Before leaving to climb in the Himalayas my biggest concern was how to keep warm. I get cold easily and particularly my feet tend to suffer. My toes turn into ice cubes and no amount of wiggling them around will get them back to life. I don’t only get cold feet, but I also have rather tiny feet. Which meant my options for high altitude boots were limited. In fact, there was exactly one shoe that came in my size, the La Sportiva Spantik.
Ama Dablam is the most iconic peak in the Everest region, dominating the landscape with it’s pointy summit and dramatic ridgelines. While it is a fair chunk shorter than Mount Everest, the peak requires a higher level of technical climbing. Our team of four women, including a local Sherpa woman, had set our sights on Ama Dablam, hoping to climb Imja Tse (also known as Island Peak) at 20,305 feet before tackling our main objective at 22,345 feet. A year before we de-boarded the tiny plane at Lukla airport in the Khumbu region of Nepal we had come up with the idea of making a climbing film for and about women, something that we had notice was lacking in the climbing community. As part of our project we sponsored Phurba Sherpa, an early career climbing Sherpa, to be part of our team. Hoping that by gaining experience and developing her climbing skills she will be able to break into the male-dominated climbing industry in Nepal. We included the Nepali word for women, “Mahila” in our team name; as we hope to examine how women can break gender barriers and achieve goals.
It is one month till takeoff, it has been a year since I came up with this harebrained idea of making a women’s climbing film. Not just a film, but a film about climbing a mountain that for me will most certainly be a challenge. Not only is it the highest and hardest climb I have ever attempted, but I am also missing a quarter of my lungs for Christ sake!
Last week, my partner and I made an attempt on the Grand Central Couloir on the North Face of Mt. Kitchener. It would be our first attempt at climbing ANYTHING in the Canadian Rockies. Among many other things, I find going to a new region to be daunting because each seems to have its own climate that requires adapting to. The Rockies are a colder and drier range than the Cascades, Patagonia, or other places I have climbed. We did what I am sure many end up doing – debating our layering and sleeping systems for a good half hour.
That might be an exaggeration, yet I still hold to the statement. If not for this boot my feet would have been soggy, sore, and blistered. That being said I have pretty rough feet that don’t blister very easy. I decided to break these boots in on a seven day trip into the Wind River Range to porter a guided trip for Montana Alpine Guides, up Gannett Peak (the highest point in Wyoming 13,804’)
Summer has abruptly ended, the chill has set in and the leaves are starting to turn. It was a good one, despite being away for work I snuck in a variety of climbs, ranging from alpine rock to glaciers and ice. Some long multi day trips with grueling approaches, the kind were no matter what pack you use it rubs and pulls and makes it feel like you are carrying the world on your shoulders. Not this summer!
I think Jimmy and I were more excited to just be away from life and the computer for a bit, so we both failed to set an alarm. Our plan was to wake up and climb the East pillar in a day, with an intention of returning down Marc Andre’s new descent route.
The first question I get is Why? Why compete? Isn’t it better to focus on climbing outside? And, why try to compete with today’s youth who are seasoned competitors, some competing for most of their lives?
We weren’t going to make it for the total eclipse, but a partial is cool too, right? (And while yes, it was—I do regret this decision. It was nothing like the total eclipse. But that’s life, and I really hate driving in heavy traffic.) I picked up my friend Morgan in the Central District slightly after 8 am, she grabbed some peanut butter cookies and rhubarb bread and we headed to North Bend. Around Issaquah WASH-DOT had a very helpful sign “Eclipse today. No stopping on the road!” Thanks guys!
People often ask me why I climb and I usually just throw out some generic response like, ‘because I love it’ or ‘because it’s there’. I mean, of course I love it or I wouldn’t be doing it, right? Well, that’s not always the case, like when I’m actually doing it. When I’m really pushing my limits and scaring the crap out of myself, my head can get filled with irrepressible thoughts of imminent peril. “WTF am I doing up here? Who thought this was a good idea? I’m in way over my head! Please don’t fall, please don’t fall, pleeeeeease don’t fall.”
Climbing is a painful sport. Our toes are constantly snuggled against leather or synthetic boxes that smush our toes. Climbers feel pain the way ballerinas feel pain, not during performance. It before and after. How do we take care of our feet?