Guest Post • Hand and the Heart

Monday, December 23, 2013

Any of you who have been readers of HMRM for an extended amount of time know about my love for adventure, so I was so excited to share this guest post with you from Andrea over at Hand and the Heart! I gave her the choice of writing about a dream she had accomplished or her favorite winter recipe and like I would have done, she chose to write about a dream. Honestly, just like in real life, I'm sort of a distanced blogger. To keep myself from spending too much time on the computer or reading instead of writing, I keep my blog following to a minimum, which means that I'm not in a lot of blogging circles and I don't have a lot of women that I'm super close to (yet!). My point in saying all of this is Andrea is worth following. Her writing is simple and honest and heartwarming and I just love her and I haven't even met her. So here it is: a guest post about this awesome lady climbing a mountain. (I am so jealous of your feat, by the way! My husband and I have talked about climbing a lot and would love to do this someday.)

P.S. If any of you are interested in guest blogging on HMRM, send an email my way. We have a lot of driving and settling in to do over the next few weeks, so there will be plenty of room for other lady bloggers' (or men, whatever) thoughts. (


Hey there my friends! I blog over at Hand and the Heart. I'm so excited that Andrea asked me to contribute to her space here. I think she is one of the most genuine people I have come to know through blogging, and I love that about her. Plus, we share a name and have similar birth philosophies, so that basically makes us soul sisters, right!? :)

I'm going to stray off my usual writing topics about babies and motherhood, and share a story about climbing a mountain. Andrea asked me to write about a dream I have achieved that I'm proud of, and standing up at 11,239 feet is what came to my mind first. I know, I know...I probably should have thought about "becoming a mother" or "marrying the man of my dreams" or something. Sorry fam.

Standing on the summit of Mount Hood, Oregon's highest peak, was a dream achieved for me because honestly I never thought it was possible. I've always idolized my dad's adventurous nature and his zeal for the great outdoors. I spent much of my childhood hiking through the Olympic Mountains and camping under the stars in the middle of the forest. In college, I asked my Dad if he would help me climb something. We set our sights on Mount Hood, for my Dad had climbed in many times before. I wore my climbing boots to the gym every day, working that stair master to the ground. Physically, I was at the top of my game. Mentally, I was nowhere close. There was so much fear blocking my way. Fear of falling, fear of dying, fear of failing. I read the articles about people who had died on the mountain. I focused on the dangers, instead of the rewards. We turned around halfway to the summit. Broken-hearted.

A few years later, we decided to give Mount Hood another attempt. But the living, breathing mountain was ferocious in her attempts to deny us the chance.The fog wrapped around us and created zero visibility, the damp was chilling to our bones, and it was apparent very early on that once again, Hood wouldn't let us reach her peak. Again, broken-hearted. I felt like this was one dream I would have to let slip through my fingers.

A few weeks later, we decided to give it one more go before it got too late in the season to climb safely. I still didn't think I would ever make it to the summit. Sitting at the base of the mountain, staring way up into the heavens seemed so far away. My mind wandered to the fumaroles, the crevasses, the bergschrund on the hogsback that was opened. The hundreds of ways I could fail. But at 2 a.m., I dutifully strapped on my crampons, with my ice ax tied securely to my pack, and we set off for the rising sun.

My breath became regulated, my steps became routine. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. I watched the moon set over the horizon and the sun cast duplicate shadows of the mountain on the land below. I didn't dare look the way we came. We finally reached the point of making the final summit push at an area called Crater Rock. My dad roped the three of us together again, but my part of the line grew tight. The fear wrapped around me like the fog on our prior attempt, and I couldn't move. The summit was so close, a mere 60 minutes up. But I couldn't. The tears came. My dad's gentle voice telling me that if we had any chance of making the summit, we needed to keep moving before the sun started melting the ice pack. I looked up, and I looked back. Stuck.

My husband. My dear my husband. Where I failed myself, where I didn't believe, he did. He climbed up to me. He wrapped his arms around me and whispered a prayer in my ear. He told me I was capable. He told me that he would never let me fall. I wiped my tears, took a breath, and set off after my Dad and his encouraging words, up to the summit. It was steep going, we took an alternate route up the south side old crater chute, and I had to focus every bit of my energy on every single step. The final pitch hit around a 50 degree angle up the chute, and with one final grasp my ax dug over the lip of a snow cap, I passed the most dangerous section and lifted myself to the summit of Mount Hood, just as beams of sun cast a heavenly glow over the ice formations. A dream achieved.

Of course, with all mountain climbing, both figurative and literal, reaching the summit is only half the battle. Our time at the top was spent cautiously (one woman fell 2,500' to her death down the North side a couple of years ago). The climb down often offers more opportunities for sliding and tripping, and statistically speaking is the most common time people are killed. I didn't realize how steep the pitch was until I was faced with going down it, side stepping and praying I wouldn't lose my nerve or my balance. Going down was intimidating because falling doesn’t mean you slide for a few feet and stop, falling means you typically slide and tumble all the way down whatever slope you are on until you fall into a crevasse, over the edge of a cliff, or into a fumarole where you die from affixiation if the fall doesn’t kill you. Usually, the weakest link (being me) would descend first in the rope line, with the stronger climbers behind so they can self-arrest if the weakest climber were to fall. However, I was so nervous that I couldn’t go down first, so my husband went in front of me to help talk me through and guide my steps, and my Dad, being the strongest and most experience climber, was in the back. I literally had to keep telling myself, "stab ice axe into snow, step left foot down, pause, step right foot" (while looking for a safe spot to step), repeat, to keep myself focused on what I was doing and not what I was afraid of. I am so proud of myself. I was very scared, and crying, but I kept moving and stepping and making clear decisions.

A climber above us knocked loose a large chunk of ice that came barreling down the side of the mountain, knocking me in the calves and nearly out from under myself. My dad and husband still tease me about the string of profanities that came furling out of my mouth. I'm fortunate that was the extent of it, for many climbers have been killed when falling chunks of ice have hit them. The rest of the trip was spent glissading down the mountain, covering so much ground, speeding along on such a high that I didn't even notice the ice and speed had burned two holes straight through all my layers and tore the flesh straight off my buns. Two large, red, fleshy wounds that resembled road rash on each butt cheek. Bloody, oozy, and extremely painful. Of all the injuries I could have gotten while climbing…I get two raw sores on my bottom!? Ha! 

Climbing, and summiting Mount Hood was such a rewarding experience, both mentally and physically. A moment I will treasure forever. Every time we drive through Portland and see Mount Hood looming over the city, I can barely believe I stood on the very top of it. This dream achieved was a true labor of love. My dad's experience and guidance got us to the summit, but I could never have made it had my husband not evaporated all the fear from my mind (and then later cleaned my wounds for weeks on end). Dreams are achieved when we work together. It took me three tries, but I finally did it.

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I don't know these guys, but this is a short video clip of the chute I climbed. 
And a lovely shot of the view looking down (for perspective).



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