Chicks guest blogger Nicky Messner is a high altitude mountaineer with five of the seven summits under her belt, including Mt. Everest. She has recently decided to share her climbing experiences with other women. Her goal is to expand horizons & change lives through alpinism. She successfully led her first all-female team to Kilimanjaro in July of this year and has another trip scheduled for June 2012. Visit her website Be the Exception…not the Rule for more information.
Ok, so you put down your deposit on your [insert epic trip name here], now you have to get yourself ready. Trust me, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your departure date sneaks up on you; it’ll be here before you know it. I’m never organized enough….I plan my planning, and prepare to prepare, but I still forget something. I’ve had a new battery for my altimeter on my shopping list for ages; what’s the bet it’ll still be on the list when I get back from Argentina?!! However, if that’s the only thing I don’t get right, then I’ve done well. When I’m preparing for a climb, as I’m doing now for Aconcagua, I break my prepping into three different lists: my training, my gear and my head. Each one of these topics deserves an entire volume in order to discuss properly, but here’s what I think is the nitty-gritty:
The importance of being fit enough for your epic event simply can’t be over emphasized. And by fit enough, I mean overly fit. Olympic athlete fit. Get yourself the fittest you’ve ever been, and then take it up a notch. There are many reasons climbers have to turn back on mountains, and most of those things are out of their control (weather, altitude sickness, avalanche hazard and other safety issues, health of a team member etc.). Having to turn around however, because of something that was truly under your control but you didn’t adequately prepare – not good. Your actual training plan will vary depending on what your adventure will be, but the end goal is the same. Fitter than fit, baby!
I admit that I’m a gear whore; I love climbing equipment, and can drool over retail websites for hours. However, the important thing is not just to possess all the necessary (and some unnecessary) stuff for your adventure, but you must also know that it works for you personally. We all know not to break in new boots on a hiking trip, and that theory applies to all of our other gear also. Not sure how warm the new jacket is – get outside in some foul weather. How will the new pack manage the weight – load it up and go hiking, or use it on the treadmill at the gym. Fueling our bodies is extremely important at altitude, and food is gear. Make sure you know your appetite and food supplies as well as you know your boots. And ladies, don’t be a first time pee funnel user at midnight, in a tent, by headlamp. ¡Ay caramba!
Sometimes this can be the hardest part of the journey – getting our head where it needs to be. What we expect from our exploit is personal & unique to each individual. It is important to remember, however, that if the trip isn’t what we expect, that’s ok too. Do you have to get the summit? How many fingers have been lost having to ‘bag’ a summit? Must you be the strongest climber on the team, or is it okay to have a bad day? What if it’s colder/hotter, longer/shorter, harder/easier? What if we spend all our time trying to make the trip conform to our expectations, rather than enjoying it for what it is? Once you’ve trained hard, packed your gear, and walked out the front door, let it all go. Live it and love it; it’ll rock, no matter the preconceived outcome!
Robert Louis Stevenson said ‘…to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive…’. I am inclined to agree; I truly thrive on the anticipation of a climb. The training regimen, the gear fondling, the head shrinking; these are the guts of an adventure for me. If I rise successfully to these challenges, the trip itself will be icing on the cake. And who doesn’t like icing?
For more about Nicky and her upcoming all-female climbs, please visit her website www.betheexception.net A Kilimanjaro trip is scheduled for 6/23/12, and Nicky is currently putting together a ‘Hiking & Haciendas’ trip, with climbing add-on, in Ecuador at the end of May. If interested, please send Nicky an email at firstname.lastname@example.org