In 'Quest For Everest' Steve Whittington is sharing his training experience with us as he prepares for a big challenge: climbing Mount Everest in March. Make sure to check out the other blog posts in this series.
The best way to train for climbing is to climb: a common comment in the climbing world. Pick up any book by any of the world’s great climbers on training from Mark Twight to Will Gadd and you will find some form of that comment. So with that in mind, I went climbing.
After a long week on the road for work (Saskatoon, Regina, Saskatoon, Lethbridge, Calgary), I picked up my climbing partner late Friday night at the Calgary airport and the next morning at 4:45 am we headed out of Calgary up the ice fields highway to find some ice.
For Jeff and I, who are both Saskatoon climbers (is that an oxymoron?), this would be our first time on ice this season and we were not interested in hitting anything epic. (We also felt that this being the first ice climb of the season, our rusty limbs would make anything epic for us.)
From a training perspective, I wanted to just get a long day in the mountains. I wanted to be tired and be forced to deal with the fatigue (physical and mental) that will happen when climbing. Everest will have long days, so I need to get used to dealing with fatigue and still be able to make sound decisions.
After a short 4 ½ hr drive up unplowed highways, we arrived at the trailhead of Shades of Beauty, a 120 M three pitch WI4 climb. Because it was one of the few climbing areas in shape this early in the season, the unplowed pull out was packed (two vehicles, one being a guiding companies van). We debated about hiking in for 1 ½ hrs and having to wait to get on the climb and maybe not even getting on it, but that debate ended quickly with us throwing on our packs and hiking in.
We arrived in the climbing area to find out there were three parties ahead of us but lots of climbs in. Only one party was on the climb we wanted and they were on the last pitch - timing worked out perfect. By the time we got set up and headed up the first pitch, they were in the final stages of getting off the climb. So we had the climb to ourselves. As predicated nothing epic happened: I lead the first easy pitch (two short steps of falls), Jeff lead the hardest, steepest second pitch and then I lead the longest third pitch that did get a little thin at the top..but nothing too terrible. We took our time but were efficient and got up the climb in good time.
The temperature was mild but at the top you could feel the wind. After quickly rappelling down we packed up and headed out. The snow plows had gotten to the roads so the drive back was decidedly less stressful than the drive in. My wife Katie was in Banff for a conference so we headed there to enjoy a post climb food fueling of burgers and beers (I am allowed cheat days!) with her. On Sunday the three of us went ice climbing at Kings Creek early to avoid the crowds and then enjoyed the long drive back to Saskatoon after two great climbing/training days.
I had a feeling driving back that after long hours in the mountains on the weekend and a week on the road, the next week of training would be taxing....