July 22, 2013
I was never particularly convinced that climbing a mountain was a good idea, nor was it something I felt compelled to do. When I told my boss I was leaving for a week to climb a mountain, he looked at me, puzzled, and said “I always imagined you as more of a sitting on a beach with a margarita kind of gal” – my response: “me too.”
But one night, after 5 years of dating David and hearing him talk with increasing sincerity about a taking a big adventure trip, I drank too much wine and agreed to attempt a climb of Mt. Rainier via the Emmons Route.
My first hurdle was the issue of training. I’ve never been athletic or even necessarily fit. I’m more of an accidentally-skinny-even-though-I-often-substitute-candy-for-lunch type person. But as not dying is very important to me, I signed up at the local gym and took every spinning and boot camp class they offered. We live in the middle of downtown DC where there aren’t a lot of mountaineering opportunities, so per IMG’s great advice, David and I repeatedly climbed up and down the stairs in our 14 story building, complete with packs and boots, regularly to the total dismay of all our neighbors.
And then we arrived in Seattle and I got my first peek at Mt. Rainier. Oh dear. It was much bigger than the staircase. As we gathered at IMG, all of the other (all male) members of our group were sharing their previous climbing experiences with enthusiasm. When it came my turn I noted that I’ve taken a hike before…in Virginia…and smiled nervously, wondering, as everyone else likely was, what I was doing in the mountains.
IMG’s guides were amazing. Despite my constant and regularly voiced concerns, the guides were perfectly calm and encouraging. After 5 hours of what the guides misleadingly call “walking” on the first day, I asked lead-guide Aaron Mainer if now was the time when we got to glissade back down. He laughed and encouraged me to consider a summit attempt before sliding down – I gave him my best “eh, close enough” shrug and he just smiled and reiterated that it’s “just walking.” Then, following in the steady footsteps of guide Peter Dale, I miraculously found myself at first camp, followed by Camp Schurman.
I was never super confident that I was even going to attempt a summit. Camp Schurman seemed nice enough, I thought I might stay a while. But I followed every piece of advice offered by the IMG guides while at camp (eat, drink, sleep), and when Aaron woke us up in the early morning (read: 10:30pm the night before) for our summit attempt, I felt weirdly prepared. So off we went – “just walking” – toward the top of this beautiful mountain.
Having never seen a crevasse before, there were a few moments of intense panic (on my part) while we made our way to the top (I may have yelled “we’re all gonna die!” at one point…we weren’t), and I definitely claimed that I was going to turn around more than once, but to my surprise (and prompted by the steadfast confidence of our guides), I found myself safely at the summit. As the picture reveals, David then pulled out a ring offering a lifetime commitment and a promise that our next vacation can involve less “walking” and more wine-tasting – and while my initial response “but I’m eating Gu!” may seem less than romantic, it truly is thrilling to have our engagement begin with what I can only hope will be the first of many adventures together.