Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Impulsive Decisions and Endless Staircases

by Marcus Sakey

I love to travel. Cultural hotspot or primeval forest, demanding tour or beach paradise, I’m in. So when a high school buddy emailed to see if I would be interested in doing some kind of adventure trip, I was all over it. We started chatting, and decided that we were both in the mood for something that was a bit of a challenge. Something we’d have to prepare for, something unlike other trips we’d taken.

Which is how, before I’d thought the idea through, I was laying down a deposit on a trip to climb Mount Rainier.

Rainier, for those who don’t know, is the tallest mountain in the contiguous US, at 14,411 feet tall. It’s by and large not a technical climb, but it is, in the words of the guide I spoke to, “a beast.”

To which I replied, “gulp.”

My fault, really. I’d looked at the conditioning section of the website, but not with much care. I was too excited by the pictures, by the silence at the top of that mountain, by the thought of watching the sun come up as we ascended. And since I’m in pretty good shape to begin with, I figured what the hell.

Yeah. Hmm.

Turns out that it’s actually going to be a monster commitment. They recommend that as part of your training, you take regular spend 2 – 3 hours hiking up stadium stairs, carrying a full-weight pack. On the day of the actual ascent, we’ll be covering 12.5 miles across 14 hours with an escalation gain of 5,000 feet, carrying a 30-pound pack in 10-degree weather.

I’ll admit, my first thought was panic. But I’d already committed. And there was that sunrise. Plus, while the idea of training for a marathon has always seemed completely unappealing, training for a goal like this I could get.

So I’m going to try for it. I’ve begun upping my gym time—a lot—and while it’s challenging, I’m seeing results already. Which is gratifying, and gives me hope.

Besides, what’s really at stake? Work hard for the next six months to get myself in the best shape of my life so I can climb the tallest mountain in the country?

Doesn’t sound so bad put that way.

Funny thing, though, is that if I had read that conditioning page more carefully, there’s no way I would have agreed to do it. Leaping without looking led me to a place I wouldn’t have gone—but am excited to be. It’s daunting, yeah, but I believe the payoff will be worth it.

Any of you ever had that experience? Leapt without looking, and ended up liking the view?

And while I’m at it, any of you ever climb Rainier? I’m open to tips…


Dana King said...

Good luck and enjoy the experience. I'm a mountain guy myself. (As opposed to beach people; I'm not a climber. I just love them.) My most enjoyable vacations have taken me through the Rockies. You'll have a blast.

My closest "look before you leap" experience came about 15 years ago, when I got divorced and moved from Maryland to Chicago for reasons hard to fathom now. Didn't think much about how it would work, just packed up and went. It worked out okay. I lived near a city I came quickly to love for over three years, and learned a lot about myself, and how I made decisions. (And should make them in the future. Not always the same thing.)

Great news. Keep us posted.

Naomi Johnson said...

Climb it? Oh, hell, no! I drove up to Paradise Point and enjoyed the view from there. I used to work with a guy who is a seasoned climber. His team didn't make it to the top, due to the weather. He didn't make it sound like a good time either. Maybe the weather will cooperate with you, too, and you can just enjoy all the other fine things that Seattle has to offer.

Sean Chercover said...

Yeah, I climbed it. No big deal. Just bring lots of cigarettes. I found smoking helped a lot during the climb.

Tammee said...

They say leap and the net will appear, but they lie. I tried and landed in a heap on the floor (a figurative mountain for me). But I learned a lot anyway, espcially about preparation, hehehe.
But still, enjoy!

Katie Bell Moore said...

Thanks Sean--now I'm picturing Marcus and you as Bill Bryson and Katz in "A Walk in the Woods"!

Jen Forbus said...

You can do it, Marcus! I have complete confidence. The 10 degree weather part is enough to discourage me, but you go to it!! :)

more details said...

What a good post. thanks for sharing. just keep up posting. thanks.