Sunday night, the tired hit me. I dreaded waking up Monday morning with the post-climbing hangover. But I didn’t. I woke up feeling fantastic (Thank you, Doug, for forcing electrolytes down my throat all weekend). I was actually the most productive at work I’d been in weeks. When Sara asked me today to do Adams with her within the next month, I said, Hell yes.

When I was driving home from a picnic tonight with other hikers and climbers, that urge hit again. It’s almost like a thirst. I wanted to be on that snowfield again, trudging, plodding, one heavy cramponed-foot in front of the other, slowly. breathing. practicing my pacing. practicing my rest step. looking at the snow. looking at the texture, looking at what was ice, what was corn, what was waterlogged over-sized sloshy pieces. Looking for the tiny crampon holes from other climbers. Looking at the ice axe holes versus the ski pole holes. watching people glissade. Watching the skiers and snowboarders haul their boots and sticks up hill. Going through my head everyone who has donated to my Rainier campaign, sorting them into categories so I could remember to think of each and everyone one of them as I plod up Rainier in five weeks. I’ll have a much longer trek on that peak. I’ll have a lot of time to think.

It’s rare when it hits but when it does, it’s incredibly overwhelming.