The group I am going to hike up to Mt. Rainer requires that you prove physical fitness by hiking up Mt. Si in 2 hours and 30 minutes with a backpack weighing 30 pounds. Vas is Das?! I asked because Mt. Si is 4 miles up and has a grade of about 25 degrees the entire way. Not only that, but there was slushy snow starting about a quarter of the way in. On the way out the door, Bill yelled out, “Go kick that mountains a**!”
And so, that’s what I did. I put on my big girl pants and my Captain A attitude hat and walked out the door and got into our new Mercedes SUV carrying the pack that Bill made for me the night before. He had placed a few liters of water in my pack to help weigh it down for the qualifier. It was going to be a difficult day. I arrived at the Starbucks in North Bend and met up with the folks on my team. They are mostly men, and a smattering of women. A few of the other guys and one other woman was going to be attempting the time trial as well.
We walked into Starbucks, some of us liked to use a real bathroom before heading up and others purchased a sandwich to eat at the top of the mountain. A rare few liked to drink a big ol’ cup of coffee to give them the extra stamina. (There is caution in this because coffee dehydrates a body which might not be the best thing you do before a hike.) It’s an odd group in the Starbucks, we are geared up for a serious hike with fancy hiking boots covered with black gators that rise to the knee and protect clothing from the wet mud flung from the bottom of our shoes while walking.
Torso’s are covered with long sleeve shirts, usually black, made of a breathable fabric and never cotton as “cotton kills” because it traps moisture and keeps it next to your skin, which can be a problem when it gets cold and a person starts to shiver. Layered on top of the shirt is a jacket. Some of the team members don’t wear jackets because they get warm quickly and it’s one less stop. I wear a sleeveless vest made of synthetic down to keep my core warm.
Our group leader, Doug, declared that it was time to go, and so we gathered into groups and carpooled to the parking lot of Old Si. Once outside, Doug pulled a scale and placed it on the hard black cement. We were to weigh ourselves and then place the pack on. I have worked my whole life to avoid a public weigh in, thinking that I could just weigh my pack. When I say my whole life, I mean I was sick on the days we had “physical evaluations” in junior high. I’ve always felt weird about my weight. Maybe it was because my Mom was a size 2 and I was a size 8 growing up. It’s always been a struggle for me, both mentally and physically.
I stepped on the white scale, and I swear everyone crowded around to look. I rolled my eyes and sucked in my stomach knowing that it wouldn’t work, but it felt good. There is was, my weight in bold red LCD letters. I added the pack on, and I was 32 pounds heavier and a number I never ever want to see again. I stepped off the scale, proud of myself for being brave and I started thinking to myself, Less Carbs Girl! One of the other women turned to me and said, “I haven’t lost any weight from doing this. They say you’re not supposed to go on a diet, or worry about it because the first concern is proper nutrition.” I had to agree, but aaaaaa why can’t I lose a few pounds?? I know, I’m building ‘muscle’. New Zealand Peter pulled me aside and recommended that I do whatever it takes now to assure that I don’t have to stop, dress a bit cool so that you don’t have to change, wear your YakTraks (which I didn’t have anyways), and try to keep moving forward while you drink water or eat. The thing here is to make your time!
After the weigh in, we pulled together and declared our medical issues to the group for safety reasons. Then, we said our inspirational prayer and ended it with a “Keep climbing mountains and don’t slip Whoo!”. With that, we headed up the trail. In the first five minutes, I felt really good and my mind was feeling cheerleader positive. Then I started to sweat, pouring down salty in my eyes sweat. I kept on going and my brain went from cheerleader positive to motivational speaker positive. Then the slushy snow started and I kept on going with full physical and mental prowess.
It seems every time I hike that my little “motivational” line changes. Last week, it was “Nothing”. This week, as I pulled myself up the mountain, I remembered getting “fitted” for my backpack. The REI guy mentioned that my legs were longer than my torso, and I thought that was super cool. During the hike up, I remembered that and kept telling myself to “use those legs sister! God gave me longer ones, so I might as well use them to get up the mountain faster. In doing so, my steps went from little goat steps to long home run swinging steps. Plus I got this competitive edge in me that kept thinking, “Beat them! They are right behind you.”
About 3/4 of the way up, I started to get cold and began to worry about my hands. If I don’t take care of my core, my hands turn yellowy white with Raynaud’s and hurt like hell. When I say hurt like hell, I mean it’s a throbbing intense pain like getting it slammed in a car door. I stopped to put on my outer Archteryx jacket and have a bite to eat.
I had been walking in the snow and looked around me. The moss hanging on the branches was covered with a thin layer of white snow. Beyond that, I could see the light blue of the sky and a hint of wispy white clouds. The view going up Mt. Si isn’t all that great because it’s blocked by old stately pines that are tall and thin with a canopy of pine needles at the top. Behind me, the other instructor Matt had caught up with Cassandra. He looked at his watch, “You better get going, you have 15 minutes!” With that I swallowed the remainder of my power bar and pulled on my pack and started back up the trail.
It was all mind over matter. The body is stronger than you could ever imagine and I kept thinking the top was just around the corner and when I reached that corner, I was like “DAMN!”. The outer jacket was almost too heavy and I regretted putting it on, feeling like it was slowing me down, but I kept going as fast as I could, and finally saw the end of the trail and the others from my group. And I crossed the finish line and looked up, expecting a chorus of congratulations and I got squat. Everyone was turned around talking to other people. So I put down my pack and worried about getting my down jacket on to keep my core warm and my hands from feeling like crap. Doug turned around and said, “Heather!” and he looked at his watch, and I had made time. Even with the minute or so that passed while he wasn’t looking, I still was under 2:30 minute time. My “official” time was 2:26minutes.
I promptly dumped out the liters of water and then did a little jig and had my picture taken against Mt. Rainer in the distance. It’s a little hard to see the peak past my stay puff marshmallow jacket, but it is to the right there. It’s hard to capture the peak with a little digicam. Since the beginning of this journey, I’ve approached the mountain with an air of caution. If I’m not in physical condition, and I slip and don’t ice ax arrest properly, it could be really bad. Not only for myself, but for everyone who is tied up to me. It’s important to assure I can do this. It’s the reason I decided to train for a marathon and assure I’m cross training myself. Each time I pass a test though, I’m surprised that I was able to do it. The feeling is one of respect for myself and a sense of accomplishment like, “Dude, I rock!”
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