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Meaningful Moments & Summit Stowaways

March 3, 2011

There is something kind of cool and edgy about mountain climbing.  It’s likely a combination of intrigue, beauty, physical exertion and a deep sense of accomplishment that draws us to the summits of breath-taking peaks the world over.

Amy's 35th birthday on the summit of Mt. Rainier! August 9, 2004

One of the highlights of my 41 years was standing on top of Mt. Rainier on August 9, 2004.

All kinds of people climb.  They are survivors, those who wish to raise money for a cause and many who are out looking to challenge themselves on a summer weekend.  I don’t think the why matters so much, just that we do. Our teams are bonded on the mountain, and chances are we may never have crossed paths in our daily walks of life.

We all have different traditions, good luck charms and methods of packing our gear.  One of my climbing buddies tells me when I get particularly anxious, I start sorting and repacking my gear, while reorganizing my Ziploc bags crammed with snacks.  You know what?  She’s right.  I do that.

My morning pre-climb ritual is pretty dialed in by now, but even I still get nervous before starting up a mountain. I generally wolf down a package of instant oatmeal (Quaker Oats Maple & Brown Sugar) with a steaming cup of Starbucks Via.

The shadow of the mountain, early morning on Mt. Hood

I double-check my headlamp, crampons, cookies (in my assorted Ziploc bags!) and my hand warmers.   Before I know it, we are off, and all that nervousness evaporates.

The only sound is a steady stream of footsteps crunching methodically in the snow.  I marvel at how serene it is out there.  My favorite view is always the shadow of the mountain.

There is nothing else like it, I feel like I’m looking down from the moon.

There are a few items I always carry with me while climbing:  my hanky-sized American flag, a heart pendant bearing my boys’ names and enough red licorice to feed a small army.  When I feel myself start to sweat with nervousness, these tokens remind me to breathe.

Karen's prayer flags honoring her mom

I’ve seen other climbers bring photos of their moms, prayer flags, a costume (no kidding) and funky shirts for their summit photos.  (One nameless climber years ago even bared it all at the summit – it was just him and his ice axe!).

While you are never encouraged to carry extra weight in your backpack, we do hope you’ll make the climb experience your own.  If this means you need to carry a love note, a Diet Coke, a sign or a custom hat to the summit, please do so! (Just remember to send us a picture for this blog)!

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