Last June, after I reached the summit of Mt. McKinley, and while my high school constituants were preparing for graduation, my ten year saga drew to a close. I was tired, frostbitten, and sore. Initially I had no intentions of climbing anything in the near future, sure I'd accompany my step dad up Rainier so he could complete the 48 contiguous high points, but that was it. Well, we went to Washington and stayed with a former guide of mine, whom I now know not only as a mentor, leader, and role model, but as a friend. Over dinner I again confided in him that it would be dream come true for me to guide for RMI on Rainier, and to work with him. He helped me realize that I need more experience doing unguided climbing before both he and I would be confident in my abilities. I wondered how I'd be able to prove myself, to go above and beyond the unexpected. The initial thought about doing more mountaineering and ice climbing in the winters in New England was appealing, but hardly inspiration; until he uttered the word Aconcagua.
Some of you may recognize that name, as a mountain included in the Seven Summits. For those of you who don't, Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in South America, rising 23,841 feet. It is the tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas.
I knew I'd have a way better shot at getting hired next year if I was able to say that I organized, funded, and lead an expedition up one of the Seven Summits. But how would I be able to pull off a stunt like that? I got lucky with McKinley, but I couldn't take a semester off of college...
Throughout my first year at college in order to continue to hone my potential guiding skills, I joined a Search and Rescue Team (http://wildernessrescue.org/newwebsite/), became an active member of the Bates Outing Club, took an AIARE level 1 class, became a certified Wilderness First Responder, and threw myself into academia.
But throughout the year I felt something was missing. There was no big high pointing adventure to plan and I began to think about what came next in terms of mountains and I felt lost. I had done the highest mountains in the fifty states and everyone I talked to kept asking, "so what's next." Each time I heard that question I never had a suitable answer, I might jokingly respond, "survive college" or "replenish my bank account." But, the more I heard that question I realized that I needed to have answer more for myself than for them.
Immediately I turned to Nepal. I had read Ed Veistur's No Shortcuts to the Top about him climbing the fourteen 8,000 m peaks; the infamous mountains and like any climber, I too was drawn to them. Realistically I knew that I was no where near experienced enough to even begin to consider it. So, instead I began to look all over the world, from the Alps, to the Himalayas, the Mexican Volcanos and every where in between. Until I stumbled on something closer to home, Canada.
The tallest mountains in each of the thirteen provinces and territories that make up Canada and not dissimilar to some of the ones in the US. However, many of them are more remote or more technically difficult but there were fewer of them. For instance, Mt. Logan in the Yukon Territory is not unlike Mt. McKinley in Alaska. It is the second highest mountain in North America with the same dangers of crevasses, avalanches, and altitude. However, due to it's remoteness, its proximity to the Pacific ocean, and its lack of climbers it can be a much more dangerous mountain. Now, not all the Canadian high points are like that. On the other extreme, the highest point in Prince Edward Island is in a potato field, much like Indiana, or Iowa.
The only way that I would be capable and confident to begin to lead some of the bigger Canadian mountains would be if I had previous experience leading an expedition of my own. And this is where Aconcagua came into play. If I can successfully lead a group of people to and on the tallest mountain in South America, then I am confident that with planning and increased knowledge and practice I too will be able Canada.
The fun fact about that Canadian high points is that only one other person has completed the highest peaks in both the US and Canada, and he was male. If I were to complete my challenge then I would be the first female and the youngest to do so.
And so, even though I haven't been blogging, I've still been plotting my next adventure...
More updates to come!