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Can I REALLY Climb a Mountain?

July 8, 2013
Adventurist, Nurse Practioner, Philanthropist and Blogger Karen Kilian trains for her Mt. Rainier summit climb.

Adventurist, Nurse practitioner, Philanthropist and Blogger Karen Kilian trains for her Mt. Rainier summit climb.

What it would be like to be on the summit of a mountain?   Could I do it?  How hard would it be?  Would I be nervous? I decided to find out.

Would I be strong enough?  I trained and trained and trained.  And trained some more.  When I take day hikes up to Camp Muir (10,080 ft) on Mt Rainier, I have heard many people say, “I wish I had trained more.” Essentially, there isn’t enough training one can do.  What does training involve?  Doing stairs is great if you live in the flatlands.  Hiking trails with altitude gains of at least 3000 feet is very good!  Doing strength training with weights as well as cardio (such as running) also is wonderful training for your body.

Tip:  You should be able to ascend 500 feet per hour with a 30-40 lb pack.  If you can do that, you are in great shape.

I wondered….what would I eat up there?  Ascending to high camp you eat normal food; bagels, cheese, peanut butter, and candy bars!  Breaks on summit day are short and you need to be expedient with getting your food and eating it.  So, I went to the local outdoor store and checked out all the high energy, quick eating type of foods, bought a bunch, and tried them on my training hikes.  That’s how I found out what I liked, what I didn’t, what worked well, what didn’t and what packages were not easy to open with gloves on.

Tip:  You will need carbohydrates for quick energy and protein to maintain energy.  Don’t take fatty things like string cheese (for summit day), as it won’t digest easily at altitude which therefore won’t help you.  Summit day is time for Energy Jelly Beans, Energy bars (with carbs—not the ones that are mainly protein bars).   I found a fig bar that I just love.  It’s dairy-free, kosher, no trans-fat, whole wheat and insanely yummy.  It’s also easy to open with gloves on!  It’s the “Nature’s Bakery” Fig Bar (   The package is 2 servings with 20 grams carbs and 2 grams of protein per bar. Believe me, you’ll eat them both.

Would I really know what to do?  The guides who work with the Climb to Fight Breast Cancer are used to working with novices as well those who are well-acquainted with climbing mountains.  The guides will go over all you need to know such as walking with crampons, using an ice axe, and how to ascend on a rope team.  Your role is to listen and practice what is taught on “snow school” day.

Could I really climb that thing?  Yes, you can and you will.  Even those who have climbed mountains will admit to being a bit nervous on summit day.  Any mountain with glaciers will have a changing landscape; therefore, the route may need to be adapted from time to time.  That is what guides are good at—adapting.  They find the best route and guide you to the summit.  That is their job, and they do it well.

What happens when I get to the summit?  You take a lot of photos.  Don’t forget to do that.  Truly, it is easy to forget about that as your eyes and brain are taking in so much. You forget to click the shutter on the camera!  You are excited, you can’t believe you got there, OMG I’m on a summit of a mountain….It is really, really amazing.  It’s an experience you won’t forget and an experience you’re likely to want to repeat.  So says this 5-time Climb to Fight Breast Cancer climber.

The summit approaches.  You simply cannot believe that you got here!  It is so exciting to know how hard you trained, how hard you climbed, and now you are here!   Treasure the moment; that bit of glory; because you did work hard to get to this point.  Look out and see all that is below you, which essentially is all of Washington state!

Tip:  Take a lot of photos.  It seems we take a lot of “photos” with our eyes and brains, but somehow forgot to click the shutter on the camera.

So, I wondered…..what would it be like to be on the summit of the highest mountain in Washington state?  It’s pretty amazing.  And I’m doing it again.

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