Our time on Mt. Shuksan, despite being barely 4 months ago, seems like ages ago. Perhaps it’s climbers amnesia, or perhaps its just the speed and complexity of everyday life that make it seem so long ago. Almost like a far off place, that it’s almost hard to believe it was me in the memories. Thinking back to the moment when we came across our first crevasses on summit day, slowly climbing the glacier in the dark, relying on our expert guide to see through the rain/ice that was lightly pelting us, through the cloud we were ascending through. It wasn’t a few hours after that moment, when the sun had come up and put a ghostly light through what seemed like our own personal cloud, that my climbing partner took a photo from his position (third on the line).
But now, like before, we’re faced with deciding what to do next. Where to climb, how hard should it be, how much of a financial and logistical challenge do we want to endure, etc. Nothing is set in stone (even when you think it is), and no plan survives first contact with the enemy. That being said, here’s the current somewhat fleshed out version of the plan:
2014: training year. Both 2012 and 2013 saw a “practice” climb (something we can do without a guide, something easy to get to, something we can do at our current skill level). This was followed up, each year, with a big “challenge ourself” climb. For 2014, we’re going to instead focus on training. This will include both of us working on our personal deficits (for me, at least, it’s my multi-day endurance with a full pack). Plus, we’re going to try and do a variety of practice climbs in and around our local areas. The goal is to spend this year getting into better shape and better condition. This will be in preparation for….
2015: big climb- right now, we’re looking at either Ranier or Baker. Both of these are in the (physical) area where we’ve climbed the last two years, and we can go with (hopefully) the same guide who has taken us on the last two big climbs. We might expand this list of potentials to include something like Whitney, but either way, the goal is to do something big and hard in 2015. As this will be “harder” than our 2012 and 2013 big climbs, the hope is that 2014 spent as a training year will be the key to success. This, though, is intended only as a warmup for….
2016-2017: something big and a little closer to crazy. I think we agree on something international, i.e. leaving the US to find a high and thrilling alpine climb. But from there, we have a number of options. Island and/or Mera Peak in the Himalaya are possibles, as are volcanoes in Mexico or some of the awesome alpine climbs in Bolivia and Ecuador. Which we choose will come down to primarily time, cost, logistics, and what seems like a realistic goal. All of these options are at/around/near 20,000 feet…hence time between now and then intended to get us ready to do this.
Much work remains for these plans, and as stated previously, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. But given the commitment required for this to actually happen, some semi-balance of a plan is necessary. Even if dates change and targets shift, our plans can shift with it.