Monday, April 15, 2013

Sometimes dreams do come true.

The dream: climbing on the summit pyramid of Mt. Shuksan, photo by Ryan Stefiuk at Bigfoot Mountain Guides

I have been rock climbing now for 15 years. In that time, I have mostly pursued trad climbing. To me, trad climbing is about freedom- freedom to climb anywhere, anytime, no need to have bolts placed for you. (I don’t want to start a trad vs. sport thing with this post, I’m just pointing out how I saw it as new and na├»ve climber.) Trad climbing was the key to bigger, bolder climbs- the climbs that really captivated my attention, the bigger alpine climbs in the mountains. As a newbie climber, I cut my teeth on and stoked my imagination with the classic stories from the lexicon of mountain literature- stories from ascents in the Himalaya, Alaska, Patagonia, the Alps and the like.

One little snag in my dreams of big adventure in the big mountains- it turns out, that as a climber, I kind of suck. I’m not pushing big numbers. I’m a mediocre climber at best and I get crazy scared on lead, so I’ve never really led anything harder then 5.7. Despite being a sucky climber, I enjoy it well enough to sink most of my free time and way too much of my financial resources into doing it. The best climber in the world is the one having the most fun right? In my opinion, though, this is one of the truly great things about climbing- there are challenges to be had at all levels. At the end of the day, I like to think that what we really respect in our fellow climbers is that they push themselves, not the numbers.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to take on the challenge of Mt. Rainier. Never having done any sort of technical mountaineering before, the mountain would definitely challenge my skill set. I fretted about ‘succeeding’ on the mountain, by which I mean summiting, but finally surrendered that fear and decided I would learn a lot no matter the outcome. I had always assumed Rainier was the sort of climb that I would have to spend a lot of time and energy working up to, learning the ropes on smaller mountains first. So when I stood on the summit that August day with the other two women of my team, the experience was surreal. And addicting.
Gunks goils on top of Rainier, August 2012

Before I even left the Cascades that trip, I knew I wanted to come back, to do more. A whole world had opened up before me. I challenged myself and met that challenge. I found a strength and confidence that I never knew before. Instead of Rainier being a culmination- an end point, it was just the beginning. The mountains were calling me and I had to go. My climbing partner and I talked about logical ‘next step’ climbs. She proposed the Fisher Chimneys route on Mt. Shuksan. She also gave me another invaluable suggestion- why not submit an application for one of the American Alpine Club’s Live you Dream grants?

Folks, I’m here to tell you dreams do come true. I received an email from Sarah Garlick, the Northeast Regional Coordinator for the AAC on Friday afternoon to notify me that I was one of 3 people in the northeast region receiving a Live Your Dream Grant. I cannot tell you how elated and honored I am to be receiving this grant!!! *jumping up and down* I get to go climb Shuksan this summer!!!

Receiving the email filled me with so much gratitude, so I want to take a moment to say a heartfelt thank you to the AAC for sponsoring this wonderful grant program and especially for the Northeast selection committee who wadded through many worthy applications and somehow saw fit to fund my humble little project. (If you’re not an AAC member, you should be!!! If for no other reason then to support awesome stuff like this!)  I also want to thank my climbing partner for providing some inspiration for the dream. Her ambition to go after her mountain dreams has definitely inspired me to work to materialize my own as well. I’m also going shout out to all my awesome female climbing partners- you ladies kick axe! The fun I have climbing with you all is a wonderful source of inspiration and a great reminder to simply get out there and enjoy it, whatever “it” might me. And last but not least, I want to thank my DH for all his love, support and understanding when the house is a wreck because I went climbing instead of cleaning J


  1. Nice work, um, Betty! We'll look forward to the trip reports!

  2. Congratulations on the grant!!! You'll have to do a ski descent from Shuksan *next* year. ;-)