Monday, January 6, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 139

Another week of only spending about 16 hours actually in Iowa. Despite the time away from home overall, I had a really had a great week.

While there is much to tell I'm going to tell it in reverse order because that's how I am thinking of it now. Saturday night when I was back in Dubuque after all of the traveling and everything that happened I watched Elysium and had a good cry at the end of the movie. The movie is a metaphor on several levels for different circumstances in life. Then I slept for 15 hours. I did have an ibuprofen which certainly kept me down. The point is my last two weeks were long and physically tiring. So tiring that I have a case of runners knee because I have not been doing the squats I need to eliminate this injury. Go hard enough and something has to break.

That's a long way of saying my brain needed to flush the pain, not just mine but other's, of this life though a 15 hour sleep. 

Friday and Saturday I drove back from Colorado, spending the night sleeping in my van in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I think the 2700 miles I drove in the last two weeks are responsible for the runners knee in my right leg. I think when I push on the accelerator my leg rotates counter clockwise and my knee moves toward my midline. Both motions accelerating the overuse and strengthening of the wrong muscles in my leg, thus an injury. Otherwise despite the consistent 20-30 mph crosswinds the trip was uneventful. 

Thursday night I had dinner with a good friend and her boyfriend. I was there to help her during a vulnerable period in her life in 2010 and somehow or other I helped her. Very few people can I definitely admit to having a positive effect on, but she is one of them and I am grateful that I have had that chance in life. 

Thursday was the day I went out there for, a long day on steep ground. It was pure mountaineering. Mostly time spent on snow and ice with an hour maybe on rock. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the best parts. I crossed a snow field at nearly 13,000 feet that was surely 50 degrees of waist deep snow that I groveled through. Add to that there was a steeper section just below me and a fall or miniavalache would have surely ended me. Then I tackled a rock section that was supposed to be class three but I quickly ended up in the wrong place and did a class four move to a location that only had harder climbing above. At that point I had enough and decided to head down. When soloing you have to be totally within your abilities and crampons scraping around on rocks with a long fall and no protection to speak of gets in my head. So I headed down, which actually meant more steep down climbing than my planned route, which is actually better for my training than a hard climb and easy descent. This one day gives me a lot of confidence that I can tackle very steep sections on Everest. 

The day before, New Year's Day I spent sleeping, going out for breakfast, running and otherwise laying around my friend's house. Thank you T! My friend who offered up his couch was really nice about it all those nights I slept at his place. He is a defense layer in Denver and we had a number of good chats about difficulties in life we have encountered since joining the professional world. In short, student loans = not fun and intimate relationship with a woman = complicated.

New Year's Eve day I tried to climb Mt. Meeker but before getting through treeline the winds were gusting to 50+ mph and visibility was low as well so I called it a day without even putting my crampons on. 

Monday I tried to climb Dragon Tail Couloir on Flattop Mountain, but same story with the winds although I ultimately turned around because I didn't like the feel of the snow conditions in regards to an avalanche. Climbing, mountaineering, you put yourself out there and take on a certain level of risk, different for everyone but an acceptable level. You can fail time and again at the objective if the risk climbs too high. That is the nature of the sport. Between winds and avalanche conditions it is surprising that mountains like Annapurna or those in Patagonia are ever climbed. I also went hot tubing Monday night, pretty awesome!

Sunday I went to church at Bethlehem Lutheran in Denver. I have to say the head pastor there is above average in terms of sermon relevancy. Some pastors give sermons and I don't know what to make of them, other say things and I think, 'wow that is me he is talking about, I can do better.' After church I worked my way up through Denver and Boulder buying some gloves and tights. Expedition shopping is strange. Money loses much of its meaning. What is $120 for a pair of gloves if it means I keep every one of my fingers? Climbing an 8000 meter peak is in some ways just like any other mountain, cold and windy. Yet it is also hard to breathe up there so it is harder to stay warm. That does not mean it is impossible to stay warm, and there is the challenge, how much do you need to stay warm without carrying 40 lbs. of clothing or sweating profusely?

I hope you had a good week too.

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