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Go Climb A Mountain: 12 Friends, One Mountain, And An Epic Adventure

Reach for a goal that is just a little bit (or a lot!) outside of your comfort zone.

By: Christin Healey + Save to a List

It's 1:45 am, and a constant, slow drip of icy water is hitting my eyelid and slowly falling down my neck. A solid layer of condensation turned to an icy slush lines our tent, and though my little world inside my sleeping bag is chilly at best, the thought of leaving the little cocoon for the outside world is almost unthinkable. But, today is not a day to languish in camp sipping steaming coffee and trading stories. Today is summit day, and the top of Mt Baker is calling for us to stand on her platform and soak in all the beauty of the world on that frosty morning, if only for the briefest of moments. 

I have never been one to let dreams be just that. For better of worse, when an idea grabs hold of my, I have a hard time letting it go until it becomes a reality. Sometime around my last birthday, I decided I wanted to learn how to "really" climb a mountain. You know, the kind with giant, gaping crevasses, looming overhangs of snow poised to collapse at any given moment, and all covered by a thick sheet of ice (aka, a glacier) that you have to strap menacing spikes to your feet just to cross the vast terrain.  Not fully knowing what to expect, I convinced my husband to come along for the first "Intro to Alpinism" trip of the summer that American Alpine Institute offered, sent along the deposit, and began to train and collect gear for the 6 day course. 

When the time finally came and we touched down in Bellingham, WA at the foothills of the Northern Cascades, I was about to jump out of my skin with excitement. The weather forecast was pretty much a disaster for the week, but we bound into the AAI offices, already a sea of gear strewn across the floor, and met our 10 other companions for the week. Two guides and 10 participants, we were fast friends on our mountain adventure. 

With our food, winter gear, and all sorts of odds & ends that you need for climbing mountains, we set out with 60lb packs for our destination. Over the next few days, we learned all the basics of mountaineering: self arrest, tying ropes, crevasse rescue, walking in rope lines, avalanche safety, and all sorts knowledge that a great guide can impart on you. The entire time, that famous PacNw drizzle/sleet/snow stayed with us, and we just had to trust that Mt. Baker was somewhere above us at our home on base camp. 

The day before summit day, our guides were hopeful for a small break in the weather, and our motley crew packed up and headed to high camp.  We marched up the Easton Glacier, dug out our platforms on the sloped snowy hill, and as afternoon set in, the sky cleared just enough to give us a peek at our destination. Over steamy mountain house meals that evening, we gazed down at how far we had come up at our final challenge, and a sense of how powerful those mountains really are sets in. 

At just after 3am the next morning, headlamps strapped to helmets, tied into each other on the rope line, we were off. 6 hours later, one ice ax, one jacket, one pair of sunglasses, and one lens hood lost to the mountains, all 12 of us stood on the summit of that gorgeous peak, with the sun shining down on us and the clouds below us. It was one of the greatest moments of my life, and summit or no summit, pushing myself to my limits that week with my partner-in-crime and 10 new friends was an experience that I will never forget. 

So, whether you want to climb mountains, race down rivers, scale up the side of a rock face, run a marathon, or just lace up your shoes for a long hike, commit to it and reach for a goal that is just a little bit (or a lot!) outside of your comfort zone. You may walk away never wanting to do it again, or it may turn into a new obsession, but I guarantee you will learn more about yourself and have a confidence that wasn't there before. And if you want to climb mountains? I'm currently plotting my next climb and would love to see you out there :)

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