“At first an ordeal and then an accomplishment, the daily run becomes a staple, like bread, or wine, a fine marriage, or air. It is also a free pass to friendship.”
~ Benjamin Cheever, Strides

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Humble Pie

A view from the start of our climb
Mountain: 1
Mandy's climb team: 0
Mandy: -1
Let's start at the end of the story.  No one on my climb team achieved the summit of Mt. Rainier.  8 out of the 9 members of my climb team made it to 12,800' before unstable snow conditions made them turn around and return to Camp Muir.  2 days before our climb, the upper mountain received 18" of snow.  Avalanche risk was high.  When they talked about hearing the snow crack beneath them...

Notice I said "them".  I did not make it that far.  In fact, I could not keep the pace set by the lead guide.  My team reached Camp Muir in 4.5 hours.  (Average is 5 hours, 15 minutes).  My team only took 3 breaks on the way there, skipping the typical first break.  At our first break, I was about 10 minutes behind the team.  The guide with me convinced me that it was more beneficial to the team if I did not continue with them.  Instead, I joined another RMI team descending from Camp Muir and returned to Base Camp.  In hindsight, after speaking with my parents who have achieved Camp Muir, my pace was not truly hurting my team, and I could have continued to push for Camp Muir.  

The bottom line though?  I was not in good enough condition to maintain their pace.  This means I was also not in good enough condition to achieve the summit.  On the upper mountain, we travel in rope teams for safety.  Up there, I would have endangered my team.
Me and my Dad at base camp
I learned a lot from this failure.  (and may or may not have shed tears over it).  I know what I need to change about my training.  The night the boys were still on the mountain, my stepmother and I spoke for a long time, and agreed that we are going to try again next year.  (She reached Camp Muir last year, but did not reach the summit).  
Mountaineering school taught me a lot.
You can also see that I tore my hard shell with my crampons.
Nothing a little duct tape can't fix!
Here is my list of training challenges and changes for the next year, hold me to them.

  1. Continue with the weight loss.  I will lose the remaining 20-25 lbs needed to achieve my goal weight.  This will make the climb significantly easier.  
  2. I will incorporate training sessions with a heavier pack (at least 50 lbs).  My pack on climb day felt as heavy as my heaviest pack trained with.  I want it to feel lighter.  :)
  3. I will train for longer sessions without a break.  It is entirely possible that my next guide will also skip the first break.  In addition, the section with Disappointment Cleaver is typically 1.5 hours.  I want to train for 2 hours minimum without a break.
  4. I will incorporate speed sessions with a pack.  Bottom line, I need to be faster.  Especially when training at the Dam Steps.  The down portion of those steps is a built in break, and I think that ultimately hurt me.  Thus, when on the steps, I need to go even faster.  I am considering using only every other step.  I will also do these year round.
  5. On my ski trip next spring, I will spend as many days climbing the ski slopes with my pack as I do skiing.
  6. I will spend the final 2 weeks pre-climb in Colorado.  I will also make another trip to Colorado to climb as many 14'ers as possible.  Although they are not as technical as Rainier and do not gain as much in elevation, it will still be good to practice at elevation.
  7. I will incorporate some time-specific training.  Where, I go to bed before the sun, and get up in the middle of the night to workout.
Now, that you've read all that - here are some pictures my husband took from the rest of the climb.

A view along the way to Camp Muir
Mark hanging out at a rest stop
My Dad at a rest stop
The cozy accommodations at Camp Muir
My Dad and Mark at Camp Muir
A view after sunrise
A view from the upper mountain - near sunrise
Returning home
So gorgeous!  I will see these in person next year.  When you miss a goal, it's important to learn from it, make necessary changes and move forward.  Don't stand still and cry about it!  (That's what I keep telling myself!)

I look forward to catching up on all that I missed while on my 2 week long trip.  I will also post stories and pictures from the Alaskan cruise in the next day or so.  Oh, and Avery is fabulous, and practically walking.
Put me down mom, I got a city to walk around!


  1. Wow, wow, wow!! I was sad to hear of your disappointment, but in no way agree that this was any kind of failure. Just the fact that you tried makes this a huge success.

    I get "maybe" shedding a tear - I say go for it (but only for the disappointment, not any kind of failure) and then find a new goal.

    I'm seriously impressed and looking forward to your next big goal :)

  2. Your plan reads (and sounded) solid to me. Although I have no experience. The effort you put into this training was amazing to watch and I look forward to watching you.

    I know how you feel about what you consider "failing" and while I am here to say you didn't really fail, I get the tears. That would have been me too.

    You listened to what the guide told you which is all you can do....they're the experts. Next time it will be better!

    My question is - will Mark do it next time?

  3. Mark looks like he is freezing! I am a complete wuss because those pictures firmly convinced me that I'd never make it as mountain climber. I have no doubt you will summit Rainier eventually (unless the weather decides to constantly screw you) and you should still be proud of everything you have done this year.

  4. OK here's my promise: if you want/need another climbing partner for some of those 14ers in Colorado, I am in!! I'm serious--just let me know in advance and I'm there with you, girl. Doing all 54 14ers is on my post-Boston bucket list anyway, and I can think of nothing more fun than doing some of them with you. You are my kind of person: long-term minded, doesn't brag but also doesn't give up, sheds tears and moves onward and upward. You WILL do it--Ranier is yours! All failure does is strengthen resolve! See it as a source of power!

    1. I would LOVE a climbing partner!!! I will definitely let you know when I go to Colorado!

  5. Tears allow you te heal. Cry away sister... one of my favorite musicians says this... the best thing in life aren't things they're laughing and crying... embrace the emotions. Love the emotions. They remind us that we are human. Ok on another note you sincerely amaze me and being around you and your training has truly blessed me and taught me a lot about strength... just sayin...

  6. I was wondering how everything was going! I'm so sorry it didn't go as hoped and planned... shedding a few tears is perfectly normal and acceptable. You have a great training list- sounds like you know what needs to happen. I would have no idea how to go about training for such a big goal... I'm impressed! You'll get there someday. Congrats on making it as far as you did!

  7. I'm sure it was sad not to get where you wanted! I am so impressed you are already making goals and counting on doing it next year! Your hubby's pics look beautiful! Good luck and you're still a hero for all that training and even getting that far, in my book! ~R

  8. Wow, what amazing pictures! So sorry you didn't meet your goal - I know it must be very disappointing. But your attitude is amazing and I know you'll do it next time! xxx

  9. Holy wow Mandy! You are one determined and awesome woman! I know you will reach your goal!

  10. Oh bummer. I can imagine how disappointed you are. But you know what you need to do and I have no doubt you'll get there. The pics are beautiful! xoxo


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