After Everest….Then What? PART 2 in a 3 PART SERIES

As all mountaineers will likely agree, one of the greatest joys of a major expedition is the effort associated with the anticipation and coordination that starts many months in advance of the actual climb. Before I could begin the fun of planning my Mawenzi expedition, I needed a climbing partner. The chosen one needed to be someone that could handle getting cold, getting lost, getting tired, getting turned around, getting shot down, and getting back up again. I wanted someone that no matter how high the obstacles or how low the moods, I could be assured we would return home the best of friends.

While mountains have always provided me with a great way to escape and be in complete solitude, I have found that the real joy comes from sharing the experience. I never found joy in receiving or in sending a “wish you were here” postcard. The pretty cardboard picture with room to write three sentences, always paled in comparison to the actual experience. In looking back, I can openly admit that it took me all of 20 years and at least 10 major expeditions to become convinced that finding the right partner was the single most important step to having a rewarding experience. While it took a lifetime to bring me to that conclusion, it only took thirty seconds to identify the person with whom to share this experience.

As I thought back to the many climbing partners of my past, my mind quickly ran through some of the defining and most epic past experiences. Who was it that greeted me at the top of every climb with a bar of chocolate? Who was there when I did my first rappel and got my pony tail caught in the belay device? Who talked me down the mountain when I did my first alpine day and did not have enough rubber on my soles, clothes in pack or gas in my tank to get back to the trailhead on my own? Who was tied into the other end of my rope and calmly handled a very dire situation of me needing to pee when we were hanging from ropes 150 feet off the ground? Who had the patience to stand at the base of one of the top 50 classic climbs in America while I made numerous failed attempts to even start the climb only to decide today was not my day? Well let me tell you, it was the same person that came over to my house every night for two months to help me find, pack and repack my gear to go climb the highest mountain in the world…..Tom Wilson. The question at the time was would he say yes?

One thing I love about Tom is that rarely does he say no…instead he most often responds with a resounding “Why not?” Tom’s approval is always contingent on him passing his sniff test to ensure all will be safe. His engineering mindset immediately kicked in and he ask the me many questions. My goal was to make sure he did not find a reason to NOT GO (my responses in italics):

Where is this mountain named Mawenzi? Next to Kilimanjaro.
Has it been climbed before? Yes but the records are a bit vague.
Why do you want to do it? It is beautiful and I believe I will be the first woman to do the top five highest peaks of Africa which will make me the Queen of Africa (in my mind).
How high is it? 16,000 feet and some change.
What is the route you have in mind? I don’t have one in mind. It appears it is climbable from all sides.
How hard is it reported to be? 5.4 – 5.6 as long as we do not get off route.
Is there a route description? Not really.

How many days will it take us to climb it? I don’t know but I am guessing we can do it in one long day.
When was it last climbed? Officially over 30 years ago.
Why has it been closed? It has been deemed too dangerous due to rock fall caused by years of snow melt.
Will we have a guide? No. We are on our own.
What will the temperatures be like? It is Africa. We will have very hot days and very cold days. It could have wind chills below zero on the summit.
How will we get there? We will be part of my husband’s expedition going to climb Kilimanjaro. That team will have a rest day at our base camp. During their rest day, we will climb. If we feel good the next day, we can follow the team up Kilimanjaro.
If we get to the top, how do we get back down? We rappel.

He must have liked my answers because within a few days Tom sent in his deposit. By golly we had a mountain to climb.

Higher, Harder and Farther: My First Spartan

Why jump in a murky muddy pond full of ice cold water with the goal to swim under a wall so you can crawl up a wall of mud to simply get out on the other side to run to a second pool of mud? Why carry a 40 pound bucket of rocks or an equally heavy sandbag down a rugged and steep hill simply so you can turn around and bring it right back up the hill and return it to the very place you found them? Why jump over an open flame and risk face planting in front of a crowd or burning your legs simply to reach the finish line? Why roll under barbed wire through a field of cacti and risk gshredding the full length of your body, when you could simply lay out by the swimming pool and lather on the lotion? Why flip a 200 pound tire in one direction, only to flip it back to its original location? Why climb over an inverted wall when you could simply walk under it? More importantly why drive two hours and spend $150 on an entry fee attempt a total 27 obstacles of similar magnitude? These are all very good questions and ones that I asked myself just 20 minutes into what turned out to be a 3 hour and 47 minute race.

The answer is plane and simple…we are all kids at heart. It is fun to go out and play in the mud and dirt. Our bodies were not designed to sit at a dest all day or perform one dimensional sports. This was a grueling race but I have to say I had the time of my life and I found myself laughing at both myself and others every step of the way. I have found the key to finding joy is in those rare moments when I push myself beyond what I originally deemed possible. It is in those moments that I feel as though I have really accomplished something.

Prior to going to this event, I was told Fort Carson hosted one of the toughest Spartan courses due to the hilly terrain and tough line up of obstacles. Perhaps I should have started with the Spartan Sprint (3 miles) verses the Spartan Super (9 miles). Heck why climb a hill, when you can climb a mountain? I knew I signed up for trouble but I was excited for the challenge. It was not my best performance but I am pleased that I finished the course. A Spartan race highlights your strengths but at the same time it exposes your weaknesses. Let’s go with the bad news first: I finished 422 out of 436 racers in the Spartan Super Competitive Category. I finished 86 out of 94 females in this same category. Here is the best part, I finished 7 out of 7 females in my respective age category (50+). It does not get worse than that! I got my !@#$%^ handed to me. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Now for the good news! I know exactly what I have to do to trim an hour off my time and kill the course. Lookout Fort Carson. I will be back!