Our guide (Chris) mentioned it to us last year as well, but it struck a chord more this year: climbers amnesia. It’s a climber’s ability to forget the pain and suffering of previous climbs and instead focus on the accomplishment, views, challenge, etc. This morphs into the desire to climb again, often minimizing or completely forgetting the suffering one will likely entail. This is actually similar (it seems) to a woman’s ability to completely forget the pain of child birth when they decide they want another baby. Of course this is more of a (probable) evolutionary phenomenon (if women were scared of the pain of child birth, the species wouldn’t propagate very far).
Anyway….it wasn’t hours after getting of Mt. Shuksan, still limping around, that I began to think of next year.
2014 isn’t far away, and given the logistics involved with these “big” climbs, planning for something in the same time frame (August) would need to start in the next month or so. Thus it certainly isn’t too early to begin to put it together. But after a few discussions, a (tentatively) agreeable point was that perhaps we wouldn’t do a big climb in 2014. Perhaps we’d spend the year on skills development (and physical betterment, for me at least).
(1) Skills development:
I’m pretty comfortable on crampons now. But I’d really like a chance to work on self arrest (with real scenarios vice just laying on the snow), crevasse rescue setup and execution, glacial navigation, etc. In general, alpine mountaineering skills. In addition, I’d like to work on more generic outdoor skills, like gear selection, wilderness survival, navigation, etc. The paths to these goals isn’t terribly complicated. First, for alpine skills, my partner and I can return to Mt. Washington during the winter with a number of different (small) outfits that will do a multi-day skills class on the mountain, with or without a summit attempt. Not only does this get me (us) the skills training, but it’s also logistically easier and financially more palatable. For the more general outdoor stuff, the combination of the local climbing club and REI-sponsored classes, again logistically simple and inexpensive. This sort of stuff can be done throughout the year with far less advance planning. Finally, rock skills. My entire climbing endeavor began outdoors on rock, on a 40 foot pitch rated v5.5 (at the absolute most). It was the initial love of that type of climbing that made me so excited for the summit pyramid on Shuksan. So, in the midst of everything else, spending some time on the local crags and in the indoor gym here would be hugely beneficial.
(2) Physical betterment
It really just comes down to endurance. Strength wise there isn’t an issue, nor is my childhood asthma a problem. It’s basically the ability to walk uphill (or downhill) with a 45 pound pack for 16 hours…and not be limping across the finish line at the end. Shuksan was incredibly trying for me in this respect. The last hour or two coming down the trail towards the parking lot was superbly challenging for me (made that much harder due to my boots and pack issue, but still). Hours spent on a treadmill and/or stair master are valuable (and has served me well), but in the end I just need to shoulder the weighted pack and get out more during the year. This isn’t super easy in my local area, but there’s still some ways to make it happen.
So, not entirely sure yet what 2014 will look like climbing-wise. But some combination of “local” skills training and endurance training will certainly be part or most of the plan.