Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Preparation

It's been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I'd have to say that the journey to climb Everest begins with thousands of little steps of detail. Hardly a minute passes without my thinking about it. I go to bed thinking about the climb and wake up thinking about the climb. There is, what seems like, an endless list of things to do. 

The climbing gear and clothes seem the easiest to organize, but recreating a small home in my base camp tent with the things needed to live for two months away seems at times daunting and overwhelming. I have been compiling a list of food, gear, etc. for months now. As something came to mind I'd add it to the list. Most of the technical climbing gear I had, but there were a few new pieces of gear that I needed. I'm certain the UPS, FedX, and mail people are convinced I'm running some kind of mysterious business. It's like Christmas everyday seeing a new box sitting near the front door when I get home.

A two month climb is a long time. I've done close to a month before, so I have some sense of the scale of things, but this one is borderline ridiculous. I know from experience to be sure to cover the basics, and that, in the end it will all come together and that everything will be packed in my big gear duffles ready to go.

Here's an example of what's been going through my mind everyday for the last several month preparing for this climb: 

"Okay, I need to get wet wipes...wonder how many I'll per day for 60 days that is 60 total, but wait, maybe I will need more than one wet wipe some days... need to order my power bars...five power bars a day for 60 days that's 300 bars...don't forget to buy a few new stuff sacks...Wait, that's only 200 calories per bar and 1000 calories a day, and I'll be burning close to 10,000 calories a day...maybe I should have 6 to 7 bars a day... yeah, but I'll also have my usual go-to climbing snacks, orange slices, mango slices...which gear bags should I use...crocs would be nice to wear at base camp...need to call and see if my gaiters can be repaired...need to re-check those new gloves and compare to my old ones...need to set up automatic bill pay at bank...Shit, I almost forgot about batteries and hand many of these will I need for two months... can't forget to make doctor’s appointment this week for medication scripts and then get to CVS to get them filled...right, while I'm there I can get sunscreen, candy, tooth paste, hand sanitizer, foot powder, maybe a few trashy novels to read...have to decide on laptop stuff...get extra camera battery...need to get taxes done before we leave... need to speak with my clients again before leaving...wonder if Jim's available later to discuss our oxygen plan and food list...need to do Nepal's new online visa eye doctor to get new contacts...maybe 400 power bars would be better..." It's an endless loop.

Training has been a big part of this journey and becauseI knew Everest was a possibility last January, I started training just to get myself ready in case it became a reality. I really enjoy training and pushing my body hard. However, being 53 makes it much harder to push those limits, but I've tried, and as a result there have been set backs with knee and lower back issues. I call it the ugly intersection of age and desire. In the end you just keep moving forward the best you can and except that it is what it is. 

The first six months of last year I went back to Crossfit of Durham and did morning bootcamps three days a week. On weekends I hiked and road biked. I also used my old realiable gym, the Duke Center for Living, for weight lifting and treadmill. I logged many miles on a treadmill at 15 degress with a 30 pound pack. Last fall I began a series of monthly training trips to Mt. Mitchell. I like the real-time training of hiking up and down hills and have done this many times before climbs. On Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, I can get roughly a 4000 foot elevation gain in 5.5 miles. It was a good mental and physical test to gauge my fitness level and it was good to see improvement.  Barbara and I spent a week in New Hampshire after Christmas ice climbing and skiing. I did two winter summits of Mt. Washington, one solo in -35 degree wind-chill factor weather. After the first of the year, I moved back into regular crossfit class and then started an intensive training program designed for mountaineers called Mountain Athlete. It's the most intensive training program I've ever done and it helped tremendously, but one needs to be careful not to do too much too fast. I developed some lower back issues that limited my workouts these last few weeks. Only time will tell how it plays out on the mountain. 

In amongst these preparation and training details are actual thoughts about the climb. These too are an endless loop of wandering thoughts...the beautiful trek to base camp, the scary first climb into the Khumbu Icefall, the heat of the Western Cum, the step and icy Lhotse Face, the Yellow Rock Band, the Genevia Spur, the South Col and Camp 4, the Triangular Face up to the Balcony, the long steep ridge, the Norgay Step, the South Summit, the 9000 foot drop off Knife Edge Traverse, the Hillary Step, the false summits, the prayer flags blowing on the Summit. Do I even dare think about the Summit? This mind climb happens throughout the day and into my dreams. 

And nervous thoughts too..will the knees, back, and heart hold up? How will it go? Again, only time will tell. Without taking the risk I will never know.

Well, it time to leave in a few hours... It takes a village to send a climber off to climb Mt. Everest - even if the village doesn't know it.  As I begin this journey there are lots of people I'd like to thanks for helping me along this path. Each of them has played some roll, both small and large, in keeping me on track for this climb. They've all listened to my dreams and frustrations with supportive interest and offered sound advice.

My wife Barbara, for being completely supportive of this climb. She's never once suggested I shouldn't go, and when I've expressed doubt, she keeps telling me I need to go. She has the climbing bug now and I know she's itching to give it a try herself one day.

My mountain climbing and mountain training buddies, Ron, Scott, Kent, Jon, Alex, Frank, Barbara, and the Original Keev. We've logged a lot of miles together over the years and again this past year (although lately, these climbs have usually been followed by way too many beers in Asheville, NC, so the actual benefit of the training climbs is questionable). Thanks to Gaynor and Mary Leigh for the use of their warm cabin near the trailhead.

My biking buddies, Gaynor, Kent, Curt, Tom, and Don. A motivating and inspiring group of aging "legendary" racers who I've been fortunate enough to be allowed to ride with for many years now.

My Durham Crossfit training pals. Coach Doug for "not killing" me three years ago and for his generous support, motivation, and interest as we worked through the Mountain Athlete program. Thanks to Brad for many helpful suggestions as he worked out nearby. Thanks to owner Dave and all the other coaches. My original 7:15ers group - it's great to be back seeing everyone again each morning.

The staff at the Duke Center For Living and Duke Cardiac Rehab and fellow rehabbers - three years ago Karen, Anne, and Roy played a huge roll in my recovery from the heart attack. 

Stewart Walker at the Wholelistic Center for working the deep muscles and strains, for understanding my panicked phone calls, and fitting me in when some pain popped up in either my knees or lower back. Also, Jessica at Endless Summer Massage. Jamie and Kim at Duke Sports Medicine PT.

My work partners, Bob and Jennifer - this wouldn't be possible without you two. Our clients who allow me to be gone for several months and still support my efforts with enthusiasm. I'm looking forward to drinking some Mother Earth Beer at base camp.

Family and Friends, you know who you are and the rolls you've played - your support is obvious and always with me. 

One reminder. I will update my blog when I can, but you can follow our daily team dispatches here

Thanks again. Keep checking in. We're off. Next stop Kathmandu...


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