On the subject of endurance athletics, a friend of mine from Colorado, Dave C, is attempting two serious mountain climbs at this very moment: Mt. Fairweather at 15,300′, the highpoint of British Columbia; and the “big kahuna,” Mt. McKinley (known to climbers by its original Native American name of Denali) at 20,320′. This is his second attempt on both mountains and you can follow his story on his team’s blog as well as track his actual positions on their Spot website.
I have to admit that I’m seriously jealous. There was a time in my life when I was way into mountain climbing in almost the obsessive way I’m into cycling now. I read every book of mountain climber’s adventures up Denali and Mt. Everest that I could find–Into Thin Air by Jonathan Krakauer, In the Shadow of Denali by Jonathan Waterman, High: Stories of Survival from Everest and K2 edited by Clint Willis, just to name a few. I was really convinced that some day I would climb Everest. While someday I may get back on track with my highpointing to climb Denali, I don’t think Everest is realistically in my plans anymore.
There’s something very spiritual about climbing that makes it even more sacred to me than cycling. Not only do you push yourself to the edge of your endurance–which is what you do on a bike often–but you get to see along the way the greatest treasurers of the world, places you know only few have the bravery to tread. The endurance is worth the privilege to see the hidden places in the world. Mountain peaks offer the most majestic sights on the planet. Often times while climbing, I’ve had what I would describe as a religious experience–an overwhelming feeling of elation and awe at the supreme beauty of the universe. I’ve felt connected to something greater than myself. You could attribute it to a supreme being, call it God or the Divine or whatever language you choose, but for me–the ever questioning agnostic–it is simply an understanding that I am one small piece in vast, beautiful, mysterious universe. I can praise that. However small my piece is in the universe, I’ve felt my connection to the whole… and that was a awe-inspiring feeling.
Dave C has been a good friend of mine through the US Highpointers Club, of which I’m a member and have been a member since my husband and I started highpointing in 1998. I wish him the best on his endeavor to get to the top of those wondrous summits and make it down safely. I will be keeping tabs on his movements. Perhaps someday I too will see the top of Denali. Though it’s honestly hard to imagine right now, given how much time I’ve devoted to cycling and how out of touch I currently am with the climbing world these days… just not enough time in life with work to do all those things you really want to do!