Thursday, September 15, 2016

Climbing Your Mountains

I recently finished Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, a firsthand account of the tragedy that befell several expeditions to reach the summit of Mount Everest in the spring of 1996.  Krakauer paints a harrowing picture of the catastrophic hell that he and the other climbers endured.  By no means does he romanticize the deaths of eight climbers on that fateful day in May of 1996, yet there is an inherent attraction to the bravado that one must possess to drag yourself to the top of the world.

It got me wondering, could I do that myself?  I was mildly phobic of heights as a child and a teenager until one day on a half-built roof in Mexico I realized that I wasn't afraid of heights, I was afraid of falling.  And in that same moment I had another realization: falling is fun!  It's hitting the ground at a high velocity that I was afraid of.  As strange as that sounds, that subtle change in thought helped ease my fear of heights.  I'm still cautious but it's not as debilitating as it once was.

That being said, at a few points in the book I had mild vertigo from Krakauer's verbal pictures.  Safe to say, Everest isn't even on my wish list for a number of reasons.  But there are more reasonable alternatives.  The first that I've set my sights on is an ascent of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States.  Thankfully, it happens to reside here in California.  If all goes according to plan, next summer I'll be making my way up its rocky slopes.  That's going to take a lot of work for me, but i'm willing to do everything I can.

So, a day after making the decision to hike to the top of Mt. Whitney, I decided I needed to get serious about weight loss and conditioning.  I ventured out to Pena Adobe in Vacaville and instead of taking one of the easy, flat routes I typically choose, I started off on a path with much more vertical hiking.

And after a grueling ascent less than 100 vertical feet that left me gasping for air and wondering if my heart was going to explode from my chest, I realized just how out of shape I really am.

It's going to be an uphill battle (pun intended), but I think I can do it one step at a time.

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