A Little Fear Keeps Us ALIVE! Alps Recount!
Everest is coming up in April and so it was time to get some real training in---aka get my butt up to the mountains and get some climbing done! So off to the Alps I went...this was my training and vacation for the year.
Fear of God moments, as I call them...I have grown to love. They are my “WAKE UP, Life is Short, Live with Passion, Do What You Love, Push the Limits- Cuz We Only Live Once!” Last month I was fortunate enough to visit a place long on my bucket list- The Alps! I had always dreamed of visiting what I consider the climbing mecca! It was simply awesome going to Zermatt, Chamonix, Jungfrau region! So much beauty all around and a reminder of what an amazing playground us lucky little humans have to enjoy! The goal of the trip was to climb 3 mountains- The Eiger, The Matterhorn, and Mont Blanc. Well poor weather and conditions threw a kink in our plans, but not to worry we attempted 6 climbs instead across the Swiss, Italian, and French Alps :) A simply wonderful unexpected surprise!
I absolutely love trips where I get to go somewhere I have never been! This trip everywhere we went I had never been :) We had an Everest crew reunion and Pam, Kathy, and Kevin were part of the fun and adventure! Part of our trip was guided by Martin Moran’s company and part unguided (Mont Blanc), which was awesome to put our skills to the test!
I can honestly say I was more afraid on this trip than I was on Everest! There were plenty of “Fear of God” moments where we came face to face with knife edge ridges fully exposed and gusting winds where we could barely keep walking. Not to mention I took a VERY scary fall coming down Mont Blanc that could have ended badly-So I am happy to be in one piece with a smile on my face. I know, I know, not everyone’s ideal vacation, but I enjoyed EVERY second of it, even the scary times :) There is an inexplicable joy of being able to push your mind and body to places it thought it could never go or think it shouldn’t go...aka...a knife edge ridges where one false move could well turn out not so great. It is an amazing feeling to overcome your fears and look back and be stronger and better for it!
So a little about fear because I think it can apply to everyone reading this...you don’t have to be on some big mountain and come face to face with mother nature to be afraid. Life can every day present to us scary and challenging situations that may bring up feelings of fear or resistance to take the leap forward and just go for it! All I can say is that a little risk can bring great rewards- whether professional, personal, emotional...you get it. Low hanging fruit...can only be so exciting and fulfilling. Most of the time we learn and benefit most from those experiences that pushed our limits, made us dig deep and be tough and jump in without knowing everything would be “ok”. Now maybe this is just the adrenaline junkie in me speaking...but I have found that in my decisions at work, in love, and in my adventurous pursuits! Fear can paralyze us from reaching our max potential-whatever that may be...again this not just related to climbing mountains :) I have to thank mountaineering and these “Fear of God” moments so to speak to continuously make me a little bolder, take more calculated risks, and just go after what I am passionate about. There may be failures for sure, but if you never try, you never know. A strong point to live by for me.
So what we climbed! We started off in Switzerland in the little town of Evolene and practiced some basic rock climbing skills with our guide Andy. It was breathtaking! I LOVE Switzerland :) The little flower boxes in all of the chalets were charming, the cheese was AMAZING, the chocolate, the gorgeous mountains all around...ahhh... a little slice of heaven on earth!
From there we headed off to the Jungfrau region to go for our attempt of Eiger. Well weather put a damper on that one and instead we climbed the peak next to it The Monch (4107m), which introduced me to my first of many knife edge ridges and exposed ascents! I had a few “Oh S$%*, don’t look down moments” indeed! All part of the thrill and challenge though. It was also great snow, ice, and rock experience. It was an awesome climb and the views from the top were well, FANTASTIC and well worth it! We also attempted Jungfrau (4158m), yet weather turned on us so we turned around about half way up. The hut system in Switzerland is extremely organized and runs like clockwork! Very impressive.
From here we returned to Evolene and got ready for our go at the Matterhorn. Well unlucky for us-it was still covered in snow! :( boo. So after arriving in Zermatt, we decided to venture to the Italian Alps from there and try and tackle Polluce (4094 m), Castore (4226 m), and Breithorn (4165 m)! Mission Accomplished! We got to stay in what is now my favorite ski hut of all times- this little Italian ski hut which had such yummy food and cheap wine- I was a happy girl....great food and wine and mountains= happy Georgina :) It was here that we learned of the tragic accident on Mont Blanc, which is where we were headed to next. We were able to climb Castore and Polluce on one day with a 4 amish departure. We had wonderful weather, not too crowded, and a couple more knife edge ridges to scare the crap out of me...Ha...all good fun though. The views were incredible...we saw the sun rise, always breathtaking, and I got to down climb and rappel down some sections, well let's say less gracefully than I would have liked..lol. It was great to put our rock skills and ability to deal with exposure to the test! After a FULL ON day, our reward was yummy wine and snacks at the hut w/ great company! Always love all the folks you meet on these trips...interesting to the max!
On our last day there, we had our go on Breithorn...that was supposed to be kinda of a stroll, except we got blasted with what felt like 100mph winds on a knife edge summit ridge nonetheless and could barely stand upright as we pushed for the summit! My little ice ax was flailing in the wind....it was freakin SCARY. Once we were out of the “danger zone” and out of the wind and had summited, I paused and starting gagging-Yes I almost vomited from fear! A first for me and ya not very ladylike, but it happened. Luckily I didn’t throw up, just felt like I had to and gave thanks for being ALIVE. I am sure it sounds a little overly dramatic, but you had to be there! Pam would agree :) We all had a good laugh once we were down and safe and sound!
From there is was back to Evolene for our last night there and then make our way to Chamonix where we would meet Kevin and attempt Mont Blanc! I was really trying to stay unconnected while I was away, but since there had been a tragic accident on the mountain, my phone and FB were blowing up with people’s concern on whether we were ok! So I tried to make a point to post a little pic after each peak to let everyone know where were alive and well. We spent a lovely day in Chamonix and even got a little sunbathing in on our rest day before Mont Blanc :) It was so great to have an Everest crew reunion and spend time with friends!
Our plan was to go up the Gouter Route to the summit which stands at 4,810 m (15,781 ft)! So day one was take the train to as far as it would go and then hike up and camp at the Tête Rousse hut. This was a funny one, as the four of us managed to make my little two-man tent work for all of us! Us three ladies cuddled up on the inside and Kevin slept in between the tent and fly in his bivy bag :) The next day we went up a 2500 ft rock scramble to the Gouter Hut and we planned to go for the summit which was about 5 hours past this point. Well the wind killed that plan and as we arrived to the hut we saw teams coming back down from the summit after nearly being blown off the ridge.
Considering all the accidents and deaths the week before, we decided to sit tight at the Gouter Hut and wait for a better weather window the next morning. Now a lot of other people ended up with that plan and about 120 of us were all crammed into their dining space and ended up sleeping on benches, tables, the floor anywhere we could find! I managed to snag a skinny bench to crash on, Kevin and Pam had a table top, and Kathy found a corner on the floor. It was quite the scene! We ended up spending about 17 hours in this lovely hut and maybe got in a few hours sleep. We then set off for the summit about 3 am. Now mind you as uncomfortable as it was in there, it was pretty awesome to see 120 from all walks of life from teenagers to people in their 60s all with one goal in mind- To get to the top of the mountain! It is indeed pretty cool to be surrounded with that much passion or a bit of craziness in one small space!! So the 4 of us set off and the wind was mild to start but as we approached the first ridge, it got windier and windier and we saw teams abandoning thier summit bids. As we crossed the first ridge just before the final little push to the summit we were getting blasted and being knocked off our feet a bit. Now Kevin has been up Mont Blanc before and he knew the final ridge was truly exposed and with that kind of wind not really safe. So as a team we made the decision to turn around only about 40 min or so from the summit with it in sight! I was pretty disappointed not gonna lie and wanted more than anything to push through and test my luck. BUT, respect for the mountains always...Mont Blanc will be there another day...I need to be too. So reluctantly we all turned around, took a quick break at the Gouter Hut and then proceeded down the 2500 ft scramble to where our tent was at the Tette Russe Hut.
That is where my SCARY fall happened and I was down climbing unroped what I thought was a secure rock hold, it ended coming out of the wall and I fell backward hmmm 5 feet or so bouncing in and out of the inner part of the mountain. Luckily on a bounce back in towards the mountain my backpack got wedged in a rock and stopped my fall from several thousand feet down! Kevin said I looked like a pinball in a pinball machine and he thought for sure my days were through! I landed quite in an awkward position and thought I might have broken a leg cuz it hurt so dang bad, but all was good. I sat and waited and when I had the wind back in me, I got up and we proceeded down. I must have nine lives, but I think I have used up 5 or 6 already! A lot of friends have asked what went through my mind as I was falling? Well, I was really in shock it was actually happening so I managed to probably mutter 3 phrases in my mind: 1) Oh F*&^, 2) Please stop 3) Please stop and then I finally did, thank goodness. I am lucky girl! We made it back down to camp, packed up our stuff and proceeded down to the train. It was a long day, but we were all grateful to be alive and well!
It was HOT when we made it back to Chamonix and so we chilled out, grabbed dinner and drinks...I of course found me some GELATO!! OMG I ate it everyday I could while I was there...pretty funny actually...little bit of heaven in my mouth!
Kathy then went home and Kevin, Pam, and I went on to explore parts of Lake Geneva and chill out before our departure. I got to spend a final day in Geneva and meet up with a friend and explore-it’s a beautiful city!
As I write this, I have a big smile, remembering another great adventure, and wishing I could go back right this SECOND! I love the mountains, love pushing limits, appreciate fear and overcoming it, and counting down for Everest!
More to come for our Everest preparations, fundraising for VDAY and International Medical Corps and the women of Congo, and training updates from the team!
Grateful for the "Fear of God" moments, they keep me alive and push me to reach my max potential...whatever that may be! Don't let fear ever paralyze you from going after things in any aspect of life...if you never try you never know. I'll close with the wise words of Kevin, "Never more alive then when ya nearly dead!" Kevin, I definitely learned that on this trip-thanks :)
Lots of love, keep dreaming big!
P.S. Pam, Kathy, Kevin- thanks for an awesome time and adventure!!!