How to Get Onto the Glacier: Part II

[This is a continuation of last week’s post, and will (apparently!) be a three or four part intro giving the background on the beginning of our climb.]

Once we had a plan for how we wanted to approach the mountain and tackle the climb, back-planning logistics from there was easy – we wanted to fly out and onto the Kahiltna Glacier (where basecamp is located) first thing on Monday, May 11th. We needed most of Sunday in Talkeetna to repack our bags post-commercial flight and pre-short-haul, small plane flight, and we needed time to meet with the National Park Service (which closed at 4pm) for our Orientation with a Ranger (and to get our Clean Mountain Can, aka poop bucket, before we left). Oh, and we needed to actually get from Anchorage (where our commercial flight would land) to Talkeetna, two and a half hours north of Anchorage by car.

We knew we wanted to fly Alaska Airlines because we had heard that they are gentler and more reasonable with climbers (and because, let’s face it – United and Delta are kinda really the Devil), so we were left with two options for flights that would get us into Alaska that first weekend, and also leave us all day Sunday in AK– a 6am flight from Seattle on Sunday morning, or a late afternoon flight on the Saturday before. After a lot of discussion and weighing of the benefits and drawbacks, we decided to split the difference – I would fly in on Saturday, May 9th in the afternoon with all of our sharps and most of our stoves, in case anything got stuck or lost in transit, and the rest of the girls would fly in with just their two main bags (1 huge backpack and 1 huge duffle) in the wee hours of Sunday morning, when myself and my dear friend Gil (and his lovely girlfriend Caitlin) would meet them, and whisk us all off to Denali!

This was a great solution on many levels. Years ago I did a wee-hours flight to northern BC for a backpacking and rafting trip, and that first morning was a totally wretched experience, spent nauseated and exhausted because I had been up, excited, all night the evening before, and then had woken up before 4am to head to the airport to just sit and wait in line for the desk to open – and I wasn’t ever doing that again. The anxiety of trying to get all of us, and all of our sharps (by sharps we’re referring to our ice axes, crampons, snow saws, and other tools that the airlines won’t let you carry on, not to mention stoves and fuel containers!) onto the plane on the same day we hoped to get to Talkeetna, and get everything done in Talkeetna, was too much for me to want to take on – I knew I would want to KNOW it was all there by Sunday, KNOW it all made it to Alaska in time, KNOW we were ready to grab the Girls when they landed, and hit the road. So if I was going to fly in early, we all agreed, I would take the sharps.

Sled coffins with sharps

Sled coffins with sharps

The other Girls all looked at both flight options as well, but largely preferred the early Sunday morning flight because it gave them more weekend time in Seattle to pack and get organized after a full work week, and because in Jenn’s case, she had work all day Saturday, so would only have Saturday evening to get reorganized, get her head focused on the climb, and then go to the airport on Sunday morning – making Sunday’s flight the obvious best option for her.

The added benefit to this two-flight plan was that by the time the Girls boarded the plane on Sunday morning, they’d already have heard from me and know that our technical gear made it, which would make for a much more relaxing flight – now they just needed to get to Alaska. An additional benefit was that getting in Saturday night gave me time to hang out with my friend Gil (a friend from my college days) and meet Caitlin, which was extra nice for me on a personal level, especially considering they had kindly volunteered to chauffeur our whole group and all of our gear from the airport, to Talkeetna, on Sunday.

Gil offered to take the first photo of our climb, once we all got to Talkeetna, so I gave him my camera. A month later I looked at my photos from the climb for the first time, and this is what I found! Thanks, Gil. :)

Gil offered to take the first photo of our climb, once we all got to Talkeetna, so I gave him my camera. A month later I looked at my photos from the climb for the first time, and this is what I found! Thanks, Gil. 🙂

Thus, the process of getting through May, and getting out of Seattle and up to Talkeetna, more or less played out as follows:

On Saturday, May 2 (1 week to the day before I would fly away with most of our technical gear), we planned for an all-day packing session at my former residence, where we could spread out and take up multiple rooms with gear, food, “sled coffins” full of sharps, and the like. We thought if we started early, were organized, and were diligent we’d be done by end of day. Buuuuuut…

Carolyn with our big blocks of cheese, on day 1 of the epic packing weekend!

Carolyn with our big blocks of cheese, on day 1 of the epic packing weekend!

The long driveway of my former residence, covered in gear at the end of the day

The long driveway of my former residence, covered in gear at the end of the day

On Sunday, May 3rd everyone came back over for what we hoped would be just a half day of finishing up on the packing, and then spent another entire day really wrapping things up, making final decisions on what equipment should stay or go (to the most finite degree – “how many bandaids and how much extra webbing do we really need?”), and then packing it up, for real – for the last time before we would arrive with it in Talkeetna, and repack it a second time for the second flight. These were some long-ass days, and required focus, teamwork, and the support of my then-partner, who had himself climbed Denali, and who contributed a fair amount of valuable “yes take it/no leave it” advice as we frantically watched the time tick down before embarking our last full weeks of work for a month! It was a crazy, busy, antsy, and hectic two days.

All business on day 2: calculating distribution of gear for the climb

All business on day 2: calculating distribution of gear for the climb

Our sled coffin inventory list, which came with us separately

Our sled coffin inventory list, which came with us separately

That work week was a crazy one – my calendar shows Monday included: a sports massage (trying to get the kinks out before putting them back in), printing some additional maps at Kinko’s, finalizing one of my personal dinner meals which was only half-dehydrated at that point, picking up a rental sleeping bag from Feathered Friends (we rented one, as a group, and due to the good graces of our friends and climbing club, managed to borrow the rest), double-checking my list of and instructions for prescription drugs, and my former partner helping me by retying the webbing and replacing clips on a sled I was using, while I adjusted a new set of prussiks that were fitted to my big Spantik moon boots. Tuesday was finding a backup watch battery, getting a secret gift for the girls delivered, and a blog post here; Wednesday I wrote and sent Mother’s and Father’s Day cards (because it wouldn’t be good to blow off that particularly holiday while their offspring is off adventuring on a big mountain!), reorganizing emergency info for my family and my emergency contacts, calling my doctor because I had realized the quantity of one of my prescriptions was off, and calling my brother so that I would have talked to him before I left. Thursday was my last day at work because I had panicked last minute and realized I couldn’t go from working on a Friday to being in Alaska on Saturday, and so Friday ended up being about returns – returning all the things we had decided against bringing before we didn’t care enough to do so, and calling my sister, completing the round-robin of family phone calls (for the moment).

Just part of the checklist on my phone around that time...

Just part of the checklist on my phone around that time…

Wednesday's task: turning chili (or whatever that was) into lightweight, transportable, dehydrated food!

Wednesday’s task: turning Louisiana Beans and Rice (or whatever that was) into lightweight, transportable, dehydrated food!

Louisiana Beans and Rice dehydrated but before being shrink packed and sealed

Louisiana Beans and Rice dehydrated but before being shrink packed and sealed

By Saturday morning I was a focused bundle of nerves – I don’t know that I’ve ever been so efficient or on my game in my life, although the stress would turn up in funny places. My former partner and I got the car all loaded up for the ride to the airport on Saturday afternoon, and I checked and re-checked the contents before getting in: two sets of sleds duct-taped together (to make the two “sled coffins”) and full of gear that had been checked off on a list, and then re-checked before we sealed them shut, one huge Mountain Hardwear red duffle (one of my overall favorite gear purchases, although it was heavier than the ones the other girls brought, because mine is waterproof), and one monster backpack, for this first flight just crammed full of soft stuff, like clothes, sleeping pads, tents, and other things that could be squished as they were thrown from one conveyor belt to the other behind the scenes at the airport.

I also had a small duffle as a carry-on, in which I carried my most precious and most uniquely expensive new pieces of equipment – my $800 Spantik mountaineering boots, which I was unwilling to check for any reason, my new camera, purchased for the trip, and my “town clothes” – the clothes to get me through the day Sunday in Talkeetna, and which I would change back into (plus fresh underwear!) after flying off the glacier at the far end of our climb, to travel back to Seattle. That bag also carried the accoutrements of my civilized life: toiletries and a hairbrush for whenever there would be showers, a simple summer dress to wear after so much time spent climbing in frustratingly proportioned men’s clothes, and a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt in case I got off the mountain and just wanted to be comfy and cozy. Plus my Denali Girls trucker hat from Leigh Ann, and my secret presents for the other ladies, which would be gifted once I greeted them at the airport.

Once I felt sure that it was all in the Subaru, and could actually see the backpack, big duffle, and the brightly colored sled coffins over my shoulder, I turned a last time to glance at my home, and my car, Snowflake, which had trucked me out over I-90 to our training hills so many times over the last few months, lonely where it would sit for the month we were away, gathering pollen and spiderwebs. I briefly contemplated what the implications would be if some terrible accident were to happen, and I never got to go home again. Were we crazy to be doing this?

I’ve learned over the years to trust myself, and to trust my judgement, on what scale of adventure or major change is right for me, and this was one of those moments. I learned before my first multiple month trip in college (for study abroad) that for the evening before I begin something epic and life-changing, I usually feel what can only be described as a sense of abject terror in my gut – and that it often keeps me up all night. But in my old age of adventuring, taking last minute trips to various foreign countries solo and otherwise exploring the world, I’ve learned to embrace terror-gut – to reinterpret that feeling and understand that the fear that I feel makes me human, and is appropriate, and signals that what I’m doing is right. That I am pushing myself in all the right ways. That I am living my life fully, and that I’m all in.

I didn’t actually think that we were risking a serious accident, climbing Denali, but there is always the “what if?”, and I think that’s what I was grappling with, standing in the driveway. It’s the same “what if” that hits you when you are driving on the highway and a near-miss happens in front of you, or a plane crashes somewhere in the world while you’re sitting in an airport, or a climber or skiier dies on a mountain and a route you’ve previously climbed. So it’s not that I thought we were taking on some terrible risk, or doing something actually crazy – it’s just that innate impulse for self-preservation gave me pause.

And so admittedly a bit teary I jumped into the car, sat down, took a deep breath, and we rolled backwards …and into something, pushing it backwards down the driveway. Something of mine. Gear? Shit.

I hopped out, and there was my little “in town” duffle and all of its expensive contents, scraped just enough to rip open the fabric but not damage anything, wedged behind the rear right tire. “Shit again,” I thought. So much for being zen about it!

Duffle retrieved and levity restored, we headed to the airport early enough to allow for questions, delays, and lots of explanations about how ice axes and crampons work, but things went pretty smoothly – we were charged oversized baggage fees for our sled coffins, added some additional tape to be super certain they were secure, and off everything went. My big bags got sucked down the conveyor belt (to my relief – they were heavy!) and I said a tearful goodbye before joining the security line, to head off to Alaska!

Last Day in Town!

Today is my last full day in town. I fly up to Anchorage tomorrow afternoon as our “advance” team – I’m going up a day early with all of our stuff that looks like weapons (we call them “sharps”) and all of our stuff that can cook or combust (three stoves!) so that I can fly at a manageable time of day, and also be the negotiation-friendly battering ram to get our gear through any hiccups it may encounter.

The other girls will fly out at the too-wee-for-me hour of 6am on Sunday (with a 4ish am start time).

On the Anchorage side we’ll be received by one of my close friends and trail buddies from college, Gil, at whose home I’ll stay on Saturday night. Sunday morning we’ll be out of bed early to get to the airport to grab the girls, and then we’ll drive straight from Anchorage to Talkeetna in a two car caravan, ideally after a decent breakfast, assuming everyone and everything arrives on time.

We have a 2:45pm check in with the rangers at the Talkeetna Ranger Station where we’ll be given the all clear to head out and get our Clean Mountain Can (where the poop goes as we climb), and we’ll bed down for the night at a modest hotel in Talkeetna, before (hopefully) flying out first thing on Monday, which would be at or after 8am, Alaska Time, although that will depend on weather.

In the meantime, here’s what life looks like this morning:

I woke up today to the urgent desire to go to REI, at 7am, because I’ve decided to switch up the way I’m sacking my food bags, so need a few more. Since REI doesn’t open until 9, you get this blog post. 😉

My Google Keep to-do list. Dwindling in length, and starting to feel manageable.

My Google Keep to-do list. Dwindling in length, and starting to feel manageable.

This is the Google Keep app that I’ve used to track my to-dos, and which I check more  times per day than Facebook. 😉 Each of the things that is on there isn’t on there because I haven’t tried to do it yet – it’s still on because of a hiccup.

My BD Guide gloves are the reason I’m up so early, and aren’t waterproofed yet because I lost the waterproofer they came with. Rather than sanely heading to REI to fork over the remainder of my dough, though, I felt compelled to search the house, top to bottom, sure I would find it. Instead…you can find me at REI today, a little after 9. I would have hurried up and gotten this done by now, but I knew I had most of two days for them to dry, and today and tomorrow off, so decided not to sweat it too badly. But yes – those gloves (and the need to give them enough time to dry) are why I’m up early. You’ll note “locate BD waterproofer” is still on there – what can I say? I’m stubborn.

Similarly, drying out the stoves is on the to-do list because I knew I had two solid days of sunshine coming up, but moreover, because I wanted to set them outside to dry out, but we have a very active raven/crow (which are they?) population, and I had this nightmarish image of them swooping in to sneak off with my stove parts with me oblivious, and not finding out until one of the other girls tries to light the stove on Denali. So the stove drying out waiting until today is really about me managing paranoia! I’m literally going to sit here and watch our stoves dry. Like paint, but more essential.

Other places in my house, it looks like this:

wpid-wp-1431098483210.jpgThat’s 26 “day bags” of food on the right side, with a day bag consisting of all my food from breakfast through to the hot drink and instant soup we’ll eat once we sit down in camp to heat water for dinner (the hot drink and soup are to fend off the “hangry”, and keep everyone happy while we wait for water to heat). The only food not in my day bags at this point is the cheese, which goes with the triscuits, which I’m going to vacuum seal into little baggies today, to try to preserve the triscuits intact. In front of the food is a luggage scale (handy-dandy, these days) and some extra stuff sacks, which are also piled on top of the whole mess.

We’re each bringing 5 “just add water and eat” high elevation meals – those are in the foreground. I went fancy on the risotto on the left – I promise to report back. The ‘Joy of Cooking’ is just there as a bookend, and on the left is Dr. Andy Luks’ guide to recognizing altitude sickness, which I plan on reviewing today.

Under the stuff sacks in the middle is my most exciting purchase -a new camera!!! I splurged (sort of) and bought a new camera even though my circa 2008 Nikon Coolpix would do. I got the Sony DSC RX100 I, after much agonizing and collection of data and reading of reviews, and when it came down to it I picked it because it had the larger sensor and the images would look better printed (or so they tell me). I haven’t even taken it out of the box (or the bag) yet, so my reward for getting through all my to-dos today will be playing with it as I head out for a last, nice dinner with Ed tonight, and then as we do brunch and hopefully sneak in a walk to the beach before I leave tomorrow. If I had more money right now I would have gotten the RX100 III, but this will still very much be an improvement over the Coolpix!

I ought to mention here that I feel very lucky we have such a spacious place – I often tease my boyfriend for having a house with a bit more floor space than two people need, but lately we’ve utilized every foot of it – and then some. Last weekend the girls were here alllll (and I do mean allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll) day Saturday and most of Sunday doing food packing and gear packing and sled-coffin weighing… and we had sufficient parking and space for all of it, and then some. So thank you to Ed, for sharing this big lovely house with me, and allowing me to fill it to the brim with climbing gear! 😉

And about that space – here’s what the other spaces look like:

wpid-wp-1431098585918.jpgThis is our gear room, and this photo makes me so happy I could burst. This is some seriously organized gear!!!

I’m one clothing stuff sack short of ready to throw these things into my duffel (lower left) and backpack upper left-center, just out of the shot, hence the REI urgency – really it’s just a matter of which stuff sack I’m not using for food, and that one will carry my remaining clothes. Because we have all our sharps in a sled, we have very little technical gear still out, and most of the rest is soft stuff. The pile in the lower right hand corner, plus my boots, will travel to Alaska in a carry-on, because we’ll be wearing them on the glacier when we fly in!

Otherwise you’re looking at my gaiters and overboots (both black in the middle-ish), a lingering extra glove decision to be made (also black in the middleish), a pile of cordage plus biners plus ascender plus tibloc plus harness on the left (seriously in need of better organizing – one of my to-dos today), a pile of food stuff (next to my boots and helmet) and then the following stuff sacks, from left to right: “head and foot” stuff sack (everything from spare socks to spare gloves to balaclava to sun hat), NeoAir Xtherm sleeping pad, clothing stuff sack (green), first aid/toiletries/self-care items (everything from sunblock to deodorant to lady-business stuff), my super warm high elevation parka (black stuff sack), the group food I’m carrying (orange), a small stuff sack with toe and hand warmers (I have terrible circulation!) 4 stove bottles, and three black stove bags. The sleeping bag is out so the down doesn’t get any more compacted, and the foam mat goes too. The biggest piece of group gear I’m carrying is our tent, in its entirety – we have two matching Mountain Hardwear Trango 3 tents, and I’ll have one. On the right are our radios, getting good and charged up before we go.

Finally, the gear “coffins”, and our wands. We take two sleds and put them together to carry our sharp stuff, and put duck (duct?) tape all around them to keep ’em together. One is closed and ready to go – the other needs to be taped up, but is also ready, since Ed helped me get a different sled than I had planned to use all prepared the other night. (My sled is the sweet one standing up on the left). The sleds are waiting in the hallway to our carport, to be whisked away to the airport.


And that’s all she wrote! I’m off to nail down the to-do list – you can find me at REI mulling stuff sacks, or doing a stare down today with crows as our stoves dry out, if you need me. 😉 1 more day!!!

10 Questions with: Meredith!

As we wind our way into April (crazy!), there’s a lot on our minds and several items on our to-do lists, although each of us is focused on and working hard to address different things. Over the next few days each of us will post a “10 Questions With:” blog entry, to each answer the same 10 overall questions and  share what we’re thinking, what we’re doing, and where our head is at with regards to the rapidly approaching Denali climb.
First up? Yours truly.
1. What has been the biggest change in your day-to-day life since beginning to train for this climb? What are you doing this spring that you wouldn’t normally be doing, at this time?
Can I say “spraining my stupid ankle” without sounding like a petulant seven year old? Because spraining my stupid ankle definitely became a defining experience in this training period. It was frustrating (and somewhat agonizing) to get super amped up to really get started and put in the training time with the rest of the girls, then go out on our first all day conditioning hike, and slip on ice …while standing still looking at the view. And it sucked to stay home while they went out to train, a few of those earliest weekends. It made me feel 100 years old. 100, and seven, apparently.
My sister during a recent visit, "helping" me with my ankle physical therapy the way she would have when we were little - by mimicking me, like a dork. :)

My sister during a recent visit, “helping” me with my ankle physical therapy the way she would have when we were little – by mimicking me, like a dork. 🙂

The biggest change post ankle, though, has been the addition of actual weight training (weight lifting) to my weekly workout routine, and that of ramping up that routine much earlier than usual (early January versus late February). I’m carrying 45 lbs, as of this week, and would normally be at about 35 right now.
Jenn pulling weights around back in February

Jenn pulling weights around back in February

In terms of weight-training – in early February we got together at Leigh Ann’s gym, Level 4 Crossfit, to talk about specific training movements to focus on, and pull sleds loaded with weight. Leigh Ann made a list of upper body and core workouts to focus on, and rather than keep track of them individually, I took a photo of the wipeboard, and then turned them into a checklist in my Droid’s ‘Keep’ app that I run through every single time I’m at the Y, checking them off as I go (very satisfying, psychologically). I do all the upper body and core stuff twice a week for about an hour and a half, and afterwards, I’m totally wiped – to the point where my arms tremble while I open my gym locker. Weight-lifting is hard (and a bit intellectually un-engaging) but I have the core (back and waist-area) resilience, and hunky new biceps, to prove it’s worth it!
2. We’ve each purchased or borrowed a ton of gear for the trip – what two or three Denali-specific new items are you absolutely loving right now, and is there anything that simply didn’t work for you, and that you returned right away?
Some of my favorite gear I’m taking on this trip is old gear: circa 2011 Patagonia Expedition 4 black long underwear pants (the newer Exped 4s are really thin!), and a pair of white Elita long underwear that I got way back when I first started backpacking, from my parents. There’s nothing like the old standbys.
Me in my "new" Elita long underwear, a thousand years and a lifetime ago, in an Appalachian Trail hut back during college, in 2006. This may be the coolest I've ever looked in an outdoors photo (because it's fuzzy).

Me in my “new” Elita long underwear, a thousand years and a lifetime ago, in an Appalachian Trail hut back during college, in 2006. This may be the coolest I’ve ever looked in an outdoors photo (because it’s fuzzy).

In terms of new gear: I bought a new hardshell jacket (hardshell = plastic-like wind-blocking external layer) from Patagonia, sized bigger than I normally would so that it can cover all my layers, and I took it out for a test-drive this weekend and kinda love it. It’s their Patagonia Alpine Houdini, and it’s a super stripped down, super lightweight layer, complete with tiiiiny zippers! Although I admit, I wish it had pockets! (They left ’em off because it’s supposed to be super light – hence the “Houdini”). Plus, I like it because mine is purple. And that’s not because I’m a girl – it’s because I like purple!
Putting hard-earned knitting skills to use unsnaggling well-snaggled tent cords for the new Trango! Check out that awesome purple hardshell and those sweet, expensive Spantiks!

Putting hard-earned knitting skills to use unsnaggling well-snaggled tent cords for the new Trango! Check out that awesome purple hardshell and those sweet, expensive as all get-out Spantiks!

I also love (love, love, love) my La Sportiva Spantik (Carolyn rather adorably calls them “Sputniks”) boots, which look like moonshoes. The Spantiks are double boots (so there are two individual lace-up boots you wear on each foot – one nests inside the other), as opposed to plastics (which have a hard plastic shell, like ski boots). The Spantiks were my biggest, splurgiest purchase – they cost more than I have ever paid in monthly rent, to put it in perspective. I really wrestled with whether I should get those, or the Koflach Artis Expe plastic boots, which are about $300 cheaper (I actually bought and took home both, and then stared at the two pairs obsessively for most of February before making a decision), but I realized that most of the time when faced with a decision like this, I go for pragmatism and choose the cheaper option, and I’ve been known to suffer for that in the past. But my feet are literally what’s going to carry me up the mountain – so I went for the fancy option, this time, and haven’t regretted it whatsoever. And to quote the MountainTrip gear list – what’s $750 divided by 10 toes? $75 a toe? The most expensive boots of my life, for sure, but keeping toes is worth at least that much. (Don’t worry mom and dad – losing toes is extremely unlikely!)
Other goodies I’m loving – the Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero parka I bought with a killer deal (in bright orange, no less), even though it’s sized for a dude with a barrel chest and I’m pretty sure I could fit Jenn in there with me(!), and Leigh Ann’s super sweet new Mountain Hardwear Trango 3 tent! So sweet! So much internal storage! Such bright colors!
Maiden tent erection. Hmmm, that's not quite what I meant. But I like it, so let's leave that here...

Maiden tent erection. Hmmm, that didn’t quite come out how I meant it… But, whatever. 😉

Finally, can I cast a “cool gear” vote for Leigh Ann’s sweet new climbing bibs, which I can’t seem to find in my size anywhere, for the absolute life of me, but I’m sure she’ll tell you about?
3. Which logistical or planning-related decision are you feeling most thoughtful about, or has you worried?
I’m not worried about much, to be honest – I’m a pretty level-headed, logical task manager, and that trait has been very much present these last two months. I think the main thing I’m worried about is what you might call the “controversial leave-behinds” – the question of how many shovels to bring, how many probes, whether to bring our avalanche beacons, and whether to bring helmets. (I’d be interested in the perspective of other people on this issue, I should note). A lot of the rescue gear we carry in the Cascades is more disproportionately useful in the Cascades, and so some climbers leave it behind for trips like Denali, but having been trained to compulsively wear one’s beacon…it’s really hard to contemplate leaving it behind, ever.
4. What’s your go-to snack for food on the mountain? The Denali Girls are planning for hot breakfasts and hot dinners – what will you be eating the rest of the time?
I can’t do bars or oatmeal, and I don’t eat meat, so no jerky, which pretty much makes me the most difficult mountain eater imaginable. I would rather do raw, unadulterated nuts (of almost any kind), straight up chocolate, or absolute crap candy (hello, gummy bears!) than anything else. Normally I’d carry raw almonds, dried apricots, Stretch Island, single serving fruit leather things that were all the rage a few years back, and Primal Strips – pseudo-paleo vegetarian snack strips, as well as a few pieces of honest-to-god candy, around here. I also regularly steal dried mango from Trader Joe’s and peanut M&Ms from my boyfriend, here in Washington. In Alaska I’m anticipating a lot of fruit chews and some gels (consistency is a hang up of mine – I think oatmeal has the consistency of that which shall not be named, and some of those gels – don’t even get me started). So I’m experimenting a lot with what snacky foods to bring, and would very much welcome creative suggestions!
5. What new food or drink products have you added to your daily life since starting preparations for the climb? What do you like the best?
This is one of my favorite questions, because I’m so pleasantly surprised by my answer. Coco Libre, a company that makes coconut water fortified with added protein, agreed to sponsor us by providing product (a few boxes full of single-serving, to-go containers of coconut milk) and I felt a little gun-shy at first, because the last time I tried coconut water that wasn’t straight from a coconut, I didn’t like it. The Coco Libre stuff is awesome, thought, and I’m completely addicted. Current training philosophy suggests that consuming additional protein after a work out aids in muscle recovery, so for awhile my fridge was totally stocked with the squeezable containers of it, and I’d grab one and throw it in my workout bag before heading to the gym. The chocolate one and the vanilla one are particuarly awesome, and both have additional protein added.
Breakfast of (pescetarian) champions: egg on a real east coast bagel, and a Coco Libre. Add a greek yogurt (Tillamook is my go-to) and I'm ahead of the protein curve before the day has even started!

Breakfast of (pescetarian) champions: egg on a real east coast bagel, and a Coco Libre. Add a greek yogurt (Tillamook is my go-to) and I’m ahead of the protein curve before the day has even started!

I’ve also added a fish oil supplement, whey protein shakes, and other healthy bits (plus more eggs for breakfast: protein source), but don’t have much more to say about that beyond – yeah – I’m doing it. Those whey protein shakes are pretty good – that BCAA-G stuff in “Lemonade” is headed back to the store as soon as I have a minute. The Omega-3 vitamins are the size of horse pills. Gulp.
6. What’s the most interesting, most complicated, or most useful skill or technique you’ve learned or perfected over the last few months?
Working with the sleds is pretty interested, pretty challenging, and just kinda cool. Probably just that experience, of wearing a huge backpack while towing a full-loaded sled last weekend. I felt so super strong (and so super wiped out afterwards!)
7. What’s still on your Denali to-do list? Give us a sample of the things you’re about to get to, or make decisions about, this week.
So. many. things. The most obvious are filling my gear holes (which are somehow more glaring than those of the other girls) – I still need a new pair of crampons, insulated overboots (which are like a wetsuit that covers your entire boot and lower leg), a bigger harness (sized to go over all the new clothes I’ll be wearing), an extra pair of long underwear, new glacier glasses (SO over my old ones!) and down booties. Like I said, I’m a little behind. Eeek. Other things – confirming our flight date and travel plans, ride information, etc. The biggest single thing we’re still working with as a group is our food planning – that’s a whole other challenge, with our varied diets and desire to travel light (freeze-dry allll the things…)
[Editor’s Note: writing this entry induced enough panic that as of yesterday I now have the overboots, long underwear, and down booties. I also don’t have $600 that I did yesterday…]
8. What does your training or conditioning schedule look like this week, for example? Is there any one part of your physical conditioning that has most noticeably changed your physique?
In a nutshell: two days outside last weekend – Saturday: sled work and snow camping, Sunday, hiking the big slope on the approach to Rock Lake. Monday: wasn’t feeling so hot – too much business travel wedged between a lot of climbing training. Tuesday: got stuck in traffic-pocalypse and missed my stair climbing plans (please see “Overturned fish truck on Viaduct ruined everyone’s day” – because, yep, thanks for that, Seattle). Tonight I’m working around social plans (with climbers – ha!) to hit up the West Seattle Y, first, and get my core and upper body workout in. Thursday I’m hoping to swim in the morning (for some active recovery and additional cardio),and then do our night hike with 45 lbs. I’m angling to take Friday off from work so that Jenn and I can head to the Mountaineers, hang off the roof, and give me a chance to practice escaping the crevasse by passing a sled, which the other girls practiced back when my ankle was still too messed up to bear weight. Then Saturday we condition again (45 lbs), and Saturday night we’re doing a “sleepover” at Jenn’s down to enjoy some downtime together but also get a bunch of small to-dos done! Sunday afternoon is real downtime, and then Monday it all starts over, again. The pace, at this point, is a little bit unrelenting.
And yes, on the physique – my core feels totally strong (which I partially attribute to the swimming I did most days in February!) and my biceps and shoulders could give Popeye a run for his money. 😉
9. What are you reading or listening to right now? Denali books, or training books, or books to give you a break from all of the above?
I’m trying to concurrently finish Steve House’s book ‘Training for the New Alpinism,’ and Colby Coombs’ ‘Denali: The West Buttress,’ which is a matter of fact treatment of what the climb entails. I had dropped both when we got really busy training, so that’s the goal for early April.
10. What, to you, would make for a successful climb? Is there one moment or experience you are most looking forward to?
I’m most looking forward to landing on the glacier – I think that’s going to be a bit mind-blowing – like whoa – we’re really doing this, we’re really here. To me a successful climb is everyone going up and coming down friends, and each woman feeling empowered to speak her mind about what we do from day to day, and feeling heard, and engaged in the decision-making. I’m less attached to the summit (to all summits, really) than a lot of people – for me it’s all about the adventure, and always has been. Even if something happens and I end up sitting down at basecamp, waiting for the other girls to come back – it will be an adventure, an experience, a great story. I just realized as I typed this that I have the perfect fortune cookie taped to my computer monitor, to sum it up:
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
I’ll take a bit of daring, please!