Author Archives: Elizabeth

Transitioning to Motherhood

While I was waiting for my son to be born, nine months ago, I wrote about the anticipation of parenthood. I wondered how my life would change, what adventures with a little one would look like, and if it was realistic to expect to carry on our travels and lifestyle with a child in tow. My questions revolved around the changes to our lifestyle and our activities. What I didn’t anticipate, and the question I didn’t think to ask, was how much *I* would change.

I have so much that I can say about my transition to motherhood, and I have a feeling that transition will never quite be finished. Every day feels different than the last. My baby is different, my family is different… I’m different. And as far as adventures go… this is a big one.

My son was born at a birth center with a midwife at the helm. I was able to experience labor and birth naturally, without induction or medications of any kind, and I learned the true power of the female body. Labor is difficult, but it is also truly amazing and empowering. I am fortunate to have had the excellent care that I did, and that everything went smoothly. After 16 hours of labor, a beautiful baby boy lay on my chest. I was sweaty, exhausted, and elated.

We were sent home, everyone healthy and happy. Those first few weeks were intense. I don’t think there’s any way to understand what that time is like unless one has experienced it. The constant, round-the-clock demands of nursing and caring for a newborn are difficult to describe, and something that parents tend to gloss over once they’re past. When I was in the midst of it, older parents just chuckled, or smiled. I was grateful to my neighbor who saw me out for a harried walk around the block one day and assured me that it would change, that it would get better.

Out for a walk with our newborn. This guy has rocked the dad thing from day 1!

I am also grateful that my husband and I were home together for a good portion of that time, and we could lean on one another and figure it out as a team. As difficult and shocking as those first few weeks were, those weeks also strengthened our bond with this new little person. As I nursed him and comforted him and cried with him, as I wondered if I’d ever leave the house again without feeling panicked, I fell more deeply in love with him.

I was assured that life would feel normal again. Or, at least, a new kind of normal. Eventually, I did leave the house without panicking. Eventually, he stopped nursing constantly. Eventually, we could figure out why he was crying, and how to soothe him (and eventually he was able to figure out why he was crying, too). Now, he’s turning into a little person who interacts with the world around him. He smiles and laughs and cries and grabs for things. He rolls and crawls and points to things he wants. He reaches for us. I’m fascinated watching him take things in. Everything is new to him, and he’s fascinated by it all.

So, how has motherhood changed *me*? Honestly, I’m still figuring that out, and the change is ongoing.

There have definitely been some surprises. One big one is that I’m not climbing much…. or at all…. and I don’t mind (the fact that I don’t mind is the part I didn’t anticipate). I know it’ll be there down the road. I find myself being very picky about the things that will take me away from my baby boy. Part of that is the unexpected demands and logistics of nursing, but a big part is just wanting to spend time with him. When choosing what was important enough to be away from him, weekly visits to the climbing gym just didn’t make the cut. That’s not to say that I’m done with climbing. I’m just not itching for my next big climbing adventure right now.

A rainy hike in the Cathedral Spires.

A rainy hike in the Cathedral Spires.

We *have* found a few opportunities to get out with the whole family. Our annual trip to the Black Hills went on as usual this year (I’ll write a separate post about that), and we took our little guy along. We camped for 5 nights, hiked to the top of Harney Peak, and even got a climb or two in. The fact that we could do that at 7 months gave me a lot of optimism for what we’ll be able to do as he gets older.

Overall? This parenthood thing is amazing. It’s hard. It’s challenging, but most of all… amazing. Fascinating. Full of love. It’s showing me a level of patience and selflessness that I never knew I had. Time is different than it was. Changed, somehow.

Nine months in, I finally am starting to feel myself beginning to emerge once more. A self that’s separate from my baby boy, which hasn’t been the case since I became pregnant. The all-consuming demands of nursing are starting to lighten up, I’m getting more sleep, and I’m finding moments here and there to do things on my own. This blog post is proof of that.

The adventures that I wrote about in my final pre-natal musings are right around the corner. I can’t wait to show my little guy the mountains and the places that we love so much, and to see what else motherhood has in store for me. I’ll do my best to keep posting about them.

Cheers.

Waiting for Baby

Silliness in Zion National Park

Lying in bed this morning, my husband reflected that it was five years ago this month that he asked me to marry him. We were in Bozeman, MT in the midst of a two week hiking and backpacking trip, and when his plans of proposing on top of a mountain fell through, he asked me in a cozy cafe over a plate of peach crisp. A year later, in front of family and friends, we vowed our commitment to one another and to a life filled with love and adventure.

Today we await the birth of our first child. It’s an interesting time, the end of a pregnancy. This time of waiting, not sure if the baby will make an appearance tonight or ten days from now. It’s a time of limbo, filled with excitement, nerves, and uncertainty. Time to think; hoping that our decision to bring a child into this world was the right one.

Wind River Range, PIngora Peak in the background.

As I wait, I’ve embarked on a long overdue photo project, sorting through all of our digital photos from the seven years we’ve been together and choosing which to print for photo albums. It’s been so much fun looking back at what we’ve shared. Photos highlighting our travels, hikes, climbs, friends, and time with family. We certainly have filled these years with love and adventure, just as we promised one another we would.

There are photos of us on top of mountains and on the sides of rock formations, hiking and camping in the mountains of the west, rain and shine. Photos of us taking shelter under rocks during rainstorms, sharing laughs and disappointment when things didn’t go as planned. Photos of us exploring the deserts of the southwest, and bundled up against below-zero temperatures on the ice of Lake Superior. Learning to cross-country ski, building snow caves in the backyard, embarking on our first trad leads, multi-pitch climbs, and getting ourselves to the top of the Grand Teton on a picture-perfect day. We’ve had some great experiences together, and the list of things we still want to do is ever-expanding.

Exploring the hillsides of Ireland.

Sunset over Boulder, CO, on top of the first Flatiron

Out on frozen Lake Superior, to see the ice caves. Temp = -15F.

On the summit of a drizzly Twin Sisters Peak in RMNP.

Parents and non-parents alike have loved telling us how much our lives are going to change once we have this baby. Some have even told us, in dramatic style, that our adventurous travels will come to an end completely. Like so many others, we wondered if we were willing to give up the lifestyle we enjoy so much, to give up those experiences that bring us closer to one another, each adventure that we share strengthening our bond.

Even after we made the decision to have a child, I have sometimes questioned if it was the right thing for us. Pregnancy unexpectedly curbed the season’s hiking and climbing ambitions, keeping me close to home while Seth went on trips without me. We spent the summer working on the house instead of embarking on our usual adventures, and I wondered if this is what my future would look like; longing to climb and hike and spend time in the mountains, but unable to. As my belly has expanded and I started to feel this little person take on life, my excitement has been tinged with discouragement. What if this was it? What if all of the people telling us to kiss our lives goodbye were right?

Nearing the summit of the Grand Teton

All smiles in the Black Hills after my first trad lead.

Biking through Yellowstone National Park

As I sort through these photos of our time together, of all of our adventures, big and small, I feel the doomsday words of others dissolve. Instead of imagining a life void of travel and adventure, I look at these images and imagine our child in them with us. A family of three instead of two, exploring this beautiful world we live in. Camping together, hiking together, traveling together, and eventually… maybe even climbing together. I imagine our child growing up with parents who continue to nourish their souls, both separately and together. I don’t grieve over the end of an era, but instead find myself looking forward with excitement to the challenge of a new one.

The pessimism of others is replaced with a sense of optimism about what can be. Our adventures may look different for a while, but they certainly won’t end. I’m so excited to share the things that we love with this person we’re bringing into the world, and for him or her to share the things that they love with us. Our world isn’t shrinking, as so many would have us believe. It’s growing.

Hiking outside of Big Sky, MT

I love conversations with parents who can’t stop gushing about how amazing an experience parenthood is. They’re overflowing with excitement for us and don’t even try to contain it. Yes, it’s hard, yes, it’s challenging, but it’s also the most amazing thing they’ve ever done.

Seth’s traditional summit proposal atop the Grand Teton.

So, as we wait to meet this little person who’s been rattling around inside of me for the last nine months, I feel a sense of optimism. Our photo albums are about to change, and it’s not for the worse. They’ll be filled with new adventures, new challenges, and a new face.

Five years ago, my husband and I sat in a cafe and decided to spend our lives together. We vowed to one another on our wedding day to fill those lives with love and adventure. In this time of limbo, as we wait for our baby to arrive, I am realizing that our adventures aren’t ending, they’re just changing. And, in a way, they’re just beginning. We are about to step into a great unknown, the biggest adventure we’ve ever undertaken.

Camping and Other Stuff: 6 Months Pregnant

I’m 27 weeks pregnant, or just about 6 months (nearing the end of my second trimester!) 3 months to go!.My belly’s getting bigger and bigger and the little one is kicking and wiggling all over the place. Overall I’m feeling pretty good! We’re eating well, I’m sleeping well, not craving anything crazy… I just need to make sure I drink lots and lots of water and all is well.

Working on the house. Yellow is a nice baby color!

Working on the house. Yellow is a nice baby color!

We’re spending quite a bit of time and energy this summer buttoning up big house projects. Getting things finished up so that when baby comes we can just enjoy baby and not be worrying about things like putting up trim or re-siding the house. Not the same kind of fun as a two week backpacking and climbing trip out to the mountains of Wyoming like we did *last* summer (that was awesome, read about those trips here and here), but it’s a good feeling to see the house coming together.

This summer is a quiet one, overall, though, and we’re staying close to home. Seth did take a 12-day mountaineering course in the Cascades in May, which was big, and he’s been getting out on the local rock with friends. Otherwise, the extent of our outdoor activities has been a lot of walks in town and a couple of smaller, overnight camping trips together

Car camping means steak over the fire.

Car camping means steak over the fire.

Camping while pregnant? So far, so good! Our first trip was car camping, scrunched up next to a lot of others who were also car camping. We built a fire, had some steak (hey, might as well, the car’s right there!), and slept in a tent. I brought an extra pillow for support and was pretty comfortable.  And… our site was close to the bathrooms. Yay.

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Skills practice! This is an extended top-belay so I can look over the edge and see my cimber. It’s pretty slick!

That particular trip, we camped near one of our outdoor climbing areas, so we woke up and met a friend for skills practice and climbing. I’m still not doing any climbing, and won’t be until next winter, (read about that here), so I stayed up top and helped with anchors and such and they went down and did the actual climbing. I set up a little station and experimented with some different ways to rig up anchor systems and top belays, as demonstrated in the AMGA Single PItch Instructors’ Manual (lots of good info in that book if you haven’t seen it).

 

Watching the climbing from the top.

This past weekend was our second pregnant camping trip. We chose a hike-in site at Lake Maria State Park and took our 7-year old nephew along with us. Seth packed my pack with all of the light, fluffy things. Sleeping bags and pads, and he even snuck a pillow in there for me. He took the heavier stuff: the tent, food, stove, etc. The nice thing about a hike-in site is you’re more secluded, which I loved. The downside to this particular site was the bugs. They were kind of ridiculous. We swatted our way down the trail to our site, set up camp, and I hid in the tent for a while setting up sleeping pads and bags while Seth and K gathered sticks and got a fire going. The fire helped keep them at bay, but they were persistent. I have four bites on my face to prove it. We roasted some smores and tucked into the tent for the night. This trip I was 27 weeks pregnant, so not quite as comfortable as the last one. Next time I think I would bring an extra camp pillow or two for extra support, but with a good pad, the sleeping on the ground part was still totally fine.

That, again, was just an overnight trip (which was fine with me, since the flies and mosquitoes were so aggressive). As far as camping while pregnant goes, not very different from camping while *not* pregnant. I carry less weight in my pack and need a bit more strategic support while sleeping, and that’s about it. Not a big adjustment at all.

We might take a longer trip in September when it’s cooler and the bugs have died down. Me and my big belly are gonna rock it!

In the meantime, I’m taking advantage of some of my extra non-climbing time this summer to do some reading. Something I’ve gotten away from the past few years. I had forgotten how much I enjoy it! And I’m staying active in other ways as well, walking and continuing my kettlebells classes 2-3x a week, making adjustments as I get farther into my pregnancy.

And, of course, the big house projects. Beginning next weekend we’ll be starting a big push for the next month or so on some of the bigger stuff. And the house is going to look fabulous when we’re done.

Stay tuned.

Pregnancy challenges – 22 weeks

One of the themes that’s developed as I’ve written this blog has been dealing with the unexpected challenges and setbacks that are a part of being active in the outdoors (and a part of life in general). Whether those come in the form of mental blocks like fear or pushing outside of my comfort zone, or in the form of physical setbacks such as injury or ability or weather. We all have dreams and goals and ideas about how we want things to go. When something gets in the way of those, we sometimes learn more about ourselves than when everything goes perfectly. I think about that quite a bit, and so I write about it quite a bit.  Sometimes the story ends with pushing through fear or discomfort to accomplish my goals, sometimes it ends with changing plans or backing down instead. No matter the outcome, I always grow as a person. Every time.

When the situation is one in which I can’t do the things I want to, I refer back to wise words from my kettlebells instructor:

Focus on what you *can* do, not on what you can’t.

20 weeks

Me at about 20 weeks

As of writing this, I’m 22 weeks pregnant (right around 5 months), and this pregnancy is turning out to be a lesson in exactly that. Focusing on what I *can* do.

For years I’ve followed adventurous and active women who have chosen to start families. They have awed and amazed me, and helped me to believe that I could do it, too. That if I have a child I won’t have to hole up in my house and never see a piece of rock again. It’s just not true, and these women have showed me that time and again.

Many women are able to stay active throughout their pregnancies, continuing their activities with adjustments along the way. I’m grateful to women who have written about their experiences for all to see.  Erica Lineberry has had two children now. With both, she climbed hard throughout her entire pregnancies. Michelle Kobzick was ice climbing in her pregnancy harness all winter last year. Amanda Mary Perry owns a gym in Boston and just had her second baby. She made adjustments to her fitness routine, but was rocking pull-ups until the very end. I’ve watched women in my own life do the same thing. Women 9 months pregnant kicking butt at the climbing gym. And just this last year I got to see a woman in my kettlebells class train throughout her entire pregnancy. It was awesome.

I’m pretty active. I love to climb, and I love my 3x/week kettlebell classes. Both challenge me mentally and physically and have become anchors in a somewhat hectic life. As soon as I had some confidence that this baby was going to stick around, I ordered a maternity climbing harness. My plan was to climb until the baby popped out, and to keep my kettlebells training up as well.

But then there are those setbacks. The unexpected ones that don’t fit into the arbitrary goals that we set for ourselves. Mine? Pregnancy related pelvic instability that suddenly made climbing really painful. This happened sometime around 17 weeks. One week I was working on my 5.11c project at the gym, and the next week I couldn’t climb a 5.6 without a lot of pain. I thought I had injured myself somehow, but later found out that it’s very much pregnancy related, something that happens to some women, but not all. Although I can mitigate the discomfort, things probably won’t fully stabilize until I have this baby. My dreams of climbing right up until the end just went *poof*.

As far as my workouts go, I had to stop doing about half of the movements that are a regular part of our classes. They were just too painful. I knew I would have to make adjustments along the way, but never imagined the adjustments would be so dramatic so early on.

So, back to the motto: “Focus on what you *can* do, not what you can’t.” Another lesson, for me, in being flexible and adjusting my plans and expectations based on the current situation. That’s definitely not something that’s ever come naturally for me, but it’s a skill that climbing and physical training has been teaching me over the years. I’m much better at it than I used to be.

I had to reevaluate. Ask myself *why* it’s so important to me to keep climbing and training throughout my pregnancy. Turns out that the most important thing for me is staying active and feeling strong (which are good for both me and my baby). With a bit of creativity, I can still do that. I’ve made a list of movements that don’t cause any pain and my kettlebells instructor has developed a training plan for me that uses only those movements. Three times a week I can still get my heart rate up and a good sweat going. I can still lift bells above my head, I can still do push-ups and swings and cleans and snatches and planks and deadlifts. I’m able to stay active and feel strong.

New trellis for the garden

New trellis for the garden

So there’s lots that I *can* do, despite the things that have been crossed off the list. I’m keeping up some level of fitness even though my body isn’t working exactly how I’d like it to and that is awesome. Without climbing this summer, I have a little more free time, too, which I’m enjoying quite a bit. I’m a homebody at heart, and not pushing myself outside of my comfort zone feels totally fine right now. Maybe I’m not out having a bunch of great adventures, but I did build a pretty sweet trellis for my spaghetti squash yesterday.

I’m pretty amazed at what my body is doing right now. It’s incredible that it inherently knows how to grow a human being. The little one is already moving around enough for me to be able to visibly see my stomach moving. It’s weird and cool all at the same time that there’s another person in there. And at the end of this whole thing, that little person will be joining our family. Definitely worth a little discomfort and time away from the climbing walls.

 

Trip Report: Red Rocks March 2015

In March of this year, my husband Seth, a few friends, and I headed out to Red Rock Canyon for our third annual Red Rocks climbing trip. I’ve been waiting to write this trip report. Not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I couldn’t write it without acknowledging that at the time of this trip, I was 8 weeks pregnant (yep, we’re adding a baby adventurer to the family). We were still in that “secret” time where you don’t really tell anybody.

Eight weeks pregnant means that I was fully in the throes of first trimester morning sickness. Constant nausea, fatigue, lack of energy and endurance, just in time for a week-long climbing trip in the desert of Nevada. Not planned that way, of course, but one can never quite predict these things.

On one hand I was relieved to not have to be at work pretending that I felt just fine, which was a challenge in itself (we waited until 12 weeks to share the news). On the other hand, I wasn’t sure how my pregnancy was going to affect the trip. Nobody tells you about the sheer exhaustion and lack of general stamina that comes with the first trimester. Maybe they do and I just missed it, or didn’t believe it. It really surprised me, and I definitely had a worry that I may drag the rest of the crew down with me.

Seth and Paul

These guys led my pregnant self up routes all week without complaint. Thanks so much, guys! (photo from halfway up Geronimo)

Before we left, I made the decision that I wouldn’t be doing any trad leading (traditional routes require one to place their own protection as they go. There are no fixed bolts except, sometimes, for anchors). Even though we pIanned on sticking to easy and moderate routes, I didn’t want to risk any big falls. I was pretty bummed about that, especially since I had just gotten to a point where I was feeling fairly solid (check it out). But, for me, not leading traditional routes this trip was the right thing to do, and that left most of the leading to Seth and Paul. They were both super awesome about letting me just follow and for that I was immensely appreciative.

So, without further ado, here’s how our week went:


Seth, Paul, and I flew out together on a Sunday and stayed for an entire week. We steered ourselves towards shorter, easy to moderate traditional routes. Nothing super adventurous this trip, just fun, solid climbing.

Day 1- Monday

The long Minnesota winter means we don’t touch rock between November and April, so the three of us started the week with a couple of nice, chill trad routes for a refresher. The Willow Springs area is perfect for this.

Paul belaying from the top of Little Black Book

Paul belaying from the top of Little Black Book

Seth’s route – That Ain’t No Tortoise, Seth Climbs the Rock – Our first route of the trip turned out to be a bit of a mystery. Seth began at the base of Senior Moment, but took a variation to the left. He ended up at a dead end about 70 ft up, so he built an anchor, brought us up, and we all rapped down from there. It’s very possible this route has a name already, but I can’t find any mention of it, so Seth named it “That Ain’t No Tortoise: Seth Climbs the Rock.” We all agreed it’s in the 5.5-5.6 range.

Little Black Book (5.4) – A nice, long 160′ single pitch trad route. This one was a cruise-fest, but I really enjoyed it. The crux is a bouldery move right off the ground, and there’s a big section of hueco’d rock covering the middle third of the route (I do love some good huecos!). Paul led this one and we rapped off a tree at the top of Sleeper.

Rapping off of Sleeper

It’s me! Rapping off of Sleeper

Day 2- Tuesday

On our second day, we checked out an area new to all of us. First Creek Canyon is outside of the main Red Rock loop. The hike in is about an hour, but fairly straight-forward (although, as with any of the desert hikes, I wouldn’t want to be hiking out in the dark). We got a few pitches in and had a fun day overall. I’d love to explore this area more next trip!

Paul leading Buzz Buzz

Paul leading Buzz Buzz

Buzz, Buzz (5.4) – Pregnancy reared its head that morning. After our hike in, I needed a break. My stomach was not happy and I just needed to rest a bit. So, Seth and Paul climbed this single pitch route while I found a sunny spot below from which to cheer them on. Paul led this pitch,intended as a warm-up, and a lot of grunting and cursing ensued. The 5.4 rating is deceiving. Now that I look at the climb on Mountain Project, I can see that he’s not the only one with this impression of that climb. Seth followed and I heard similar grunting from him as well. Sounds like some of the other climbs on this wall would be better choices.

Rising Moons (5.5) – A bit of rest did me some good, so I joined the guys for the first two pitches of Rising Moons. This was an enjoyable climb. Paul led the first pitch up through a nice chimney. I brought up the rear and carried the bag, which I discovered doesn’t fit through some of the narrower sections of the pitch. I had to employ some creativity and grunting/cursing of my own. Seth led the second pitch, a long, fun face climb, to a set of bolts at the top. The belay stance on this one is a bit awkward. The bolts are set further over than is comfortable (my guess is to avoid stuck ropes when pulling). Seth brought Paul and I up at the same time. We rapped back down to the top of the first pitch and went WAY right to pull our ropes, which I would highly recommend (lots of rope pieces were stuck in a crack near the top). A scramble through to climbers left returned us to the base of the climb.

Rapping off of Rising Moons

Paul rapping off of Rising Moons

Day 3 – Wednesday

We started the day on Wednesday at the Second Pullout. The Great Red Book is a route that Seth’s been eyeing since our first visit to the park. Although you can see the route from the parking lot, the approach is 30-40 minutes of boulder hopping and scrambling. When we got to the base, we were next in line, but as we were unpacking our things a large group appeared behind us, followed by a guide with two clients. Turns out this is a busy route! I wasn’t feeling well again that morning, and the scramble to the base had worn me out. So, I encouraged Seth and Paul to climb the route as a two-person team and I would hang out at the bottom and enjoy the view.

Seth following the first pitch of Great Red Book

Seth following the first pitch of Great Red Book

Great Red Book (5.8) – Paul led the first pitch, Seth led the second. The route is beautiful. It’s a big, red, open book just like the name would suggest, and it looks like a really fun climb. Both belays are bolted, and one can choose to either rap the route or walk off. Although I didn’t climb it myself, the report is that the second pitch has some thin spots and a few bolts to help when gear options aren’t available. The climb is mostly trad, though.

 

My view while the guys climbed

My view while the guys climbed

Seth leading Ok Ok Ok!

Seth leading Ok Ok Ok!

 

After Paul and Seth returned, we had lunch and headed back over to Willow Springs to end the day with a pitch or two.

Ok Ok Ok (5.6) – This is a pretty chill route, 60′. Nice rock, trad anchors. Seth climbed it with ease, brought Paul and I up behind.

Paul rapped first, and I told Seth that I was done climbing for the day. By the time I had rapped down to talk to Paul, he already had his harness off. We were all pretty worn out by this point. As we were hiking back out to the car, it started raining. Time for a rest day.

 

 

We saw lots of these on our hike!

We saw lots of these on our hike!

 

Day 4 – Thursday

Rest day! Our friend Fred joined us that morning and we decided to pack a picnic and head to  Spring Mountain Ranch. There’s a nice, open grassy area there to hang out. We sat in the sun, looked at the rocks, and daydreamed about routes. A nice, short hike sounded good, so we grabbed our packs (they’re so light without climbing gear!) and headed out. We returned two hours later, so I’m not sure how much of a rest day that makes… but we tried.

 

Day 5- Friday

The day we had been waiting for! At the top of our multipitch list for the week was Geronimo. It’s a 4-pitch climb that I found last year, but we never got to climbing it that trip. The three of us were pretty excited to get on it this time around.

We started early, arriving at the trailhead right around sunrise. The hike in is about an hour. I was having another rough morning and wasn’t sure what to do, since this was a full-day venture. I packed my gear and rode out to the trailhead with the guys. Once we were parked at the trailhead, Seth and I talked and decided that I’d hike out to the base of the climb with them and see how I felt. If I wasn’t up to climbing, I could hike back out and come get them later, or just hang out and wait. That sounded like a good plan, so we set off. Once we got to the base of Geronimo, I was feeling a little better, but still low in energy and feeling less-than-awesome. We knew there were bolts to rap from at the top of the first pitch, so I could escape then if I needed to. So… I climbed the first pitch.

And that’s how I took that morning. Just one bite at a time. And by the time I arrived at the top of the first pitch I was feeling much better. Hooray! We all continued on together and had a great day. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a whole day on how it starts.

First pitch of Geronimo. Isn't it a beauty?

First pitch of Geronimo. Isn’t it a beauty?

Geronimo (5.6) – I loved this climb. I can’t wait to go back next year and lead it. The first two pitches are vertical, with good, solid holds and placements. There are a few spots where it feels a lot like gym climbing. Fun climbing, great views… we all had a good time on it. Plus, we had the whole route to ourselves all day (which, apparently, is rare).

Seth led the first pitch and brought Paul and I up together, which saved quite a bit of time. Paul led Pitch 2. The second pitch starts out very much like the first; a vertical, fun, jug-fest. Then, things change. The climbing gets slabby and easy, but exposed and run-out.

I was last in line and when I got to that point I had to do some serious self-talk to keep myself focused and calm. The path led up an exposed slab and then traversed around a corner to an even more exposed face right near the top. I was moving along slowly and talking myself through the exposure when a giant, brick-sized hold broke off in my hand about 20 ft from the anchors. I caught myself and didn’t fall (I was on top-rope, it would have been just fine), but a sound came out of me that I wasn’t quite expecting. Something halfway between a scream and a hiccup. Seth and Paul are still teasing me about it.

My viewpoint 2.5 pitches up Geronimo, while the guys explored above.

My viewpoint 2.5 pitches up Geronimo, while the guys explored above.

That hold breaking off on exposed climbing shook me up quite a bit. I was already running on less-than-full reserves, and found it affecting my mental recovery time as well. We took a short break and had a snack to give me a chance to recenter.

Paul roped up for the third pitch of four. This is where we got a bit lost. Paul went up a ways, explored his options, and took a right. We found out later that it should have been a left (or maybe straight?), but it looked ok to all of us. Paul knew he was off route, so he found a spot to belay and Seth followed. They brought me only part-way up, to a little cove with a slung tree, where I anchored myself in. I hung out there while they explored their options.

Paul scrambled up around the back of the formation and accidentally ended up at the top of the climb. It wasn’t the official way to get there, but it got him there! We’ll call it Paul’s Geronimo variation. He brought Seth up and they rapped from bolts directly down to where I was.

From there, it was a single-rope rap and two longer double-rope raps back to the base.  And that’s where we made this little video, marking our little baby’s first multipitch climb.

 

Websites told us he/she was about the size of a grape at that point, hence the name.

We returned to the car 10 hours after we left. A full day of climbing with perfect weather and great company. I’ll definitely be getting back on that one next time, when I’m not incubating a tiny human.

Day 6 – Saturday

This turned out to be a pretty light day. We were all tired from the previous day’s efforts and not super-motivated. We headed back out to Willow Springs and Paul saw a line that looked interesting. So he said “what the heck,” and decided to climb it.

Sunset crew

Sunset crew

Crooked Crack (5.6) – We found out the name of the climb later from some other folks nearby. Another fun, moderate, trad route. Once at the top, we walked over to the top of Tonto and rapped from there. And then we called it a day (yep, that’s how not super-motivated we were that day).

Some other friends had come into town at this point and we had made plans to scramble up to a high point at the first pullout and watch the sun set. We met everyone there and two friends appeared with a surprise, fully-packed dinner for all of us! Amazing salads in bags complete with dressing, fruit, veggies, and lots of snacks to go around. Our little group sat there, watched the sun set behind the mountains, and enjoyed one another’s company. It was really nice.

 

Sunset over Red Rocks

Sunset over Red Rocks

 

A happy trad leader

A happy trad leader

Day 7 – Sunday

Sunday was our last day in town. We had a red-eye flight back home that night. Two friends, Lea & Galen, who are fairly new to trad climbing, joined us for the day. We decided to head back to one of the first routes of the trip, Little Black Book, and do a bit of trad school with them. Galen had done some trad leading years before, but it had been a while and he wasn’t confident about anchor building and top-belaying. So, Seth led the route and brought Lea & I up together. Then Galen led separately. I hung out at the top and helped him with anchors and belay so he could bring Paul up. After a week of letting the guys take the lead, it was nice to have a chance to do some teaching and use my knowledge and skills!

Lea on her first long rappel!

Lea on her first long rappel!

 

All five of us made our way over to the 160′ rappel and Lea and Galen got to do their first long rap back to the base. We showed them how to set up and back up their rappel, and I stood at the bottom and gave a fireman’s belay.

A fun day of climbing and teaching. We finished up the day (and the trip) with an attempt on Sleeper (5.9), had some snacks and called it.

High fives all around.

Last day's climbing crew

Last day’s climbing crew

Summary:

I’ve gotten better over the years at listening to my body, recognizing where I am, and staying within myself. That doesn’t mean that I like it, though. Not doing any leading and sitting out a few climbs was hard to swallow, even though I knew that’s just what needed to happen. My kettlebells training has taught me how to listen to my body and know when I can push and when it’s best to back off. I think that helped me a lot this trip. I chose to sit a few climbs out, but there were quite a few climbs where I was able to push through and have a great day out on the rocks.

As of now, I’m 18 weeks pregnant. I’ve been able to climb and continue my workouts, (I’m just not leading anything anymore), but I know that as I move forward, listening to my body will be really important, and I’ll alter things as I go. It’ll be interesting to see what happens!

As a woman who can be quite stubborn and strong-willed, it’s not an easy thing to back off. But, I’m always learning, and learning not to apologize for it. As my kettlebells instructor often says, “we do what we can.” What we can do is different every day, and half the battle is being able to recognize when we can push ourselves and when it’s best to give ourselves a break.

All in all a great trip. Looking forward to getting back next year! Thanks again to Paul and Seth for taking the lead.

Trip Report: Boulder Birthday Adventure!

How to have a whirlwind weekend birthday adventure, in 20 easy steps: First, find cheap plane tickets to Denver. When the weekend arrives…..

Saturday:

Leading the North Arete on the First Flatiron

Leading the North Arete on the First Flatiron. Photo: Seth Iverson

  • Wake up at 3am, drive to airport.
  • Catch a 6am flight to Denver.
  • Once in Denver, hop on a bus to pick up your car rental, a 1996 Honda Accord from a nice gentleman you found through RelayRides.
  • Drive to Boulder, have breakfast, fill up water and pick up snacks.
  • Head to the Flatirons parking lot. Cover the car windows and change in the backseat.
  • Climb a flatiron. We went with the First Flatiron, via the North Arete route. Perfect weather and forecast, started early afternoon, finished early evening (I led all four pitches, and felt great!).
ElizBelay

Belaying Seth across. Photo: Seth Iverson

ElizovertheSun

On the Quartz Crystal Pitch. Photo: Seth Iverson

Seth high on the first flatiron

Seth high on the first flatiron

Summit Marker for the First Flatiron. Photo: Seth Iverson

Summit Marker for the First Flatiron. Photo: Seth Iverson

  • Head back to the car, then out for dinner.
  • Drive to Golden, set up camp in the dark at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
  • Fall asleep in about 3 seconds.

Sunday:

Our lunch spot, partway up the second flatiron

Our lunch spot, partway up the second flatiron

  • Drive into Golden for breakfast, then back to the campground to check in, because you got in too late the night before to do so.
  • Head back up to Boulder. Downgrade climbing plans to account for a late start… due to the aforementioned need to check in at the campground.
  • Hike up to the second flatiron, realize you’re completely exhausted from the day before. Also realize that you’re 5,000 ft. higher in elevation than you were 24 hours prior.
  • Rack up, climb two pitches, decide that’s good enough. Stop for lunch, enjoy the views. Exit off the side. Hike back to the car.
  • Head straight for ice cream in Boulder. Make sure to get sprinkles. Use your first aid kit to fix up a kid who put a gash in his leg.
  • Drive back to Golden, change in a gas station bathroom. Attempt to make hair look presentable.
  • Meet up with friends (who don’t care what your hair looks like) for drinks. Be reminded, once again, that you’re over 5,000 ft above sea level when the alcohol hits you hard. Enjoy a fun evening with great people.
  • Crash at campsite.

Monday:

  • Wake up at 5am, pack up camp, make your way to the airport.
  • Fly home, stop home for a quick shower, and go to work.
  • Fall asleep on the couch at 8pm.

Birthday weekend complete!

First Flatiron summit. Happy to get four more trad pitches under my belt!

Seth and me on the First Flatiron summit. Four more trad pitches under my belt. Happy birthday to me!

Trip Report: Wyoming 2014 Part 2 – Grand Teton

I was able to take two weeks off of work for this summer’s big trip, so after a week in the Cirque, there was an entire week left to play in the mountains before heading back home! (If you missed Wyoming Part 1, you can go back and read it here).

The Tetons, silhouetted against the night sky. Photo: Seth Iverson

The Tetons, silhouetted against the night sky. Photo: Seth Iverson

After our hike out of the Cirque, Seth and I drove into Pinedale, WY, found a nice little hotel, and spent a day doing laundry and recovering. We met two guys who were in the middle of hiking the entire Continental Divide Trail, and we saw a rodeo, complete with Mutton Bustin’, my new favorite rodeo event (tiny kids riding sheep = awesome).

Then, up to Jackson we went to meet up with our friend Fred. Our objective was the Grand Teton, via the Owen Spalding route. Seth and I actually climbed the Grand two summers ago (that report is here). That was a guided climb, via the Upper Exum Ridge. This time, we wanted to do it on our own, and Fred agreed to join us! The weather forecast showed a perfect, two day weather window that matched our summit plans exactly. A relief, after being rained out in the Cirque the week before!

The Approach – Trailhead to Lower Saddle

The approach to the Lower Saddle, where we would camp the first night, is brutal. I’m not going to gloss over it, it’s hard. I had, apparently, blocked it out of my memory. We had more weight in our packs this time, carrying our own ropes, gear, tent, etc, so that added difficulty as well.

The trail begins on the valley floor, at Lupine Meadows Trailhead, elevation 6,732 ft. Over the course of six miles, you hike up to the Lower Saddle, at 11,600 ft. That’s nearly 5,000 ft of elevation gain. There’s very little relief, and it’s a mental and physical challenge just to get to the lower saddle.

Heading up Garnet Canyon. Photo: Seth Iverson

Heading up Garnet Canyon. Photo: Seth Iverson

We were feeling good. We heard of a few bear sightings along the trail, but made some noise and didn’t encounter any ourselves. A couple miles in, I was dealing with a painful spot on my hip where my backpack was resting. It had bruised badly the week before in the Cirque and I had hoped a few days of rest would help. Seth came to the rescue and fashioned a piece of his foam sleeping pad to reduce that pressure point and it allowed me to forge ahead.

Our camp at the Lower Saddle

Our camp at the Lower Saddle

About 3/4 of the way up, somewhere around 10,000 ft, I began to feel some signs of mild altitude sickness. Nausea, weakness, headache… I had spent the entire week before between 9,500ft and 11,000 ft, so it didn’t make any sense to me. I had only been back down to 6,000 ft for a few days, so I felt like I should have been fine. We continued on, set up camp on the Lower Saddle at 11,600 ft, and hoped that some rest and a night of sleep was all I needed.

The three of us had dinner, prepped for the morning, rested up. Seth was feeling strong, so he went up and explored the couloir, our final approach to the technical climbing on the Owen Spalding route. When he returned, we were able to talk with the park rangers about the approach (the rangers have a little hut up in the camping zone, and were a great source of information). We felt that we were in a great place to start in the morning.

Mountain shadows over the valley

Mountain shadows over the valley

The Lower Saddle itself is worth the trek. I’ve camped there twice now, and it’s definitely the coolest place I’ve ever spent a night. It sits between the Middle Teton and the Grand Teton. On one side is a view of Jackson Hole, 5,000 ft below. On the other side looks out over a few smaller mountains, and Idaho stretching beyond. We had perfect weather. No wind, no clouds, not too cold… and it happened to be not only a full moon, but the *supermoon* that night. While the sun set over Idaho to the west, the supermoon rose over the Jackson Hole valley floor to the east. It was truly a sight to behold, and a magical evening on the mountain.

Supermoon rising at sunset

Supermoon rising at sunset (on the left)

Fred watching the sun set over Idaho. Photo: Seth Iverson

Fred watching the sun set over Idaho Photo: Seth Iverson

The Climb – Grand Teton via the Owen Spalding route

Our alarms were set for 3:15, with plans to leave camp at 4:15. Some parties headed up as early as 3:45, most without even turning their headlamps on, because the moon was so bright (did I mention that conditions were perfect?).

That morning I still wasn’t feeling well. Nausea, no appetite, headache, and some dizziness as well. Mild altitude sickness is what we suspected. I had been planning this climb with Seth for over a year, we had done all of the prep together, studied the route a million different ways, talked through it over and over. We had planned to share leads; Seth would lead the first pitch (belly roll and crawl), and I would lead the chimneys that followed. A big part of this trip for me was not only summiting, but leading. Leading some pitches, leading the team.. it was really important to me.

After I forced some oatmeal down that morning, the three of us had a final check-in. I wanted to climb. My symptoms were mostly just uncomfortable, and a nuisance, not severe enough to be dangerous. We decided that all three of us would climb, but Seth suggested that if I was feeling at all dizzy, it wasn’t a good idea for me to lead. It was a decision not just for me, but for the team as a whole. I knew he was right, I knew that it was the best thing for our team of three, and I agreed. That was tough. Seth would be leading all of the pitches.

We headed out of camp at 4:15 and began our ascent up the moraine and into the Col, guided by our headlamps and the bright moonlight. A couple of hours later, we were at the first pitch of the Owen Spalding route. The infamous traverse that includes the “Belly Roll” and the “Crawl.” The climbing is very easy, but very exposed as well. An unprotected fall would mean a long drop into Idaho. Seth led the way and brought Fred and I over after him. Several parties lined up behind us, and we were glad that we got an early start!

Looking NW from the start of the Owen Spalding Route. Photo: Seth Iverson

Looking NW from the start of the Owen Spalding Route at sunrise. Photo: Seth Iverson

After that traverse was a short chimney pitch, the “Double Chimney,” and then an option to either do an exposed traverse or climb the “Owen Chimney.” We opted for the latter. The Owen Chimney was my favorite pitch of the climb. Oh, how great it would have been to lead it…. Seth did an amazing job, though.

Climbing the Double Chimney

Me at the base of the Double Chimney. Photo: Seth Iverson

Fred giving me a hip belay

Fred giving me a hip belay. Thanks, Fred! Photo: Seth Iverson

Above the Owen Chimney was Sargeant’s Chimney. Most people were climbing up a chimney to the left, but we climbed the chimney on the right, which definitely had some 5.6 or 5.7 moves in it. We learned later that we had taken the ‘true’ Sargeant’s Chimney, but now days most people take the easier variation to the left.

Above this last technical chimney were some slabs meandering back and forth, and then a patch of sunlight above. The first sunlight we had seen all morning, as the whole route is in the shade (and COLD because of it!). Seth offered for Fred to lead us to the summit. Fred couldn’t believe we were there, and I distinctly remember that feeling the first time we climbed it two years ago. We made our final steps up to the summit into the warmth of the sun, and enjoyed the view. We had done it!

Fred leading the final steps to the summit

Fred leading the final steps to the summit Photo: Seth Iverson

On the summit of the Grand Teton. Fred, me, Seth.

On the summit of the Grand Teton. Fred, me, Seth.

Twenty minutes on the summit, and it was time to head back down. We roped back up and started working our way back down the slabs. One short rappel down Sargeant’s Chimney took us to the big rappel, a 120 ft. mostly free-hanging rappel. We triple-checked everything and Seth headed down first, followed by Fred, myself, and a guy we met who had just free-soloed the Upper Exum route.

The rappel was more intense than I remembered, maybe because we were on our own and not with a guide this time. I quadruple checked everything, then checked again. The first 30 ft. walk down a face, and then the bottom comes into view, and the rope ends are WAY THE HECK DOWN THERE. Then the wall falls away, and the last half is free hanging. Exhilarating is a mild word to describe it.

After the rappel, the technical parts of the day were over. We made our way back down the col and arrived back at our tent on the lower saddle mid-afternoon.

Heading back down the col to camp. Photo: Seth Iverson

EyeofNeedle

Fred at the Eye of the Needle. Photo: Seth Iverson

Seth going through the eye of the needle.

The three of us had lunch (I was finally able to eat a full meal for the first time that day), rested briefly, packed up camp, and began the long descent. We had a camping permit for the Meadows, about halfway down, but when we got there we decided to book it all the way back to the car. Our totals for the day were 2,000 ft of ascent, 7,000 ft of descent, and approx. 8 miles total. We arrived back at the trailhead at 9:30pm, making for 17 hours straight of physical activity. We were toasted.

We headed into Jackson for some pizza, and called it a night.

The wrap-up

We climbed that mountain, a two day ordeal with route finding and technical climbing. We did it on our own, and we did it well. I feel immensely proud of that. It was a mental challenge, it was a physical challenge, and it was also a challenge of confidence. Can we actually do this? Having climbed that same mountain previously with a guide, I knew I could physically do it, but having a guide makes it still seem magical and mysterious somehow. Going on our own, doing the planning on our own, making sure we had the necessary skills, the fitness, studying everything over and over again, talking through scenarios and what-ifs… and then actually putting all of that into practice and doing it… and succeeding…. was empowering. And it took a lot of the magic away. I want to do MORE.

With that being said, I grappled quite a bit with the disappointment of not leading. Because I wasn’t feeling well, Seth led every pitch. It was awesome that he took the lead when the time called for it. I am grateful to him for that, and to have such a strong leader on our team.  I had wanted to lead with him, though. And, even though I was involved in all of the prep and the decisions leading up to that morning, circumstances changed, and plans changed. I didn’t feel well, and Seth took my leads. For weeks afterwards, I struggled with a feeling that I didn’t contribute in the way that I wanted to. Instead of Seth and I co-leading, Seth led, and Fred and I followed. Even though we had successfully climbed the Grand, and we did it fully on our own, without a guide, I didn’t fully meet my personal goals. I felt that I had failed somehow and struggled with that quite a bit.

It’s been nearly a month since our summit, and I’ve had a chance to work through that disappointment and come to terms with it. I still believe that we made the right decision, based on how I felt that morning. When you’re part of a team doing something dangerous like climbing a mountain, every decision is about everybody, and not just about one person. The decision for Seth to lead wasn’t about me. It was about the safety of the team. And it was the right choice.

I’m so proud of the three of us, Fred, Seth, and myself, for our work together as a well-functioning team, and for our successful summit of the Grand Teton. It was an amazing experience, and I am so glad that I got to share it with two incredible people.

As for my personal disappointments? I’ll be heading to Boulder, CO with Seth for my birthday weekend, and I have plans to lead the *crap* out of some flatirons. Seth has already said that he will gladly follow. Wish us luck.

Summit Selfie! Seth and me.

Summit selfie! Seth and me. Photo: Seth Iverson

Trip Report: Wyoming 2014 Part 1 – Cirque of the Towers

Bags packed and ready to go!

Bags packed and ready to go!

Standing in the trailhead parking lot, I realized that I had never been on an actual backpacking trip before. I had camped, yes. Hauled heavy backpacks, yes (full of climbing gear, mostly). This time, though, once we left the parking lot, we wouldn’t be returning for five days.

Our packing had been meticulous. We had separated our food by meal, labeling each in its very own ziploc bag, to make sure we didn’t bring more than we needed (I had no idea how heavy food is!). We packed well. I used everything in my pack except for 2 items of clothing, which turned out to make a fine pillow. Still, with the addition of climbing gear, those packs were not light.

We were hiking into the Wind River Range, from the Big Sandy Trailhead. Our first destination was Big Sandy Lake, about six miles in with minimal elevation gain, so a nice easy start. We had our eyes on Haystack Mountain for our first objective. Then we’d hike back into the Cirque of the Towers. Shark’s Nose, Overhanging Tower, Tiger Tower, and Pingora were all on our list.

Here’s the report, and some pretty pictures:

Big Sandy Lake/ Haystack Mountain:

Home sweet home, at Big Sandy Lake

Home sweet home, at Big Sandy Lake

Day 1, we hiked the six miles to Big Sandy Lake from the trailhead and set up camp. It was a lovely little campsite. The lake was near, so lots of water nearby. We treated all of our water, especially here, since it’s a pretty well-used area, and a lot of folks have their gear brought in on horses. Bear precautions were taken the entire trip. We hung our food and smelly things and ate away from the tent.

From Big Sandy Lake is a beautiful view of Haystack Mountain. It’s a monolith of solid rock that dominates the landscape to the east of the lake, and there are quite a few routes on it. We had dinner, fought the mosquitos, and gazed at Haystack.

Haystack Mountain, over Big Sandy Lake. Photo: Seth Iverson

Haystack Mountain, over Big Sandy Lake. Photo: Seth Iverson

The next morning we woke up to rain, and it continued raining for most of that day. No climbing for us. Seth and I donned our rain gear, and hiked over there anyway. We scrambled up onto the shoulder of the mountain, stopping before we got to anything too technical.

Shoulder of Haystack Mountain. Photo: Seth Iverson

Shoulder of Haystack Mountain. Photo: Seth Iverson

The view from the shoulder of the mountain was beautiful, and surprisingly high above the lake. Even though it was a pretty wide area of low-angle slab, it felt fairly exposed and way the heck up there. The hike and scramble up to the shoulder was worth it for the view. Next time we’ll, hopefully, be able to climb all the way to the top.

We spent one more night at Big Sandy before packing up and heading up to our next destination.

Cirque of the Towers

From Big Sandy Lake is another 6 mile hike up to the Cirque of the Towers, our main destination for this leg of the trip. The morning rain stopped just in time for us to pack up our tent, and held off until we were set up in the Cirque. Very kind! The hike up to the Cirque is more involved than the first six miles to Big Sandy. A few sets of switchbacks, some steep sections, some pretty mellow sections, and a couple of boulder fields, especially if you take the climbers trail. That climbers’ trail is shorter, but the boulder field is kind of a pain with heavy packs. Thank goodness for trekking poles!

Mount Mitchell. Photo: Seth Iverson

Mount Mitchell and War Bonnet, covered in clouds.. Photo: Seth Iverson

The last pass before entering the Cirque is aptly named “Jackass Pass,” and after that, the towers come into view in all of their glory. What a beautiful place! We found a nice spot to set up camp, with a view of Pingora Peak and Wolf’s Head right outside of our front door.

Cirque of the Towers. Photo: Seth Iverson

Cirque of the Towers. Photo: Seth Iverson

Weather in the Cirque turned out to be even more finicky than down at Big Sandy, with the added factor of 2000 ft towers blocking any view of anything heading our way. After our arrival, for example, we headed up to scout the approach for one of our climbs. The sky was blue with a few puffy white clouds floating through. At one point about 30 minutes into our scouting hike, we turned around to see that one of the peaks was quickly being enveloped by a dark, ominous storm cloud. A few minutes earlier, that cloud had been nowhere to be seen. It was as if it had just materialized, right there. We booked it back down the mountain (I’m pretty sure I’ve never gone through a boulder field that quickly in my life!) and just as we crawled into our tent, it began hailing. *phew*!

Rain, rain, go away!

Rain, rain, go away!

The next day we woke up to low, stagnant clouds covering the mountains. We had breakfast and headed up the trail with our gear, hoping that the sun would burn the clouds off. At one point, the sun sent a brilliant spotlight from the east, shining through the greyness of the thick cloud cover in the Cirque. It was a sight to see!

Spotlight of sun on a grey mountain

Spotlight of sun on a grey mountain

But alas, the clouds were stubborn and moved back and forth like a seesaw for most of the morning.

Overhanging Tower, our climb for the day, is back there in the clouds.

Overhanging Tower, our climb for the day, is back there in the clouds.

Heading to Lonesome Lake

Heading to Lonesome Lake

 

We eventually gave up and went on a hike to Lonesome Lake instead, spending a nice, relaxed lunch by the lake. A lovely way to spend our time.

 

Lonesome Lake

Lonesome Lake

An afternoon hailstorm came through camp once we returned (again, very nice of it to wait). At that point, we gave up hopes of climbing and spent the evening drinking whiskey on a rock at our beautiful campsite and reminiscing about life, adventures, and good friends.

Cirque of the Towers, War Bonnet. Photo: Seth Iverson

Cirque of the Towers, War Bonnet. Photo: Seth Iverson

That night, the sky cleared, the moon came out, and it was a picture perfect night in the Cirque. We once again packed our climbing gear and set our alarms for early the next morning. We would head up the trail to the base of our climb unless it was actively raining when we woke. With the sky clearing up and the beautiful night that we were witness to, I thought, for sure, that we’d be climbing the next morning.

We woke to a downpour.

Seth and I cooked breakfast under a nearby tree, waited for the rain to pause, and stuffed our belongings back into our packs for the 12 mile hike back to the car. The rain, once again, was kind enough to pause for our hike.

Seth hiking out of the Cirque

Seth hiking out of the Cirque

So, we didn’t get any climbing in, but I did go on my very first backpacking trip. We spent five days and four nights in the Wind River Mountains, went on a few day hikes, and it was just plain gorgeous. Cell phones didn’t work, I got to spend some quality time with my husband, we saw some friends out there… all in all a great few days in the mountains.

The mountains of Wyoming continue to amaze me with their beauty. The Winds are rugged and raw, and it takes some work to get back there. Definitely on my list to go back and see more. Maybe next time we’ll even get to use our rope and gear.

Keep an eye out here for Part 2 of our trip, the Tetons! Camping at 11,600 ft on the night of the supermoon was a nice touch.

Trip Prep: Wyoming 2014

Just a quick post here. Our trip out to the mountains of Wyoming is approaching, and the prep has begun! We’ve been physically preparing for a few months now; practicing our trad climbing and getting into good physical shape. Now we’re close enough to start packing!

Cirque of the Towers, Wyoming

Cirque of the Towers, Wyoming (photo courtesy of Seth)

This trip presents a few challenges on the packing front. We’re heading into the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range and will be in the backcountry for about five days, miles away from the trailhead. Weight adds up quickly, especially when you add a rope and climbing gear to the mix, so we’re examining everything, looking at what can be used for multiple purposes, what we need for survival and emergencies, and what’s more for comfort. For example, we’ve opted for a tent (not a super-necessity, but awesome to keep the bugs out), but are passing on camp pillows. Rolled up clothes work just fine. Yes to sunscreen, no to dry shampoo (my hair is going to look *amazing*). Yes to coffee. Definitely yes to coffee.

The same went for our climbing gear. As fairly new trad leaders, we tend to take along more gear than we need. For this trip, we did a close examination of our rack and got it down to something reasonable. Still quite a bit of weight, but much lighter than it was.

Seth's homemade tether

Seth’s homemade tether

A bit of homemade gear innovation by Seth: he made tethers for our nut tools out of parachute cord. We like to have our nut tools attached to something so we don’t drop them off a cliff and have been using long slings up to this point, but the slings tend to get caught on stuff and tangled in the rest of the gear. Seth has fixed that. Pretty awesome.

After the Winds we’re heading up to the Tetons, at which time our team of two will become a team of three. So, we made some team prusiks for the occasion (in the season’s hottest colors, of course). Shiny new prusiks are awesome and fun, and when used correctly, they save lives.

Team prusiks. Wyoming 2014.

Team prusiks. Wyoming 2014. Not shown: two more team prusiks.

On the food front, we’re portioning out meals day by day before we pack them, with a bit of extra just in case. This will, hopefully, help us to avoid packing too much and save some weight there.

Very little in the way of clothing changes, mostly we’ll just have layers and rain gear and plan on wearing the same thing for 5 days. We’ll be a stinky pair by the time we come out of the Winds. Luckily, we’ll be heading straight up to the Tetons, and the showers of the AAC Climbers’ Ranch. Yay for showers!

We’re reading up on routes and getting beta. I’m brushing up on my weather knowledge (Seth got me a nice little book about reading the weather), and things are lining up!

On a related, but not-related note, this trip will be a step into new territory for me. It’ll be my longest time in the backcountry, completely reliant on what I take with me. It’ll be my first time camping in grizzly bear country (most of the grizzlys are in the north part of the range, but a few have migrated south, which is where we’ll be). And the climbs on our list, although in the easy to moderate range, are not small. We’ve chosen alpine trad routes, just what I like. They’re tall and exposed, and I know they will challenge me and push me. I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zone, and I know that I’ll learn a lot as a result. I’m nervous and looking forward to it, all at the same time.

Any other pack weight advice you can offer for 5 days in the backcountry with climbing gear in tow? Gear innovations? Tips and tricks? I’d love to hear them!

Everything’s Changing.

“The only thing constant in life is change.” – François La Rochefoucauld

Everything is changing. All the time. And that includes us, as people.

An advantage of aging is that over time you get to see the parts of you that change, and the parts of you that stay the same. You get a pretty good handle on the “core” stuff; what defines you as a human being. And you begin to clearly see the stuff that changes over time; things that maybe felt like a “core” part of who you were at one time.

We’re all slowly changing, all the time. Like mountains, slowly heaving up out of the earth. Glaciers moving, ever so slowly. Even in those stretches where we feel that everything is good, that we’re settled, we’re imperceptibly changing. Evolving. Moving. Sometimes that change happens quickly and violently, spurred by a specific event. Most of the time, though, it’s slow, and we don’t realize it’s happening until it already has.

When I started this blog, I was fairly new to climbing. My life before climbing was mostly dedicated to music. I was a bassoonist, well on my way to making that my career. I had focused on bassoon since I was 12, and forced myself to march down that path far beyond when it became obvious that it was no longer the right one. It took me a long time to accept that a part of me that felt so fundamental could change. That inflexibility caused me a lot of strife.

Bassoon. Then a few years of floating…. trying to accept a move away from the only life I had ever known, looking for what was next. And suddenly, there was climbing. I fell in love with it. Hard. Climbing has taught me the importance of risk, has forced me to face fear, to deliberately move into mental discomfort and to meet myself in that place, face myself head on. I’ve learned a lot about myself through climbing, and I continue to do so.

A successful climb in Yosemite

A successful climb in Yosemite.

Even while climbing continues to be a big part of my life, I can feel my passion for it evolving and changing underneath me. Ever so slowly. At first I was climbing in the gym and at the crags, climbing hard, chasing grades, trying to be the best climber I could be. Looking back, I can see where the change started, with my first multi-pitch climbs, including a big, but pretty chill, climb out in Yosemite… I remember clearly the sound of the gear clinking as Lizzy led those pitches ahead of me. The quiet and peace of the rock, and the way it felt to climb that day. A year later, I climbed the Grand Teton. The Grand was an experience that I still haven’t been able to fully put into words. An experience that didn’t fully sink in for weeks afterwards. Since that climb, my drive to pursue hard sport routes has vanished. I’ve been dreaming of alpine climbing.

I have friends who want to climb the hard stuff; little crimpers on vertical rock. I’ve tried to get my mind back there so that I can join them, but just haven’t been able to. I’ve changed. Seth and I are heading out to Wyoming next month to tackle one or two routes in the Wind River Range, and then up to do a climb of the Grand Teton on our own. All alpine climbing, all trad. Just a few objectives for two weeks of time. A shift from where I was a few years ago.

And even while I plan and dream about this trip, I think that maybe I’d like to do some backpacking sometime, without the climbing gear. Go trek through the mountains for a few days, or a few weeks, just for the sake of being there. Maybe I’ll like it. Maybe there will be another shift towards just plain old backpacking. Or maybe there won’t. Maybe I’ll stick with alpine climbing and mountaineering for a while. Or maybe I’ll decide to sit home and knit instead. There’s no way to tell.

We’re all constantly changing. It’s the reason that friendships come and go. Why relationships come and go. Often, we form relationships based on common interests. Only the bonds that go deeper, that go to the core of who we are, survive our personal evolutions.

Change is ok. Unavoidable even. I’m still climbing, but I’m a different climber than I was four years ago. I’m still a musician, but in a different way than when I started. The stuff that’s stayed the same is deeper, and even those parts of me that feel central are slowly evolving, just at a slower pace.

We all owe it to ourselves to be flexible; to accept that we’re ever changing. We tend to identify ourselves by the things that we do, so when those interests change, we feel a need to hold on. It takes courage to accept ourselves as we morph and evolve.

This trip coming up reflects my changing goals and passions as a climber, as an adventurer, and as a person. I’m climbing to get somewhere and to be in a beautiful place, not just for the sake of climbing. It’ll be a big trip, and I have no doubt that I am going to learn a lot about myself. I can’t wait to get out to those mountains!

How do you view change? Have you noticed these kinds of evolutions within yourself? I would love to hear your thoughts.