A friend inquired
How does mountain climbing compare to running a marathon?
To prepare, I tried to exercise more. I confess I didn’t prepare enough.
I’m a jack rabbit when it comes to training. I sit here at the computer all day (when not traveling) and decide: Next weekend, I’ll hike 15 miles. And next weekend that’s what I do. My husband is more of a turtle. He trains on the elliptical for a half-hour starting at 4:30 every morning.
Knowing how sore my neck and shoulders get from carrying a gallon of liquid (water, Gatorade, and protein drink) plus other supplies in my backpack, I lift 5- and 10- pound weights. On Day 1, I lifted weights. I rested on Day 2. I forgot on Day 3. Something came up on Day 4. I lifted weights for 10 minutes on Day 5. Then on Day 6, while hubby finished packing the car, I lifted for 2 minutes.
Unlike my husband who gathers everything he needs last minute, I add to my pack during the week so I don’t forget anything. I even plan how many bottles of water to freeze for my pack and to store in the cooler for enjoying after the hike. I also enter all hikers’ contact info in my cell phone to make sure I have the info with me–not that it helped this time. There was NO cell service in the mountains.
From left: Glen Tauke, Steve Caldwell (our guide), David Borden (my hubby) at the start of our 19-mile round trip trek in the Sierra Mountains of California
Just as support group members helped me through the highs and lows of caring for my father, my husband’s former co-worker was to be my (our) guide.
Steve Caldwell knows the trails. He will not only serve as our guide for this training climb but also up the Mt. Whitney Mountaineer’s Route next month. He has climbed Mt. Whitney more than 25 times. I’d like to do it just once.
With knowledge, preparation, and a great guide, I was ready.
Glen Tauke suggested we acclimatize to the altitude by camping at 10,000 elevation the night before. (Although, we’d be better off doing this for two or three days, one night was better than nothing at all.)
Car Camping - We slept in David's Toyota 4 Runner to get acclimated to 10,000 feet elevation.
My husband and I slept in his SUV overnight in the Cottonwood Lakes parking lot (10,000-foot elevation).
It was 1:00pm, a little over 6 hours later, when we reached New Army Pass (12,300-feet). We rested awhile then questioned if we should finish the hike–another 3 hours to the top of Mt. Langley. With smoke blanketing more of the area from the fires nearby, plus estimating a return to the parking lot around 10:30pm, we abandoned the peak (this time). Resting a while longer, we enjoyed a game of peek-a-boo with a resident marmot.
Smoke from a fire in the Sierra Mountains obscures the clarity and beauty of the Cottonwood Lakes -- View from New Army Pass
At about 2:45 we headed back down the mountain.
Thanks to Steve’s guidance, all four of us safely hiked 19 miles round trip in the mountains from 10,000-foot elevation to 12,300 to New Army Pass in 12 hours including two-hours of breaks.
The more of these hikes I go on, the more humble I get, learning that I’m not in as great of shape as I need to be to really keep up. Even though I’m not sore, I have a neurological issue with my back that tempers how much I will push myself. Injuring myself during an exhilarating challenge is not a price I’m willing to pay.
We must heed this bold-lettered advice while caregiving.
We made it to the “top”–this is the highest David and I have climbed to date.
We won’t give up. We’ll prepare the best we can for the Mt. Whitney climb, knowing that we may have to stop at a point where we can safely descend, unless we feel certain we can complete the hike. A good (make that great) guide will help us decide.
Don’t journey to the “top” of your caregiving mountain alone. Be sure to get help from an experienced guide.