Except for the blinding sun and relentless weight pulling on our shoulders, this trip shared nothing in common with our 2011 adventure to Liberia, back when the MiiR crew was first able to watch the movement of its business model in action. Here, we wore layer upon layer of polypropylene, fleece, down and gore-tex, most of the time with only half of a face exposed. And we carried even more layers, food in the form of goo and bars, technical equipment with names sounding more like torture devices (crampon, anyone?) and that sloshy water that weighs down. That perfect, clear burdensome necessity.
You regular mountaineers and climbers out there know that no one mountain is ever the same. While we maintained a similar route as in years past, Rainier opened up to the 23 of us in new ways. This time around, the sun had worked harder to crack open uncertain surfaces, and we were left to navigate wide crevasses with no obvious floor, teetering on ladders we would never volunteer to cross. The thrill was there, fueled by adrenaline.
It’s a strange feeling, returning to sidewalked streets and buildings navigated by escalators and elevators after having been so high, concerned with nothing but the strength behind each breath and next step. And from those who awaited your return, the same questions always arise – how was the weather, did everyone summit (yes), how was it different from last year’s climb, and always this one – how heavy was your pack?
40, 45, 50 pounds. But only for a few hours as opposed to every day, and certainly not because it depends on my livelihood. How heavy was my pack? Not any heavier than any one of the billion who carries their water to see through to the next day. I know I thought about this as I climbed. Will our fundraising alleviate just one person’s need to walk miles for water, wasting valuable time and energy, only to carry it all the way home? Then our work interwoven with play here, on this beautiful mountain, has significance. Whatever our personal ascent stories may be, what a privilege to bring meaning to each collective step on our journey.
photo credit: Matt McDonald, 63mph.com