One of the things I have learned over the last few years of writing this blog is to never get in the way of a new post. There are just too many days when the blog fodder just does NOT happen. So, today as I was eating dinner and sipping a glass of wine in Spokane, my mind started thinking back to what I consider my fist ‘real’ hike of the Mountainstroh era.
The more I thought, the more I decided it was blog worthy, so here we go! Yall can let me know if I was correct!
Back in 1995, as I have recounted many times, I was asked by my buddy Steve to climb Mt Rainier with him (Steve is second from the left, the dorky looking guy on the far right is me!)
As soon as I said yes, Steve invited me to climb Mt Si for a training hike that weekend. Mt Si is a local mountain shown here below.
It is 4500 ft tall and part of the Cascade foothills.
Editors Note: I have read more than once that if this mountain was almost anywhere else in the country, it would probably be part of a national pork or monument. Here in WA, it is just one of our many mountains, more of a foothill actually..
Mt Si is only about 30 miles away from Seattle, and, most importantly to those wanting to train for Rainier, it is accessible and climbable 365 days a year. (with the right equipment of course.) When Steve asked me if I was interested it was in November, which is of course, the beginning of winter. (OK technically late fall, but still….)
As I drove home that night, I started thinking about this. At the time I was 31 years old. Not in extremly BAD shape, but the closest thing I had to regular exercise was a mile walk at lunchtime. I had always enjoyed the outdoors as a kid, and I had done my fair share of camping and hiking, but this was always in the summer!
The more I considered all that I had heard about for winter weather in the mountains the more I thought about sudden snow storms, cold temps, bad weather. Suddenly I was nervous. Simply put, I had no real cold weather gear to speak of! In all honesty, I started questioning the sense of making the hike that weekend.
Editors note 2: Looking back, I just shake my head at all the stuff about mountain survival I did NOT know back then. Good thing I learn quickly, and luckily the mountain gods took pity on me!
When I got home, I started planning my gear. The only backpack I owned at the time was my old college book bag. BUT, it carried stuff, so why wouldn’t it work for hiking?! I had some old boots left over from my summer as a roofer (no tread, but hey they were boots) and I scrounged up a stocking cap and some gloves. I was just going to wear my winter coat during the hike.
As I looked at the ‘gear’ (a term I now use VERY loosely) it just did not seem warm enough! “It’s November for gawds sake!” was my thinking. I honestly considered cancelling. I was that nervous about the hike.
Then it hit me! LONG JOHNS!! OMG (Ok it was LONG before OMG but you get the drift) a set of long johns would keep me toasty warm! So at 9 PM Friday night, I was off to Fred Meyers to buy the best pair of cotton long johns they had.
Editors Note 3: For the record, mountaineers have a saying “Cotton Kills!” In the mountains if you wear cotton and it gets wet (sweat or rain) then it gets cold, you will catch hypothermia in nuthin flat! Wool and synthetic fabrics are the way to go! They maintain their warming ability even when wet. But back then I had no clue….
Luckily, the morning of the hike was dry, and not too cold. I had stopped at McDonalds for an egg mcmuffin on the way to the trailhead. (HEY you need fuel to hike right?)
Well ladies and gents, Mt Si is an 8 mile round trip climb, 4 miles UP and 4 miles down. Steve had already been in training for a few months, so he lead off at a brisk pace that never slowed. At the time I could not remember the last time I had walked 2 miles at once, let alone UP HILL!!
At the 2 mile point, Steve finally stopped for a breather! The man was 5 or 6 years older than I was, yet when he stopped he looked fresh as could be while I simply fell to the ground, and attempted to get more oxygen to my brain AND not tossing up the McDonalds breakfast into the wilderness.
After about 5 minutes, Steve asked, “Ready to go?” OK, no guy, in this situation will EVER admit weakness. I got to my feet, growled something like “I was BORN READY” and followed in behind him.
An hour later, we were on top. I really wish I had a picture of myself that day. It would NOT have been pretty. As we sat there and I ate my PB&J he said, “I knew you were in good shape! I decided to take you the HARD way up because of it! Anyone can do the easy route, you proved how tough you were!”
“YOU BASTARD!” was the thought that went through my head. “Thanks pal!” was what came out of my mouth. How can I be made at someone who thought I was tougher than I really was.
As 1995, and subsequent years went by, things changed. I got smarter in the ways of mountains and Mountainstroh was born. I could soon not only climb that sucker non stop, but do so carrying a 40lb pack. Since that first hike, I have climbed it over 100 times training for bigger mountains.
Editors note 4: Its funny that for years I had this hike posted on my refrigerator as a “Goal sometime in the future.” But one I never thought I could do. It was 8 miles for gawds sake! Now I know for a fact I could do it tomorrow if I got a wild hair and decided to do so!
I have long since hung up my hiking boots and ice axe (though the axe is handy in case of a zombie apocalypse) but I like to tell this story for anyone who is starting something new. The first time you do something might suck royally! But if you learn from it, grow from it, and try again, then the first time will become a story of legend instead of one of woe.
I have posted many a times that this one hike was the beginning of a the journey to my cycling career. More importantly, it very much changed my life and kept me from being a couch potato. I have never regretted it.
Like the wind!