I have some very exciting news to share. I wasn’t going to say anything about it for a while, but I really need to hear different perspectives on this.
Veterans Expeditions (VetEx) is an organization that offers adventure opportunities to veterans at little to no cost, and much more. They do everything from: mountain biking in Moab, climbing 14ers, caving, ice climbing, AND hiking Mt. Denali in Alaska.
Speaking of Mt. Denali… This peak (formerly known as Mt. McKinley which Trump is actually trying to change it back…ugh) is the highest point in North America. It is located in Alaska and sores to 20,320′. To put that into perspective, Mt. Everest is just over 29,000′. I have never had the desire to climb Mt. Everest because of all of the risk involved, not to mention the cost. It’s just not something I need/want to do.
What does this have to do with my news? Well, after submitting my fitness resume to VetEx…
I am a candidate to be on an all women, 10-person, veterans team to be the first ever to climb Mt. Denali, self-supported.
I was incredibly STOKED when I found out that I was invited to train for this. No only would this trip be completely paid for (by gracious donors), gear and all, but it was also going to documented on film. I love the idea of being involved in something like this, especially considering the impact strong women are having in today’s society; just another way to create change and to inspire. I consider myself a strong woman (mind and body) so I would love to possibly inspire other women to think that way about themselves.
However, I was looking at this mountain the way that I look at 14ers. I’m able to do those pretty easily and have never had issues with the altitude, other than huffing and puffing. I immediately went to Google to start doing my research on what I had gotten myself in to. HOLY SHIT. This thing is basically a mini-Everest. I basically disrespected this mountain out of the gate and that is something that should NEVER be done.
Here are some of the things I have to consider, and some scare the SHIT out of me:
I could be out there for a month. A MONTH. You have to slowly acclimate and must camp on the side of the mountain (see camps in above pic); sometimes you get held up because of snow storms and can be inside a tent for days.
- I will also need to take off of work for a month, and hope that my work will allow me to do so.
- I could react badly to the altitude, and could possibly die. I have been to 14K’, many times now, but that is different than 20K’. I have also never stayed at 14K’ for more than 15 minutes. Earlier this year, a group of three, from Nepal, climbed Denali; one of them collapsed and died coming back down after successfully summitting… He was an ultra-runner. Read the story here.
- I could get frostbite. I like all of my body parts and would like to keep them.
- Not only do you have to climb 20K’, but you have to carry all of your gear with you. You pull it on a sled to 14K’, then only have a pack from there. I worry about my back.
- I could die. There are these things called crevasses which are cracks in the glacial ice that often get covered up by snow, making you unable to see them. We will all be roped to each other in hopes that if someone falls through, they won’t fall too far. WTF?
I do have a pretty healthy endurance background, and do feel like I am qualified to do this.
- I’ve ran 50, 40, and 38 mile races; two 50Ks and three marathons.
- I’ve climbed twelve 14ers and a few 13ers.
Luckily, this climb would not happen until June 2019 so they are giving us A LOT of time to prepare. They are also conducting some training sessions next year and some of them are:
- Tomorrow (the 18th), we are having a team conference call to ‘meet’ each other and to ask questions. They are also meeting up in Moab to mountain bike, Veteran’s Day weekend, but I will be back home in NC visiting family.
- Mid-January: We are meeting in Leadville for a weekend of training; maybe doing a 14er? I’ve never done a 14er in the winter so that’ll be new and exciting.
- Late-March: Same as above. I’m sure we will be doing crevasse rescue training, ice climbing, and just getting use to the cold.
- June: Climbing Mt. Logan in the Yukon! THIS I would love to do! This one is still 19K’ but seems much ‘easier’ than Mt. Denali, based on blogs and others things I’ve read so far. You don’t even need ropes for this one.
My plan currently: Just do the training and see how it goes. Ask lots of questions. LOTS of questions. Research, research, research! I do have to actually get selected for the team, so it’s not even definite just yet. If I make it past Mt. Logan, I should know how I will do at that altitude.
I’ve been reading lots of blogs which has really been freaking me out. I get that each experience is different, but it’s just some scary stuff! This will be the biggest mental challenge of my entire life. That being said…
- Have any of you ever climbed Denali or something similar?
- Have you ever had a long-term outdoor winter exposure?
- Any advice for me?
Please tell me all that you can. I would really appreciate it!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned!