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ALASKA Here we come – Lessons in Preparation and more

By March 29, 2010March 21st, 2021No Comments
Ruth Gorge - Tooth Peaks

Ruth Gorge - Tooth Peaks

Here it is!  This is a photo of the Ruth Gorge. The Mooses Tooth is the biggest peak in the back left of the photo. On April 1st we are going to fly in from Talkeetna and get dropped off right in the center of those mountains – on the glacier.  The plane will come back for us about two weeks later! Our intention is to attempt two routes on the Mooses Tooth – Ham and Eggs and Shaken, Not Stirred. Ham and Eggs is a mixed alpine route with an estimated climbing time of 24 hours. What we ultimately do will depend on the weather, route conditions and how terrified we are when we land (ha ha!). 

It is Sunday, and I leave in just a few hours and thought I would post a few thoughts about the process leading up to the departure and a few things YOU might consider.  Gary Falk, a long time great friend and climbing partner, called me on Christmas Day andwe spoke about the recent deathof another good friend and climbing partner Mark Givens. RIP. We spoke about a lot of things, including how Mark had inspired us both. I was reminded of a few quotes (VanGoethe, Twain and Skinner Compilation:o) that I’ll paraphrase here: “Life is short. Whatever you dream to do, do it now.   There is genious and boldness in action. 20 years from now you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than those you did. Cast away the sails.  Andwhen death comes knocking on your door, will you be crying for another chance to live out the things you always dreamed of, or will you sing like a warrior going home?”  Consider, what is is that you have always dreamed of doing? What’s holding you back, really? 

I remember about 10 years ago reading Eiger Dreams by Jon Krakauer and his story of climbing the Mooses Tooth was fascinating. I told myself, some day I will be good enough to do something like that.  The Mooses Tooth is a quintessential, iconic alpinst test piece. 3000 feet of mixed ice, snow and rock climbing. Sub Zero Temperatures. Middle of nowhere. Massive. Committing.  To me, the meaning or this climb represents being an alpinist.  This objective has always been at the back of my mind.

For some reason Gary thought that I was ready for this climb.  It didn’t matter that I had never led a pitch of ice before (yes, that’s true).  That’s what leaders do, the see and bring out the potential in those around them.  Especially when they have yet to to that thing!   Who around YOU can you see the potential in that they have yet to see? How might you encourage someone to do things that they have yet to believe they can?

After much discussion and consideration, on January 20th, 2010, I gave Gary the full committment to prepare for and attempt this climb. I chose what I wanted to be prepared for and determined my desired end results.  I immediatley found an inspiriing photo and set it as my screen savers. I have looked at the Mooses Tooth every day since.  I have laid in bed countless nights visualizing the route, sequences and exposure preparing for what is yet to come.  I set an intermediate date for ice climbing objectives (first week of March) to allow me to achieve a milestone in the preparation. (like leading ice pitches!)  I wrote out my desired end results andI filled my being with an expectation that I have the capacity to achieve this massive goal.  I rehearsed incantations into my being about my power and ability. Before my full committment, I asked for the support of those around me in love and work and family. Holly, Todd, Will all gave me the full yes that they would support this decision.  WHO might YOU get support from in achieving big goals for yourself? How might it benefit them as well?

With their support I started the PRACTICE. We created an extremely detailed gear and packing list. I considered ALL my resources to do this expedition on a very inexpensive budget.  I created a training program. I sought out the advice and mentoring from those who I knew to be EXPERTS and had ALREADY ACHIEVE THINGS SIMILAR TO WHAT I WAS GOING TO DO.   I went to Stu Mittleman – the ultra endurance expert and we spoke about training my body to burn fat anda variety of other endurance principles. I spoke with Jack Tackle – who is an iconic Alaskan Alpinist(unbelievable really) who was nice enough to speak with me andanswer all my questions. Things like the glove system (one of my biggest fears if frozen hands) – which was clutch!  I took a rescue course with Christian Santelices which was a great reminder of the mountain alpine rescue techniques. I went to Brian Prax (yes of the Prax Factor!) and he dialed me in withsuggestions and loaner gear for the trip. His stories of soloing massive peaks in Nepal inspired me. Jarad Spackman was a great training partner with me in the Tetons in the final days of preparation. Of course, Mr. Stephen Koch – the man, andwho has come to be a great friendover the years, dialed me out with tons of gear, and tons of tid-bits about mixed climbing techniques.  On our packing evening, he gave Gary and I an awesome inspirational speech.  He’s also training with me a few days and reminded me of several “tricks of the trade” that will improve efficiency in the mountains.  What may be the most important to me is that when I had committed to the climb, I left Stephen a message and told him what I was going to do.  I was actually wondering if he thought I could pull it off. I know Stephen andhave climbed with him on ice and rock andhe knows my abilities. He replied with a message that filled me with excitement and encouragement and BELIEF that I could do it!  Great friends will give you the encouragement to do those things that are scary.  The people you surround yourself create the qulaityof your life!  WHO do YOU surroundyourself with that BELIEVES in you?  Who do YOU BELIEVE in and encourage?

And so my training began.  Over 10 weeks, my intensive training has included: Skiing Mountain Peaks in the Tetons, Mountain Bike Riding with an emphasis on lapping steep hills, Trail Running (some flat, some hill emphasis), yoga, swimming, MOUNTAIN ATHLETE (awesome), Ice Climbing with Gary for 4 days in Durangoin the middle of my training plan, going to the rock climbing gym, hiking laps on Snow King Mountain with Telos, Skiing TetonPass. When you set your objective, the process begins to unfold and you begin to create ways to practice for your objective. When I was in San Francisco visiting Fessler, I took the opportunity to run up all those hills. When I was on the road for 6 weeks speaking, I got up an extra hour early and went running and doing core workouts that can be done anywhere. The energy I have gained by increasing my physical power has been amazing.

All that being said, I have done everything I can to be prepared. including growing a beard for the first time (that’s what you’re suppsed to do, right? – HA!)  Now it is time to release the outcome, and embrace the moments with passion. I realize that I may not achieve the summit of my intended climb.  I also realize that success for me will be in doing my best and giving my all. Being adaptive to conditions and my partner as well as making sound decisions to keep us safe are most important.  

I look forward to seeing my good friend Lisa Vandergriff in anchorage and to spending the day on Tuesday with the people in Anchorage for my Seeking True North seminar. You think I would go to Alaska without delivering a seminar?? HA! Yes – I am psyched about that!

Our intention, weather permitting, is to climb on April 2nd to the summit of the Mooses Tooth. We will be out of reception until some time about the 10th or 12th of April – and possibly as late as just before I return to Jackson on April 19th. If reading this post has inspired you – then take the next step and take some action! I would love to hear YOUR insights. For all those who know me – I love you guys! in some what, bit or small, YOU have contributed to who I have become and the life that I stand for. You know who you are – and I THANK YOU!  And thank you to Grand Dynamics – the greatest team experiential training company in existence!

I look forward to sharing my learnings and insights when I return.



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