TRIP REPORT: Mount Elbert (14,439′)

There is no better way to celebrate the summer solstice than from the highest point in Colorado! Mount Elbert is located in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains just outside the city of Leadville. Not only is it the state’s high point, but it is the second highest point in the contiguous US. A steep climb, but definitely one for the books!

Looking N-NW from the summit

Out climb started just after 3:30am from the standard North route. The trail started off pretty moderately with switchbacks for the first mile, very doable. The trail then flattens out and actually heads slightly downhill for about 5 minutes of walking or so before you reach the Contintental Divide trail fork. This flat continues for just another half mile or so before the steeper incline begins. This first steeper section goes for another mile or so until you hit treeline and makes you question your life choices.

At this point, coming out of the trees the we were in twilight and sunrise was approaching. we slowly continued to make our way out of the trees just in time to see the alpenglow hit the peak in front of us and watch the sunrise. Once out of the trees you can basically see the majority of the route headed up the ridge. It is a slow steep walk but take your time and you will get there!

steepest pitch up 1st false summit

The crux of the route starts at about 13,000′. This is the steepest section and is a slow spot. Knowing you have 1,400′ left of climbing the first 900′ are right in front of you in a very short distance. This is the first false summit.

2nd false summit

As you come around the north side and to the top of the false summit you can see the second false summit in front of you, a more moderate incline in comparison as you make your way up the hill.

3rd false summit…

As you come up on this second false summit the 3rd and last false peak gets your hopes up as it LOOKS like it could be the real deal…. it is not. HOWEVER, as you quickly make your way up this last hill you can see the REAL summit and it is a simple 2-4 minute ridge walk away!

Actual summit just ahead!

Welcome to the roof of Colorado at 14,439 feet!!!!! We took our time on the way up as we encountered wind and cold and had to keep adding layers. We summited at 8:50am.

The decent took half the time for the most part. Some steeper spots were a little slow for those needing to be gentle on the knees. (bring poles) As for difficulty, its just the steep gain and the altitude. The standard North route is a class 1. Very well maintained trail as it is heavily trafficked. We did pass plenty of people who turned around early in the morning as they were not feeling it that day. Also, being June it was VERY cold and windy for us. It had snowed the day before so the summit temps were at or just above freezing that morning and the windchill was recorded at 17 degrees Fahrenheit! (burrr) Overall, it was a BEAUTIFUL day to summit.

HAPPY SUMMER!

TRIP REPORT: Mount Nebo (11,929′)

Mount Nebo is the highest peak in the Wasatch Range in Utah. It’s located about 2 hours south of Salt Lake City near the town of Payson. It is a beautiful but challenging climb.

The trail starts out pretty mild and has a great view of North peak as you ascend. The trail is full of wildflowers and down trees. Navigating around the trees is fairly easy. The first mile and a half is the easiest part.

Once you arrive to the open meadow and cirque, the trail steepens as you head to the ridge.

As you top out on the ridge of North Peak, the trail leads around to the backside and flattens out as you work your way to the other side to the saddle.

Once you arrive at the saddle, the false peak stands in front of you. You can see the roue and the top of the false summit. Its pretty steep but straight forward.

Now for the tricky part. The summit ridge. This ridge is made of very sharp limestone and slippery shale. Gloves are highly recommended! There are no cairns or markers to mark a single solid trail. You can see what appears to be a path to the summit but it is actually pretty difficult to navigate as multiple paths exist but some dead end. I found the most direct route was to stay as close to the ridge line as possible. If you get too far below the ridge, the amount of shale increases and this rock is incredibly slippery.

The visible “path” ends approximately 100 feet below the summit. This part is rates as a class 3 scramble and it can be a little unnerving as you are trying to grab rock and hope that it’s solid and not loose shale. This was the point I actually turned around as I was climbing solo. I wasn’t sure where the recommended scramble path was since there are no markers or cairns and it was my first time on this mountain and did not feel comfortable being alone on the slippery rocks trying to figure it out.

This ridge was the MOST time consuming part of the climb. I made it to the top of the false summit. The ridge is only a half mile and it took me an hour and a half to navigate. Coming down, the shale is VERY slippery so keep that in mind. Stepping on solid rock is always better if you can. Poles aren’t super helpful on this ridge but they are on the way down the steep false summit.

Overall expect to spend 6-9 hours on this mountain depending on how fast you are. Like I mentioned, the ridge is the most time consuming part. Give yourself a turn around time. Many people just go up to the false summit to start. Start early, as there is NO shade from the base of the false summit onward.

Overall a gorgeous mountain! Definitely one to check off the list. I will be back to finish that last 100 feet! ūüėČ

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!

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.

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.

What I Learned About Myself in Nepal

Report from 7/7/18

There are dozens of articles out there on trekking to EBC, reguarding “do’s and don’ts”, “things I wish I knew”, etc.

The reality is, none of that can really prepare you for the experience itself. I myself, have been dreaming of the day I could finally see Everest since I was about 9 years old. I studied everything. read every article, every forum, every blog….. and there were still surprises.

First off, the reality:

It seems like everyone always says they wish they trained more. I thought so too, but physically I did really well. My body and legs felt very strong. I didn’t have any issues with altitude sickness, but breathing up high (especially with asthma) is incredibly difficult. The trick is to just find your pace, and stick to it. It’s OKAY to go slow!

Also, if this is you’re first trip to Asia, or a developing country, you are almost guaranteed to get sick. Be prepared to eat the same half a dozen “safe” dishes in every teahouse… I watched my trekking partner eat whatever he wanted with no issues, but he had much more travel experience than me and was living in Bangkok where he was used to the bacteria common in Asia. I on the other hand, got food poisoning 3 different times. I was able to pinpoint which foods where the most likely culprits and I avoided them the rest of the trip. I was trying to play it safe eating vegetarian up there, but cheese was a bad idea, even vegetables themselves can be a risk if not cooked or washed properly. If you are a first timer, stick to pasta dishes, oatmeal, ramen, rice dishes, popcorn, and dal bhat (a traditional dish of rice and lentil soup). You will get incredibly tired of eating the same thing for 2 weeks, but it is the safest option.

Another piece of advice I once read about was to take multivitamins with you to make up for the lack of nutrients. I felt like this was helpful and I think this strategy also helped keep me from catching the “khumbu cough”.

This was my first time out of the country. I went from 1st world luxuries in the US, to the vastly different world of Nepal. My first night in Kathmandu was complete culture shock, and took some getting used to. (Read more about when I first arrived in Kathmandu¬†here.)¬†There were a lot of emotional ups and downs on this trip. I learned a lot about myself on this trip… particularly things I didn’t expect.

I learned that dreams take more work than initially planned. It took me a lot longer to finally get a chance to trek to EBC than I wanted but in reality, I would not have been ready before now. This was step one in my complete dream to climb the Seven Summits. But when I finally got to see the Himalayas in person, that felt absolutely daunting. I began to realize how glorified, and “easy” documentaries and movies make Everest look. Everest is HUGE!! The mountain is scary, dark, and looming. The reality of the darkness this mountain carries really begins to sink in once finally seeing it in person. SO much death, pain, misery, and despair. Out of those who summit and live, many go through a personal hell to achieve that goal. They come home 30+lbs lighter, sun damage on their face, and may even lose a few fingers or toes to frostbite.

During my time in Nepal, I experienced only a small fraction of this and it was a lot harder than I expected. I lost close to 15lbs in total just in the 2 weeks I was in the mountains due to both traveler’s diarrhea and hiking 5-6 hours a day. Despite putting on sunscreen nearly every hour, I still maintained a pretty severe sunburn on my face. And on days I felt sick and exhausted, separation anxiety kicked in. As a kid, I spent a month each year at a summer camp in Colorado, happy to get away from my family and never had a problem with homesickness. This time I was leaving behind a husband, who is my rock in everything. Not being able to contact him when I was having a hard time was incredibly difficult. I began to really wonder if Everest and the rest of the Seven Summits was what I really wanted. It would mean spending money on years of training and climbing, surviving miserable trips full of pain, and discomfort, all for just one shot at the summit…. is it really worth all that trouble? Do I care enough? The answer is yes, however it is going to be A LOT harder than I expected… And honestly I’m a bit terrified.

On a bit of a lighter note, there is a special feeling and spiritual connection that has developed over the years for me when it comes to climbing high peaks; the Himalayas were no exception. I have known for years that I always felt closer to my deceased sister in the mountains, but being alone in the Himalayas gave me a much larger perspective on the matter.

On the summit of Kala Patthar with a photo of my sister Brooke

My favorite day of the entire trek was not the day we climbed Kala Patthar or went to EBC, it was the day we trekked from Dingboche to Lobuche. We had 360 degree views of the mountains that surrounded us, and we visited the Sherpa Memorial field. The mountains were the most beautiful I had ever seen, and I could feel how the memorial field was a very sacred place on the mountain. This was the day I could really feel that connection, but that wasn’t the only one. There were a lot of moments throughout the trek where I felt like I was really able to be myself in a spiritual way which was something I had been craving for a long time.

Growing up in a religious family brought up a lot of issues over the years. I felt like I couldn’t be myself. I felt like I was being forced into living expectations I couldn’t possibly live up to. Fear caused me to unfortunately hide how I felt for years, which contributed to depression, and my eating disorder after high school. I never really had the chance to come into my own until I was able to work through many of those issues through therapy and I began to look inside myself to figure out what I even believed in.

This trip really helped me cement some core beliefs on my spiritual side that had been lost nearly my entire life. I believe that personal spirituality, and your personal relationship with God (or whatever you believe) is far more important than the religion itself. A belief I personally feel like has been lost in many common religions today. This is not to bash on anyone that belongs to a religion and practices regularly, there is nothing wrong with that! There are a lot of genuine people that are members of a church. However, I have personally found a lot of hypocrisy in religion growing up, and I know I am not the only one who has felt this way. Religion is made up of people. People are human. Nobody is perfect. Therefore, no matter the religion, you can always find flaws. This is why your personal relationship with God is the most important. Being responsible for your actions, holding yourself accountable, no matter what they are, and just working on being a better person all the time is the best thing you can do, with religion in your life or not.

One thing I really loved about Nepal is that it is an incredibly spiritual country. You can find every type of person on the religious spectrum, such as monks praying at the stupas, non-practicing, and everything in between. But no matter who they are, everyone is nice, helpful and genuine. This has a lot to do with the Buddhist belief in Karma, but more than that, it is their culture and it was probably the most real place I have ever been in a spiritual sense. Simply put, people just want to help, and are trying to be good, whether they are Bhuddist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, or something else. This is how everyone should be, this is how our would should be, and this was the best thing to learn about myself on my trek to EBC.

The 14er Quad: Democrat, Lincoln, Cameron, Bross

Report from 6/30/18

I’ve been home from Nepal less than 2 weeks and the high altitude fever was already killing me! time for some more high peaks! 4 in a day to be exact.

Located South of Breckenridge, CO and North of Fairplay lies a series of 14ers in the Mosquito Range. Some of these got checked off my list on Thursday.

We left Littleton around 3am to drive the 2 hours to South Park. the trailhead for this quad is located up a dirt road Northwest of Alma. My partner and I started hiking at 5am. After reading various forums on the internet, we decided to take the advice of many and do the loop backwards, starting with Bross. The trail is steep with slippery scree and many have mentioned that it is much easier going downhill on Democrat, especially if you have bad knees. So, with that advice, we started with Bross. As we neared 14,000′, we ran into 2 mountain goats who were surprisingly chill with us hanging out with them. After a few selfies with the goats, we moved onward to the summit. Within 2 hours we were on top of our first out of 4 fourteeners for the day at 14,172′.

**A little note about Bross: Mount Bross’s summit is located on private property, so technically, you are not legally allowed to go to the summit. The trail scoots right along 14,000′ so if you do not feel comfortable trespassing, then you still at least hit 14k. The mountain itself lacks structural integrity. It is an old mining site and has not been maintained so with the summit trail closed it is a “climb at your own risk scenario. Also, NEVER EVER enter one of the mines as they all risk collapse. Other people have reported that on occasion there will be someone monitoring the fork in the trail on Bross to keep people off the summit. We didn’t see anyone on our ascent. My guess is because we started with Bross instead of Democrat and no one was monitoring the mountain that early.

After spending about 20 minutes enjoying the summit, we moved on to your next peak. Headed down the saddle, following an old mining path past Mount Cameron, we soon arrive at our highest point for the day. after 50 minutes of traversing, we were standing on the summit of Mount Lincoln at 14,295′.

A short 10 minutes of pictures and smiles, we move on to Mount Cameron. Since Cameron’s prominence does not meet the 300′ minimum, it is not an official 14er, and is listed as unranked. It is basically an extension of Lincoln’s shoulder. Regardless, it is named and still a peak in my book, and the trail goes across the summit so after maybe 20-25 minutes of hiking, we were standing on Mount Cameron at 14,238′.

We spent a good amount of time resting on the summit of Cameron knowing we had a large obstacle ahead. The downside to doing the loop backwards is the fact that Democrat is last, and it is the hardest of the 4. After dropping over 800 feet in elevation, we then had to re-ascend 700 of that within a half mile. it was slow, steep, rocky, and exhausting in the hot sun. After what felt like forever, we finally stood on the summit of Democrat at 14,148′. We are 4 for 4 on this fourteener loop!

Car to car, including our summit breaks, it took us 8 hours. We arrived back to our car at 1pm, and headed into South Park for lunch!

Definitely recommend this loop as you can check off 4 peaks of your 14er list. Be sure to acclimatize well before doing this climb as it is a long day above treeline. Bring lots of water and always be prepared for weather!

TRIP REPORT: Everest Base Camp (17,600′)/ Kala Patthar (18,519′)

Report from 6/20/18

Here it is!

I planned to get this out sooner, but I got home to find out I had caught a head cold  from the guy sitting next to me on one of my connections home and have also been struggling with the jet lag pretty bad. I have been pretty miserable the last few days. But without further ado, here is my trip report of my Everest Base Camp Trek!

First, I shall answer a question which may have arisen for those who frequent my blog and may have noticed a “typo” in the title. Yes, I was supposed to climb Island Peak as well. Originally, this trip had 2 parts: trek to EBC, and climb Island Peak (Imja Tse) at 6189m (20,305′). Long story short, Island Peak did not happen, but that will be explained.

Most of what is written below is actually fragments from my travel journal. This is strictly just the trekking portion of our trip. I am not going to spend time on talking about my day in Singapore, or when I first arrived in Kathmandu because I have already discussed them but if you missed it, you can click the links to read about them! So to begin, we are going to start with our first day in the Himalayas:

DAY 1: LUKLA TO PHAKDING- 2,860m (9,380′) to 2,610m (8,560′)- 5/30/18

The morning started out in Kathmandu, misty and cool from rain the night before. Monsoon season is near, as we are at the tail end of may, and reports of many Everest climbers and crew had been stuck in Lukla for almost a week due to flights not being able to access the mountain. We head to the airport, hoping and praying skies are finally clear enough for us to get there. We are scheduled on the first flight out at 6am. We arrive, weigh our bags, and wait in the domestic terminal at Tribhuvan Airport for news, any news. Before we know it, we are on a little shuttle to take us to our small propeller plane, we board and we are off! On the plane, I had a giant smile on my face I could not erase, and tears coming to my eyes. Hazy skies make it difficult to see the tall mountains in the distance, but soon, we can see a hazy peak out the window of the plane, standing well above all others off in the distance. It’s Everest!

Landing in Lukla, at the world’s most dangerous airport, was not as terrifying as I anticipated. We had a very smooth landing, and was off the plane an instant later. Immediately we could already see Nupla, standing at 5,885m (19,303′), dominating the background. I nearly cried. I could not believe I was finally here! By a fun coincidence, my tent-mate from Rainier happened to be in Lukla at the same time! After catching up with her, we headed off. We have a small group. Gadul is our local guide and I am accompanied by one other, Juan from Bolivia, who is currently living in Thailand. The road to Phakding was downhill, and quick. We passed dozens of rocks, prayer wheels, stupas, and memorials covered in Sanskrit writings from the Monks of the monasteries. I learned that all of these sacred monuments bust be passed on the left, or in a clockwise direction out of respect. These are the most peaceful mountains I have ever been to. Bells and chimes from prayer wheels ring, and chants in the distance can be heard from the Monks up the hill. The spirit of this land is something I have wanted to experience for years. I was in disbelief of the awe and wonder around me. Within a short 2 1/2  hours, we arrived in Phakding, got settled into our first teahouse lodge and enjoyed some downtime.

DAY 2: PHAKDING TO NAMCHE BAZZAR- 2,610m (8,560′) to  3,440m (11,283′)- 5/31/18

Day 2 was long, steep, and hot. The trail was very up and down, and there were stairs, so many stairs!!! I started the morning off feeling pretty good! As we started walking I could hear birds that sounded just like the Mockingjay from the Hunger Games. We passed plenty of porters bringing down stuff from base camp now that the season is over and I began to realize something; many of these young boys looks just like my high schoolers! When people think “Sherpa” there is a stereotype that comes to mind. A short man, wearing flip flops, smoking cigarettes, while hiking with up to 100 kilos on his back with a head strap used for balance. While this is seen sometimes, the reality is most porters are young teenagers. Some are wearing skinny jeans, Adidas, a flat rimmed baseball cap, and playing music on their phone while they walk. I asked Gadul how young some of the porters typically start and he said some can be as young as 14, working weekends while they’re not in school.

We stopped for lunch about 2 hours into our hike in a village called Monjo, where the official entrance to the National Park is located. We crossed 6 bridges on the way to Namche. The last bridge is known as the high bridge. you hike up a steep hill to get there, as it’s suspended around 100 meters in the air. The last 2 hours of the climb is up a steep cliff side. It was extremely slow going, especially in the hot sun. It did not help that whatever I ate for lunch was beginning to not sit well. By the time we got to Namche I was pretty wiped out and my stomach was killing me. I had a difficult time eating dinner because I was so nauseous, and then it hit me in the middle of the night… my first bout of traveler’s diarrhea. I knew it was not altitude sickness because of the simple fact that I had been training above 10,000′ for months. Plus, I had altitude sickness once before, this was different. I could nearly pinpoint that the goat cheese on my potatoes at lunch was the most likely culprit.

DAY 3: REST DAY IN NAMCHE- 6/1/18

After a “fun” morning in the bathroom, I joined everyone for breakfast where I tried to force down some oatmeal. The initial plan was to hike up to Khumjung, a town at 3780m (12,398′), but we woke up to heavy rain and clouds in the area. (I was pretty thankful for that) A few hours later, Juan knocked on my door to announce they were going to head up for a short walk now that the weather was clearing. After spending the morning lying in the fetal position, and taking some antacid medicine, I decided to join them to at least get out and stem some boredom.

We walked up to the Sagarmatha Visitor Center, (Sagarmatha is the Nepali name for Everest) and toured around enjoying the Tenzing Norgay Memorial statue (the real MVP), as well as the various boards and displays inside the visitor center. On a sunny day, you can see Everest from this point, however, because of the clouds, we couldn’t see anything. As the clouds were beginning to move and disperse slightly, we decided to hang out on top of that hill to wait and see if the clouds would part enough to see Everest. After about 10 minutes of waiting, we could finally see Lhotse peering from behind the clouds, and moments later, Everest. I literally cried. I had been waiting for this moment for so long. to finally see Everest in person! I realized this was no longer a dream, but totally real. Despite being unbelievably sick, I had a rush of adrenaline.

DAY 4: NAMCHE TO DEBOCHE- 3,440m (11,283′) to 3,820m (12,529′)- 6/2/18

Feeling slightly better the next morning, We set off on our way to what was originally going to be Tengboche. We hiked down a steep hill to the small village of Phunke Tenga near the river, then back up another steep hill to Tengboche and the Tengboche Monastery. We toured the grounds, taking in the beautiful artwork inside the monastery. I absolutely LOVED the detail and the colors. It was very warm and inviting. I only wish we had been there for a Puja ceremony. That would have been incredible to see.

Then came time to find our lodge. Due to the fact that we were trekking in “off season”. Many teahouses close as families head to Kathmandu for the summer. The teahouse we meant to stay in was closed, so we hiked down into the rhododendron forest to the small village of Deboche. The bright colors of the flowers were incredible! Pinks, yellows, and white, colored the trees and the ground.

DAY 5: DEBOCHE TO DINGBOCHE- 3,820m (12,529′) to 4,410m (14,464′)- 6/3/18

We woke up to a beautiful view of Ama Dablam as well as Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse. The hike was fairly gentle in incline compared to the steep hills I had been climbing before. What was predicted to be a 5-6 hour hike, we did in 4 1/2! At this point in time, I was officially the highest I have ever been. at 14, 464′ I was higher than any peak in Colorado, higher than Mount Rainier, and almost as high as Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States at 14,505′. But, it didn’t feel like I was over 14,000′. I was acclimatizing very well and my stomach was improving.

DAY 6: DINGBOCHE TO LOBUCHE (My favorite day)- 4,410m (14,464′) to 4,910m (16,104′)- 6/4/18

Words cannot describe the awe, beauty, and spiritual nature of what I had seen this day… I like to think that I have a very good eye for pictures, especially outdoors, and I still don’t think I did it any justice. I came here, not only to reach a lifelong goal, but to also go on a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts and this day fulfilled a big part of that spiritual side.

To start, we climbed up the tundra hills above Dingboche. The clouds parted and we had 360 degree views of the Himalayan peaks that surrounded us. I am officially convinced that Ama Dablam is the most beautiful mountain in the world. Everest may the the highest, but it’s not “pretty”. Ama Dablam was stunningly gorgeous. I literally stopped and told myself “don’t sit down or you will never leave.” We took our time in those hills taking dozens of photos. The clouds sweeping by below us added an element like we really were in heaven. I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life.

After a quick lunch in Tulkla, we climbed a steep rocky hill to the Sherpa Memorial field where tombstones and stupas of climbers who died on Everest and other nearby peaks cover the hillside to remember those who have fallen. The spirit of this mountain is unreal. You could really feel how sacred of a place this had become.

Walking onward, the view opened up to the Khumbu region where Pumori dominated the view, Nuptse stood out infront of Everest, and You could see over the ridge into Tibet where Changtse is visible at 7,543m (24,747′). (You can literally see China!)

DAY 7: LOBUCHE TO GORAK SHEP AND EVEREST BASE CAMP!- 4,910m (16,104′) to 5,140m (16,859′) and 5,464m (17,600′)- 6/5/18

My lungs were definitely beginning to feel the lack of oxygen but my body felt like a freaking amazon warrior! Hung out at base camp for over an hour, playing around in the glacier and I was amazed at how well I felt. From Lobuche, we walked along a fairly flat path to Lobuche Pass which led to the surprisingly intense Changri Glacier crossing. Navigating the crazy rocks was all over the place. Finally, we made it to Gorak Shep, where we would be spending the night.

 After a quick cup of tea and dropping off our bags, we continued onward to Base Camp. Nuptse dominated our views and it was massive. The tip of Everest’s summit was peering out behind it, and below it all was the Khumbu Glacier. A mix of rocks and ice, like nothing I had ever seen before. We could hear shifting, creaking, and cracking as if the mountain was alive, trying to speak.

When we arrived at EBC, it was like a playground of ice and rock. Climbing season is over so it was completely empty and there were no tents left, but I can imagine sleeping on the wet rocks and having the ice and water constantly moving beneath you. How do you sleep?! The Khumbu Icefall is MASSIVE. in photos, movies, and documentaries don’t show how steep it really is.

After Playing in the glacier, we headed back to Gorak Shep to rest, and get some sleep before our early morning ahead of us.

DAY 8: KALA PATTHAR SUMMIT AND BACK TO DINGBOCHE- 5,644m (18,519′)- 6/6/18

The morning started out very cloudy and socked in. We started climbing Kala Patthar at 5am from Gorak Shep. I hit a wall pretty early into my climb. It was incredibly steep and the lack of oxygen was finally catching up with me in the sense that I would begin to feel a sense of panic whenever I had trouble catching my breath. I would have to stop, calm down, and let my breathing regulate. Part of me wanted to turn back on multiple occasions because of the crappy weather. I didn’t want to make it to the summit and not be able to see the view. But I kept pushing and near the end, I was having to take nearly 10 breaths for every step I took. 

Luckily, during the last 20 meters or so to the summit, all of the sudden the clouds began to open up and I managed to see an amazing view of Everest, Nuptse, and the Khumbu Glacier just long enough for a few photos before the clouds closed back in on us. I was exhausted, and out of breath but glad I completed my goal. I had finally seen Everest and Base Camp, and that’s when it began to sink in that I didn’t think that I had it in me for another summit. Island Peak was a bonus, an add-on to my original goal and at this point, I felt like I bit off more than I could chew with my first trip to the Himalayas. I was exhausted, hungry, homesick, and really just kind of done at this point of the trip. I no longer had the desire or even felt the need to climb Island Peak anymore. However, we were headed in that direction anyway, so I kept it in the back of my mind, and was still open to the possibility. After Kala Patthar, we ate breakfast at Gorak Shep then headed all the way back down to Dingboche. A long day for sure, but it was nice to breathe the thicker air.

DAY 9: DINGBOCHE TO CHUKKUNG- 4,410m (14,464′) to 4,730m (15,514′) 6/7/18

My second bout of food poisoning began this morning. I woke up feeling a little nauseous, had trouble eating breakfast, but not thinking much of it initially. but as we began our ascent to Chukkung, it hit me like a wall. I thought I was gonna puke. Was it the vegetables in the spring rolls I had for dinner? or the hot chocolate I had before bed? Either way, I was back to boring foods… Despite wanting to throw up with every step, The hike to Chukkung was pretty short. I spent the rest of the day in bed, trying to let my stomach subside, and then it was time to make a decision. The next day we were supposed to head to Island Peak Base Camp, but I had the option of staying behind while Juan and Gadul joined another guide to make a summit attempt. I felt weak, burned out, sick enough that it seemed like the right decision.

DAY 10-11: WAITING IN CHUKKUNG- 6/8-9/18

The boys left at around 9:30am for base camp which was actually fairly late. We spent the morning waiting out heavy rain before they decided to leave. My stomach was still a mess, and I was still struggling to force down any food. Entertaining myself all day was a struggle, and by the time I went to bed, the doubt began to creep in… “Should I have just gone and tried? Am I giving up?” I had to remind myself how sick and weak I really had become. Even Gadul mentioned he could tell I had lost a lot of weight, and was worried. There is no way I would’ve been able to endure a 16 hour high altitude climb in the condition I was in. By morning the next day, I could FINALLY see Island Peak. towering 5,000 feet above me was a giant wall of ice. I confirmed with myself, there was absolutely no way. Reports from Gadul and Juan talked about waist deep snow from the night before and hidden crevasses EVERYWHERE under the snow. Due to the late season conditions, melting was causing the route to be extremely unsafe, especially near the end so they turned around about 200 meters or so from the summit.

DAY 12-16: DOWN WE GO- 6/10-14/18

The downward crawl had long days. Both Juan and I reminisced on foods we missed back home and miles seemed stretched as our tired legs headed back down from Chukkung to Deboche, Deboche to Namche, and Namche to Lukla. We then spent the next 3 days in Lukla due to weather. We were scheduled to fly out on the 13th, but no planes came at all that morning. We then booked new tickets for the next day in a second attempt however, weather closed in quickly and before our plane was scheduled to take us back to Kathmandu.

I was scheduled to fly home the next day, and after checking the weather for Friday, it was safe to assume no flights would come the next morning so we looked at our second option: paying $500/person to fly on a helicopter. We decided to go for it, and even that was an anxious waiting game as clouds were even to thick for the helicopter much of the day. They were finally able to land to pick us up and take us back to Kathmandu. It was worth it.

Overall, I loved Nepal. I loved the culture, the people, the mountains, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It had it’s ups and downs, but for a first trip to the Himalayas I felt like it was a successful endeavor. I hope you enjoyed my long winded report. I know it was a lot to read through. But be sure to stay tuned here in the near future as I have a few other posts about my trip to Nepal in the works.

7 Tips for Expedition Preparation

No matter what your adventure, planning is important. However, when you are planning an expedition, it becomes critical! You have an ever changing to-do list, physical training, as well as other logistics to keep in mind.

Here are some tips you need to know to make sure you are checking off all the important preparation tasks for a big trip!

Step 1: (The Obvious) Book your trip!

Once you decide what you would like to do, book your trip before doing ANYTHING else, including booking your flight. Depending on your expedition will depend on availability of dates as well as available guide companies to book through. DO NOT just book the first company you look at. compare prices, compare dates, compare reviews, compare summit success rates, and most importantly, compare safety standards for crew and clientele. Some have the money and are willing to pay for the best of the best, which is great! However, others (including myself) have to think about budget and getting the best possible experience for the best available price.

For me personally, my first priority was climbing local. Not only does it support their local economy to climb local when you can, but you get a much more in-depth cultural experience learning about the country and culture! My second priority was safety, and third was price. These are all things to keep in mind when choosing who to book your expedition with. Below are just a couple of my personal favorites:

  • Third Rock Adventures: Local Nepali guide company recommended by Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor, Travel Channel, New York Times, and more. Local guides fluent in English, great safety standards, cheaper than western guide companies, and all the money you spend supports the struggling Nepali economy.¬†
  • Eco-Africa Climbing: The best local agency in Tanzania. They pride themselves on ethical porter treatment, ensuring they all make a living wage (even before tips). They will teach you Swahili and ensure a safe climb up Kilimanjaro! Safaris are also available.
  • Summit Climb: Founded by famous climber and guide Dan Mazur. Variety of charity treks available, experienced guides, most affordable Everest climbing from a western company, wide variety of larger expeditions and climbs, well organized.

Step 2: Book your flight!

Once you book your trip, wait until you make your first payment and receive a confirmation email with all needed info regarding your expedition before booking your flight. Everyone always talks about how there are key windows to book the cheapest flight. This is more true for nationwide flights more-so than international flights. International flights tend to book much more quickly and have their ideal price window between 4-6 months in advance depending on the time of year. The trick is to start monitoring and follow flight prices as soon as you book your trip, and once everything is confirmed, then book your flight. There are now a variety of flight apps to help track prices and some work better than others. Google Flights is always a good start, however I found Hopper and Skyscanner found much cheaper flights. 

Step 3: Training Schedule

Planning out a training schedule for workouts is critical. It is important to map out when and how you are going to workout and train. This will be ever changing however. Life happens. You may find you were more out of shape than you thought and it may take longer to re-establish a base line of fitness, or you may get sick and be out of commission for a week or two, or maybe you are just so exhausted from work you aren’t getting to train as much as you would like. Whatever happens, set and establish fitness goals at the beginning and just try to get as close to them as possible. You may get lucky and be able to stay on track, but if not, you have a guideline to help get you there.

Step 4: To-Do lists everywhere!

Start simple, and add things as needed. When you first book your trip there are a few essential things that need to go on your list, but other random things may come up as you get closer. here are some things to make sure get done:

  • Order new passport (if needed)
  • Purchase Travel Insurance
  • Purchase Emergency Evacuation insurance
  • Ensure your health insurance is current
  • Set a doctor appointment to get a physical, (most guide companies require a doctor to clear you for a major expedition and will require a form to be filled out by your doctor)
  • Have your doctor write you a prescription for Diamox (for altitude sickness) and antibiotics (for emergencies)
  • Receive any immunizations needed for the country you are traveling to.
  • Shop for any needed supplies or equipment
  • Call bank before you leave to let them know you will be out of the country

Step 5: Faux Pack

At some point you will need to make sure all your gear fits in your duffel right?  This is also a good opportunity to double check your equipment list to make sure you have everything you need. It is recommended to do a packing trial about a month or so before you leave. If you are missing gear, it is good to give yourself the time to shop for it. Another good reason for this is weight limits. Not only do airlines have weight limits for luggage but porters do too. There are laws in place to protect porters safety and health to ensure they are not carrying too much weight. Many well established guide companies respect these laws as well as their porters and are strict about weight limits. This can get tricky when you are hauling a bunch of heavy climbing gear. When you pack, take only what you need. Don’t bring a bunch of extras, and pick one outfit to hike/climb in with various layers, and one outfit to lounge in. There are ways to launder clothes at high altitude if you really need to, but most just deal with the stink!

Step 6: (the most important) Mental Preparation

Mind will win over body every time. If you aren’t confident in yourself or your abilities, don’t expect success when you arrive at your destination. Your mental health is going to be more important than your physical preparedness. Preparing your mind will look different for every person depending on where you are at to begin with. Some seek out therapy to work through fears and doubts, however some can simply meditate on their goals. There are a variety of things you can do to mentally prepare yourself but this one I can’t give advice on specifically because it is something where you will need to just decide what works best for you. 

Step 7: Farewell!

This is another thing where you decide what you would like to do! Some want a party, some love to spend a final evening with family and friends, others maybe do something more interpersonal. Whatever you choose, it is important to surround yourself with those who support you! Cheers and Good Luck!