Monday, May 27, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Part 4: Preparation & The Summit

What most people, me included until a couple of years ago, don't realize there are multiple trails to the peak. The main trail know as the "Mt Whitney trail" is an 11 mile (each direction) strenuous but non-technical trail. There are other routes however and the Mountaineers Route was the one picked for our teams.  This trail unlike most of the other mountain trails or peaks that I have hiked, requires snow, crampon, ice axe, harnesses, ropes, and at certain times of the year an ascender along with some ice work.  This is actually one of the reasons I wanted on this trip, I knew I would gain some valuable skills and experience.

After we reached high camp on the second day and had some time to unwind a bit, we began our summit training.  This included work with the ice crampons, ice axes and harnesses.  We learned walking techniques and how to use the ice axe.  After some brief explanation we had to demonstrate and work on our "self-arrest" techniques.  It was fun to get in the snow a bit and have a little idea of what the next day's requirements would be.

We woke up early the next morning around 3 am. I was still getting my clothing layers on when I heard Tristan (one of the guide) ask what I wanted for a warm drink that morning. Feeling completely spoiled by someone else making my coffee, I packed up and prepared for the day ahead. Obviously they wanted to get an early start, knowing that a previous group had taken over 14 hours to complete their day.

Tammy woke up not feeling well and it was quickly determined that she needed to stay behind at high camp with Chad. Now 2 of the crew would not make the summit that day and we hadn't even left camp yet. We started off into the snow and hiked for around 20 minutes. I was feeling pretty good, no real sign of altitude sickness or anything. We made a stop and everyone put on their ice crampons and began to be attached to the rope and our group. My group was lead by Tristan and included Chris and Wes. Our first obstacle is known as "the wall" which we handled with no problem, and proceeded on to just above Iceberg Lake.

Next up was the snow and ice gully, which is about 1300 vertical feet at about 45 decrees. As we mad our way slowly up this grate, Chris began to get sicker and sicker.  Tristan yelled up to Forest, who was guiding the 2nd group, the one closest to us, to stop at the notch and wait for us.  We made it up about 2/3 of the way and Chris could go no further.  He had spent too much energy trying to overcome his sickness and if he continued it would be a difficult descent.

We got him situated and took off our crampons. Tristan lead Wes and I up to group 2 who were patently waiting for us at the notch.  We joined their line and turned to stare at the final approach, a class 3 section of rock just below the summit.  This was no doubt my favorite part, and I couldn't help but to joke and encourage a couple of the team who were scared of heights.

And then we we greeted at the top...and wow what a view.  This one obviously had a little more meaning than some of the rest but it really was a spectacular and beautiful view. We had made it. There were hugs, phone calls and lots of pictures.  I am so thankful for all who helped me to get there in so many ways.  But that isn't the end of the story...we still had to get down!

 The final ascent...that's me on the very bottom of the rope, last on the line.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Part 3: The Hike

I always get a little nervous going to meet a new group of people. There is an uneasiness to it all, but there is also an excitement of the unexpected.  The Team 4 crew meet at a local cafe in Lone Pine, CA for breakfast. It's hard to know how much or how little to eat on a morning like this.  You don't want to start the trail hungry, but you don't want to feel stuffed either. Everyone was eating a hearty meal, except the girls who seemed content to eat mostly fruit.  As we finished up it was time for gear check across the street.

Everyone brought their gear and laid it out on a sidewalk for the guides (Forest & Thomas) to go through and see what we really need as opposed to what we thought we needed.  You begin to get a sense of peoples personalities through this process.  I tend to think I need more than I really do, so this was a tough process for me. I began to hand over pieces of equipment and clothes to Jeremy and Matthew to put back in the car.  Knowing we would carry everything we need for the next 4 days should make it easier to let go, but there is always this nagging feeling of "I might need that."

The was a little bit of group gear and food to distribute between all of us and I grabbed a large bag of vegetables and a canister of fuel. Then came the unenviable task of packing it all back up.  One of the guys Chris had a Jeep Unlimited and offered that I could catch a ride with him up to the trail head. I'll always choose the Jeep if given the choice. I threw my pack in and filled up my water bottles.  Then said goodbye to Jeremy & Matthew so they could begin their next phase of their journey (they had to suffer through seeing the great Sequoya trees, Yosemite NP, and Mammoth Lake).

Everyone one loaded up and we took off to the Mt. Whitney Portal.  There was a scale there at the trail head and mine weighed in at only 45lbs. I say only because I have had 55lb packs on previous mountain trips, but we didn't have the weight of tents or stoves, which were already on the mountain.

There is something beautiful about getting on the trail, feeling the burn of the thighs, getting a feel for everyone's hiking speed, and realizing that for the next 3 and a half days this would be the norm.  Team 4 was a great group of people with some real characters among us.  Many were quiet on the trail and I naturally assumed my regular semi-chatty mode, trying to learn a little more about everyone along the way.

That evening we had a great time as the guide made dinner and we all felt a little spoiled. We hung out on the rock overlooking Lower Boy Scout Lake (around 10,300 ft), with Mt. Whitney towering overhead. Everyone turned in early to get some good rest before day 2. Many of us woke before the guides did and I filled my time with a little "quiet time" on a huge rock next to my tent.  We ate breakfast and prepared for our next day of hiking.

Day 2 brought a new set of challenges and excitement. We had to traverse some snow and the trail was obviously becoming more steep. We met up with Team three and they were coming down from high camp. It was fun hearing the adventures and stories of their summit climb, which would be the next day for us.  Jon Dorn (editor of Backpacker magazine) and our third guide (Tristan) joined us at this point as well. We made the hike up to high camp (around 12,200 ft) at reasonable hour and waited for our training and dinner.

The team was coming together.  One of the guys had been struggling these first two days. He was recovering from strep throat the week before, and the determination was made that he would not attempt the summit.  We were down to 9 of us plus Jon and the guides.  We enjoyed the afternoon sun, wondering what was in store for us over the next 24hrs.

Monday, May 20, 2013


My soul often longs for solitude, to be away, to be still, to know that He is God.  "Settle yourself in solitude and you will com upon Him in yourself." -Teresa of Avila

We live in a crazy society that knows little of solitude. We are so connected to everyone all the time, even feeling something is wrong if we don't have our phone or other device on us. Ironically we may have one of the loneliest and most depressed generations ever.  So what gives? How can we be so "connected" to everyone and yet feel so alone?  Could it be that our internet, facebook, tv, online video games and all of the other connectedness that we have actually has a reverse effect on our life in community?  Yes!  So what does this have to do with solitude? 

In all of our "connectedness" to our world we have forgotten that we have to get "alone" with God regularly in order to feel close to Him.  Jesus regularly went away in order that he might spend time in prayer with the Father.  A couple of scriptures:

"One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God." Luke 6:12

"After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them." Mark 9:2 

"For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.  I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say." John 12:49-50 

Jesus spent time alone, away from the crowds and the bustling world around him.  He took this time out so that He might clearly know the Father's will for him.  He wanted it to be clear that his authority was because of the one who sent him.  Everything he said and did was because he was connected to the Father.  

One of the greatest ways to connect back to the Father is to spend time alone. Although you are never really alone! God is always there with you and for you. And if you are a follower the Spirit of the living God is within you. He longs to bring peace and comfort when nothing else and no one else can.  

Have you allowed yourself time to get "alone" with the Father?  Solitude with the Lord is not a lonely place, in fact it is quite the opposite, it is full of life! 

How or when do you spend time alone with the Father?


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Part 2: Lows & Highs

After telling our gracious Flagstaff host Crystal, thank you for the great time at Fossil creek, we headed west. And then we went west some more.  Although this is not the most interesting drive there are a few great places along the way. We had the time so we decided to stop, look, take some pictures and have a little fun.

First we came to the spectacular Hoover Dam.  My first memories of this place are from way back in Jr. High, but more recently I was there in 2008 when my band was on its way to Spirit West Coast to play some shows. They have since rerouted the interstate so that you are not "forced" to go over the dam, but instead now you have to take a side route down to it.  It really is a great engineering feet, so large that you can't really wrap your brain around it. Just as unbelievable is the water table line way above where the water currently sits in Lake Mead.  We parked, walked around and took some pictures.  Satisfied with the time spent we moved on down the road.

Next stop was Las Vegas.  Slightly out of our way, but always an interesting place to stop.  From that trip in '08 there is a little tradition of eating at the Hard Rock Cafe.  Nothing exciting, other than trying not to buy a shirt or a hat while there. We enjoyed our lunch and kept moving.

Between Las Vegas and Mt. Whitney is Death Valley National Park.  Here you plunge into the desert and along with it the heat.  We saw temperatures over 100 decrees that afternoon. It really is hard to believe that you go more than 200 foot below sea level there.  The landscape is like no other place I have ever been.  I'm not sure I would want to spend large amounts of time there, but it is always interesting to go through it. Maybe more significant to be at the lowest point in the US knowing that in just a couple of days I would be at the highest point in the continental US, a 14,700 ft difference.

From there we drove toward Lone Pine, California, nestled at the feet of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Lone Pine is a quaint little town with a long history in Hollywood most notably in the Western genre.  We checked into our hotel and drove down the main drag in search of food. I love eating at local restaurants. They always have a quality that can't be achieved at a chain. We ate really well, and with our bellies full returned to the hotel. 

I knew I needed to repack a few items to prepare for the next day. I'm sure part of it was nerves, but it took me about 2 hours to sort through it all and determine what I actually wanted and needed on the trail with me the next day. The anxiety of meeting new people, hiking an unknown mountain, and thoughts about the rest of the week made for a restless night of sleep. 

In the morning we awoke, packed up and headed to breakfast to meet up with my crew. Mt. Whitney was looming in the background, inviting us upon it, challenging us to climb.

Isaiah 52:7
"How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news"

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mt. Whitney Adventure Part 1: Fossil Creek

We started our journey to California on Friday at 3 in the afternoon.  One of the advantages of 3 guys
traveling is that we could drive all through the night. OK that could be a disadvantage to some of you, but it is efficient & you don't pay for a hotel that way. So, nineteen hours later we arrived south of Flagstaff Arizona to meet up with one of Matthew's friends and some of her friends to go to a favorite spot for the day.

Apparently Fossil Creek is known only to the locals.  You have to travel about 13 miles down a fairly treacherous gravel road to get there. After struggling to keep up with the local driver on the road and rescuing a young driver who forgot to lock in his hubs for the 4X4 we finally arrived at the "creek."

Now when I say "creek" it reminds me of the little trickle stream behind my house growing up. This was a beautiful emerald green 5 to 10 foot deep creek with rushing water, rock formations, and cliffs from which to jump. And jump we did!

A couple of the guys had kayaks for the white water sections.  They were really exciting to watch and made me wish I had the time to pick up another hobby. We had a great relaxing day at Fossil Creek that was a much needed refreshment.

After a long journey, with many miles behind us, a dark cold night, no shower, no bed, the creek was just what was needed.  Spiritually we often find ourselves in a similar place. The need to slow down, take in the scenery, get some refreshment, and take time away from the regular grind of life is something that we all need.  It's amazing what happens when we get away and into God's creation. He created life and His desire is that we have it to the "full" or "more abundantly." Life in Him is so much more than just going through the motions of everyday life.

If you find yourself tired, cold, lonely, a little smelly; place your life back in His hands.  Redirect your life in line with His.  I won't promise you that it will remove you from your circumstances. But His promise is to bring you peace through His Spirit.

John 14:26-27
"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Simplicity: Not So Simple

I'm preparing for my Bible class on Sunday. This week's topic is the Spiritual Discipline of Simplicity. Rather than get preachy or talk about why we need to live more simply, which I'm pretty sure from my life and those around me is obvious, let me share the 10 principles Foster describes in his book "Celebration of Discipline."

Ten controlling principles for the outward expression of simplicity:
1) Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.

2) Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.

3) Develop a habit of giving things away.

4) Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.

5) Learn to enjoy things without owning them.

6) Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.

7) Look with a healthy skepticism at all "by now, pay later" schemes 

8) Obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech.

9) Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.

10) Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God. 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Physical/Spiritual Connection

The physical self is always in need of discipline.  I know the word discipline isn't a very happy word for most, but it is a fitting descriptor. Too often we equate discipline with punishment. Although they can go hand in hand they are not the same.

Discipline is the study or training of people to obey a code of conduct or behavior. Punishment is the infliction of a penalty for an offense to that code of behavior.  They are related but far from the same thing. If we discipline well then there is rarely need for punishment. It is only when we stray away from the training that we have received through discipline that there becomes a need for punishment. 

My posts the last couple of weeks have been on my physical training pertaining to my hike of Mt. Whitney. The discipline necessary to prepare me for my hike was grueling. There were many times I did not want to go to the gym, do P90x, or go for a long run. But I had created a regiment that I knew would provide success and make my experience on the mountain the most enjoyable. 

Spiritually it words the same way. When we create disciplines in our spiritual life it allows us to prepare for all that life has to throw at us. Yes there are times that they are inconvenient, difficult, or we feel we just don't have time for them. But when I put my spiritual life, my relationship with God, as top priority then my desire should be for Him. My desire should be to spend time with Him in as many different ways and as often as possible. 

Just like my schedule for physical training, my schedule for spiritual training has to be set as a priority. When I wake up, when I lie down and everything between. When I regularly connect myself back to God then my time with Him becomes even more fulfilling. There is a secondary effect here too, I feel His presence with me more regularly in the ordinary times of life.

As I discipline my life physically and spiritually it allows me to live with greater focus, capitalizing on every moment. For me, when I am physically disciplined it helps with my spiritual discipline. The disciplined life shines into most areas of our being. 

Do you find discipline in one area of life affects other areas?

Monday, May 06, 2013

From Sea to Summit Part 4: Strenth & Cardio

Here's the deal. P90x does a lot of different things really well.  The primary emphasis though is really on your core and what I call your stabilizer muscles.  Don't get me wrong this is very, very helpful. But it is not and should not be your only workout; especially if you are going to climb a mountain.  The other two types of workouts needed are strength and cardiovascular.  Let's start with strength.

I have a simple workout that I can complete in about an hour (sometimes less, sometimes more). This workout has three different days of  programed workouts.  Ideally I do these on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to allow my body to rest between.  This is a 10-12 week cycle with the sets and reps changing every 6 workouts in order get your muscles to work on "slow and fast" twitch muscle.  Now I could drown you in the steps and specifics but here is a basic run down.  For every 2 arm or upper body exercises there is one for your lower body or legs.  Each of the workouts also has about 5 min of abdominal work in them.  For each day of the workout I attempt to focus on 2 different muscle groups for the upper body.  This combination of upper body and lower body helps to keep me in balance and proportional.  There are also ways to easily measure and see your improvement with each cycle.  Goals are very important and this program keeps you moving forward.

If you want the specifics of how this works please comment with your email address.

Next let me address the cardio.  This is most peoples least favorite component, but it may be the most important. At the beginning of each work out I run 2-3 miles. This pushes my heart rate up, gets the blood circulating to all of my muscles and I can easily do it on a treadmill without getting bored.  Start by walking a quarter mile then kicking up the speed to a comfortable clip (for me about 7 miles/ hour).  I usually run a mile at this pace then bring the speed up more for the remainder of my run. Then I do another quarter mile walking just to bring the heart back down slowly while still moving.  Start with the walk 1/4 mile, run 1 mile, walk 1/4 mile and gradually increase the middle mile to 1.5, then 2 then 2.5... you get the idea.  That leaves time on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for more extended cardio work.

Those extended cardio times were really difficult at first, but I came to enjoy them.  Usually one of them would be open road work from 3-8 miles worth at a comfortable speed.  The key is doing it without stopping.  I began to add a bike ride on one day as well. This can be short (8-10 miles) if done a a fast speed, or longer 20+ miles if done more leisurely.  Then I also throw in some trail running (speed here is not the key; time and distance are what's important).  If you are already doing the P90x and gym workouts with a run, these extended cardio times are bonus.  Don't get down if you miss one.  Catch the next one the next time you have a chance.

Between all three of these workouts I was averaging somewhere around 8-10 workouts per week.  I know that sounds like a lot, but when you are coming from sea level and the expectation is to carry a 50 pound pack on your back in high altitude, then you have to over prepare.  Again if you want more info on any of these workouts or how to prepare for you next adventure, just email or comment and I would be happy to help out.

Don't forget the journey is the destination!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

From Sea to Summit: Part 3- Consistency

In the first part of my series I described 3 different elements to my training; P90x, Strength Training, and running. Today, let's look at the P90x element and what it brings to the table of fitness.

Let me get one thing off my chest- I don't really like working out at home.  I see my home, especially my living room as a place of relaxation and escape. On the other hand it is amazing the programs that are available to do in your home with out a gym membership and with a minimal amount of equipment.  P90x is no magic formula or some exemplary workout program to be haled above all others...but if you stick with it you will see results.

The key is consistency.

So we created a schedule that works for our lifestyle around the program that P90x offers.  For us 7 days a week just isn't practical (even if they give you one night off a week).  What we needed was something for Sunday through Thursday, thus giving us a "weekend off" from the program.  The good part is this gives you time for recovery.

Every night our goal is to put our kids to bed between 7:30 & 8 pm. We then go change clothes and begin to take out equipment. I'm convinced that if we turn on the TV, computer, or anything else during this time it will keep us from the desire to workout. As I mentioned in my previous post it also helps to have people showing up at this time to join you and keep you accountable.

Now I could go into great detail as to how we use the P90x but let me give you the abbreviated version and if you want more just message me and I'll share more.

The simple way to look at it is we pulled Yoga and Stretching from their program in order to fit it into 5 days.  So whether you are doing the lean routine or the regular you can make it into those 5 days.  If you can't on one day or if you are sore over the weekend the Yoga and Stretch videos are great supplements for tired and achy muscles. If you miss a night, don't try to make it up, just move on to the next workout.  It's likely you'll miss one nearly every week & it will almost never be the same one that you miss.

Let me say the key again: consistency. You have to keep up with it. It's like eating your vegetables, even when you don't want to, do it anyway.  It's like cleaning, if you don't do it often enough, it is much more painful. If you allow yourself a night off because you don't "feel like it", then it will be easy to miss many nights.

Keep after it. Do it. Don't give up. Keep going. Be consistent!
P90x Schedules

The summer of recovery and difficulty

The last year and a half have been in a word; hard. The pandemic has left us disconnected, grieving, uneasy, fractured, and wondering what i...