Sometimes the first step is having a dream or a goal and it can be a scary process to turn that dream into reality. For me, its been about a year of planning and many more years of dreaming to turn this goal into a reality. And now on this beautiful day at the end of July, I am just a few days out from departing on my big trip to India via Chamonix.
But this all started about 7 years ago when I met Anna Pfaf in Patagonia, Argentina. Anna and I and another friend Jean teamed up to climb St. Exupery, one of the classic Patagonia, granite spires. Well, we didn’t make it that far due to a random but very costly accident. While hiking up the boulder field on the approach to St. Exupery, a boulder dislodged just above me and crushed my leg. I ended up with an open-compound fracture of the tibia and fibula. It was epic rescue that involved being carried over rugged terrain and glaciers, followed by a helicopter ride to a rural hospital where they did a minor surgery and then stabilized me for transport to the United States.
Throughout this whole ordeal, Anna didn’t leave my side and this is despite only knowing me for just a few days. She called my parents, washed my hair, kept me spirits up, made sure I had pain meds and basically took care of me. So with this experience behind us, I knew she would be the perfect partner to team up with for an expedition of this scale. Plus, Anna has loads of experience with international expeditions, has established multiple first ascents all over the globe, and is just a fun person to be around.
So I had a partner for my dream trip, all I needed to do was find some time. I had lots of excuses – first I had no money and was in nursing school, then I started a new job, then I got married and then I went on a honeymoon. Finally, this past fall I felt like I was in a position to take some time off and make this trip happen. Now I just needed to convince my family and employer to support me.
Meanwhile, Anna and I decided we would apply for grants from the American Alpine Club (AAC) and bring another team member onto this trip for safety concerns and fun factor, while also allowing us to document it more thoroughly. I immediately thought of my old friend Lisa VanSciver, who I went to college with at Colorado College. We had reconnected over the years and when I mentioned the trip to her she seemed excited. Like Anna, Lisa is also even-tempered with loads of mountain experience, particularly in snowy settings. I knew she would be the perfect member to our team.
In the fall, I spent a lot of time researching the Zanskar Range (our intended climbing destination) and putting together grant applications. Having only applied for one grant prior to this trip (and not receiving it), I knew it would be a long-shot to win some grant money. So when I learned that we won not one but two grants and that about 70% of our trip would be paid for, we were all beyond ecstatic and grateful the AAC wanted to support us. This trip really couldn’t have been possible without the support from the Copp-Dash and McNeill-Nott.
So having received some funding from the AAC, gear from Petzl, Patagonia, Julbo, Goal Zero, Picky Bars and La Sportiva, and starting a new training program with Cass Pelon at Momentum Athlete, I knew I needed to convince my husband and employer that I needed to go on this trip. Even though Jonathon and I will really miss each other, he understands that this trip is super important to me and after some coaxing, he has been pretty excited for me that I get to have this experience. When I presented my plan to my manager, to my surprise, he was willing to allow me to take 2 months off and give me my job back when I returned. I feel incredibly fortunate that I work in a place that supports me professionally and in my personal life. So big thanks to the fine folks at the University of Utah Burn Trauma ICU.
Its been amazing experience planning a trip of this scale and so many of the uncertainties have just naturally fallen into place. It feels good to go into a big trip, not having forced anything. From past trips, I have learned that when things are forced, it can be a recipe for disaster.
And now we wish for some luck, splitter weather and good conditions. Because a lot of what alpine climbing boils down to is luck, a calculated risk assessment and a willingness to believe that it can be done.