johnwlittle AT gmail.com
johnwlittle AT gmail.com
So much attention is paid to the climbs (yes I know that’s the idea) but it took Alan years of hard work to pull this campaign together. It didn’t help that he had to pitch it to once company after another in the midst of a severe economic downturn. It looked pretty bleak at times, almost all of the time actually, but Alan tackled the challenge like a true mountaineer – unwaveringly putting one foot in front of the other until he reached his goal. Ida would have been very proud.
I just wrapped up a complete month in the gym. I’m very happy with that but I’m even happier that my foot is healing well. I’m at 100% in the gym and pain isn’t an issue. I don’t know how well I’d do on a ten or twenty mile hike but I plan to add some of those into the training mix in January or February.
The routine right now is pretty basic – 45 minutes on the treadmill and about 18 ten rep sets of weights per night. I’m doing that 5 nights per week with Friday and Saturday being rest days. The epic stair climbs probably won’t be back in the mix for another 2 months or so. I want to make sure my foot is completely healed before putting that much stress on it.
The diet is also going extremely well. It’s also pretty basic – chicken, fish, turkey, and veggies make up the bulk of my diet. I don’t bother with low fat or fat free alternatives with the exception of fat free Greek yogurt which I eat almost daily. I’m probably averaging 1500 calories a day, often a little less, rarely a little more. On Saturday I can cheat a little at dinner but for the most part I haven’t. I’m down about 25 pounds and I’ve added some muscle so this is working well.
This particular edge is all funky, rocks going everywhere, it’s off-angle and not clean at all. There is no jumping off involved, it’s more of a belly slide/crawl maneuver, but then I feel my weight being totally on the rope, and I’m hanging. And from here, for me at least, I’m almost on auto pilot. I’m so focused, so involved in the moment, that nothing else matters. I don’t think about the elevation, the drizzle that has started back up, the work that I didn’t do today, the lack of a girlfriend, or any of the other crap in my life. I think about the rock in front of me, keeping my left hand up, and my feet out straight. There is nothing else right now. Ultimate focus.
Colin Dinsmore (red jacket) and Shawn Gorea, set up anchor to lower the missing hikers off a ledge. They are on a pinnacle where the exposure on three sides ranges from 100 to 200 feet, which would most likely result in death should they fall. And then I’m on flat ground, that’s it. About 60 seconds and 200 feet straight down. I call up on the radio, “Off belay”, look up and give the thumbs up. I’m good. Wow! that was incredible, and exactly why I love being high in the mountains. It’s this whole Zen Buddhism thing, being totally committed to the moment, being right here, right now. It’s awesome.
Climbing is, or can be, what a Zen Master friend of mine once referred to as “single minded practice”. Which reminds me of the koan she gave me before one of my climbs:
Who Walks? Never give up until you get the answer….then follow that.
That’s a valid question at any elevation but altitude, physical effort, and a little exposure can sure bring it into focus quickly.
This video isn’t mine but it brings back great memories of our Mt. Eolus climb last year. The Catwalk was the part that I anticipated and sort of feared the most but it was an absolute blast.
No new climbs are scheduled at the moment but I will think about that early next year. In the meantime, I’ve managed to deal with a pretty painful problem with a tendon in my left foot and get back in the gym. I’m not sprinting up 100 stories of stairs three times per week right now but I’m putting in a solid hour five days per week. I’ll be adding another 30 minutes of cardio to each workout next week.
Summer road trip with the girlfriend – 9 Days – 4,000 miles through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado. Took the Mazda 3 from 106 degree deserts to hailstorms at nearly 11,000 feet on the Million Dollar Highway. We spent hours cruising at high speed across desert and grassland backroads without seeing another car, building, or person. Driving the new car was so comfortable and so much fun that our first day back we took it out for another 6 hour drive near the Texas Hill Country. I don’t know how but we managed to average about 28mpg through thousands of miles of mountain and high speed driving.
Highlights: Ouray, Durango, Silverton, Albuquerque, Carlsbad Caverns, Fort Davis, White Oaks, Santa Fe, Cloudcroft, Fredericksburg, and too many other small/ghost towns to mention.
An amazing view in beautiful weather. I don’t remember the names of these two. They reached the summit ahead of me and were kind enough to take a few photos for us.
This is me at our camp at 11,000 feet talking to Kevin Martin and Alan Arnette about the weather during Alan’s Sunlight Peak summit attempt. Alan, Robert, Kevin, and Anne had just summitted Mt. Windom and were descending in the rain with hope of crossing over to Sunlight. Alan made it to within 50 feet of the summit before coming down to attempt it early the next morning. The second attempt was successful.
We arrived in Durango last night and I will head back to Houston tomorrow. The trip surpassed all my expectations. I summited Mt. Eolus on Sunday. Alan Arnette finished his final 14er Sunlight Peak after a dramatic 24 hour battle with the weather and also summited North Eolus, Mt. Eolus, and Windom Peak. Patrick Vall sumitted Mt. Eolus and North Eolus. Kevin Martin, Anne Martin, and Robert LeClair each summited Eolus, North Eolus, and Windom.
It was a great adventure with amazing people. It all still seems very surreal at the moment but once I get back to Houston I’ll start work on a full trip report.
I’ve spent the day checking and re-checking gear. The Osprey is finally packed – and a couple pounds lighter than when I left Houston. The gang is assembling in Durango this evening. On saturday morning at 9am the six of us (Alan Arnette, Robert LeClair, Patrick Vall, Anne Martin, and Kevin Martin) will board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad Train. The train will take us to the middle of nowhere and drop us off so that we can begin the over 6 mile hike up 3,000 feet to the Chicago Basin. There we will make camp and prepare to attempt Windom, Eolus, and Sunlight.
If you want to follow the climbs live you’ll have to get up early. We’ll be leaving in two teams each day. I’ll be in the first team and it will likely depart camp around 3-4am each morning. The first attempt will be Mt. Eolus on Sunday morning followed by Windom Peak and Sunlight Peak on Monday. For more details on the routes we’ll take and images of the mountains we hope to climb check out my earlier post.
I’ll be carrying a Spot Satellite Messenger on the trip since we will be far beyond cell phone range. To follow the climbs live just click on the “Track John” button to the right. I will also use my Spot to send status updates to Twitter and Facebook. Alan Arnette will also be carrying a Spot and his updates can be found here. Don’t miss his blog post about this trip either.
Before I go I want to thank the many friends, family, co-workers, and members of the online climbing community (from around the world) who have offered their support and advice. My nervous but incredibly supportive girlfriend deserves special mention. This has been a long and difficult (but extremely rewarding) process and my support network has helped tremendously. Summits aren’t guaranteed but just being in position to attempt them with great friends in one of the most beautiful spots on earth is reward enough.