Thursday, April 25, 2013

Soldiers, Mountains and Grants

Some big news here at Best Day of Life....from my post over at Go Mighty.

We are sometimes not a great judge of what’s possible.- Maggie Mason

Sometimes all it takes is one phrase to jump start something. I know that this is nothing profound – the Go Mighty community are a people who are sensitive to inspiration. A people for whom sometimes all it takes is one second of permission to change something good into something oh-my-God-what-am-I-doing awesome.

The drive to Glenwood Springs

That’s how this goal started. In June 2010, I scribbled my life list in the car on a road trip to Glenwood Springs with my husband. We were spitballing – just throwing things out there like we do – when “climb a fourteener” made the list. It was a safe item – like “get a tattoo” (which I can’t do without risking the wrath of my stodgy transplant team…but we shall see) – because it would  probably never happen.

And then it did. Twice. And actually one more time in September 2012 which will come in a soon-to-be-written post.

Almost at the top of Mt. Democrat
After taking an online course, I looked back at my list. Emboldened by Maggie Mason's suggestion that this be a living list, I crossed of ”climb a fourteener” and changed it to my secret, only discussed with my husband, life list item:  climb ALL the mountains!

And then I hit publish.

Never did I expect that this goal would make the front page of Go Mighty. Nor did I, in a million years, expect it to win a $1,000 grant! The morning I received the announcement email, I sleepily looked at my phone, put it down, rubbed my eyes and then pulled the covers over my head. Overwhelmed.

So what does one do with a grant for mountain climbing? Bagging local fourteeners, aside from gear (which can either be minimal (and unsafe) at tennis shoes, a Nalgene bottle and your dog or very high tech, all name-brand and fancy), is not a very expensive sport. I am fortunate to have inherited quite a bit of my gear secondhand from a friend who is a sponsored athlete for an outdoor clothing manufacturer.

Standing in a cloud

Well, as it turns out, my next climb is already on deck. And it’s a fundraiser. I am scheduled to participate in the “What’s Your Everest ” climb to on June 1st to benefit Soldiers to the Summit. S2S is a group dedicated to using the mountain climbing experience as a metaphor for soldiers to start rebuilding their lives after physical or emotional injury post-combat. Even though I am not a soldier, the idea is everyone has an “Everest” - those things that seem too big to ever summit. For me, mountain climbing represents the ultimate in what I couldn’t do before and every time I tackle a mountain I have to face and conquer all those heart failure demons as I climb.

We will be tackling Grays Peak  as a group under the expert leadership of several incredible climbers. Grays is typically done as a twofer with its neighbor, Torreys Peak   I hear rumors that there will be a rogue group headed to the saddle to grab them both. I will be among that company if my snail’s pace allows it.

My grant is headed to this amazing organization, earmarked specifically for this  fundraising climb.  By doing so, I will be able to climb with my favorite partner and husband.  We will be alongside men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country and are looking to overcome a real and present barrier – this 14,278 foot mountain.

We may not sometimes be the best judges of what is possible…indeed yes. I am thrilled and honored to be able to join with this team of wounded warriors to break through our own barriers of what we think possible.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Rest of the Story

The long awaited finish to the first Fourteener(s) saga. Here is part one and part two.

We had started the day at 5:00 am – too late to be considered an “alpine” start but not so late that it wasn’t still early at the summit of Mt. Democrat. As we headed back, climbing gingerly over the iciest damn rocks I have EVER SEEN, we began to mull the concept of actually continuing on. What the what?

No joke, those are what the rocks looked like. It was hard on knees and balance to crawl down the rocks, and nauseous-terrifying for someone who is afraid to walk across an icy flat parking lot.  At one point, my legs just stopped. I waited for a minute with the desperate hope that maybe someone would just pick me up? Just over this rock? Alas, that’s not how mountain climbing works. I dug deep, took a breath and moved. There was slipping and not a few moments where tears were close, but, since I’m sitting in my chair now, I’m assuming that I made it.

We reached the saddle.  Now, Mt. Democrat sits in a trio of 14,000+ mountains. Actually, it sits in a quadrangle, but apparently there are rules about these things. Democrat’s sister mountains are Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Bross.

From this poorly illustrated picture, you can see that you take one trail up to the saddle. Go left and you are on Democrat. Go right and you head on over to Mt. Cameron and then over to Mt. Lincoln and Brosse. Typically, climbers efficiently try to hit all three (official) 14ers in one day.

A few gels and some water later, Mike, Brian and I headed out. Chris (my husband) had sadly twisted his knee and decided to wait this one out.

We had stopped talking at this point. Breathing the frigid air, my only focus was my next step. It gets too overwhelming when you actually stop to think about how far you need to go…and your very inching progress.

Suddenly we were at the top of something. I saw the handwritten sign surrounded by rocks. Hallelujah! My second fourteener of the day. OMG! My second!

As I prepared my high-fives, Brian shared the sad news. Not all fourteeners are official Fourteeners. Again, what the what?  According to Wikipedia, a 14,000+ peak “must have at least 300 feet (91 m) of prominence to qualify.” Mt.Cameron, while a very nice mountain, did not fit the criteria. Alas, we took our pictures and moved on.

Finally, there in the distance was the top of Mt. Lincoln – a tough chunk of rock sticking out of more rocks. A lot of scrambling, some pulling and a boost later and there we were. It was official – three two fourteeners in one day for this transplant. Overwhelming.

There was a brief discussion of trying to bag Mt. Bross, but Mike wisely decided that I probably had enough. Plus, the biggest danger of Colorado 14ers was beginning to loom overhead – the clouds were breaking from ice to storm clouds. We judged it best to hightail it back to the car.

We made it to the bottom. My legs were shivery shaky – I hadn’t sat down once all day. I remembered all the terrible days of my hospitalization – the time I coded, the time I arrested, the emergency surgery and then I looked at my husband and at my feet. Those feet, his heart and this amazing heart had gotten me up and back. I couldn’t wait to do more.