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playitsmart

The #playitsmart Initiative

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The #playitsmart Initiative

I find inspiration in many places especially within our hemophilia community. We hear about struggles that we can all relate to and how so many in our community have overcome them. I love those stories and I hope through my endeavours in climbing the Seven Summits I can inspire someone to pursue their unimaginable goal, to overcome their obstacle, and create confidence in themselves. I want to have people ask themselves, “What’s my Everest?” and shoot for the unthinkable dream.


Through the #playitsmart initiative I want to share my experience on how to overcome mental and physical challenges. I want to encourage everyone to pursue their goals in a SMART way, one step at a time until they find their Everest. My journey is just one example of overcoming challenges. There are hundreds within the bleeding disorders community and I will be highlighting them in the future. But what about others struggling with chronic conditions? We aren’t alone with the struggles we share. I believe each person’s story gives a new opportunity to learn. For my first #playitsmart post, I want to share with you an incredible story of an inspiring woman - who - although lives with a very different condition, has overcome her physical and emotional barriers in much the same way I have and others have in the bleeding disorder community. Check back later this week for that post!

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One Year Since Carstensz Pyramid!

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One Year Since Carstensz Pyramid!

I can't believe it's already been a year since I summited Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, Indonesia. This mountain was a fairly technical climb as you can tell from the video. From our basecamp we climb the nearly vertical peak and traversed the ridge line. The views were breathtaking as were some of the obstacles along the summit ridge!  

 

Shot at basecamp showing the route up Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, Indonesia. This is the highest peak on the Australasia continent and my fifth summit in the Seven Summits Quest!

The most difficult was the Tyrolean Traverse, (video below). I can't post the video of crossing the traverse on the way to the summit because I swear ALOT but here is a clip of me coming back down! This was a huge mental and physical challenge and I'm glad I could overcome it!

 

The Tyrolean Traverse is located at the start of the summit ridge on Carstensz Pyramid in Papua, Indonesia. Although very safe it's still freaky!! It's hard to convince yourself that the wires will hold you over the thousand foot drop!

The mountain was spectacular but the most memorable part of the trip was trekking out through the jungles of Papua. We had local porters that helped carrying our gear and show us the way through the jungle. It was incredible to spend time with them in such an untouched wilderness! I have loved all the mountains I have climbed but Carstensz and Papua were unique and special!

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New Website, New Concept, Same Me!

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New Website, New Concept, Same Me!

Hey all, with the help of my good friend Justin Levesque we have revamped my Adventures of a Hemophiliac site! This site has some fresh and fun changes but the biggest one being the addition of my #playitsmart campaign! Over the years, my climbs have grown into something big. They have become a way to generate awareness for the bleeding disorder community, so I'm taking it a step further! 

#playitsmart is a campaign I initiated to help change how those with chronic conditions set and achieve goals! To learn more, please visit my #playitsmart blog page.

“WHATEVER YOUR EXCUSE IS, IT'S TIME TO STOP BELIEVING IT!”

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#playitsmart:<br>Aconcagua Summit Push 2013

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#playitsmart:
Aconcagua Summit Push 2013

Two clips from our summit push on Aconcagua. The clear day gave us spectacular views and these videos really give great perspective of the terrain on the mountain! Thanks Koky Castañeda for shooting this clips!

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#playitsmart: <br>Summit of Aconcagua

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#playitsmart:
Summit of Aconcagua

View from the summit of the highest mountain in South America. This was my second peak in the Seven Summits Quest and an amazing experience. I infused at my own personal record of 17,000ft on this trip!

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Unforeseen Hurdles

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Unforeseen Hurdles

Well folks, just when you think you've figured everything out, life throws you a curveball. Just a couple of weeks ago I was excited to share the news of my next adventure in my Quest for the Seven Summits, a climb of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. I put down my deposit for the climb and started to search for sponsors. It was happening no matter what ... until my application for my permit was denied. The reason? My hemophilia.

To say I was crushed is to put it mildly. It's been quite sometime since I was told I couldn't do something because I have hemophilia, and I forgot how much that hurts. Our community believes that anything is possible with hemophilia, as they should, but in reality it's always there. We are never going to be "normal" and we will have to endure obstacles that others won't in order to follow our dreams and goals. To be honest, I am still pretty down about the whole situation but I will not let this end my quest.

It's easy to get upset with the group that denied my permit, but after reading the letter explaining their decision I can see that some education on hemophilia will alleviate their concerns. Unfortunately, that process will take time and since my original departure day is only 45 days from now it will likely mean pushing back my attempt until next year. In reality, one year isn't that big of a deal. It will allow me more time to train, find sponsors, and educate the company about my condition. I have to thank everyone who I've talked to about this for helping me see the silver-lining in this tough situation. Mt Vinson will become a reality and this is just a bump in the road!

I leave you with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi. I believe this quote resonates strongly within the hemophilia and bleeding disorders world. The struggles I have endured because of hemophilia have shaped who I am and have made me stronger. I definitely won't let a denied permit stop me!

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NEW ADVENTURES!

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NEW ADVENTURES!

Life has been an incredible whirlwind over the last few months and I apologize for not keeping you all updated. Climbing and traveling aren't the only adventures in life and the last month has been full of those "other" adventures. My goal with this site has always been to share all adventures and last week was the best to date, I GOT MARRIED!

Last Friday, Jess and I had the most incredible wedding, surrounded by family and friends. As I stood in front of the arbor with Jess' grandfather I started tearing up looking at my beautiful bride. I couldn't have been happier with our adventure and think about all the adventures to come. I reflected on the ups and downs, the good times and the hard. Sometimes you find someone that completes you and makes you the person you dream of and that's Jess for me. All my accomplishments with climbing and in other endeavors probably wouldn't have happened without her and I couldn't wait to marry her. Our wedding was amazing! We were surrounded by friends and family, danced all night and laughed until ours faces hurt.

So thats where I've been the last few months, planning a wedding and getting hitched! Now life as a married man begins and planning the next big endeavor has begun! I'm excited to announce that I am going to Antarctica in December to climb the highest peak there, Mt. Vinson! Antarctica seems to be a magical place. I believe it still has the allure of being the last exotic and relatively unknown place is this world and I can't wait to go there.

Over the next two months I will be posting more about training and preparation for this epic journey. This climb is also going to be an unofficial fundraiser for Save One Life, a cause close to my heart. Although there no people with hemophilia living on Antarctica and I may be the first person with hemophilia on the continent, it is part of our world, as are those living with our condition in much more desperate situations. I encourage you all to check out their site and donate if possible or even better sponsor a child!

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Adventures in Papua, Jungle Trekking + Planes With No Seats: Part 2

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Adventures in Papua, Jungle Trekking + Planes With No Seats: Part 2

The summit of Carstensz Pyramid seemed so abrupt. I trained for months and months and after only one complete day on the mountain we had already summited. It felt strange but still very satisfying. The next part of our journey would take us through a place that very few outsiders have ever seen, the jungles of Papua. Our porters from the local Papuan tribes arrived in the late afternoon on the day after the summit. There were about a dozen of them, most without shoes but with huge smiles. I couldn't process how they could walk barefoot on the sharp rocks but I would soon see that they are just tough. The rocks didn't even seem to phase them. As we prepared for our short trek to the first camp the porters had an intense negotiation with our local guides. It was interesting to stand back and listen even though we had no clue what was going on. After about 30 minutes a deal was struck and off we went. Our first day was extremely short, only about 2 hours over the nearest ridge. It rained for most of the trek. We would camp next to the light blue glacier fed lake we saw a few days ago and with the steep wet rocks surrounding us made us feel like we were on another planet.

The next morning was clear and beautiful but our Indonesian guides insisted that we wear our rubber rain boots that day. It was fairly dry around camp but over New Zealand pass was supposedly muddy. My boots were pretty comfortable so I thought I would give it a shot. The first part of the trail was steep and rocky; terrible in rubber boots. As we climbed we got our last looks at Carstensz. It was so clear you could even see the Tyrolean Traverse near the summit. Looking at the traverse from this perspective made my heart skip a beat. We cruised up to the top of New Zealand pass and said our farewells to the mountain. As we began the descent the landscape changed drastically. The jagged peaks were replaced with hills covered by vegetation but the steepness didn't change. The initial descent was hairy. The steep steps down onto moss or loose gravel wasn't to scary, it was the steep drop off to each side and below that freaked me out. We took our time down and eventually it leveled out...for a bit. we descended by two stunning lakes and into the more dense vegetation. I was hoping we would encounter mud at some point to justify my choice in boots but we didn't. It was fairly dry everywhere. Once in the vegetation the trek became more difficult. Not only did it become insanely step again but we had to balance on slippery tree roots and watch out for hidden holes in the underbrush. It was intense but so much fun. The porters were right on our heals which was incredibly impressive. They navigated this crazy terrain with huge bags and no shoes as easily as you or I would stroll down the sidewalk. We reached a beautiful camp in an open field and got some rest before another big day.

The next morning I awoke early and watched the sunrise over camp and into the valley. It was a great time to reflect on what an amazing journey this had been. I was in complete amazement about where I was; in the middle of nowhere Papua Indonesia. So wild. We set off early and had a big day ahead of us. The first part of our day was spent in what our local guides called a savannah. There were few trees, mostly grasses and man was it hot and humid. The hiking was easy but the heat was brutal. We covered a huge amount of ground throughout the day and gained and lost a ton of elevation. We started at over 12,000ft dropped down to under 10,000 then all the way back to over 12,000ft and finally back to around 11,000. It was an epic day.

Day three of our trek was the most exciting for me, we were finally going into the jungle! I have never really been in a jungle so I couldn't wait to experience it. Once we entered the trekking became extremely difficult. Slippery roots crisscrossed the trail and while I was focusing on my footing I also had to keep my eyes peeled for low branches hanging overhead. I had to focus constantly in order to not trip and keep up our pace. The jungle was stunning. The trail in many parts was simply a log spanning over a small ravine. It was fun balancing across the logs and climbing over downed trees. The best part of the trek was when we approached the river. The trail traversed back and forth across the river. Some of the bridges were simply trees laying from bank to bank and others were bunches of sticks and bamboo tied together. Every bridge was a little scary and super exciting. Along the banks, where it was to steep for a trail, log platforms were hammered into the bank. It was simply amazing. In the late afternoon we came across one of the coolest sights I have ever seen. A family of four was standing beside their hut next to the river. This family lived in the middle of the jungle and were pretty excited to see outsiders walk by their home. It was a spectacular sight. We had to cross the river one more time before camp but this time there was no bridge. We had to wade through the middle of it. The water wasn't super deep but it was still a bit scary, fortunately two porters, a mother and son, waited for us. She waded into the middle of the river and helped us all across. They were amazing and made us feel so safe and welcome. The last night in the tent was spent in a less than ideal campsite. It was up above the river on a not so flat clearing. Although the camping that night wasn't the most comfortable, I was bummed that the trip was almost over and this would be our last night in the tent.

I slept surprisingly well considering I ended up in a ball in the corner of the tent. We packed the tents for the final time and headed out for the short hike to the village. The trail was similar to the day prior. Narrow trails crisscrossing the river with no sign of civilization. We hiked for several hours, trying to absorb all the sights and sounds of the jungle when a small hut appears on a hill in the distance. We were almost there! Around another corner sweet potato fields covered the sides of hills. We climbed up and down hills when finally we came to a fence. We crawled over and through the sweet potato fields. We came across the river the village uses and four boys were playing in the water...with HUGE machetes in their hands! It was a little startling but I had to remember that is the way of life here. We hung out with the boys for awhile, filled our water and just enjoyed our surroundings.

As we finished off our trek we strolled into the most amazing place I have ever been, the village of Surangama. Pigs ran about, children laughed and played, the older gentlemen of the village sat and enjoyed cigarettes and everyone smiled and welcomed us to their home. We dropped our gear and then sat in the open space between the huts with all the villagers. We took pictures and laughed with them, I even held a new baby! The villagers really got a kick out of that! As night fell we were invited into a hut and sat around the fire. It was so peaceful sitting with the family and the pigs inside the hut. What an amazing experience!

We left the village at 6:00AM and I was really sad to leave. I could've spent days there. We had a hour motorcycle ride to Sugama and the airport and man that was scary. The first part of the ride was along a dirt trail, through streams and around tons of windy roads. It was freaky but once we reached a better dirt road it was fun! We arrived safely to the airport and waited for our plane to arrive. As we waited several pigs ran across the runway and people hung out next to it. As the plane came into land the airport "security" person had to clear the runway and yell at people to get back. The plane landed, the cargo unloaded, then we were ready to go. I walked over to the plane as I was about to get in the "security" guy said "There are no seats, that ok?" I was a little shocked but he was right, there were no seats but what choice did we have. As I crawled in and toward the front of the plane and worker told me to hook my feet under some straps that were on the ground. He said, "Like a seatbelt." It was more hilarious than scary. We all loaded in with the bags sitting loose in the middle and took off. Luckily it was a smooth flight and the pilot even shared his lunch with us! We landed in Nabire safely and headed to the hotel and showers. It was amazing to call home and rinse the sweat of the journey off. It was a little tough to get used to all these amenities but it was great to relax and reflect on this spectacular journey.

Thank you for reading about this amazing journey and I also want to thank Laurie Kelley and LA Kelley Communications. Laurie has always believed in this crazy dream and without her support I don't know if I would've made it this far. I hope you all keep following this journey and please let me know if there is anything else you want to hear about! I love sharing my experiences!

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Adventures in Papua, Carstensz Pyramid: Part 1

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Adventures in Papua, Carstensz Pyramid: Part 1

I have been home for a couple days now and my recent trip and climb in Papua Indonesia seems like a distant memory. I still remember everything vividly but the entire experience feels surreal, like a great big magnificent dream. I always knew that climbing the mountain would be a fun challenge and it was that and more. The beautiful culture we experienced throughout the trip was astonishing. I loved every second we spent with the native people as well as our great climbing team. I have to say having positive rockstars in a team makes everything better.

One aspect of this climb that caught me off guard a little was the difficulty of getting to the mountain. I took three flights just to meet up with my team in Bali, Indonesia. It took FOUR more to get to the village where we would catch our final ride on a helicopter to the mountain! I'll start my story in Nabire, Papua before we took a small flight to Enarotali, the village where the helicopter would be picking us up. Our team and our gear filled up most of the small plane and we were all super excited to take one step closer to the mountain. I was sitting in the first row behind the pilot and as he showed up, I noticed that there was no co-pilot. Since there was an open seat up front I had to ask if I could jump up there. Our French pilot said "Sure!, It's pretty illegal but it's Papua and no one cares." We took off the small runway and climbed out over the ocean before turning back inland. The jungles were dense and the mountains were shockingly steep. The flight was about 40 minutes long and from the sky I could only see one or two small signs of human life. Enarotali resides on the edge of a beautiful lake near the center of the island of Papua. Many villages dotted the shoreline of the lake with Enarotali being the largest. We started the descent for landing when the pilot informed us that he had to buzz past the "airport" to let them know we were coming to land and clear the runway. I thought that might be a joke but sure enough, people started scattering. The landing was fairly smooth considering the dirt runway. As we pulled in to park, a plane that crashed there two weeks ago was being stripped down for parts and pigs were running all around us. Apparently if a plane hits one of the pigs...the pilot has to pay for it. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.

We unloaded our bags and walked down the street to our guest house. It was a stunning day out so our team took a stroll down to the local market. Vibrant colors and huge smiles from the locals were extremely welcoming. Everyone wanted to come and practice their English with us and get their pictures taken. The conversations were mostly just "Hello" "Good morning" but the effort and desire to try was amazing! We could've walked around all day but lunch was waiting back at the guest house. We had a wonderful lunch and listened as a huge rainstorm began. Our afternoon of cruising the market was out so we had to fill the time, thankfully my friend Vibs was prepared. She brought "Yahtzee"!!!! We played most of the afternoon and this became our official game of the trip. I must include that I won TWO games in Enarotali.

Early the next morning was our much awaited flight to the mountain basecamp but I was awoken much much earlier with an extremely upset stomach, an unfortunate side effect from travel and eating different unfamiliar foods. I'm sure some of you don't want to hear about this but it is a very real aspect of travel sometimes. Not only was I worried I couldn't make the helicopter flight to the mountain but I was becoming extremely dehydrated before a huge gain in altitude, which is never a good thing. Luckily, everything cleared up a few minutes before we took the drive to the helipad. I still didn't feel 100% but I was pumped for this flight!

As we waited for the heli to come the sun slowly rose over the village. Everything was damp with dew and it was incredibly peaceful. I have only ridden in a helicopter once before but this was very different. As the heli landed, the crew jumped out and uncovered the fuel barrels that were sitting only a few feet away and rolled them toward the chopper. Then another member of the crew came over with a bathroom scale and asked us to stand on it with our gear so they could calculate the loads we could take up. Everything still seemed super safe, it was just fun to see how they needed to improvise in these remote areas. We loaded all our gear, jumped on board and off we went! As we rose above the village and started sweeping over the fields all thoughts of my upset stomach were gone.

The first half of the ride was over dense jungle covered hills and mountains. Green as far as the eye could see. Lakes and rivers lingered in the valleys as the only disruptions of the vegetation. Through the front glass I could see huge limestone ridges approaching. Ryan pointed out the summit of Carstensz far in the distance and a nervous excitement spread over me. We flew by the massive mine that is the only sign of humans in the vicinity and is a very controversial topic in its own right, something that I won't get into here. Suddenly the terrain changed drastically and the vegetation gave way to stunning grey. As we neared basecamp my view went from the vast jungle to a shear limestone wall. I couldn't see anything but rock out my side of the heli. We touched down, grabbed our gear, spun around and stood in awe as the seemingly tiny helicopter took off in front of the most massive rock wall I have ever seen, Carstensz Pyramid!

Our basecamp was located at almost 14,000ft (4200m). Another small team was waiting there for their summit attempt the next day but that was it. We strolled over to our camp and began helping set up tents before the second half of our team arrived on the next chopper. As I carried a tent over to a flat spot and bent over to start assembling the poles I felt the huge elevation gain we had just made. We all had to take it easy until our bodies could adjust. With most of the tents up and waited for the next heli to arrive. It was almost as exciting to watch the next helicopter come in for landing as being on it! The setting and watching it cruise in for landing was absolutely stunning! Our other teammates jumped of and unloaded gear. We all walked over to camp and enjoyed a long lunch before getting a little hike in. We were all very anxious to get climbing after being cooped up in planes and hotels for the last few days and the short hike felt great! We hiked up a short ridge that led to the old basecamp for the climb. At the top of that ridge two stunning lakes came into view. One was light blue and hazy while the lake next to it was stunningly clear. Turns out one of the lakes is fed mostly from a glacier just above while the other is only fed by rain which give them the strikingly different looks. Another strange feature of this area was the limestone rock. I have never felt rock like this before. It had so much grip and was extremely coarse, even razor sharp in some places. A slight drizzle began so we decided to head down so we wouldn't get soaked the first day. Rain in the afternoon would become a very common theme of our time at Carstensz base camp. It felt so good to be back on a mountain and summit day would only be two days away!

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TOUGH HEMOPHILIA DAY

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TOUGH HEMOPHILIA DAY

The great thing about having hemophilia in the US is sometimes we get to forget about our hemophilia. I mean, it's always in the back of our mind, but sometimes it's so far back you almost feel like you don't have it. Today....is not one of those days. Today is one of those days that I wish I never had hemophilia.

As many of you know, I am getting ready to climb Carstensz Pyramid, the highest mountain on the Oceania continent, which means lots of training. On Saturday I over did it. I was working on my core and must've torn some muscles. On Sunday it just felt sore and I hoped that just kicking back and watching the Super Bowl and resting would help. By Monday morning I realized it wasn't just sore, it was a bleed and the damage had been done. I don't recall ever having an ab bleed before but it's miserable. Every movement kills. I of course infused but there isn't any instant relief. 

Today was even worse. Not so much the pain part but the missing out on something amazing part. Today is the start of a ski trip with my fiancé and some friends and I am sitting on the sidelines. I always find it tough to sit back while others have fun but instead of sulking like I used to I thought I would share some of my experiences with sitting out.

When this happened growing up I did something incredibly stupid, something 99.9% of bleeders do as kids (and even some adults), go participate anyway. My most vivid memory of doing this was in high school. I hurt my quad playing baseball, a pretty minor injury at first, but I refused to sit on the sideline. No coaches forced me to play I simply hid it from them so I didn't miss out. This obviously didn't end well. I ended up tearing the muscle and had a crazy bad bleed and missed months and months of baseball. I actually think my leg has never been the same. It's almost impossible to explain this to kids but man what a difference it would've made if I just sat out for a little while.

As I got older I became better about sitting out but then I started getting really depressed, something I still battle with today. When you're in pain not having fun while others are just plain sucks. I wish I had some magic advice to get over it but I haven't figured it out yet. As soon as I figure it out I'll let you know but so far the best solution I have found is to just think about the future. I am hopeful I can get on the slopes this week but I absolutely know if I went out today, I wouldn't make it long before I aggravate the injury and would be in intense pain again and for sure miss the rest of the trip. It doesn't make today easy but it does make it more bearable. 

Days like these make me angry towards my hemophilia. As a person that tries to live every day to the fullest, losing one seems devastating but there is a lot I owe to living with hemophilia. I know it's made me tough, probably tougher than 90% of other people and it gives me pride that I am tough. It has also made me think more critically about the decisions I make and about future consequences and benefits. I might not always make the best decision but I do know the possible results when making those decisions. And #1 it has made me appreciate the good days. Those days where hemophilia is on the back burner. I love those days and I know one of those days is right around the corner.

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IT'S OFFICIAL! SUMMIT NUMBER 5 IS HAPPENING THIS MARCH!

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IT'S OFFICIAL! SUMMIT NUMBER 5 IS HAPPENING THIS MARCH!

I am pleased to announce that my quest is continuing and very soon! I will be heading to Carstensz Pyramid March 6th to attempt to climb the highest peak on the Oceania Continent! I will be climbing with Mountain Professionals again as well as two of my friends that I climbed with in Alaska. Carstensz Pyramid stands 16,023ft high and will be the most techincal mountain so far. That doesn't mean it is the most difficult though. There are some sections where basic rock climbing and rappeling skills are needed which makes it more technical. Carstensz is located near the equator so temperature year round is similar but that doesn't mean it can't snow!

Normally a helicopter is taken over the tropical jungle to base camp and back off the mountain but not our trip! We will be flying to base camp but hiking out! This will add several days onto our trip but what an experience. I can't wait to see what this adventure holds! I will be posting from the mountain so please remember to follow along!

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DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 3: 14,000FT TO SUMMIT

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DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 3: 14,000FT TO SUMMIT

I last left you at 14,000ft camp on Mt. Mckinley. As I’ve said, this was the most beautiful camp on the mountain, but also the most intimidating. Just up the mountain from camp is the Headwall, the steepest section of the entire climb. It’s incredibly hard to judge how big the wall is … until you see people on it. I remember waking up our first morning at 14 camp and coming out of the tent to see these tiny specs on the trail up to the ridge. Those tiny specs were people! The magnitude of the Headwall was insane! We weren’t heading up the wall that day, but it was fun watching other teams make their way up. I was really looking forward to testing myself on the wall in the days to come. Our first day was mostly a rest day with a quick trip back down to windy corner to grab our cache. The move to 14,000 was really tough, so I was quite glad to recover for a day even if we didn’t get to rest completely. We had to dig a new kitchen out which turned out to be exhausting. Generally, we dug the kitchen a few feet into the snow so you can stand up under the tent that covers it. About a foot into digging we nailed a solid ice layer. It was about a foot of solid ice that we had to get through. It took hours and hours, and was absolutely exhausting, but in the end we had a wonderful kitchen to hang out in.

The next morning was an early one. We woke up at 5 A.M. for another carry day. Our goal was to carry gear up the Headwall and part of the way up 16,000 ridge to a place called Washburns Thumb. We headed out of camp around 7 A.M. It took about 15 minutes to get from camp to the base of the wall. Fifteen minutes is a long time to stare at something that intimidating, but once we started climbing I really began to enjoy it. With something that steep it feels like you make progress very quickly. Every time we took a break and looked back at 14 camp it looked significantly smaller and it gave me a sense of accomplishment. After about 2 hours of climbing up the wall we reached the fixed lines, the steepest part of our entire climb. Fixed lines are ropes put in place by the park service that are secured onto the mountain. When you reach them you clip an ascender to the rope. An ascender is a really cool tool that slides easily up the rope but won’t slide backwards. It’s there for safety on such a steep section. If you fell without the ascender you would most likely slide forever and take your entire team with you. The fixed lines finish off the headwall and although it was insanely hard, it was the best part of the climb. I really felt like I was climbing a big mountain.

Climbing the headwall!

Climbing the headwall!

We took a quick break at the top of the headwall, then continued up the first part of the 16,000 ridge. This has to be the craziest place I have ever been! Not only are we climbing higher but we are on a narrow ridge line. In a few places you walk along a narrow section and on either side of you are thousand foot drops! It took us about 5 hours to reach our cache point and everyone was in great spirits. We snacked and rested a bit before heading down. Heading down the ridge was a little bit scarier then going up it. You could really feel how high you were and how narrow the ridge was, but the view was incredible! As we descended back to camp I started to feel a small twinge of a headache developing. Headaches can indicate that you are getting a bit of altitude sickness. If altitude sickness progresses it can be disastrous and even fatal in some cases. I knew that I didn’t drink enough water throughout the day and the previous day when we were building our kitchen. I hoped that if I drank enough I could reverse the effects. By the time we were ready to eat dinner though my headache was ragging and I even felt a little nauseous. I forced myself to eat and drink and tried to go to bed early and get some rest. At least there was a rest day the next day to hopefully get over that headache.

16 ridge on Denali

16 ridge on Denali

When I awoke the next morning the headache was gone!! I was so glad that I was feeling better especially since it was the 4th of July! We had an awesome breakfast of pancakes and had a great time chatting throughout the day. We didn’t get to rest completely though. The great part about the Alaska Mountaineering School guides was that they were constantly teaching. We headed part way up the headwall and practiced our self arrest skills (stopping yourself from sliding down the mountain). It was fun and definitely something we needed to be really good at. I had another infusion planned for that day and as I was getting ready to do it, my guide Melis asked if she could try again. She had been studying the cheat sheet for infusions that I had given her and wanted to see if she could get through the entire process without help. That was awesome! I loved that she wanted to try again and make sure she had it dialed in. We sat it the kitchen andinfused. She nailed every step up until she almost forgot to take the tourniquet off! We caught it in time though and the infusion went great. 

View from the top of the headwall with Mt. Foraker in the background

View from the top of the headwall with Mt. Foraker in the background

The next day was probably the biggest day of the entire climb next to summit day. We were moving to high camp at 17,000ft to get ready for our summit push. We couldn’t have asked for better weather to move up the mountain. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The headwall was just as difficult physically this time but since we had already been up it once, didn’t feel as daunting. The 16,000 ridge was even more spectacular with the cloudless sky. You could literally see for hundreds of miles in every direction. It was completely surreal. I felt like I was hiking in a painting all day. We reached Washburns Thumb, and our cache, fairly quickly and loaded everything into our packs which meant ridiculously huge packs. Washburn’s Thumb also has fixed lines on it. It’s very steep for a few hundred feet, but with gigantic packs it was killer. Once we got up the thumb we moved pretty slowly. It was even narrower than below and we had to make sure enough protection was in place in case of a fall. It took us another few hours to reach camp but I still felt strong when we arrived. As we pulled in, we heard the radio chatter from other teams on their summit day. They were having a great day and were almost to the summit. I was thrilled for them and excited that we would hopefully be in the same spot tomorrow. As we ate dinner we talked about the impending summit push. We only brought two tents up instead of our usual three, so it was tight and no one slept well that night. It’s hard to shut your mind off when the summit is just hours away.

Heading up the Autobahn on summit day

Heading up the Autobahn on summit day

I did eventually dose off but morning came quickly. Since it is light out almost all day, we didn’t have to get up crazy early like some other mountains I have been on. I put on every layer of clothing I had, it was super cold, and we headed out around 9 A.M.. The first obstacle we encountered was the Autobahn. A very steep uphill section followed by a traverse over to Denali Pass. The uphill wasn’t too bad, but the traverse was very hairy. It was incredibly steep and this area is notorious for falls. This is where most of the protection on summit day is used so travel is pretty slow. We rested quickly at Denali Pass then continued through Zebra Rocks, another steep section that is fairly short. We began to slow down here. The effects of this exhausting adventure began to show on members of our team. I still felt great but we needed to stick together. We were all going to make it.

We started out taking lots of breaks on summit day, but the weather began to change. We needed to keep moving. As we reached the Football Field, a large flat area before the last steep section, clouds started to form. Luckily it was still warm out, but I noticed the teams ahead of us up on Pig Hill began to fade into the clouds. We started up Pig Hill knowing that was the last hard part until the summit, we were almost there!!! It took us a long time to get up Pig Hill and the weather was changing fast. I was so nervous that we weren’t going to be able to make it. Would we have to turn around so close to the summit? We got to the top of Pig Hill and I waited to hear the dreaded words from the guide, “We have to go down.”. Those words thankfully never came, though we did need to pick up the pace on the Summit Ridge. I read a lot about the knife edge on the Summit Ridge and how hairy this place can be. As I was making my way, I remember thinking that it wasn’t so bad, but that was probably because we couldn’t see anything! It seemed like we were in a cotton ball. We could see the trail and the bamboo wands placed by the groups ahead of us but that was it. We hiked in this snow globe for about 15 more minutes and passed the other groups coming back down from the summit. They were elated and gave us great encouragement that we were close. They were right. We rose over the final ridge and a small summit marker stood on the top of North America. After seven hours, we made it! I felt like I was about to break into tears, but never did. Maybe I was too tired. I honestly couldn’t believe I made it. This climb was the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I doubted whether I could do it many many times during the journey. But I made it. I was proud of myself and my team for never quitting. The weather really began rolling in while we were on the summit. Backpacks had to stay on and we could only get one or two photos before starting the decent. I wish we could’ve stayed longer, but I was overjoyed to just have made it.

Group shot at the summit!

Group shot at the summit!

The descent started out amazingly. Melis let me lead our way off of the summit. My job was to find the wands in the snow globe, get us to them safely, and then clip into the protection next to the wands. The first few were easy but as we descended lower it became more difficult. At one point I was making my way to the next wand and the clouds broke for a split second to my left. I could see thousands of feet straight down to massive rocks. It was incredibly freaky not to know that was there, and then to have it disappear again. I continued to lead down to Pig Hill. About half way down the hill the trail just disappeared. The wind had blown snow over the little trail I could see and at that point I couldn’t even see far enough to the next wand. I turned around and could barely see the other two people on my rope. We stopped, and Melis looked around for the trail. It looked bleak for quite awhile. We even went back uphill to try and find our last wand to no avail. Just when it looked like we might have to dig a snow cave and hunker down for the night, the clouds and snow broke just enough to reveal the next wand. We made our way to it and continued down. The wind really started howling lower on the mountain but at least the clouds and snow dissipated and bit. 

We were going slowly on the decent. The other team member on our rope was absolutely spent which is completely understandable. I was now the last person from our team going down the mountain with the responsibility of cleaning the protection as we went passed. We approached Zebra Rocks and as my teammate made his way down the steepest section I was getting ready to stop and clean some gear. I was about to shout ahead and tell the team to stop when suddenly the rope snapped me off my feet and threw me on my side. My teammate had fallen and this ripped me off my feet! In the split second this happened all our training flashed through my mind. I landed on my ice axe and immediately rolled into self arrest position to stop the fall. We didn’t slide far but I held on tight. I called down to make sure everything was OK but heard nothing. The wind was hollowing. I kept yelling for about ten minutes but still no answer. I didn't dare move until I knew absolutely sure everyone was OK. Finally, I hear Melis’ voice above the wind asking what was going on. Apparently everything was perfectly fine below, and they had been yelling up to see if I was OK, I just wasn’t able to hear a thing. I unclipped and cleaned the protection to head down, my heart was still racing. I thought something really bad had happened. It took us forever to finish our decent but we all walked into camp safe and sound. It took us 14 hours overall and we were greeted with hot water and some food. I slept so hard that night. I never thought I could be that exhausted. 

Back to 17 camp after a successful summit!

Back to 17 camp after a successful summit!

The next day the storm was in full force with incredible wind. We couldn’t move down in those conditions so we rested in the tent the entire day. I can’t say I was disappointed. When we were finally able to move down, we did it in a BIG way. We packed up our stuff and descended ALL THE WAY DOWN! From 17,000ft to the runway and base camp, picking up all our other gear on the way. That meant huge packs and heavy sleds for almost 18 hours. This day is a complete blur. It’s known as the march of death and was even harder than summit day. The absolute worst part was the last hill going into base camp known as Heartbreak Hill. We had been descending for 16 hours at that point and then we had to climb again, 500 vertical feet back to the runway. I thought I could never be more tired than summit day, but I was so wrong. I was completely destroyed going up that hill. The only thing that keeps you going is knowing that was the end. Once we got to that camp … no more hiking. I don’t think I have ever been so relieved to make it somewhere. I dropped my pack in camp knowing it wouldn’t have to go back on for a long, long time. It actually started raining as we set up camp at the runway which was pretty miserable, but we were all in great spirits. We finally went to sleep around 2 A.M. knowing we were almost done. The next morning we packed up for the final time. As we sat on all of our gear waiting for the plane, our guide surprised us with some cold beers they had stashed. It was amazing! The journey and adventure of climbing the highest peak in North America was now over. To this day it all feels like an incredible dream.

Now no one can say someone with hemophilia can’t climb that mountain.

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DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 2: LOWER GLACIER TO 14,000FT

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DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 2: LOWER GLACIER TO 14,000FT

This year, Denali lived up to the hype of brutal weather. Summit rates plummeted from the typical 50% to the low 30% when we arrived in Talkeetna, and having a HUGE snow day so early into the trip made us all a bit concerned. After our snowshoe fun we discussed our plan of action. Our amazing guide Melis decided we needed to wait for the snow to settle before heading up the mountain. Not only would this lessen the danger of avalanches, but also make travel over the feet of new snow easier. Another group had different plans and wanted to move as soon as the snow stopped and the clouds cleared. We saw them struggle past our camp and begin the ascent of Ski Hill. Hours later they were still in sight. It took them 6 hours to reach a point that only took us 2 hours a few days before. I was so glad our guide made the decision to leave bright and early the next morning.

Camp 1 after the snowstorm

Camp 1 after the snowstorm

We woke up at 3 A.M. the following day and the weather looked great. We packed up camp, organized all our gear, and headed out. Luckily, the team that left the night before broke trail up Ski Hill and we moved quite easily. We found the other group camped not far from where we last saw them. They must’ve been exhausted and had to camp there. Another AMS team left a few hours before us so the trail was also broken most of the way. About 3/4 of the way to 11,000 camp we passed the other AMS team descending back to Camp 1. They cached their gear and were heading back for the night. From there on out it looked like we would be breaking trail. Melis lead to the cache and when we arrived we decided to pick up ALL of our gear and head up the final hill. I was feeling good until this point. Then things changed quickly.

From the cache we only had a few hundred feet of untracked snow to make it to the rest of the trail. These few hundred feet were the worst of the entire trip. I was second on the rope team following our guide Mike. He charged into the fresh snow and was moving quickly. I was trying to step opposite of him so that the snow would be packed down evenly for the others. It was brutal! We were sinking knee deep in snow on snowshoes! I think I would’ve been able to handle it but the pace was too fast for me. Instead of asking Mike to slow down I tried to tough it out. I failed. By the time I said something my legs were dead and we still had the entire hill left. The next 2 hours were brutal. I asked for more breaks and my legs finally came back. We made it to camp and I hoped that was the worst day I would have on the mountain. I knew from then on I would be more vocal about how I was feeling. There is no shame in asking for a break or slowing down the pace a bit.

Camp at 11,000ft

Camp at 11,000ft

We had a much needed rest day after our move to 11,000ft camp, at least much needed for me. It was an infusion day and I really wanted to do it outside with the amazing views around. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and I was restricted to my tent. The infusion went well and I was ready to roll for our next trip up the mountain. If you want to see the video of my tent infusion check out my Facebook page.

With my body restored I was ready to tackle our next goal, caching gear near Windy Corner on the trail towards 14,000ft camp. We ditched the sleds for this part of the climbwhich was amazing! I would much rather have a heavier backpack than pull a sled. At this point of the trip we really started climbing the mountain and weren’t just making the approach. Distances between the camps weren’t as great but the elevation gain was pretty much the same. Our first obstacle was Motorcycle Hill. This is where I really felt like I was climbing a mountain. The terrain started getting steep and strangely I started to feel stronger. We knocked out Motorcycle Hill quite nicely and turned up Squirrel Hill. As we were climbing Squirrel Hill our guide informed us of the massive cliff just out of site. That definitely heightened my senses and made me focus even more on every step. A massive avalanche slid over a cliff on the other side of the valley. I have never been so close to a slide and you could really feel the power of it. It was a great reminder that the mountain is always in control.

Getting ready for the carry to Windy Corner

Getting ready for the carry to Windy Corner

The weather kept improving throughout the day and when we cached we had an amazing view. It’s always an amazing feeling being on a mountain above the clouds.   After we buried our cache we headed down. As we descended Squirrel and Motorcycle Hill I was in the lead of our group. The view was absolutely breathtaking and up to that point, it was my favorite day on a mountain. I felt strong again and confident that this was going to be a great trip. That night we got word that another storm may roll in. We built up wind walls around our tents and prepared to be there for awhile. 

The wind picked up overnight and some snow fell but it wasn’t as bad as we thought, but still not great to move in. Melis thought we were going to be stuck for the day until the clouds suddenly started to break. Our guide made a few satellite phone calls to make sure this break would last and decided we needed to pack up and go for it. We took down the tents in the late morning and were on our way to 14,000ft camp just after noon. The trail was harder due to the new snow but we still made great progress. As we reached the top of Squirrel Hill the wind started to pick up and we knew we needed to get around Windy Corner as quickly as possible. Lets just say I get why they call it Windy Corner. We didn’t pick up the rest of our cache this time but we did stop and grab our helmets off the top as we passed the corner. The wind was howling. I grabbed my helmet, continued walking, and then waited for my teammate behind me to put his helmet on. It seemed like it was taking forever. As I glanced back to see what was going on, a freezing gust of wind and blowing snow slammed against my face. I could barely make out my teammate and just turned my back to the wind. The next 10-15 minutes of climbing around Windy Corner were brutal. Then as we crossed onto the 14,000ft side of the corner, the mountain turned peaceful. It was an amazing transformation. We continued on to camp which was still a few hours away. We pulled in around midnight, set up camp, cooked some food, and crashed hard. Another tough, tough day on the mountain. We were now in a fantastic position to get up the mountain and I really felt great at this point.

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DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 1: TALKEETNA AND THE LOWER GLACIER

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DENALI/MT. MCKINLEY PART 1: TALKEETNA AND THE LOWER GLACIER

First of all, I would like to apologize to anyone that was trying to follow my latest adventure on my blog. The site was hacked and a complete mess for awhile, but now it's back up and running! Thankfully I have an amazing friend that understands this computer stuff and magically fixed it all (thanks Andy Hawks!!). So with that all cleared up I can start sharing this amazing adventure with you all. 

I'll start the story out in Talkeetna, Alaska where we met up with the guides and climbers. Talkeetna is an amazing town with a ton of character, we even got to meet the mayor (it's a cat ...). We had an international group with 2 Norwegians, 1 German, 1 Brit, and myself in addition to our guides. The first day together was spent doing a refresher training course where we practiced all of our rope skills. Our instructors were great and I could tell we were going to have an amazing team. We ate dinner together that night, headed to bed early and hoped that the weather would hold for our flight onto the glacier in the morning.

Flying to Basecamp

Flying to Basecamp

The next day was spent checking and packing gear, packing food, and being briefed at the ranger station. A weather system seemed to be rolling in and our 5:00P.M. flight was looking questionable. Luckily, our amazing guide recognized that we would be ready to roll early and got us on a earlier flight. The flight to the glacier was completely surreal. I felt as though I was watching a 3D movie, it couldn't be real. We flew so close to the massive mountains I felt like I could reach out and touch them. The mountains in Colorado are beautiful, but the mountains in Alaska are spectacular! I have seen photos before but they don't do justice. Our pilot skillfully and smoothly set the plane down on the glacier and we exited into a completely new world. As we unloaded the plane and setup camp I caught myself just staring in awe of our surroundings. The mountains made me feel so small and the challenge of climbing Denali became very, very real.

Arriving at Basecamp

Arriving at Basecamp

The last thing I had to take care of before our first night on the glacier was teaching our head guide how to infuse. It was still relatively warm out so we sat under the vestibule of our tent and went through all the steps. Melis was really excited not only to learn how to infuse, but also to learn about hemophilia in general. She nailed the infusion and felt really comfortable with the whole situation. 

Melis infusing at Basecamp

Melis infusing at Basecamp

We woke up at 2:00 A.M. the next day to move up to our first camp. It's important to travel in the middle of the night on the lower glacier because the snow bridges over the crevasses are the most solid during the cold of the night. The funny part about 2:00 A.M. in Alaska is that it's still light out. No need for headlamps here. We loaded up all of our gear on our backs, and into sleds, and headed out. The first few minutes of every climb I've done are always tenuous. I am nervous and unsure of myself but that quickly passes. I got comfortable at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill as we started to gain elevation again, and I got into a nice rhythm. The trail was very mild, but we had to cover several miles before reaching our next camp.

Resting on the way to Camp 1

Resting on the way to Camp 1

Camp 1 was set in the middle of the massive Kahiltna Glacier just short of Ski Hill. We set up camp here including our kitchen and bathroom and got to enjoy another amazing view. We made great time to Camp 1 so we had plenty of time to get rested before we carried a bunch of gear and food up the mountain. We had another early morning on our carry day but the weather was nice again and not too cold ... or so we thought. That quickly changed. As we headed up ski hill the wind started to pick up. The goal was to get our gear all the way to the base of the hill before 11,000ft camp but the weather turned bad quickly. The wind continued to blow but snow was added to the mix. Visibility dropped quickly so we decided to cache where we were. We felt like we had made it a good distance but it was hard to tell when you couldn't see anything besides our group. We quickly buried and marked our cache then headed down. The descent went quickly and we all jumped into our tents to get warm. It snowed lightly most of the day and we were still hopeful of a move to 11,000 camp the next day.

I woke up at 3:00 A.M. to get ready for our move to Camp 2. It was dead silent in the tent and outside. I listened for the guide for 30 minutes before getting ready and when I didn't hear anything I decided to lay back down, plans must've changed. Five minutes later a hear muffled voices. Then our tent shakes and the voices can be heard clearly. There was a nice solid layer of snow insulating us in our tent. It snowed most of the night and it was still dumping. I jumped out of the tent and into a snow globe. Obviously with the amount of snow and wind we wouldn't be able to move. The guides cleared our tent of the first time but then it was our responsibility to keep it cleared off for the remainder of the storm. My tent mate Vibs and I took turns shaking the snow off and shoveling it away. After several hours of snow and rounds of shoveling, the weather cleared and we could see the accumulation of snow that had fallen. Being cooped up in a small tent can be draining, but we made the best of the day by telling jokes and "dancing" in our snowshoes.

More to come in the next few days! Also, please remember to check out and share my donation page here(link is external). We are really close to our goal and anything helps! I also would like to thank ASD Healthcare for being the major sponsor of my climb and a huge supporter of Save One Life.

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Tips For Infusions In Crazy Places!

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Tips For Infusions In Crazy Places!

Chances are if you have hemophilia, and can self-infuse, you've had to do it in less than ideal surroundings. For someone like me, who is terrified of needles, infusing anywhere can be a challenge. So here are some tips I have learned over the years infusing on the sides of mountains, in the backs of vans, on a sailboat, and even in a moving car!

1) Infusions are infusions. No matter where you are, you are putting a needle in your vein. Most of us have done this thousands and thousands of times so that's the easy part.

2) Take a step back. Sometimes when we feel rushed it causes us to miss. As you are about to stick yourself just take a deep relaxing breath. That 2 second breath will save you way more time than a miss as I have learned on occasion. I pulled my quad on my 2011 trip up Kilimanjaro and as soon as I got to camp I worked as fast as I could to infuse ... and blew right through my vein. I was so disappointed in myself but as I regrouped and tried it the second time, I took a deep breath and nailed it!

3) Try to have a few options for veins. When infusing in your typical environment, mix it up, especially if you have some extra time. Having a few options will come in handy if you are ever standing on the side of a mountain and need to infuse ;). Before I get any comments from my girlfriend on this ... I will admit that this is still something I am pretty terrible at. I have a favorite vein that I use over and over. It's my comfort spot to get my infusion done. I do, however, use other veins occasionally that I know I can hit, I just need to practice more.

4) Stay hydrated! One of the keys to successful mountaineering is drinking water and this also helps a TON with infusions. When traveling abroad clean water isn't always easy to come by so keep that in mind when traveling. Take advantage of water when you can.

5) Sometimes you just have to go for it. When I had a bleed on a sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands I only had one option, infuse on a rocking boat. I had no where else to go so I just sucked it up and went for it. It was exciting and a little terrifying but it worked!

6) Teach someone else. It never hurts to have help infusing and many people are open to the idea. Since I travel hours and even days from civilization this is pretty much a must for me. If something happened where I couldn't infuse, I would need help.

7) Sanitize! Just because you are filthy dirty and smell terrible from being some crazy place doesn't mean you can forget to be clean! Wash as well as possible, use 50 alcohol wipes if necessary get clean. Getting an infection from a helpful infusion should never happen!

Hopefully these tips will help ease some tension about infusing out of your comfort zone and please feel free to share any tips you may have! I'm sure more will pop into my head in the future too! Don't miss what this amazing world has to offer just because of your hemophilia. Own it!

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MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 3! SUMMIT DAY!

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MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 3! SUMMIT DAY!

I didn't feel nervous heading to bed the night before our summit attempt but sleep eluded me. I think I only slept one hour at most. Despite not sleeping, I felt great waking up just before three in the morning. After a quick breakfast we headed out and our quest for the summit began. Hiking before sunrise is always an interesting experience. There is no view to distract you from the monotony of the hike. It really becomes a battle between you and your mind. Seeing the sun begin to illuminate the world around me was a relief. As the sun began hitting the massive peaks of Elbrus I witnessed something that I have never seen in my life and something I will never forget, the atmospheric shadow cast by Elbrus. It's extremely hard to describe the phenomenon. Basically, you can see the shadow of Elbrus in the distance but it's not cast upon the surrounding ground, it seems to be hovering just in the distance. Hopefully, the picture below gives you an idea of this spectacular sight.

As the sun kept climbing into the sky, the exhaustion from not sleeping the night before began setting in. Physically I was feeling strong, but I almost felt like I was falling asleep while walking. At our first break, I ate some snacks, drank a bunch of water, and started feeling more energetic. I really enjoyed the first part of the climb. Since the trail between 4500m and 5000m was a constant incline I felt like we were always making progress to the summit. At this point it seemed like our team was doing well but that would quickly change

Once we reached the saddle at about 5100m, I could see the effects of altitude on many of our climbers and the next section to the summit was very steep! Our guides had us take an extended break here and rest up before our final summit push. It's hard to tell from pictures how steep this last section was, but by watching other teams climb, it looked intense! I was excited to see how I would do on this section. As we started out, I got into a great rhythm and felt incredibly strong. We were making great progress and even started catching other teams. I was slightly oblivious to what was going on behind me and when I stopped to shed a layer because I was getting hot, I realized some members of our team weren't doing well. One of the many symptoms of high altitude sickness is nausea and as I looked back at our team, many had succumbed to their nausea and actually vomited. At this point, I didn't think our entire team was going to summit since we were only a third of the way up the steep section.

We slowly kept pushing forward but now my mind was very aware of our surroundings which now included some large and ominous clouds working their way up the mountain. The trail continued to be steep and narrow but I felt very comfortable climbing. Near the top of this last face, the trail loses its vertical difficulty and traverses across a very steep and rocky section. A fixed rope (a rope put in place by guides that stays the entire season) was placed here because the fall risk is fairly high, especially if you're tired and trip on rocks. Also, falling on the rocks here would be catastrophic. I navigated this section smoothly and as we turned the corner I realized we were so close to the summit! We waited here for the rest of our climbers so we could summit as a group. We climbed a small hill and the summit came into view.  After 8 hours of climbing, seeing the summit and knowing I was going to make it was overwhelming. I thought of all the people that have helped get me to these summits and how I never would've made it without them. Our guide greeted us with a proud hug as we officially reached the highest point in Europe. As I pulled out my Save One Life banner and took the celebratory photo at the summit, I couldn't believe I had just climbed my third of the Seven Summits! As we sat on the summit the clouds closed in on us. We couldn't see far into the distance from the summit but that in no way diminished our enthusiasm. About 20 minutes after we summited our final team members crept their way on top. Although not everyone felt amazing on the summit, we all made it!

Snow started falling so we had to leave. After going through the tricky rock section my climbing friend Vibs and I descended the steepest section with one of our team members that was utterly exhausted. We did our best to encourage him and tell him he was doing a great job. Our guide came and said he would stay by our team members' side and help him down. The falling snow made the mountain incredibly peaceful and enjoyable. We hiked with a few more of our exhausted members and gave them encouragement down the steep section down to the saddle. Once there, we rested briefly and split up into two groups. One guide took a few of the faster climbers down while the rest of the guides took our tired members down. Those of us in the first group still took about 3 hours down. The last few steps into the camp were an amazing feeling! I had safely made it up and down Mt. Elbrus!

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MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 2

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MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 2

Our first acclimation hike to prepare for Elbrus was very different then I had expected. Down the hill from our hotel was a small ski area located at the base of Mt. Cheget. On most big mountain hikes we would be carrying a load of gear up to a higher camp and leavie it there, then head back down to our lower camp. On this climb we wouldn't be doing any of that. We gathered light day packs, walked down to the chair lift, and hitched a ride up. The chair lift was an adventure in its own right. It looked like it might have been built in the 1950's and hadn't been updated since then. We took this chair lift as high as we could, then headed for the summit of Mt. Cheget which was only about 1000ft higher than us.

Hiking on Mt. Cheget was interesting and beautiful. Just across the valley was a stunning peak, with a glacier on it that resembled the number 7. Our guide explained to us that the ridge of that mountain was the border between Russia and Georgia and that we were technically hiking in the border zone. I'm not sure if everyone is familiar with Russia-Georgia relations, I sure wasn't, but in 2008 there was an armed conflict between the two nations so the border zone is a serious place. Sergi, our guide, explained that being climbers we were allowed in the area. The hike was easy and fun with beautiful views of the valley. Unfortunately, we were unable to see Mt. Elbrus due to some dense cloud cover. We would have to wait another day to see the highest peak in Europe. We descended to the chair lift and rode it back down to the village for lunch. I think this may have been the first time I have ever ridden a chair lift down! We spent the remainder of the day packing our gear for the mountain and visiting the local market. We had a great time trying to barter with the local women that spoke no English. They were incredibly friendly so we had to buy a few things from them

The next morning, after a filling breakfast, we loaded up our gear and headed for Mt. Elbrus. Interestingly, there is also a ski area on Mt. Elbrus. When we arrived we threw our packs on, jumped on an enormous tram followed by another shaky chair lift and arrived at The Barrels, our basecamp for the entire climb. I had heard many stories about The Barrels, none of which were good but I was pleasantly surprised. Don't get me wrong, The Barrels weren't the Hilton by any means but we got to sleep on beds ... on the highest mountain in Europe. We had an hour to unpack our gear and get ready for another acclimation hike. We would be heading up to an elevation of over 15,000ft know as Pastukhov Rocks. It was surprisingly warm on this hike which made walking on the snow difficult. The snow was more slush then anything so in some of the steeper sections it was difficult to find stable footing. It took us about 3 hours to complete this section of the climb and a few of our climbers began showing symptoms of altitude sickness. Fortunately, I had been staying hydrated and felt no ill effects. I took my time descending back to basecamp, enjoying the cloudless day and the stunning views of the Caucasus Mountains. The rest of the day was spent eating, resting, and getting to know the rest of the climbers in our very international group. There were 2 Americans (including myself), 1 Norwegian, 1 Italian, 1 Germany, 1 Australian, 2 South Africans, and 2 gentlemen for Poland just in our group! It was so much fun learning about their lives and cultures!

The next day on the mountain was spent resting and learning a few safety techniques. Mostly we practiced self arrest techniques. In the event you take a fall on a steep section of  a mountain and are sliding down the slope, you use your ice ax to arrest (stop) your slide. To practice this technique we hiked about 20 minutes from camp and literally started sliding down the mountain, stopping ourselves with our axes. It was really fun to practice this technique but we also had to keep it serious. This could end up saving our lives on the mountain. After self arrest training others in our group also practiced hiking around in their crampons. We went back to camp for lunch and more rest. We were heading for the summit early the next morning and I was beginning to get nervous. I spent time going over all my gear but rest eluded me. The night before the summit was a restless one but my third summit of the Seven Summits was just hours away!

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MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 1

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MT. ELBRUS ADVENTURE PART 1

First of all, my success on Mt. Elbrus and my amazing adventure in Russia never would've happened without all of you. Your support has been absolutely amazing and I hope you all enjoy hearing my stories.

Setting up this trip was a bit chaotic. The guide I usually climb with and wanted to climb with on Elbrus was unable to take a trip this year, which meant more planning on my part. Fortunately, he was still around for advice and he even recommended a group in Russia. Thankfully another of his usual climbers also decided to join me. After some miscommunications and stressful moments we got the whole trip planned and I boarded my flights to Russia! It was comforting to know that I had one of my climbing partners meeting me at the airport and an even bigger relief finally meeting her. Her name is Vibeke and she rocks!

The ride to the hotel was interesting and fun. First of all, the highways in and around Moscow are terrifying! There are marked lane lines and posted speed limits but I think they are just suggestions. Motorcycles flew by, cars cut each other off. It was intense just riding in the car, I couldn't imagine driving there. On the ride, Vibs and I talked about all our experiences climbing and about life in general. She told me about her amazing job for the United Nations and her experiences all around the world. We also have very similar feelings about traveling. We were both tired and could've probably taken a nap when we got to the hotel but we were in Russia!!! We had to get out and explore! A local market was close to the hotel so we spent most of the evening there. On the Fourth of July we headed for downtown Moscow and Red Square! It was strange to spend America's biggest holiday in the center of the former USSR but what an experience. We also spent hours in the State History Museum looking at treasures from Russia's past. There were many beautiful things to see in Moscow but my mind was always drifting towards Mt. Elbrus.

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I woke up early on July 5th, headed to the airport and boarded another flight, this one bound for Mineralyne Vody, Russia. Waiting at baggage claim was our guide Sergi and other climbers from our team. The drive to our hotel was quite long and equally as exciting as our rides in Moscow. The only difference being that cows were a common obstacle on the roads. About a hour into the drive the scenery changed from rolling farming fields to some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. We were finally there! We had an informal dinner at the hotel that evening. Tomorrow we would actually get out on the mountain!

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Aconcagua Part 1: Trekking to Basecamp and Climbing to Campo Uno

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Aconcagua Part 1: Trekking to Basecamp and Climbing to Campo Uno

Before I start telling you all about my fantastic trip to Argentina and successful summit of Aconcagua, I wanted to quickly thank everyone that has been following my adventure and supporting me throughout this endeavor.  Knowing I had so much support really helped propel me through some tough and arduous days on the mountain.  THANKS EVERYONE!!!!  I hope you enjoy my story of the climb and don't forget that there is still time to donate!! Visit http://www.saveonelife.net/seven-summits-quest.php(link is external)to donate!

After an extremely long trip down to Argentina, I arrived in Mendoza full of excitement and trepidation.  I'm always a little nervous about leaving home for these trips but this one a bit more than others.  It must have been because I was traveling alone because as soon as I ran into some of the other climbers in my group in Chile my nerves calmed.  All my gear arrived safely in Mendoza (another worry of mine) and our guide met us outside customs.  It was a strange sensation but as soon as we got in the cabs to go to the hotel my nervousness left me and I just became excited to get climbing!  We had a great night and morning at the hotel organizing gear, going over the game plan for the climb and getting to know our entire team.   We hit the town early the next day, bought our climbing permits and hit the road toward the mountains.

The drive up toward the trailhead took about two and a half hours but the scenery was incredible!  Most of the crew caught up on sleep for the drive but I wanted to take in as much of the scenery as possible.  The Andes Mountains are spectacular!  Now don't get me wrong, I love my Rocky Mountains here in Colorado, but the Andes are so dramatic and different.  The region in which Aconcagua is located is actually a desert so instead of the mountain roads being lined by pine trees the rocky lines of the mountains can be clearly seen with the low vegetation.  The drive seemed to fly by.  We unloaded all our bags at our local outfitters shop and made our final decisions about what gear we would be carrying on our backs and what gear we would be sending in our mule bags.  Over the next three days we would only have to carry a fraction of our gear, the rest would be strapped onto some mules and run up to each of our next few camps.  We had a great pizza dinner for our last meal before we set out on our climb and I sat down with our guides and talked a little bit more about my hemophilia.  I was a bit nervous that they would worry about me and my hemophilia but after I showed them how I mix my factor and infuse myself, they seemed unfazed and actually more interested in hemophilia then worried about it.  That made me even more comfortable and excited to start climbing.

In the morning I took the last shower I would take for the next two weeks, packed my back pack and was ready to rock!  I wasn't nervous at all despite a 5 mile day coming up.  I felt strong.  It was only a five minute drive from our hotel to the trailhead at Punta de Vacas and after checking in at the ranger station we were on our way!  The trail was easy and the views spectacular.  The first day of the trek was filled with casual conversations learning all about my new friends.  It took us a few hours to cover the distance to our first camp, Las Lenas, and despite my feet being a little sore I felt awesome.  The highlight of our first night on the mountain was dinner. Our mule herders brought up tons of fresh beef and cooked a traditional Argentinean asado! An asado is basically a style of barbecuing and the food was amazing!  I ate way too much but after a long day of hiking it was a great surprise.

I awoke on the second day of our trek to find out that I hadn't been diligent enough about putting on sunscreen the day before.  I didn't have a bad sunburn but my neck was definitely burnt a bit and a small spot on my hand was fried.  I wouldn't be making that mistake again.  We started hiking around 9 and had a 11 mile hike ahead of us to Casa de Piedra.  The day started with a river crossing over a sketchy looking but stable bridge, quite a bit of elevation gain, and our first view of the actual mountain.  We hiked a total of 6 hours that day and as soon as camp came into sight so did Aconcagua!  The snow capped summit was still far in the distance but actually seeing it boosted my excitement even more!  It really is a beautiful peak.

Throughout the day I was feeling good but I started noticing a dull pain near my hip.  When we stopped for breaks and took my pack off the pain subsided.  I really couldn't figure out what was going on and by the time we reached camp, I was starting to get a bit concerned.  While we were setting up our tent, I reached back and felt a swollen area around my hip and my heart sank.  Two days into this epic trip, on the easy part of the climb, I had a bleed.  I realized that the belt on my pants had been twisted under my pack. Something so simple as a twisted belt could put an end to my trip ... I knew I had to infuse and instead of letting myself get down about this, I felt that this could be a good opportunity to show the guides exactly how an infusion works.  I grabbed Ryan and Koky and told them what was going on and prepared to infuse.  I showed them all the steps and then nailed the infusion.  It was a huge confidence boost to me to succeed in front of them and hopefully gave them the confidence that I can take care of anything with my hemophilia.  Then all I had to do was hope my hip got better.  Laying in the tent was incredibly uncomfortable but after finally getting comfortable sleep came easily.

As soon as I woke up on the third day of our trek I checked my hip.  Although it was still a bit swollen and tender to the touch it wasn't worse, which was encouraging.  Today was going to be a long day.  We were trekking all the way to Plaza Argentina, our basecamp for the climb which was still 9.3 miles away with an elevation gain of 3,280 feet (1000 m).  Once we packed up camp I threw my backpack on which was NOT pleasant!  The hip belt on my pack dug right into my bleed but I knew it wasn't serious and I wasn't going to let it stop me.  After a few minutes of walking the pain dulled and after the hours and hours of trekking I didn't even notice anymore.  The trek today was definitely the most difficult of the three.  Some parts of the trail were very narrow and we gained a ton of elevation.  Having the summit in site all day was great motivation and after about 8 hours of trekking, our basecamp came into site.  This basecamp will be our home for the next four nights and despite it being an amazing campground, it is dwarfed by the immense size of Aconcagua looming over us.  The trek to the mountain was amazing and fun but now the real adventure starts!  

After trekking for 3 days I was so excited to start moving up the mountain but ... I would have to wait one more day. We had a scheduled rest day at basecamp to let us recover from the trek and acclimate to the altitude of Plaza Argentina. Having a rest day at this point was probably perfect for me anyway. It gave me a chance to fully recover from my bleed, and since it was my scheduled prophylactic treatment day, I had no pressure getting my infusion done. The great thing about doing my infusions on these climbs is that I was always super hydrated! I was drinking at least 4 liters of water a day, sometimes even more. My veins were huge. So after an awesome breakfast, I headed down to my tent for the infusion. I couldn't have asked for it to go any better. Every time I have a successful infusion, especially in situations like this it really boosts my confidence. I was ready to rock!  

The last and only thing we had to do that day before we headed up the mountain was go see the doctor. As a precaution, every climber that heads to basecamp and wants to attempt to summit has to check in at the doctor. They check pulse-ox, blood pressure, and respiration rate. All of mine were good...I was cleared to head up the mountain!  We also went over what gear we should be carrying up. Since our route would take us up and over the mountain, and we would not be coming down the way we came up, we only wanted to take what was completely necessary. We couldn't leave excess gear at different camps because we wouldn't be going back down the same way. I went back to my tent and decided what gear would stay, what gear would go down with the mules, and what gear would be taken to and left at Camp 1 tomorrow. I was a little nervous about what to leave but felt pretty good overall about my decisions.

The fifth day of our expedition was our very first trip onto the mountain. We would be doing a carry of gear up to Camp 1 and stashing it there. In our stash bag would be a lot of our summit gear like big mittens, goggles, etc. It was a great feeling getting started on the climb that day. I was finally climbing Aconcagua! The first section of the day was fairly steep and rocky following next to the mountain stream. Several sections of the trail were narrow and the scree (small loose rock) that made up the trail washed out easily with a misstep. After this tricky section, the trail flattened out. We could see where Camp 1 was located and the massive face that awaited us. It didn't look bad at first but as we got closer, I could finally see the magnitude of the last face.  Fortunately, the weather had been nice up to that point, but as soon as we started up the last face, the wind really kicked up! A few of the gusts even knocked me off balance! It took us about 4.5 hours to reach Camp 1 but the view was totally worth it.

We dropped our gear when we stopped for lunch, then headed back down to base camp. This is where the exciting part of the day started. Going up the steep section was fun and tiring, but going down got a little hairy. Right off the bat Ryan asked if I wanted to hang near the back to avoid any rocks that may be kicked loose. I should've listened. We took a different route down, one that consisted of more loose rock. With every step you took, you basically slid down the hill and some rocks went flying. Being in the middle of the pack, sometimes the rocks from those climbers behind me came a little close. I felt like I was constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for a big one to come crashing down. I sped down the steepest section, trying desperately to stay in front of any wayward rocks. On the final section of the decent, one of our climbers did knock a big one loose ... right behind me. When I heard the rock come crashing I was terrified. Luckily it was about fifteen feet behind me but it taught me an extremely important lesson, listen to my guides! Thankfully we reached Plaza Argentina safely and had a wonderful dinner to cap of a great day. I headed to my tent and had no trouble sleeping that night.  I was exhausted.

The next day was another rest day. After finally getting on the mountain and still feeling energetic, I wasn’t excited to just be hanging around but I understood the purpose.  In climbing, one of the best techniques to acclimate well to the altitude is called “climb high, sleep low”.  So just like the day before we climbed up to an elevation of about 16,400ft (5000m) then came back down to Plaza Argentina to rest.  You shock your body by going to a higher elevation and hopefully trigger some of the necessary physiologic changes that will help your body react to the altitude better. We would be employing this technique at several points on the mountain and since we had a comfortable camp at Plaza Argentina with amazing food, spending another day there made sense. I spent the day reading, playing cards with the other climbers, and figuring what I needed to pack for the next day. Our move to Camp 1 was going to be a big day. Not only because we would be carrying much more gear but we would also be leaving the comfort of Plaza Argentina permanently. I spent much of the afternoon debating what was absolutely necessary to take up and what could be sent back to the hotel on a mule. I felt pretty comfortable with my decisions and went to bed, excited to finally move up the mountain!

Getting ready for our move was extremely exciting but as I started packing my backpack I realized it was going to weigh a ton! I had decided to send quite a bit of gear down the mountain and back to the hotel but as my pack got fuller and fuller, I questioned everything again. Were there other things that I didn’t need? I couldn’t think of anything in my pack that wasn’t completely necessary so as I stuffed the tent in and then some gear, I realized I just had to make it work. Since everyone's packs were huge, I felt like mine was acceptable. It probably weighed in around 40lb which seemed like a ton as I first put it on, but as we began our slow ascent to Camp 1, the weight disappeared into the back of my mind. Once again we trudged up the steep valley on loose rock but today felt completely different. There was so much more excitement today. We were finally making a huge step towards our goal. The sky was almost cloudless throughout our hike and no strong winds made for a pleasant climb. We completed the trip in about 4 hours, which, with our heavier loads seemed like a good sign. We found a great camping site, threw our tents up and moved in.  

We were finally sleeping on Aconcagua! As we hung around camp and ate dinner, Ryan pointed out the trail to Camp 2. We would be heading out the next day to take our first load there and then come back to Camp 1. All was well on the mountain but over the next few days that would change. One of my biggest fears for this trip was looming just around the corner. Bad weather. It began to roll in and our attempt at the summit was in jeopardy. Check back soon to hear about the climb from Camp 1 all the way to Camp 3! Also, I will try to upload a bunch of pictures to the site and facebook in the next few days! I hope you enjoy and remember to donate if you can!

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