Friday, 17 October 2014

Let's get back to the basics.

Good morning!

Alright, let's clear the air a little here and get back to the basics, of why we're here, of why I'm here. The clouds cleared around town briefly yesterday, and what did I glimpse, but snow, snow, snow! There's snow in them thar' hills people!

My friends have begun to speak of powder in hushed tones, we're not yet ready to commit ourselves to the "white room", but psyche is slowly building. It's almost time. Here's some motivation. Funny thing, I don't know why, but this little video makes me kind of emotional it's so darn beautiful. Or, maybe it's because I can practically feel the powder under my feet as I watch it.

In watermelon sugar.


Friday, 10 October 2014

The b$tch abides.

HI friends of the ether.

I am going to insert a reader disclaimer right at the beginning of this post. This post might end up being more about hormones than about rock climbing...

So, my male readers, please feel free to avert your eyes for the majority of this post. Or, if you consider yourself to be an enlightened male, then perhaps you want to take a read. This post might help you too as the climbing partners, lovers, friends, and husbands of womankind. I don't claim to be an expert on any of this. I guess, I'm really just an expert on myself. And, it was only in the last three months that I even earned the title "expert of myself", because the months and years leading up to this summer, I was pretty much completely in the dark about me, myself, and I. 

It seems like a fitting time for me to write this post because Oct. 5-11 is Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada. Alright, certainly those two words, Mental Illness, made you feel a little uncomfortable, but allow me to draw the connection between PMS and mental health with a little story. 

The female body is a funny thing. The only thing that stays the same about your body, is that nothing stays the same? One week you're riding high on some happy hormone, and the next week your body is coursing with an angry hormone and it doesn't matter how sweet anyone is to you, you're going to bite their head off. This is unfortunately, normal though. 

The happy hormone.
What isn't normal is when you're riding high one week; happy, calm, rational, and stable. Then, you wake one morning with a very dark cloud over your head. You cry simply because you can't shake the feeling that everything is falling apart, though nothing has changed from the day before. Over the last few years, this slowly became my reality. It got to the point where I would literally feel like I was having an out of body experience, watching myself explode with rage, fear, sadness, or whatever the negative emotion of the day was. It was scary. I was afraid of myself, and naturally, I thought I was falling ill, really mentally ill. 

It's a terrifying feeling to feel so volatile, and unpredictable. Above everyone else, you're supposed to know yourself the best. I didn't know who I'd become in the slightest. Was I bipolar, could I be losing my mind, was I a bad person who simply wanted to ruin my life, and the lives of others? I was terrified of the answer.

I "thought" I hit rock bottom a bunch of times. Then the next day, I'd wake up feeling perfectly fine again, and so would continue on living my life. Then it would happen again. I'd hit rock bottom. I'd spiral out of control for a couple days, effectively destroying every relationship in sight in the process. Why was I so messed up, how did I get this way? I really didn't want to ruin everything.

It wasn't until one more rock bottom experience this summer that something clicked. I couldn't be this way anymore. This wasn't me. I didn't want to simply be an observer to my own life anymore. I'd had a hunch that I had bad PMS. My mother had told me that she'd have some pretty dark days which she was certain were attributed to her menstrual cycle, but back in the 1960's you didn't get help for having PMS, it wasn't really even "a thing" back then. And, it wasn't much before that, that women who were dealing with PMS were labelled as "hysterical", given tranquilisers and confined to their rooms. Gosh that makes me really sad to think about. 

Regardless, I began to research PMS a little further, my research led me to my family Doctor, who referred me to a female Psychiatrist, who helped diagnose PMDD, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. For the first time in, ever, I had a support network and I wasn't going crazy, I didn't have bipolar disorder. I was a woman, who by some luck of the draw, was experiencing PMS symptoms severe enough to receive medical attention. PMDD was recently recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a tool often regarded as standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. The DSM identifies formalised treatment plans to assist those diagnosed, manage their symptoms day-to-day, or rather cycle-to-cycle.

The Psychiatrist prescribed a common anti-depressant which has been shown to interact with the hormonal effects of PMDD in a positive way. At the recommendation of the Psychiatrist I began tracking my mood day to day. Miraculously, the combination of seeing a Clinical Counsellor once per week, taking 20 mg of an anti-depressant daily, and simply having the self awareness that I wasn't f#ck$d up, I started to notice my "+'s" began to outweigh my "-'s" on the calendar. For the first time in a long time, I felt in control of myself. My mind was quiet, my relationships great, and I was content. 

This is perhaps a little scandalous, but then again, this whole post is a little scandalous. Yours truly, finding peace on the mountain top. 
This is why I share this with you. I want all those other women out there, climber or none climber, to hear my story and if this sounds like you, I want you to get help. I don't want another woman to watch helplessly as her life falls apart around her. I recognise that taking an anti-depressant gets a lot of bad rep. out there. But, let me encourage you by saying, this is your body's chemistry, and it's hard to fight nature. The human race has perpetuated because of nature, you can't win this battle on your own. 

Here's one particular resource that helped me alot. There is much more information out there, I have a whole bookmarks folder dedicated to PMDD. So, rest assured that if you seek help, the medical community is there to support you. The day after seeing my Doctor, in tears, I received a call from our local community health nurse who informed me that she had received my referral to see the Psychiatrist, and wanted to ensure that I had the counselling support I needed until I was able to see her. It was incredible to feel so validated and cared for, when all along, I'd just thought I was a bitch.

So, there you have it Ladies and Gentleman. How's that for a tell-all. I hope you still read my blog after this!

And, why don't we just close things off with a photo of a man riding a sea horse, because, let's be honest, who doesn't like to see people having fun with sea horses.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Mothers have it hardest.


I wanted to share this podcast from the Dirt Bag Diaries titled, "Mothers Have it Hardest". Colin's mom, Misty, shared it with me, and I thought it was really beautiful. Of course, my own mother is in denial that I have anything to do with this kind of dangerous stuff, but I guess, on a much smaller scale than Colin, I do. And yes, my dearest mother does have it hardest. 

Did I tell you about the time I was in Peru on a climbing trip to the Cordillera Blanca. I had called my mom from Huraz, and told her that we'd be heading up to climb a mountain and I'd call her on the sat. phone from our basecamp to say HI.  

I forgot to call her. And, by the time we'd returned to town I had frantic emails from a bunch of my friends telling me that, "my mom had tracked them down on the telephone and was grilling them about my wearabouts. She was frantic, and I had better call her stat."

My poor mother. I really have no idea how it would feel, because I've never had children, but that experience was a very poignant reminder that moms worry. Especially my mom. Sorry mom, I promise I'll never do that again.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A climber once said...

"Don't over-commit because next thing you know, you're shitting on your ropes!"

Jeez, that's disgusting. Sorry. I shouldn't have posted that. Ha! You might ask who that climber was, and in what context such a disgusting thing was uttered. Well, that climber was my boyfriend, Captain Safety, and why he said it, well, I don't know if I want to share that with you here. You may never read my blog again. 

What I can tell you was that we were high on the 900 m north face of Mt. Sir Donald. Colin and I were in the middle of climbing a new route up this seldom visited north side of Donald. It was June sometime, I can't remember exactly when, it was THAT long ago now. But, the short of the storey is that we made it to the top, and we called our route Sashimi Don, 900m 60-85 degrees M4.

Funny enough, the beautiful north face of Mt. Sir Donald, 3284 m graces the cover of David Jones' climbing guidebook for the range. Somehow, no one else had decided to attempt the obvious line just left of the only existing route on the face?

Colin: How'd you like to go climb a route on this thing?
Sarah: Sure, where?
Colin: I was thinking right up the middle.
Sarah: OK

That's how most discussions go when we're deciding what to climb. 
Our route was a small success for Colin, but for me, it was another huge step in the right direction of becoming a better climber on snow and ice. Recall if you will, I cry very easily when downclimbing steep snow. It's generally quite embarassing, and when I can avoid a scenario like that, I feel pretty good about myself. So, I'm happy to report, NO TEARS! And, I don't think I felt freaked out even once, even crossing the sickly gapping bergshrund at 3:00 am. I have in the passed forced us to retreat from a climb because I refused to move a step closer to a bergshrund I was certain wanted to eat me whole. Yes, I have irrational fears, but come on, looks at this...

Frig' I'd hate to be that guy.
Colin wrote a full trip report, with all the manly details, so I won't bother going into it here; Partly because I just can't seem to find the time to blog, work, climb, and be a good girlfriend these days. Something needs to give, and unfortunately, it seems to be my long winded blog entries. Naturally, I can't leave out the photos though.

Did I mention we got to borrow the FiveTen Sprinter van? Seriously, you could stand up in this thing!

Typical Colin shenanigans. Here he realized that he could spit out his water while I took a picture and it would look like this. Apparently, this was rad. Hahaha...

Approach the beast with caution. Colin is using his James Bond monocle to check out conditions on Sir Donald. 

We hiked up to the high col at the base of Sir Donald's Northwest Ridge to bivy.

Here's a few pretty pictures from the col before we hit the sac. Behind Colin is Mt. Uto and, I think, Mt. Eagle. 

Colin in evening light. The base of Sir Donald's north face is behind him.

That's me, with Uto behind. 

Colin decided to put in some time stretching before we went to bed. Though, it's not entirely obvious to me what's going on here?

I like this picture. That's me, looking up at the Northwest Ridge of Sir Donald.

We woke up at 1:30, so this is me down climbing from our bivy to the glacier below.

And, crossing the glacier to the base of our route. You can see dawn on the horizon. This is the best part about climbing near the solstice. It was still light when we went to bed, and wasn't dark for very long once we woke up.

Colin climbing towards the bergshrund.

Jeez, look at that thing. Surely, it could eat me whole.

About two pitches up the lower couloir. 

...and a few more pitches up.

Colin leading the mixed crux. It looks really easy here. It wasn't.

Colin climbs higher still. 

I'm still stoked.

Climbing some easy snow arete as we get near to the summit.

If you look hard enough you can see our bivy way, way down there, in the upper middle part of the picture.

Colin climbing onto the final summit snowfield.

And here I am, one final slog to the summit. 

Woot, woot!

Colin heads down the South Ridge.

That's him, way down there...

Colin descending.

I thought those clouds were pretty. 

And there, that's me, and Sir Donald. Mission complete! Woot, woot!

And then we went back to Revelstoke to dry out our gear in the Library parking lot. Ha!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Tuesday Night Throwdown.

Hello Blogo'sphere...

This coming Tuesday, August 19 I'm going to be attending The Hive Boulderng Gyms, Tuesday Night Throwdown. It will certainly be a vertitable circus show, with my prAna mannequins Rainbow, and Clemen joining me as well. I promise you, watching two plastic people drop the hammer on plastic holds will be nothing less than spectacular. So will watching me attempt to compete for the first time in like, 40 years.

Come out. 

Here's a photo so old, I had to scan it. This is yours truly winning her first bouldering comp. back in, like, 1890!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

There is no such thing as Infinite Bliss, but there is 23 pitches of it.

I've still not updated my blog with details of our new route on Mt. Sir Donald, that's proving to be a bit of a beast, and I haven't really been up for the challenge. What I can offer you is a short post about a little diddy I climbed with Aidan a week ago. It's called Infinite Bliss. It's a 700 m sport route on the  west peak of Mt. Garfield, only a hour away from Seattle! And, purportedly the longest fully bolted sport route in North America. 

Like I said, I don't believe in "infinite bliss", and I was a little unconvinced that a sport route in the mountains could be even finitely blissful, but indeed, it was! Aidan and I had a blast. Though there were a few boltless 60 metre pitches of low fifth class climbing to contend with, the crux pitches, were all fantastic and well protected. 

You can simul-climb many pitches, and since all the rappel stations are bolted, you can easily and confidently simul-rappel many pitches too! Here is a link to a trip report by Steph Abegg, hands down the best trip report writer I know. She'll give you all the beta. Below are a few photos to intrigue you...

When climbing a 23 pitch sport route, proper identification is necessary...

...lest you get lost in a sea of granite.

A view towards the outlet of the Middle Fork of the Snowqualmie River, and North Bend.

On the lower wall we climbed a couple pitches up this amazing dyke feature, which was set deeply into the wall. It was really, really fun. And only 5.5.

Aidan following up some low angle slab to the base of the first crux pitch.

Aidan following the 5.10b crux, with the vast sweep of granite that we'd just climbed, fanning out below him.

Another photo from this crux pitch. Sure look fun doesn't it.

...and another one.

Last one.

Aidan Haley, having a blast people.

Aidan following another crux, this one a 5.10a exfoliating chimney. I may have been terrified on this pitch. Despite the bolts, I was certain every hold was going to rip off, and I'm pretty sure I was making ridiculous sobbing noises.

One more from the nasty chimney.

And here Aidan leads up the second to last pitch, a super fun 5.8 up the final headwall.

Our pain has almost come to an end. Aidan looks up at the final pitch. After almost 700 m of effectively, slab climbing, our  little toes were swollen strawberries. Ewwww, gross...and nasty...

Aidan follows up the final pitch of Infinite Bliss. We started our day near those streaks of water in the  top right corner of the picture.

...another photo from the last pitch.

And one more. Aidan has the pictures from the summit. I promise, we made it!