Saturday, July 24, 2010

"...there is no greater satisfaction than to overcome your fear."

Whittaker Mountaineering Guide Team member, Caroline George answers some training and preparation questions:

What are your best suggestions for staying fit for your next climb?
For alpine climbing, a mix of cardio and strength is the best training for your next climb. It's a good idea to go on long hikes with a loaded backpack on, so that you know what to expect. Knowing what to expect will help both physically and psychologically. Getting psychologically ready and motivated is maybe the most important training you can do, as the body will follow what the mind wants.

What was an intimidating or scary moment in your climbing career and how did you overcome it?
The most scary moment in my climbing career was skiing down from the summit of Mont Dolent, a peak border to Switzerland, Italy and France. I was skiing down a 45-50degree slope when a small wet snow slide took me off guard and pushed me over the edge. I fell 1300ft down a rock face, landing in soft snow on the glacier below. During the fall, I was sure that I was going to die. Others had died there. But I survived. And despite deep hypothermia - I had to wait 4 hours for rescue -, multiple fractures and two months flat on my back on a hospital bed, I didn't shy away from climbing. Much to the contrary. It motivated me to learn more about snow conditions and how to climb safer in the mountains. I could have quit climbing then, but I didn't and this taught that when you really want something, you have to be willing to overcome your fears and failures.

In the mountains, when I encounter an intimidating or scary moment, I take the time to regroup my thoughts, assess the hazard and consider the options. Sometimes the only way out is going to the top and you just have to dig deep and trust that you can do it. Other times, the risk may not be worth your while, and it's time to bail. An important aspect to acknowledge in climbing is the difference between irrational fears and a truly dangerous situation. Be sure to know your limits and feel comfortable with them. But know that in the end, there is no greater satisfaction than to overcome your fear.

Do you have any tricks to staying warm when you start feeling cold?
Think warm thoughts! Anyone who knows me knows I can't go anywhere without warm tea. I drink a lot. Eat a lot, but in small portions. And I am not afraid of climbing with one or two down jackets on. I wear heat packs on my wrists when it's really cold: to do so, I use feet warmers and put the sticky side on the inside of the glove, so that the warm side is on my skin. I take the time to windmill my arms a lot to keep blood flowing to my extremities. And I don't wait a whole day to go pee, because all the energy that the body puts into keeping urine warm, is energy that doesn't go into warming other parts of your body.

It is important to use the layering system to stay warm. The pockets of air between each layer are what help you stay warm. I personally prefer to wear Merino Wool close to my skin. Merino stays warm even when it gets wet. My favorite piece is First Ascent's Ultra-195 Merino Baselayer 1/4 Zip and Pants.

 For more on Caroline, check out her page on our website.

No comments: