Last Minute Tips Before Your Mountain Climb

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Mt. Rainier Climb 012

Me crossing an ice bridge on Mt. Rainier with an impressive crevasse to my left.

Get extra rest, decrease your hard workouts, and hydrate well the week before your climb.

The week before the climb, do not consume alcohol until after your climb.

Start packing today! At least 2 weeks before. Do not procrastinate. That can lead to anxiety and you want to feel calm.

Pack what you need but pack as lightly as you can. For instance, a dab of toothpaste in a plastic bag with your toothbrush rather than the whole travel tube. Too heavy of a pack going up to base camp can wipe you out.

Pressure breathe often after you leave base camp. This will help replenish ATP, the energy molecule you need, and help prevent getting nauseous.

Keep your pace slow and steady. One foot in front of the other.

Be your own motivational coach. “I have trained hard for this I can do it. All I have to do is keep walking one foot in front of the other. I’m ready for this. I can and will do it. You got this. Relax and breathe.” Picture yourself standing on the summit. Clear your mind of all self-doubts.

Dress like your guide does. You want to maintain a comfortable and not sweaty temperature. Wear light colored clothing to reflect the heat.

Use the rest step, a lot! (Practice on Camp Muir hike). It will give you a momentary rest.

Before your breaks have a plan for what you need to do at your break because your breaks are short: drink, eat, adjust clothing, reapply sunscreen, go to the bathroom, take an Ibuprofen, etc.

Focus on the moment and the technical aspects. Ice ax in uphill hand, rest step, pressure breathe.

Eat at every break even if you don’t feel like it. Drink often. Add powdered Gatorade or Cytomax to your water.

Repeat to yourself what Lou Whittaker said to me: “Do your best and you’re going to make your own summit. You’re going to be higher than anyone in the state.” ~Lou Whittaker. “We learn so much about ourselves, our bodies, our mind. ” To view him speaking to our climb school go here.

Ask for support from your guide if you need it. Offer support and encouragement to your teammates.

Focus on your breathing and heart rate. Get into a pace and you’ll start climbing like a machine. Play music in your mind and keep the beat going on.

You will feel physical discomfort. This isn’t necessarily a “warning alarm”. Discern what is danger pain and what is just plain discomfort. Do you need to slow down, take off a layer, pressure breathe or rest step more, drink or eat more or calm your mind?

Feeling afraid? It is normal to feel fear when in some of the dangerous conditions on the upper mountain. But allowing the fear to overtake you can be dangerous.

The amygdala is a structure in the temporal lobe of your brain that is responsible for the flight or fight response when your brain senses danger. When we perceive a threat, the amygdala sounds an alarm. A series of events triggers the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones which leads to increased breathing, higher blood pressure and a racing heart, shaking and sweating. This is called ‘the amygdala hijack’. This response makes it hard to think clearly and can make you more prone to an accident. Not a good scenario on the upper mountain.

You can calm the amygdala by practicing mindfulness. Choose something in the environment and focus on it. Don’t let the mind race, slow down and pay attention.

You can also calm the amygdala by breathing. Take some nice slow breaths. This helps the production of the stress hormones to stop. Practice the in-breath and out-breath repeatedly at the same intervals. Inhale, counting 1, 2, 3, and 4 then exhale 1, 2, 3, and 4.

You can also calm the amygdala by talking to yourself in a reassuring way. What would you say to a friend to calm them down?

I asked my client Dan Akerman (who I have coached for the last 7 years on all his climbs including Mt. Everest, all them successful!!) to share his thoughts on fear on the mountain and he said, “Slow it down, one foot in front of the other, stay focused on what you are doing, not the fear.” He also warned that “one needs to be just as focused on the way down. The goal isn’t to just reach the summit but to get safely back home. Be cognizant on the way down, focus and watch your steps. 80% of accidents happen on the descent.”

Good luck and enjoy your journey! I will be anxiously awaiting news about your climb.

And for fun:

Peter Whittaker (Lou Whittaker’s son) said to me once, “Just put one step in front of another until there ain’t no more”. And that made me think of the song Put One Foot in Front of the Other from the animated Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

I sing the song to myself as I am climbing. 🙂 Here are the lyrics if you want to give it a try!

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door
You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door
If you want to change your direction
If your time of life is at hand
Well don’t be the rule, be the exception
A good way to start is to stand
If I want to change the reflection
I see in the mirror each morn
(Oh you do!)
You mean that it’s just my election
(Just that!)
To vote for a chance to be reborn
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