27 March 2016


One thing I am learning about mountaineering is that, if you let it, it will take all your time and all your money. Three weeks in, it's taken about $800 (and counting), all my Saturdays, two Tuesday nights and one Friday afternoon. Between that and the commute, I do virtually nothing else. 

The good news is that I save money in other areas. Plans for Friday night? What plans? I'm getting ready for a hike and going to bed in time to get up at 4:45 am. 

Yesterday's hike was even harder than the previous two, although I'm getting stronger and learning how to be more efficient. The key has been the rest step, which means that each time I take a step on a steep uphill, I lock my back knee, stretching my calf and improving blood flow. With that step, the 1000 vertical feet per mile for 3.5 miles was no problem. 

Also, I stay near the front. The front moves slowly and steadily. But I've learned that the long line of 20 people inch-worms, as the instructor says, and when you are in the back you have to stop for the people who are slow getting over some obstacle and then try to move faster to catch up. 

I am not so much sore today as I am stiff. My muscles are pleasantly tired, but my joints are displeased with me, especially my knees. I got stuck with the rope, you see, the 8 pound rope strapped onto my backpack, for most of the way down, even though I had proclaimed on the way up that I would carry it all the way up if only I didn't have to carry it down. Still, somehow, after hiking up and over a couple of saddles, it was my turn again by the time we started hiking straight down.

"What are your plans for the year?" the instructor asked, on the way straight up the hill.

"I haven't really thought much beyond this class," I said. "I'd like to hike [Mountain I've Climbed Twice Before] again, because I have friends who haven't done it. And I never thought I wanted to climb [Mountain that Overlooks the City] because too many people die on it, but now I think I might try it if I were with people whose safety conscientiousness I trusted."

"You've made a good start toward [Mountain that Overlooks the City]," he said. "Most people who die on it die because they aren't being as cautious as they should be."

So that might happen, despite my proclamations only 3 weeks ago that it would never would.

We also rappelled for the first time. Not straight down, though. We just practiced the rappelling technique on a very steep section of trail, which I found harder than (at least conceptually) rappelling straight down a vertical cliff, because I had to think not just about where my feet were but also about how to get over the next obstacle between me and the bottom. It mostly worked. 

Part of the expense of mountaineering is the class. Part of the expense is the gear. Part of the expense is getting to the places. Part of the expense is the food. And part of it is the fact that I will do just about anything not to be cold, including buying more warm clothes to ensure that I won't be cold. 

(It doesn't work. You can have the best clothes in the world, and when you keep switching back and forth between steep up and steep down, you are going to be alternating way too hot (take off layers) and then freezing (put layers back on). But I keep trying.)

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