Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mountain Climbing...Here I come Elbert!!!

I think most of my family and close friends have learned that I have picked up a new hobby...Mountain Climbing! Most of this is attributable to my boyfriend Justin who also just picked up mountain climbing recently. Justin made a goal last November to go to the highpoint in each of the 50 states. When he told me that I thought that it was pretty cool and I offered to do them with him. Unfortunately for me, Justin has A LOT more time off of work than I do and he travels for work pretty frequently, so he has completed more of these than I have.

I've never thought about climbing mountains until I met Justin. I have, however, always been interested in hiking and doing things outdoors. I think I first got interested in hiking when I started watching Lost. There's just something about being outside in the woods, away from cities and people that is very peaceful and relaxing. Most people will say that hiking up a mountain is far from relaxing. Yes, it is difficult and not always fun, but yet it is still relaxing. If you have a high strung job like me that gets you constantly stressed out, getting as far away from it as you can every now and again is the best feeling in the world. It is very good exercise and the scenery is unbelievable! There are some things that you can only find deep in a national park that you will never see if you live in a big city. My big thing is waterfalls and Justin's big thing is wildlife. Whenever we go hiking or travel through a certain area, I always do some research to see if there are any good waterfalls within driving distance (or hiking distance) to where we are. Justin is obsessed with seeing wildlife. When we went to the Smoky Mountains back in May, all he could talk about was wanting to see a bear. (Yes, I know my boyfriend is nuts). I don't mind seeing wildlife, maybe not a bear, but a moose or wild horse or something that wouldn't eat me would be fun to see.

Many of these highpoints consist of nothing but driving up to a point on a mountain and do not require hiking to get to them. These are definitely the easy ones, but not really the fun ones. There are several mountains in between that are still a challenge but definitely do-able. These are the kind that are most attractive to me. Mount Washington is by far the one I look forward to climbing the most and is also Justin's favorite. He's climbed it three times already and plans on doing it again in December.

This is a picture of Justin on Mount Washington. It shows you how cold it can get and the equipment that is required to climb it...check out those sexy shoes!

Gives you an idea of how cold it is up there....

There are 3 highpoints that scare the crap out of me and honestly scare me for Justin to do them. The first is Denali in Alaska. Some people call this Mount McKinley, but it is in Denali National Park and the vast majority of people call it Denali. This mountain is a little over 20,000 feet in elevation, very comparable to Everest and is the tallest mountain in North America. This mountain has claimed the lives of 102 people since 1932. That doesn't seem like a lot, but it is 102 more than I would like for it to be when it comes to me or my boyfriend climbing this thing.

Looks pretty rough huh? It is! It takes 3 weeks to get to the summit (the peak) and back. I would really love to be able to do it, but I just don't know if I have the guts for that. However, I do absolutely plan on going to the actual national park of Denali in Alaska. There is wildlife roaming all over the 6 million acre park (that's bigger than the state of Massachusetts). And it may not be as cold as it will be on the summit of McKinley, but it is still FREEZING! Average temperatures in the summer range from 33 to 75 degrees. It would be nice if it were 75, but it is usually much colder than that.

The other mountain that I am excited to do is Mt. Rainier in Washington State. (Shout out to Garrett Kelly for climbing this bad's a doozie!) Mt. Rainier is just outside of Seattle, WA and is the 4th tallest mountain in the US at 14,410 feet. This one is not as bad as Denali as it usually only takes about 2, maybe 3 days at worst to complete. Still, the air is very cold and the hike in snow and ice is very exhausting. I am a lot more likely to climb Rainier than I am to climb Denali, but it is still a pretty big obstacle.

That's a freaking huge mountain! I really really want to do it, but if I'm going to do that, I need to do pretty much all of the ones east of Washington first!

The third and last mountain that scares me enough to not try it is in Wyoming. Gannett Peak is the 5th largest mountain in the US at 13,804 feet. The hardest thing about this mountain is the length. Roundtrip, depending on which trail you take, this hike ranges anywhere from 40-50 miles. That's a lot of walking and climbing. And on this mountain, much of the elevation gain is obtained through rock climbing, so some rock climbing experience wouldn't hurt to hit this summit. All in all, it's do-able, but Marcie will need some training to be able to have the strength to complete 50 miles of steepness with about 40 pounds on my back.

Where do we stand right now? Well, I have unfortunately only completed two highpoints. Clingman's Dome in Tennessee and Mount Cheaha in Alabama (my two home states). On July 24th I will be heading to Denver, CO. Justin will already be there for work and his friends Bonnie and Andrew are going to fly in from Houston as well. We'll be doing Mt. Elbert on Saturday, which is the 3rd largest mountain in the US at 14,433 feet. I am so pumped!! On Firiday we'll be hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park, which also has some AMAZING views!!! (And from what I hear, wildlife is all over the place there). Here's some pics of Mt. Elbert:

These pictures were actually taken by Justin when he last went to Elbert in May 2008. He was there for work so him and his dad decided to try to hike up it, but they started too late in the day and couldn't get to the top.

Isn't she gorgeous???

Justin and his dad...

Justin has completed 12 to date. (He thinks he's completed 13 because he's climbed Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina, but he didn't get to the summit, so I don't count that one). Here's a couple of pictures of Justin's adventures that make me jealous:

This is Justin at the summit of Katahdin in Maine. He went on a trip with Rob, his roommate, Bonnie, one of his best friends, and her boyfriend Andrew to do the northeastern highpoints.

On the same trip with his friends, this is Justin at the top of Mount Marcy in New York. It was apparently pretty windy....

There's nothing really interesting about this picture other than the fact that I love it! It's Justin, Rob and Andrew on the northeastern hiking trip.

Ok, call me crazy all you want, but I SO WANT TO DO THIS! Justin went skydiving a while back and I've seen the pictures and watched the video and I will do this!!


Lauren K. said...

Lots of things:

a) Girl, You're crazy! I hope you're in shape to climb Mt. Elbert! Do you have all the gear and stuff??!! Garrett trained for weeks to climb Rainer!

b) I get to see Mt Rainer on my commute to work every morning!

c) My father in law, Mike, and his dad went to base camp at Everest! We will show you the pics when you come see me!

"Auntie M" said...

1) I'm in shape. Elbert isn't bad. It's not very steep and the snow is gone. The coldest it gets is at the peak and its 50 degrees. Everywhere else is 75. Don't get me wrong, it'll be tough, but it is absolutely not comparable to Rainier!

2) I hate you

3) I don't want to wait to see those...I'm gonna need those emailed to me. At least the good ones

Lauren K. said...

a) you go girl!

b) nah, you love me :)

c) the pictures are from the 80s therefore not digitalized!