Today is April 18th, 2017 and one year ago today, I set myself out to do something that would change my life forever and I didn’t even know it.
I really can't believe how fast time has gone by. 8 months ago, I got off trail, which is double the months I was even on trail. I've been meeting up with a few aspiring thru-hikers, and it's been super fun to share stories and answer questions. I love how eager they are to know more. I can't stress enough that if they even have a tiny bit of interest....they NEED to do it. It will be worth everything they will sacrifice for it. You are only young and healthy once, do it before it's too late.
It's been quite nostalgic looking back and picking out my favorite memories. Most of them are with people, obviously. As beautiful as the scenery is, the moments you experience with people are the ones that become the most meaningful. Not sure how that works, but it's true. I started from the Mexico border the same day as my trail bffs (Nate/Meg & Jackie/Mike). We all miss each other like crazy and wished we could all have a reunion soon. I realized I actually haven't seen Nate/Meg since Mammoth Lakes back in July so it's been a REALLY long time! I currently need an escapism, so I'm going to visit them in Colorado in just a few weeks. We're all so excited to see each other again! I may just cry.
WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO?
Not too much, but also I've been super busy. Basically, as soon as I got home from hiking, I started working full time for my friends at Girlfriend Collective. Earlier this year, I traveled to Patagonia with the Zpacks team and trekked the W at Torres Del Paine. After that, I flew to Zurich and spent some very relaxed time with the Shafers. While I was overseas, I got the message that I was waitlisted, but then accepted into the Washington Alpine Club's basic climbing class.
As soon as I got home in mid-February, the climbing class has literally taken over my life.
WASHINGTON ALPINE CLUB:
Just to make it clear, I'm not taking the course through the Mountaineers. The class through the WAC is a bit more intensive. As in we have class every Tuesday and a field trip almost every weekend. We basically learn a new skill each week and practice them in the field the following Sat/Sun. The class is also a small instructor/student ratio and there are only 32 students. We see each other every week, climb together and build a little family as the weeks go by! The coolest part is that our group is just about 50% women. I am really starting to see how great the WAC community is, and I am beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to take the course this year amongst my little setbacks.
The first few weeks were absolutely insane trying to collect SO much gear all over the city. Finding my mountaineering boots were probably the most overwhelming because they're so expensive and places don't allow returns except REI. As much as I would've loved to spend more time shopping for deals, we needed them in a week's time, so there wasn't really any time to order online and wait for sales. I spent most of all my off time at gear nights and trying out gear until our first field trip on Mt. Si.
After our Si trip, I realized that I severely lacked the competitiveness to keep up with the team. I arrived at the haystack very last. From there, I decided to do Si every week with boots and 30 lb until I could make it up in two hours. No matter what I did to train, I kept getting up at exactly 2:04. The next week, I realized how behind I was in learning my knots. I practiced and learned all of them within two days and nailed each one of them down. Then I did my very first rock climb EVER down at Spire Rock in Tacoma. It was the most terrifying that I have ever done in my life. The rappel off the edge at Spire is literally like death. Pat saw how scared I was each week and made me rappel a million times until I stopped screaming. Because I was only focused on rappelling, I didn't realize how much I sucked at the actual climbing.
We climbed at the Mountaineers wall midweek for a practice session, and I discovered I needed help, bad. I could barely make it up the wall. Fear overtook my entire mindset, the movement was so foreign/awkward, I didn't know how to trust my feet and I was just a mess on the wall. I almost cried when I could see the top only 5 ft above me, but I couldn't get up. I was stuck on the wall until dark and the patient instructors stayed with me until I finally was able to crawl my way up and do my rap down. From there, I told myself I needed to go to the gym, even if it was going to cost me even more money. I did my first top rope gym session at Vertical World with Brandi, Clement and Michael. What an amazing group of students who were so encouraging and patient with me. It was my very first at the gym ever, and I was also extremely terrified. My legs were shaking with every step. They helped me a ton and watched my moves and gave me pointers on technique.
Within the two weeks after this all, I started training hard: stair intervals with pack, 5 miles runs with uphill/interval, bootcamp, Si with pack every week and climbing 3-4 times in the evening. I found myself exercising about 75% of my days and didn't have time to eat more than twice a day. My ankle also began feeling a little squeaky. I was finally feeling stronger until our Mt. Erie field trip. It was our first real rock with amazing views. The raps were so smooth and not even scary, but once again, I sucked at the climbing. I just couldn't do it. I made it up only twice but had a really difficult time. After that weekend, I started feeling a great amount of pain on my outer knee which was quite concerning. I took the entire week after not climbing at all and off on any intensive exercise because my knee was hurting pretty bad.
Come this weekend at Vantage, more rock climbing but with no boots finally. My knee/ankle was finally feeling better so I was happy about that. But because I took the whole week off from climbing, I completely lost my muscle memory or something. I kept getting stuck at the walls that had a bulge or a huge footstep. I was feeling super discouraged. I felt like the instructors were so disappointed in me that I just couldn't push through and trust my move. The fear is still taking over my mind and I don't know why I can't get past it yet. My biggest setback right now is trusting all my footholds. I also get nervous every time I have to take a big step on my left ankle, I don't want it to get worse so I don't take confident steps as I do with my right side. The last few hours before our day was over, my group leader, Wesley, had me do drills up and down the wall. I cleaned the quickdraws up to the top, then she lowered me, I climbed up and practiced falling like 8 times. I had to fall every time they yelled fall. To our surprise, I was immediately better and so much confident from this new strategy, who would've thought!
I then moved to the next wall before it was time to be done. It was a really hard day. I feel like this class has been such a rollercoaster for me. Mainly, one step forward and two steps back. I want to maintain my consistency and get better at it all but my ankle seems to be setting me back. I feel like I'm just complaining or make excuses but I can't risk injuring it any worse. It's really frustrating and hard finding the balance between training hard to get better and when to chill out. I've never in my life suffered any overuse injuries or pains anytime that I've trained for anything. I always start slow but I think because I'm only focusing on one thing, it's easier to ease into it. Right now, there's like a million things I need to improve on, and I just don't know which one to prioritize.
At the end of Vantage day, Pat told me if I didn't get better at climbing (more efficiently and smoother), I couldn't do the Tooth. And as of now, he says I am not ready for it. There is a real concern with holding back the group in alpine conditions because we have a time limit. I completely understand but it's really sad. But it's also a good wake up call for me. We all seem to know there's a huge mental block for me right now and I must overcome it before the Tooth. So now, I have just under a month to get better at climbing without overdoing it. I KNOW I can do it, I just need practice and repetition. This class has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Thru-hiking doesn't even compare, you just have to walk. You have all day and no concerns really, no one is waiting for you or telling you to go faster. But climbing is facing your fears, doing physical things that feel awkward, being efficient and relying on a team. Maybe fears are just different for everyone but I think if you can do this climbing thing, you can do anything.
I didn't realize I'd go into a novel about climbing, but it's been quite the journey. I still can't believe how much I've come since Spire 1, but I still have so much to overcom. It's funny bc in the beginning, I thought learning the ropes/knots would be the hardest thing for me but boy was I wrong. I had no clue the climbing and fear part would be the most challenging for me. Obviously, I did not expect any of this to happen.
PCT 2017 | OR > WA:
I'm sure you've heard, but I'm finishing the trail later this summer. Basically all of the stars aligned with how everything is going. I finish my WAC class mid-June with our Mt. Baker climb, wedding stuff till July 8 and then I'll spend a week or two getting my boxes ready to leave for my hike. I'm only working like part time-ish right now which is fine because this class is making me spend so much outside time on it. As much as I'd love to start again from Campo, I just don't think I have that mental capacity right now. The thought of all those heavy water carries haunt me. Most of Southern California's motivation was the novelty of a very first thru-hike.
Jack Haskel reached out to me a few weeks ago asking me to be of their PCTA P3 program this year. How could I say no?! You can read more about it here. The trail means so much to me and has changed my life in so many ways and I want everyone else to have an experience of their own someday. Because the trail becoming so heavily used, it's up to us and future hikers to protect these places. I seriously cannot wait to get back on trail and do my resupply but I need to keep taking care of my ankle and make sure it stays strong these next three months. Otherwise, it's no hike for me. By the time I start, it'll be 11 months since injury, and it should be pretty good by then. I just have to be careful with the climbing.
Also, in order to make some side income, I opened up a print shop! I've been holding off for so long but finally launched it bc I'm not doing much full-time work right now. I'm happy to take any requests as well and if you enter "APRIL20SALE" at checkout this month, you can get 20% off your order. :) The prints come in this really smooth, matte feel and I think it's awesome.
That's all for now I think. A long update as of late, but who knows where I'll be in another month with this whole climbing thing. Everything is so unknown right now. I'm really curious to see if I make it to the end and what my mindset will be like. So far, I already know I've come light years since day 1.