Monday, June 22, 2015

A Wife's Perspective

Hi blog readers. It is Diana. Ben has frequently mentioned my support for his climbing in his blog entries, but I thought it might be helpful for those who care about him and our family to hear my thoughts directly.
When Ben & I met, he was a climber. In fact, one of the first emails he sent me before we started dating was after an abandoned attempt at Denali. The conditions that year were unsafe, as he would also find in years to follow. Ben made several trips to Denali before he was able to summit.
I grew up with a dad who was a dreamer. He was the happiest when he was dreaming or pursuing his dreams. My mom is very practical but also a very supportive wife. I am also very practical and try to follow my mom’s example as a supportive wife. Being supportive has become much easier for me over the years. In fact, as I have listened to countless stories about other mountain climbers, Ben’s dreams have become my dreams.
There are risks with pursuing dreams, especially with dreams as big as Ben’s. In my job, I work in a very risk-adverse field and I weigh and manage risk every day. For example, Ben knows I REALLY don’t want him to climb K2. That is a risk I am not willing to take.
Ben has always had safety in mind. He has abandoned several summit attempts because of bad weather or physical or mental health of teammates or himself. “The mountain will always be there” and “going up is optional, coming down is mandatory,” he tells me. There are many stories he could tell that prove these are more than just words to him.
In 2007, Ben made his first trip to Mt Everest. While he was gone, we found out I was pregnant with Alexander. When Ben called off his first Everest attempt, which was his Big Dream, I was so overwhelmed by his love for me and our baby, whom he had not even met! He was willing to put a long time dream on hold to support my dream of having children. I know that he now thinks of Alexander & Annelyse constantly and would not intentionally do anything to leave them fatherless. I trust Ben’s climbing skills and his judgment. I know he puts himself through mental tests while climbing at high altitudes to ensure he is still thinking straight. (If he can remember our anniversary at 20,000 feet, then he will never have an excuse for forgetting it at home!)
So what about accidents? What about avalanches or other situations out of his control? My response to that is... first, situations happen every day that are outside of our control. We all come across situations every day where we are 30 seconds away from an accident. I can’t worry about these. I can only pray. Which brings me to my final response. My trust is in God. God controls Ben’s life and my life and the lives of our kids. If God’s plan is for our children to be fatherless, I only have the option to trust that there is a reason for that. I know it sounds morbid. But it doesn’t feel morbid to me. If feels like complete trust.
So for those that have asked questions and voiced concern, thank you. Thank you for caring for our family enough to be concerned. And thank you for joining me in prayer as Ben continues to pursue his climbing dreams this fall.
Climb on Ben! Your biggest fans are supporting you! We love you!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Manitou Springs Incline

One of the more awesome aspects of training for an 8000 meter peak is the variety of lung busting options that can be found in Colorado. Going to the gym Monday through Friday is nice, but by the time the weekend arrives I want to get outside.
Today's challenge was the Manitou Incline near Manitou Springs, Colorado. This beauty of a trail is an old rail bed that hauled pipeline supplies directly up the lower portion of Pike's Peak many, many years ago. The rails have since been removed and a lot of work has gone into reconstructing the trail to ward of the inevitable erosion that is sure to happen on a trail this steep. The Incline has become a training ground for runners, climbers, mountaineers or simply anyone wanting a great workout. The Incline itself is only .87 miles long but it rises almost 2,000'.

There are some portions that rise to a 60% incline - thus the name. Going down the same way you come up is discouraged and so a nice scenic trail option starts from the top and quickly descends to the Barr Trail on Pike's Peak. The way down is almost 3 miles and it is a nice  and easy run. A perfect cap to a sweet workout.
The time required to ascend 2,000' varies from person to person. An old rule of thumb used in hiking is 1,000' per hour. That makes the current record of close to 18 minutes attainable by only a few. A more normal time is anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on fitness level and acclimation abilities to altitude.

Today my time was just over 40 minutes. Not too bad, but I know I can do better. I will push myself this summer and I hope to be in the mid-thirties by the time I leave for Manaslu. Speaking of Manaslu, I leave in 72 days and I am so excited! What an awesome and spectacular challenge I am about to embark upon. With the unwavering support of my wonderful wife, I take time to pause every day and remind myself how truly blessed I am.