Gain a Sense of Self



Who am I, Really?

Understanding your emotions and how they effect you is something every human on this planet needs to function successfully in life, in society, in relationships, in your career, and in conquering your goals and aspirations. Whenever you are struggling with making a decision, fears, or anxiety, it helps to start at the core: the emotions themselves.

WHAT IS EMOTION?

Emotion drives us, some more than others. Even those with a very analytical personality are still driven by core emotions to some degree, especially in circumstances that effect your livelihood. Emotions are simply feelings and reactions whether positve or negative towards an external stimuli. We have a variety of emotional responses such as fear, anger, joy, sadness, and disgust (sound familiar?). As much as we may love that Pixar movie Inside Out, we have many more emotions that our bodies can react and respond with and some are more complex than others. Shame, envy, contempt, anxiety, depression, surprise, happiness, love, pride, and so on. This heat map shows how our bodies feel those different emotions.

The list is endless. We have a word or phrase for over a hundred different feelings and they are all at different points on the spectrum. However every emotion, every feeling can be placed into one of two categories: Desire and Avoidance.

Try this Journal Exercise:

First Question: Which emotion do you think controls you most? Why? What do you think is fueling that emotion: desire or avoidance?

Think about what you desire most in this life. What is it that you desire? What feelings or emotions come up when you think about what you desire? Now take a different direction with desire, look at “Desire” as a whole. What does “Desire” mean to you? What does it do for you in your life? What collective emotions drive your Desire?

Now, look at the other side of the coin, what is the one thing you want to avoid most in life? What emotions or feelings come up when you think about what you want to avoid? Look at “Avoidance” as a whole. What does “Avoidance” mean to you? What does it do for you in life? What collective emotions drive your avoidance?

Last concept to ponder: What is your desire’s relationship with your avoidance? How can they work together for? So I ask you again to think on this one last time: Which one do you think has greater control of your emotions: Desire or Avoidance?

Desire and Avoidance are similar to the concept of yin and yang. A small piece of one can be found in the other and they can work together in helping you accomplish life. Your goals and aspirations are commonly driven by desire but the fear of failure or fear of the unknown can cause us to avoid certain steps to get there. Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do because we desire a certain outcome and a strong desire helps us conquer those fears. I think most of us prefer to have desire be in dominant control so if it is not already, think about ways where you can help it be in more control. What emotions need to take over? What do you have control over changing to make that happen?

By gaining a little bit of introspection and a better understanding on how your emotions fuel your desires, your goals, and your aspirations in life, you will be able to be more successful at reaching those goals and dreams. If you find yourself avoiding something, stop and ask yourself, why am I avoiding this? What emotions are fueling this? And will this help me get what I desire most? Avoidance is powerful and can stop you dead in your tracks. But desire can help you push past those fears and anxieties fueling avoidance to help you conquer what you want most.

Just remember practice makes perfect. Perspectives don’t change overnight. This is simply one small step in learning how to Conquer Yourself!



How to Choose the Best Gear for Your Budget!

Shopping for the best gear for your adventures can be a challenge. You can do research, you can compare products all day, but ultimately you want something that is the best fit for YOU and whatever your adventures entail.

Most gear isn’t cheap, and for me, trying to find a balance of quality and budget friendly is probably the biggest challenge of them all. I spent a number of years as a climbing dirtbag/ski bum before I got an adult job. I had to learn where to find the best quality gear at the best price and I got really good at it!

From long underwear to climbing gear, I spent a majority of shopping time researching what my best options were for what I needed. But what I need for my mountaineering, skiing, and climbing might be different than what you need. But luckily, there is now a place where there is an entire community of others like me who have done the research for you on thousands of outdoor products from camping, to water sports, climbing, mountaineering, you name it. So without further ado, let me introduce you to my new favorite community: Ask Sidebar.

Ask Sidebar is a community of ambassadors that aren’t tied to a single brand or product they have to sell. It is a community of real people, giving real honest detailed reviews and advice of ALL their adventure gear no matter what brand they are because lets be real, we all use multiple brands for multiple activities and we are available to ask specific questions to as well!

My profile is full of a wide variety of brands such as La Sportiva, REI Co-Op, North Face, Black Diamond, Singing Rock, Mad Rock, Nordica Ski, Julbo Eyewear, Tiva, Chaco, Marmot, FiveTen, Giro, Marker Apparel, Mammut, Kelty, and Vaude. You can check out my reviews or ask me questions about products I use on a frequent basis!

So, the next time you are shopping for new climbing shoes, or maybe a new tent, check out the Ask Sidebar platform to get an idea of people’s real life experiences with products you are interested in. Ask them questions, and know exactly what you’re investing in!

What to See in a Day in UAE

United Arab Emirates is a small middle eastern country on the south eastern edge of Saudi Arabia. Many people fly through Dubai if they are traveling because it is the hub for Emirates airlines. If you have a layover in Dubai long enough to see the sites, 48 hour tourist visas on-site are free to Americans and it is incredibly easy to see Dubai or even head to Abu Dhabi. SO what is there to do exactly?

Dubai:

Dubai is a very new city, it honestly reminds me of a middle eastern Vegas. Buildings are shiny, architecture is modern, and everything LOOKS rich and fancy. Thats just it…. to me, it really seemed like a ficade. The whole town seemed fake. Dubai honestly was not interesting to me, I drove right past it to get to where I really wanted to go. But irregardless, there are some minor attractions that still attract people.

Burj Kalifa

The tallest building in the world stands at 2,717′. You can go to the top, but you must buy tickets in advance. The best time to go is around sunset. Lines can be long to get up as well so make sure you go early. A friend of mine was able to get tickets for 5:30, see the town in daylight and wait up top for sunset, and watch the fountain show from up above and loved it.

Dubai Mall

The second largest mall in the world, includes the only indoor ski resort in the world. Shops include some of the most popular and expensive brand names around, so if you want to actually do some shopping, be prepared to spend money.

The Palm

The Atlantis resort is on the Palm Islands of Dubai. The rooms may be pricey but it would be a blast to stay at overnight and take advantage of the water park if you have an overnight layover!

Abu Dhabi:

Abu Dhabi is The capital of UAE about an hour and a half drive from Dubai but is seriously worth it if you have the time to spare. You can find more cultural sites in this town which is what was more personally interesting to me than Dubai when I visited.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

THIS. This is what you NEED to see! The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the country and is absolutely gorgeous. It was my favorite site in UAE and one I 110% recommend. They provide tours pretty much all day. It is a Muslim mosque and women need to make sure they are completely covered, from head to wrists, to ankles. They do provide free Abayas to cover up if you do not have anything but you have to leave collateral and can lengthen the amount of time it takes to visit the Mosque. It is incredibly hot (especially May-Sept) so if you can, go as early as possible to avoid the heat and bring an umbrella for shade. Take your time if you can. Always walk the mosque clockwise and be quiet and respectful in the prayer room. Pictures are allowed on most of the grounds but be respectful and only take photos in the designated areas. There are signs everywhere that say where it is ok and not ok to take pictures. Don’t walk on the grass as it is not allowed, even if you see others do the same. Set an example of respect.

Important things to know if traveling to UAE:

  • Whatever you plan to do in UAE, plan accordingly and give yourself a minimum of 2 1/2 hours back at the airport before your flight.
  • Women really should not wear shorts and tanks unless at the beach or swimming, it is still a predominantly muslim country despite how liberal Dubai may seem. Keep shoulders covered and wear capri legnth or longer. Don’t wear leggings unless your top is long enough to cover your butt unless you want to get looked at or cat called by Hindi and Persian men.
  • FEMALE ONLY TAXIS! This is a great option if you are a woman traveling alone. Dubai is actually considered a safe city but these are an option and are great. The Dubai taxis have pink roofs and drivers wear pink scarves.

It is definitely worth it to take advantage of your layover in UAE not matter what sites interest you. It is a small country and Dubai is a small town, you honestly won’t need more than a day to see the major tourist sites; but it is definitely one to see at least once if you are traveling through!

TRIP REPORT: Longs Peak

My 3rd successful summit of Longs Peak is in the bag!

Before I give you the details, let me take you back a little: My first summit was in August of 2003. I was 13 years old, and it was actually my second attempt. The previous year I made it to the bottom of the homestretch and turned around. I had the worst nerves and threw up at the trail head that morning and was miserable the entire climb. Despite making it like 95% of the way to the summit, I just couldn’t go any further. I was completely depleted. It haunted me for a year, so the following summer I completed my first summit. It was the first time it really solidified my interest in climbing Everest in the future.

My second summit was in 2011. I was in the throws of recovering from an eating disorder and working through major depression and anxiety. I had been in a dark place for a long time and had completely lost my passion for climbing in the midst of my mental illness. Summiting Longs again with a friend of mine was the perfect way to rekindle that fire as I was working on my recovery.

Now here I am, 8 years later, growing and chasing my dreams! I went to EBC last year, I climbed Kilimanjaro a week ago and I come home and lead a few friends up Longs Peak only days after returning! So, without further ado, here is a little synopsis of my most recent summit!

We had some weather in the forecast for today so we started at 2am. We made it to the boulderfield before sunrise and began climbing up the rocks to the keyhole as the sun rose. We were moving quickly but slowed to a crawl as we navigated the boulders and the trail moved from a class 1 to a class 2.

As we crossed over to the other side of the keyhole and began navigating the ledges, taking our time to navigate, and help my friends through the rocks as the route became a class 3.

Next came the dreaded trough. I hit a mental wall at the bottom of the trough. A combination of jet lag and still recovering form Kili made me realize how much I did not want to climb up the trough once I came up to it. It has always been my least favorite part of the climb. It is a slow exhausting crawl up to the narrows. But it just comes one step and climb at a time. This winter was one of the snowiest and so there was still a decent amount of snow in the trough. It was off most of the route, however the very top of the trough had snow on route and we had to climb around it. Once that was navigated, we climb the last final 15′ rock up and out to the narrows.

A sense of relief for me as we popped out into the narrows, and a sense of panic as my friends saw the exposed view. low clouds began to build and I knew we had to be quick. We carefully climbed through the narrows and made it to the base of the homestretch in no time.

Some crowds navigating up and down the most technical part of the the climb slowed us down. We pushed to try to keep moving to the summit as we were now in a race with building clouds. There were patches of wet spots of recently melted snow, but before we knew it we were on top at 14,259′!

Our time on the summit was short. As soon as we started back down the homestretch we actually started to get a sprinkle of snow. It made the rocks slippery and slowed us down as we cautiously made out way down the homestretch. I will say this was the scariest Longs Peak decent I have ever had out of the number of times I’ve been on this mountain. The wet slippery decent continued into the trough as the mountain became enclosed in the clouds. Exhaustion definitely set in as we made it to the bottom of the trough and began to traverse the ledges back to the keyhole. Relief hit us as the keyhole came into view. After much needed snack break, the sun came out and we descended from the keyhole to the boulderfield. Back on class 1 trail, we cruised back down to the trail head. We lucked out and didn’t get the heavy rain, hail and thunderstorm until we were about 10 minutes from the bottom.

Our total time was about 12 hours and it was definitely the slowest I have ever climbed Longs. I definitely attribute that to the slippery slick conditions on our way down. If you EVER decide to climb Longs, start early, know your limits, NEVER go off route, check the weather conditions, and re-evaluate them constantly. As soon as it started raining/snowing up top, people were turning around despite being so close to the summit which was the smart thing to do. The mountain will always be there, you can always come back. We witnessed a helicopter rescue of a 15 year old that slid about 300′ down the loft on the other side. Good news revealed later that he was OK and somehow managed no broken bones, but it shows you how sketchy the conditions became as soon as those rocks got slick. My friends asked me to lead because of my experience on the mountain and my experience with class 3 climbing. If you have never been class 3 climbing before you NEED to go with someone who has experience with that kind of technicality and exposure. And of course, NEVER climb alone.

Despite my words of caution, Longs is a classic. It is my favorite peak in the world for a number of reasons. Don’t let the exposure scare you out of trying to do it, just make sure you are 100% prepared and know the risks. Longs may be one of the most famous of the Colorado Fourteeners and is definitely one for the books!

Kilimanjaro: Lemosho Route

Many people may not realize there are 7 different routes up to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Lemosho has been rated the most beautiful, and most successful route with about 98% success in an Uhuru Peak summit from this route. It is also the longest which gives more time for acclimatization which is why more people are so successful in summiting. The Lemosho route is typically climbed in either 7 or 8 days.

On July 18, 2019 I completed my first of the Seven Summits! I arrived to Moshi, Tanzania with an 8-day itinerary for the mountain which ended up being 7 because I’m a bad-ass. Before even leaving for Africa, I kept asking myself why I signed up for the longest climb when physically, because of my experience at altitude and the amount I have trained this year, I could have totally done the shortest route, but nevertheless, I was climbing Lemosho, and was and ready to go.

Day 0Materuni Waterfall

My cultural shock was little-to-none compared to Nepal. Maybe it is because I had already immersed myself in a 3rd world country once before, or maybe it’s also because my hotel in Moshi looked like a tropical island resort. Either way, I woke up ready for whatever adventure awaits. For my rest day in Moshi, I decided to check out the infamous Materuni Waterfall. It is a short hike from the Materuni Village. You are surrounded by tropical plants and trees that grow incredibly in the fertile volcanic soil. Coffee plants, Banana, Avocado, Mango, and Pineapple trees all surround the trail as you begin. The trail is fairly flat and only takes about 45min to an hour to get to the falls. With overcast conditions in the rain forest, you feel like you are on a tropical island rather than a giant mountain. The falls are gorgeous and continue to make you feel like you are in a tropical paradise. On the return you have the option of the “coffee experience” where you pick your own fresh beans, grind them by hand and drink your handmade espresso. I do not like coffee so I opted out of this adventure but overall, Materuni is a MUST see if you have spare time in your trip.

DAY 1- Lemosho Gate to Big Tree Camp (9,000′)

We started the morning by driving from Moshi town to the Londerossi Gate (not Lemosho). Londerossi is where the registration office is and we ate lunch there as well. I made some friends from the other camps that I would continue to see sporadically during the climb, and we all headed out and down towards the Lemosho Gate entrance. Finally time to start hiking! all of the camp and gate signs give estimated times of travel to the next camp. It was estimating 4 hours for a short 7km to the Big Tree Camp. It barely took me 2 hours to get there. Many guides stress going “pole-pole” which means “slowly-slowly” and it will be very slow going if you are in a large group. But it was just me so I got to set the pace! A couple other girls were supposed to be with me but they switched to the September climb. I found that in July, it is busy season but not quite peak busy season, so there were a lot of tiny groups of 1-3 people, but only a few massive groups. I would pass a majority of these larger groups on the way up since it was just me. I saw a bunch Colobus Monkeys in the rain forest on the way to camp, and could hear them chatting and hopping between trees; super cool to see out in the wild. I did not sign up to do a safari after the trek so this is the extent in wildlife I would get to see. We arrived at camp with plenty of time to spare. They feed you incredibly well to make sure you have enough calories for the mountain but I was convinced I was going to gain weight there was so much food! Day 1, easy. Done.

DAY 2- Big Tree Camp to Shira I and Shira II Camp (12,700′)

Today I skipped a camp because I am such a bad-ass. We started a little later than nearly all the other groups and I passed almost all of them on the way up to Shira I. Any of the groups that do Lemosho in 7 days instead of 8 usually skip Shira I camp. As I passed these groups, many of the other guides were asking if we were also skipping. Internally I was hoping but was almost afraid to ask if that was even a possibility. It wasn’t until we stopped at Shira I in time for lunch that my guide asked me if I wanted to and I was ecstatic to say yes. It was only 11am and there was no reason I needed to spend an extra night on the mountain at this point. I felt great, and wanted to keep going. So my 8-day climb now became a 7-day climb and we continued across the plateau and up to to Shira camp II. As for the hike itself, starting from Big Tree, it was very up and down for the first mile or so until leaving the rain forest into the Moraine vegetation zone. Once above the forest, the trail steepens as you follow a ridge up to the Shira plateau. The plateau is pretty flat between the camps I and II. Right before Shira II it steepens as you officially begin to climb up what is officially considered part of the Kibo (Kilimanjaro) Volcano.

FUN FACT: The Kilimanjaro mountain is made up of 3 volcanic cones: The Shira Caldera, Kibo (Uhuru Peak), and Mawenzi. By climbing the Lemosho route, you get to climb Shira and Kibo, and view Mawenzi from summit base camp!

Meru peak (left) and the Shira Caldera as viewed from about 14,000′

DAY 3- Shira II up to Lava Tower (15,000′) and down to Barranco Camp (13,000′)

A steady climb from camp II up to the Lava Tower warrants excellent views of the Shira Caldera below. the Lava Tower gets you up close and personal with the southwest side of the mountain. A quick stop for lunch and it’s all down hill from here. The decent to Barranco camp is decently steep in spots, so knees beware. You can see the camp below pretty immediately and just watch it get continuously closer on the decent. if the clouds haven’t rolled in, you should have a fantastic view of “The Breakfast Wall” that will be climbed the next morning. Many get intimidated by the near 800′ of climbing that is required first thing in the morning but don’t worry, it looks much worse than it is.

DAY 4- Barranco Camp up “The Breakfast Wall” (13,775′) and down to Karaga Camp (13,200′)

A roller coaster of emotions today on this climb almost perfectly reflect the roller coaster in altitude. I was feeling a little down when I woke up, missing my husband and was just kind of tired and cranky honestly. We start with the infamous Breakfast Wall. Which includes some mild scrambling. Non-climbers might be intimidated by this wall but don’t be. The trail is wide and well marked. There is only one “skinny” section nicknamed the “kissing rock” because you have to hug it to walk by, I did not feel the need to do so. It was still a wide enough path that I felt just fine. I never felt like I was straddling any crazy exposure, granted I have climbed much scarier climbs. After the scramble is over, you think you are nearing the top of the wall, but take my warning: there are like 5 false summits! think of it like a stack of books lined up shortest to tallest. you climb up the side of the short book and top out, but now you have to go up over the next ridge, and the next one, and the next one. I was legitimately getting pissed off. We finally top out for real and the views are incredible. You get a front-and-center view of Kili, and an ocean of clouds down below. I instantly felt better… for now. The way down to Karanga camp is mostly downhill, but it involves jumping one more ridge line as well as dropping into the Karanga Valley before climbing back up to the camp. The last steep pitch before Karanga is hands down the hottest, steepest pitch you will do the entire climb. I felt like it was steeper then the Breakfast Wall! Its about a 200′ climb straight up to camp. Not a fan. However, overall this hike is pretty quick. they estimate 4-5 hours for most groups; didn’t even take me 3. So after lunch, it is time for a nice relaxing chill. You can hike around nearby for more acclimatization, but my knee needed a break if it was going to be in tip top shape for the summit.

Day 5- Karanga Camp to Barafu Base Camp (15,250′)

It is customary for the guide companies to give you a songful introduction to the crew at some point on your trip. Most try to do it earlier in one of the first days on the mountain, in my case it got delayed until this morning because I had skipped a camp that second day which is when they originally wanted to do so. I actually liked it better waiting for today since it is the day before our summit attempt. It was the perfect encouragement and wish of luck to the summit I needed. After singing some songs we headed upwards. A steady incline at altitude, only took me about 2 1/2 hours to get to Barafu. A long time to rest and prep for the next day although my attempt to sleep early failed miserably, I felt good and ready for the summit attempt!

Day 6- SUMMIT! Uhuru Peak (19,341′) and down to Mweka Camp (10,000′)

We started at midnight. I felt pretty good and although we were going what felt like a snail’s pace, we were still passing massive groups. It is a long night as you crawl your way slowly up to the summit although it felt shorter than I thought it would. As we got closer and closer to Stella Point, the wind began to pick up and the cold from the early hours of the morning were freezing my Nalgenes. At just after 5am, we came up over the crest of Stella Point. it was still incredibly dark and the wind was coming off the crater. It was Brutal. Weather reports later indicated that it was a low of 17 degrees Fahrenheit at the summit, with winds up to 15 knots which makes for windchill well below zero. The pace is set and designed to summit by sunrise. However, because I was moving so quickly, we hit Stella point well before dawn and Uhuru Peak at 6am (sunrise wasn’t until 6:30). It was too cold to honestly enjoy much time on the summit, we spent maybe 5 minutes tops, snapping quick pictures in the dark and heading down the crater rim back to Stella point. The sun finally rose as we got there, and the long decent began down the way we came. The decent from the summit involves some glicading on volcanic ash and sand in spots. It only took maybe 2 hours to get back to base camp. After a quick break and some food, we continued down to Mweka camp. Initially the decent was fine, and then the rock steps began….. after passing the Millenium intermittent camp, the last 3 miles or so was all big rock steps and my poor knee made itself known. After a very, very long day, I plopped into my tent and slept like a log.

Sunrise on the glacier from just above Stella Point

Day 7- Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate (5,300′)

A much more gradual decent today, made my knee was thankful but my calves were definitely burning in the end. After 14,000′ of decent in 2 days, my legs were pretty done. It only took me about an hour and a half to descend 6 miles. It was foggy and rainy at the bottom and made for a cool, spooky atmosphere in the rain forest. After packing up the vehicles at the gate, we headed about 5 minutes down the road to where we would eat lunch and celebrate outside the souvenir shop. I was glad to be done. Tired, sweaty, and ready for a much needed shower!

Overall, I enjoyed Kilimanjaro. I kept catching myself comparing notes to my Nepal trek to EBC last year and felt like Kili was significantly easier than Nepal. Mentally I was also in a much stronger place and we all know that climbing something like this is always more mental than physical. Swahili is easier to learn than Nepali as well, I felt I took away more of the language, but unfortunately not as much culture as I would’ve hoped. Moshi town is fairly modernized so I would have loved to visit a village out in the grasslands, and meet tribesmen and I did not get to see anything of that nature. I definitely recommend knocking this one off your bucket list if you have interest in climbing Kili. I also recommend the Lemosho route. it shares much of the popular Machame route but I think is more picture-esque in the first few days before the trails merge.

What you REALLY need to pack for an expedition climb.

We all get them every time we sign up for a guided trip, “The Packing List”. And after some experience you get the hang of things but if this is your first trip like this, then read on because I am going to show you what ACTUALLY needs to be in your duffel conpared to what many standard gear-lists will tell you.

Why? What’s the difference?

Well, it depends.

Some companies have learned to list necessities and are pretty spot on, others give you a novel, despite the weight limit that will be required. It helps to just know what you ACTUALLY need and why vs what is reccomended add-ons, what is available for rent, whats optional luxuries, and what’s not nessisary so you can budget gear purchases and pack appropriately.

Weight Limits:

First off, all international airlines have a weight limit on bags and any guided expedition that has available porters will give you a 15kg (33lb) weight limit as well to protect the porters. You would be surprised how heavy your stuff can be. It all adds up fast! So one key thing to remember while packing: WEIGH YOUR BAGS!!!

Sidenote, weight limits can vary:

Take climbing packing vs a trek for example: a trek, anywhere in the world, can easilly be packed to under 15kg. But if you are headed to climb a technical peak, you have A LOT of gear. You can’t always physically fit everything into 15kg, especially if You are on the mountain for 2 months! You may need a down suit, climbing gear, etc etc. All you need to know for now is in a climbing expedition there will be multiple duffels to carry your stuff, but they still can’t weigh more than 15kgs each.

What to ACTUALLY pack:

This list is gonna start out with you basics for a trek because even if you add technical climbing, you are still going to have the same basic trekking gear. This list is a base that works for any trek, anywhere in the world.

The obvious:

  • Your 70-90L duffel
  • A 25-35L day pack
  • Trekking poles (even if you think you dont need them you want them. Downhill at the end a long trek is brutal on the legs and knees)
  • Good, broken in, hiking shoes
  • Multiple pairs of hiking socks (rule of thumb. 1 pair for every 2 days)
  • Liner socks (only IF you feel like you need them… I never use them.)
  • 1 pair thick wool or ski socks (for sleeping/summit)
  • 0° sleeping bag (especially for high elevation camping)
  • Lightweight compactable Sleeping pad with R rating of 3 or higher (R rating is temperature compatibility)
  • Sunglasses (+glacier glasses if there is snow and going above 10,000′)
  • Water bottles (2, 32oz Nalgenes MINIMUM, bladders are useful too… Until they freeze)
  • Headlamp/extra batteries

Layers:

  • Underwear/bras (1 pair every day if trek is roughly a week or less, 1 pair for every 2 days if its longer. You can wash them and hang them to try on your backpack while hiking! Sounds wierd, is totally normal tho.)
  • 1 moisture wicking T-shirt
  • 1 pair trekking pants
  • 1 pair modest shorts (ONLY in hot regions and where cultrally appropriate. Examples: Kilimanjaro=ok, but Nepal=NO shorts!)
  • 1 long sleeve moisture-wicking layer
  • 1 long underwear top
  • 1 long underwear bottom
  • 1 fleece layer top
  • 1 fleece or sweatpant bottom
  • 1 puffy jacket
  • 1 winter coat with hood (down jacket is best if possible when climbing high, it can be rented in many areas of the world if your particular company requires it)
  • 1 rain shell or poncho

Sidenote, Why only 1 of each? You will wear the same thing every day. Sounds gross but saves space and weight. What I like to do is have one long sleeve as a hiking layer and then the long underwear and fleece become loungewear in camp. You can change out of your sweaty clothes and you are much warmer while hiking but you will be cold once you stop moving. On summit night I keep the long underwear on under my trekking pants combined with the winter coat and I am plenty warm.

For heads and hands:

  • Sun hat
  • Winter hat/beanie
  • Thin gloves
  • Waterproof Winter gloves
  • Balaclava or face mask (shield wind/dust)
  • 1-2 bandanas (multipurpose: snot catchers, face masking, sweat bands, wet cloths to cool hot heads, etc)

Accessories:

  • Gators (if theres snow)
  • Yak-traks or micro spikes (if minimal snow)
  • “Camp shoes” (comfy easy slip on and off)
  • Quickdry lightweight camp towel
  • Stuff sacks/dry bags to keep gear organized
  • 1 garbage bag (for stinky/dirty laundry! The plastic of the garbage bag will lock in odors so the rest of your stuff doesnt stink!)
  • Gallon sized ziploc for trash (food wrappers and TP. Pack it in, pack it out!)
  • Personal snacks and electrolyte gels or powder mixes (not optional, a MUST! Foreign food is hard on the stomach if you are new to it. Altitude kills your apetite. Having multiple snack favs to keep energy up makes a massive difference and electrolytes can help prevent altitude sickness!!!)
  • Toiletries: camp soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, deoderant
  • Toilet paper (thank me later)
  • Ladies, feminine products (altitude screws with your cycle. Just be prepared)
  • Water purification tablets (backpack filters wont kill everything. Always boil water First THEN purify it)
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30+ minimum)
  • Lip balm with spf
  • Insect repellent with DEET (various infectious diseases in rural parts of The world. Protect yourself. Your “organic lemon bug spray” wont work on these bugs. Unless you have a severe allergy, suck it up, use the deet. Its better than Malaria)
  • Basic first aid kit (bandaids, blister kit, tweezers, is plenty. Guides have full med kits)
  • Wet wipes (when you cant shower for 3 weeks, these will make you feel better)
  • Hand sanitizer!
  • Camera
  • Portable chargers/extra batteries (keep in sleeping bag at night or they will drain in the cold!

Important documents:

  • Passport
  • Travelers insurance paperwork
  • Visa paperwork
  • Immunization paperwork
  • Credit card for emergencies
  • Cash: depending on your trip depends on how much to bring. You will need to tip your guides, porters and cooks for each day of the trip. In Nepal you will be staying in teahouses where you can purchase snacks and bottled water. Suvenier shopping is in cash in most rural parts of the world. Cash economy. You are gonna need to look up what is appropriate for tips and math out the legnth of your stay and how much you expect to spend on suveniers and other things. I can’t tell you an exact number because everywhere is different. I pull out what I think will be too much just to be safe and I can put back whatever I dont spend when I get home.

Medications: (vary based on location)

  • Regular Percriptions
  • Diamox (for altitude)
  • Malarone (for Kilimanjaro, Africa in general, central America, and other at risk countries. This drug has least amount do side effects compared to other malaria meds)
  • An antibiotic (incase of travelers diarrhea. Specific drugs are required for specific regions)
  • Ibrpofen (your new best friend)
  • Pepto-bismol tablets (helps prevent travelers diarrhea. Take this first before it gets incapacitating then take antibiotic)
  • Dayquil/cough drops (cold air, bew germs, new people.. Your probably goning to get sick at some point)
  • Daily multivitamin (can help prevent sickness as well as provide nutrients that may be missing from eating trekking food.)

Luxury items: (really just optional comforts if you have room to fit them.

  • Journal
  • Card games
  • A Book
  • Earplugs (for sleeping… trust me.)

Climbing add-ons:

  • Mountaineering boots
  • Crampons
  • Harness
  • 5-6 slings
  • Jumar
  • 3-4 caribiners
  • Climbing helmet
  • Mountaineering axe
  • Snow pants
  • Down suit (if climbing in temps below 0°F)
  • Down mittens rated 0°
  • Warm waterproof Fingered gloves
  • Prussets

Climbing gear can be heavy so spread it out and dont pack it all in the same duffel. A lot of gear is provided for you such as tents, ropes and sometimes even backpacking stoves/fuel for high camps. Much of the gear can also be rented for a small fee. Check with your guide service for their “provided gear” list.

There you have it! It may look like a really long list but don’t forget I added in all those notes, and I promiae you can succeed in meeting that under 15kg weight limit with everything on this list (minus the climbing add ons of course). I take it from personal experience.

I am currently packing for Kilimanjaro which I leave for in just a couple days! I have noticed how similar my list is compared to Nepal but I am packing less now that I know what I used and didn’t use, what I wish I had more of (snacks, all the snacks!), and since I’m not planning in a technical climb, I get to leave all the heavy climbing gear home which makes meeting the weight limit much easier.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks for trip reports from Tanzania!

How the Mountains Continue to Save My Life

Report from 11/9/18

The outdoors really is the best kind of therapy available to us. Yes, it is critical that we seek professional help in times of need, but as a general coping mechanism nature is the best. Hands down. This week, I needed the mountains more than ever.

Without going into great detail of my living hell growing up, let me just give you the basics of my backstory…

  • My sister passed away when I was 10
  • An unusual number of friends around me passed away from various causes
  • I was emotionally abused, and sexually assaulted on numerous occasions
  • I was dealing with untreated depression
  • I tried to kill myself… twice.
  • I dealt with an eating disorder
  • …but most of all, I felt worthless, unloved, undeserving of love, ashamed, and a waste of space. 

It wasn’t until I passed out at the wheel from malnutrition and totaled my car during my eating disorder that I was able to finally get some help. I have spent the last 8 years in therapy trying to sift through all of the crap. I have put a lot of pieces together over the years, but nothing hit me like a brick wall more than when I found out about a week ago that one of my abusers, nay the first… was recently released from prison. 

Looking back all those years ago, I didn’t think anything was wrong until after the relationship was over. I was blind to the manipulation, the emotional mind games, and the damage he was causing. He made me feel like I was nothing more than an object… When he dumped me for not getting “his way” it all really began to sink in. This was when I REALLY lost myself. I didn’t care anymore. I was worth nothing to myself, or anyone in my mind. My childhood dreams were long forgotten, I was never going to be good enough anyway… because how could I, this worthless, disgusting piece of trash, every be able to live or go after those dreams?

That fire eventually was rekindled through therapy and literally getting back outside where I belong. I was able to work up enough love for myself to be able to taste my dreams and I finally made it to Nepal! But hearing he was out of jail brought up all those horrific feelings: the fear, the anxiety, the disgust in myself, shame for not having the hindsight, the self-loathing, self-doubt, and worthlessness…. they came flooding back. The fight began. Tears, and panic attacks were all of a sudden a daily occurrence, all while the “smarter self” I have spent so many years working on was patching holes at every turn. At first, I slept… A LOT. After a couple days, I finally had some time where I could head up the canyon, take in the snowy views and the cool breeze and try to recenter myself in my element. I was able to just sit for a while, take in the view, think, and process everything that has just happened, as well as other questions my life was trying to throw at me.

Trying to work through the overwhelming amount of feelings going through my head this week I realized a few things. I am NOT, nor will I ever be that person again. I have grown and worked so much, I refuse to let my past try to drag me back down into that hell. I have learned what is truly important to me in my life and am constantly working to make sure my life goes in that direction. I may doubt myself all the time, and feel like I’m not good enough, and question every move I make, but that is because I want to make sure it is the right one. I tell myself all the time, I want to inspire others, and be someone who goes after there dreams and succeeds because those people are amazing inspirations to me. What I have to remind myself is that I already am that person. I have students and people tell me all the time, but being my own worst enemy, by brain would tell me not to believe it, or that I am still not good enough anyway. The one belief system that I haven’t been able to shake…

But it is time. It is time to tell myself that I AM that Badass I have always wanted to be! The one who is training to climb to the top of the world, doing circus tricks in her backyard, and inspiring others to conquer their own dreams, whatever they may be. 

Because after all… (excuse the cheese)

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves” 

                                                                -Edmund Hillary 

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Train (when you really don’t want to)

When browsing social media and see professional athletes hard at work for their next big “thing”, I sometimes feel discouraged thinking “How is it that they always seem motivated to train and workout?!”

There are about a hundred different things in life that can try to drag us down. It is true that some personalities are naturally more accustomed to self-motivation, but the rest of us are constantly influenced by things in our daily lives. Studies have shown for a while that many of us in various parts of the world are over worked, underpaid, and way too stressed out. This makes motivation to train hard for particular dreams and goals difficult. How many of you have been in the situation where after working all day, all week, all you want to do after coming home is sleep, veg out, and decompress? How many of you end up in that situation far too often to where a month later you noticed you’ve gained 5 pounds, and feel like you haven’t accomplished anything?

SO, how can we break that stride? 

One critical piece many of us constantly forget is that exercise IS therapeutic, releases endorphins, and helps us feel better. Getting outside is also therapeutic, releases endorphins, and helps us feel better. But when we are in a motivation rut, we are simply “too tired” or feel like we can’t put forth the effort, it helps to take baby steps. Here are a few ways to start:

Simply get out of the house:

Go for a walk around the block, sit out on the porch, lay in the grass, go to a park, no matter how small, just getting some fresh air and sunlight can make a huge difference.

Do a quick at home workout:

It doesn’t have to be long, even like 10 minutes can help boost your mood. Just shut yourself in your bedroom alone and away from anyone who might bug you, turn on some music and do some push-ups, sit ups, yoga, whatever you feel like, as long as its active and distracting.

Go for the smoothie instead of the ice cream:

How many of us are guilty of eating comfort food after a long day? It is totally natural for us to crave sugary treats when we are upset or stressed out. But making even the smallest change to a healthier food choice can make a big difference. The reality is, eating junk food will only make you feel crappier. But getting vital nutrients that you need (and are probably missing after a stressful day) can help give you a better boost. 

Watch a motivating movie:

If you are really having a hard time getting off the couch or feel like you just need the rest, watch something that will re-ignite that flame inside. The Secret Life of Water Mitty is one of my personal favorites. It really brings out the wanderer inside. Everest may be a sad story about the ’96 disaster, but it the views and scenery will remind you what you of your goals! Free Solo is another great example. It is about Alex Honnold’s free solo climb up El Capitan is absolutely amazing and beautiful to watch. (I have seen it like 8 times.)

Review your goals:

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves what we are fighting for. By going over your plan and reevaluating your goals, you can remind yourself of what is important and why it’s important. It will help re-align your priorities, and maybe you will be able to make adjustments to your busy schedule to help better fit in training. 

Whatever you decide to do, be honest with yourself. No one else is going to care if you workout today or not. No one else is counting on you to live out your dreams and goals but yourself. If you start saying things like “Oh, I’ll just do it tomorrow” to yourself, you are going to find that tomorrow never comes. Nothing worth having in this life ever comes easy…. even when we wish it would. So start now, and you will be taking the first step in the right direction.

Mental Space for the Climbing Mind

Everyone is different. Everyone has different fear and anxieties. A non-climber might ask someone who does climb how they could possibly do it, might even call them crazy. The reality is, we kind of have to be in our own way. We have to be able to conquer our fears and anxieties enough to be able to succeed.

How do we do it? How do we get into the mental focus and space required to successfully top out on a wall or a summit.

Well, again, everyone is different. The best I can do is share my experience. In reality, I have incredibly severe anxiety. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a mess and it is a wonder how I am able to conquer it for the sake of climbing. The truth is, climbing and mountaineering is one of the very few ways I can focus my mind and I know many other climbers that feel the same way. I like to compare it to those who use yoga as a meditation practice. When you do yoga, you have to focus on balance, posing, breathing, and it is nearly impossible to think about anything else that is bothering you in your life. Climbing does the same thing for me. I hone in and focus on my moves, each step I take, each hold I grab, always looking onward and upward.

I had an experience this week on an incredibly easy wall that tested my mental space. This is a wall I have done so many times I have lost count, a route so easy, I honestly could free solo it. I am not sure exactly what it was, but on this particular day, my head just wasn’t in it. I set up the top rope, and I normally repel down from the top, no fear, no big deal… I couldn’t do it. I psyched myself out. Later, climbing the route I got about 3/4 of the way up and froze. I ended up pushing past it, but the thoughts going through my mind were a complete lack of trust in my rope and my gear which NEVER happens. Why on earth was a suddenly freaking out? What was it about that day or that climb that made me so nervous despite doing it dozens of times in the past?

Reflecting back on it, I realized I was not focused, and I wasn’t in my right mind set, I wasn’t climbing for the right reasons that day. I climb for me. I have always climbed for me. It is my therapy, it is how I am able to get an escape, it is a spiritual experience and place for me to be, and it is how I am able to find a sense of peace and calm in my chaotic world. That day, I was not climbing for me…. I am not even sure what I was climbing for… Attention maybe? Showing off to my husband? Embarrassing as it may be, I am quite irritated at myself. It reminds me that no matter how simple the task, I need to be focused on it, and not let other things in my world cloud my judgement. It might not be a big deal on a simple top rope route, but say I am climbing up a Himalayan ridge, that mental space is crucial for success as well as safety. If I got too distracted that I panicked, I could put my life or someone else’s in jeopardy…

I reflect back on my trip to Nepal, and there were a lot of factors that wreaked havoc on my mind. Getting food poisoning early in the trip put a lot of doubt in my mind. It wasn’t until I started feeling better that I received a surge of confidence, that is until I got sick again. The day I climbed Kala Patthar, I was not mentally where I really needed to be at the start of the climb. It was cloudy, and I was more focused on “What if the clouds never move? If I get to the top of this thing and I can’t even see the view I’m gonna be so pissed!” I then began to panic because I wasn’t getting enough air. It was my first experience at 18,000′ and I was beginning to doubt if I could even climb this stupid hill in front of me. About 2/3 of the way up I stopped for a little while, I had to refocus my mind, and get “out” of my head. Focus on my steps, focus on getting to the top regardless of what the weather does. I had to remind myself that whether the view is cloudy or not, it is still a massive accomplishment and I would hate myself if I turned back. I took about 10 minutes to gather my focus and continued onward. I climbed, I made it, and luckily the clouds parted just long enough for me to snap a picture of Everest.

It takes practice to focus the way I need to to be able to successfully climb a wall of summit a peak, and I am only human… some days just aren’t my day. The key is learning to push past whatever is holding you back to be able to focus when it really counts. If I really want to climb Everest and the other Seven Summits, I need to be 100% focused. I need to remember WHY I am doing it and I think the same can be said for anyone who has a goal they want to accomplish in life. Why do you want to do it? Hold onto that, focus that, and don’t let anything else get in your way.

7 Things to Remember When Planning an International Trip

Wanderlust is in the air!

It is all over the internet: Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, you name it! People are seeing beautiful photos from around the world and we are all trying to find ways to budget and save to live the traveler life.

Here are some things you need to know to begin planning your international trip!

What is your budget?

It took me significantly longer than I wanted to finally make it to Nepal. Most of that had to do with the lack of funds. There are a variety of different trips and expeditions out there but I needed to find one that I could afford on our tight budget. First thing you need to do is math out your budget and decide how much you can afford to take out every month and give a timeline of when you want to go on your trip. Your next step is going to be researching flights, places to stay, guides, things to do, sites, everything you want to do! You are looking at prices, expenses to math out exactly how much your trip is going to cost. From there you can adjust your trip accordingly to fit your budget! Last but not least: spending money. You NEED to give yourself a good amount to just play with because you will want it and use it. You are on vacation after all!

Flying Internationally:

It is important to check airline prices frequently, and on various days of the week to look for patterns in price changes. Below is an easy graphic of how many days in advance typically have the best price on international flights. Google flights is an easy resource for getting general ideas but Hopper and SkyScanner tend to have the best prices and deals and there are many other platforms out there as well. MOST IMPORTANTLY: The key is to compare prices on various platforms before choosing your flight is to be sure to look for consistency!!! If you find one flight exists on one platform, but doesn’t on the others, it is very possible that flight doesn’t actually exist anymore. Airlines cancel and change flights all the time, and unless you book straight through the airline, you may not be able to get a refund if a flight changes. Many platforms connect you to a travel agency and it is nearly impossible to get a hold of the correct people if something goes wrong. (take it from someone who dealt with this first hand and learned this the hard way).

Passports/Visas:

You NEED a passport to go anywhere in the world internationally and in most countries you also need a tourist visa. Here in the US, you can fill out a passport application at select Post Offices, and City Halls. Just look up where you can obtain a visa in your area. you will need to do this at least 3 months before your departure to ensure it arrives on time.

Every country has different requirements and depending on what country you are from can also change the requirements you need. You are going to want to research tourist visa requirements for a citizen of your country of origin to country of travel. If you are traveling to multiple countries, be sure to look up each individual countries requirements. Sometimes you need to fill out visas well in advance, so make sure this is one of the very first things you do in planning your trip!

Plan, Plan Plan!

This will be your key to keeping to your budget, and not wasting a day while you are out seeing the world! Even if you plan to do nothing on certain days (like spend time at a beach or something) they key is to have a plan for the big ticket items. Specific sites you want to see, specific things you want to do. Guided tours, and activities require advanced appointments. You want to be sure those are in your schedule before you plan your relaxation time.

Packing:

Know where you are going and what you NEED to bring and pack the bare minimum. Tropics typically have the lightest packing since you will live in a swimsuit most of the trip, trekking and climbing trips have a lot more since you are packing gear and layers of clothing. Every flight has weight limits, you will be paying extra if your bags are over the weight limit. Typically when you fly international, you are allowed one checked bag for free unlike flying stateside. This is because the airlines know you are traveling farther and typically for longer and need more luggage. Be sure to double check with your airline on baggage limits. It is good to pack up and weigh in a couple of weeks before you leave if you are worried about going over the weight limit.

Emergency Cash:

Things happen, it sucks when they do but it is important to always be prepared so you aren’t stranded in a foreign country somewhere. When I went to Nepal, we were stuck in Lukla for 3 days trying to get out and back to Kathmandu but the weather kept us socked in. We finally decided to call in a helicopter and I had to pay an extra $350 for that flight but it was completely worth it. I don’t regret that decision at all. I had to pay for it in CASH and I am glad I had it. I also had my credit card with me for bigger emergencies and luckily did not need to use it but it is good to have every back up available.

Dot all the i’s and cross the t’s:

As you get close to departure date, double check EVERYTHING! Make a list. Is your flight booked and still on schedule? Your passport and visa ready? Everything you planned booked and reserved? Work scheduled you off? Packed? Be sure to ask yourself every question that applies to your trip! The more you can do to prepare before you leave, the less terrifying it will be to be in a foreign country, and you will hopefully have a stress free vacation!

Happy Travels!