Thursday, June 3, 2010

People always seemed to know half of history, and to get it confused with the other half. Jane Haddam

It used to be so much easier to blog about my adventures. Nothing has really changed so it should still be the same. I start an adventure, work around the things that seem to be obstacles to what i want, go hard and try to accomplish successfully what i set out to do. In essence nothing has changed yet everything seems to be.

I just got back from Mt. McKinley after a successful summit. Except from a split toe, i got back healthy and happy about my performance.
From the moment I announced my intentions on climbing, i had to fight the wave of criticism, i tried to just put my head down and not pay attention but it just seem to be coming from everywhere. Many times i lay in bed wondering why? the advantages was that it was something that was getting attention, after all, that's always the goal, to do something noteworthy. I have experience something like this in the past when I decided to go to Japan, I was only 19 and i had the opportunity to go and work. Just like mountaineering, the risk were big and obvious, if the agent was not who he said he was i could have been sold to slavery, yet with my family blessings i left. It turned out to be a real agent and a wonderful father figure. It also open many opportunities to the rest of my family. I benefited greatly, got an education and managed to break the circle of poverty. Unfortunately I also paid the consequences, i never returned home, the whole town turning against a young unmarried woman leaving home to find opportunities. Was it unfair and bias? you betcha, my brother soon follow me to Japan and he was features in the local paper as a hero just as i sneaked the back door.

I found myself for many reasons in the same position, I am who I am and i have the feeling that I will continue to do everything I can for my loved ones. I guess is unnatural for a mother to want to risk her life in the hopes of a better life for her kids. My intention was never to foolishly risk my life, if anything understanding the risk made me pay more attention and never take the mountain for granted. I talked to many people about climbing and discover that it can be done safely.

So in spite of the wave of controversy i left for Mt McKinley May 18th. Patrick Delaney an accomplish mountain guide and friend was my companion in the journey. we arrived in Talkeetna around midnight and by the next day at 3:30pm we were on our way to base camp at 7200 ft. Things never slowed down after that, we didn't stay at base camp and we continued to camp 7800 ft carrying about 200 lb between both of us.

The next day we almost made it to camp 11,000ft, we build a shelter and camp at 10,600 ft, the weight clearly slowing us down. Let me tell you, slowing didn't really mean slowing, through it all Patrick and I maintained a relatively high pace. It was not until we carried gear to camp 14,000 that i had to talked to Patrick, we never climbed together before and i don't know much about mountaineering but i do know pace and heart rate, i knew that at the rate we were both going we were both going to end up getting sick, so after that Patrick granted me a steady pace and at the end we ended up faster just because we didn't have to stop much to rest. One of the advantages of been a female in the world of endurance is that we are more patient, it didn't bother me to see groups ahead of us, I didn't have anything to prove to them, taking care of me was of more importance.

The hardest days for me were the last 3, we had to carry gear from camp 14,000 to high camp 17,000 and then summit, Patrick's style is fast and light so we only carried a light tent, a couple of days of food and our sleeping bag to high camp. we climbed and slept with what we had on. On day 9 since we started the expedition at 5:30am we headed for the summit, i was tired almost immediately as we started, the only thought that kept me going that day was the desire to be done and come home. By the time we made it to the summit around 1:30pm i was cold and exhausted. I didn't unfortunately find nirvana, i wanted to come home. On the way down we came across other climbers on their way to the summit, it felt great to be done. Just before we arrive to camp, we came across two climbers on distress. One was suffering from frostbite on his right hand and was screaming from the pain, the other climber was just confused. Patrick quickly got them on their feet and helped them down the mountain. It was a tricky situation to help these two guys incredibly shaky and awkward on their feet, I understand why they say most accidents happen on the way down, it takes a lot more coordination but also it makes it psychologically hard since when you are going down you can see how high you really are. One of the guys slipped three times but Patrick managed to hold on to them until we finally got to solid ground. At the end instead of 10 hrs we ended up been out there for 12.

The next morning, we decided to go hard and try to meet the last plane to Talkeetna, we skipped breakfast and with only a litter of water we headed down from high camp to base camp, a loss of over 10,000 of elevation. We stopped briefly on camp 14,000 and 11,000 to get the rest of the gear and give away as much of the food we had left as possible, pop tarts were a huge success specially with the Koreans who never had them before. things where going great, i was in pain from trying to maintain some sort of control using my feet to try to slow us down but i knew that it was of no use to complain, we needed to get down no matter what.

Just before we arrived at base camp, only about 5k away, we came across a German man named Hans, just like my son, who asked if he would travel whit us, his friends had left him since they all had skis and he was snowshoeing. In no time Hans found himself in a hole. Patrick once more came to the rescue and got him out. It took us two hours to arrive to base camp going slow making sure not one of us ended up at a bottom of a crevasse. we missed the last plane but thanks to Patrick we both ended up nominated for an award thanks to rescuing climbers in trouble.

Over all, i was incredibly pleased about the climb, I felt strong and healthy, very fatigued but understandable considering we didn't have many rest days. The only one problem we encountered was when i left a bag of waste in one of the camps. I was determined to follow the " no trace left behind" rule always climbing with bags to dispose of waste, it's very sad that there are a lot of climbers who disregard this rule, follow instructions only until nobody is looking. The climb to the summit is full of human waste, i wish DNA was an option and every climber who disregard this rule would receive a nice notice in the mail. I was determined to bring it all the way down as instructed but left it in one of the camps when we stopped to retrieved our gear. the bags are marked with our climbing number so no need for DNA, it was double bagged and ready to be disposed. At the end I picked a $250.00 fine, ouch, but i still don't regret having done what i believe was the right thing.

So i guess you can see why it's hard for me to write, what it used to be a trait to be admired, persistence and undeniable commitment to my family became, egotistical, delusional. I haven't changed at all, i do take advantage of the media attention is creating, after all that was one of the goals i set out to do, but at the end, as long as I am home with my loved ones, we are smiling and laughter is heard more that screams or tears i will know that I am on the right path. I hope that my kids learn to never be afraid, to be true to themselves, to follow their passions with all their heart and to know that they have a mother who would do anything in the world for them.