I've never been known for subtlety. So of course my first winter mountain expedition experience would be on Mt. Rainier in the middle of February. Just casually learning how to use snowshoes and adapt to Rainier's crazy weather in tandem, nbd.
In February of 2017 I took a Denali Prep course - the first step towards my LOCO dream of climbing Denali. Something I'd been obsessing over since getting a taste of high altitude on Kilimanjaro. Though, as I was about to learn, Rainier was... in a different league than Kili; no, an entirely different ballgame. To say I was humbled at how difficult mountaineering is would be an understatement; I knew it would be hard. But walking uphill with a heavy pack for hours with a sled tied to your waist pulling you backwards is a special kind of suffering that can only be understood by the person batty enough to try it.
And yes, prior to this trip I hadn't ever worn snowshoes before. There were a lot of firsts in this class. First time wearing crampons, snowshoes, towing a sled, carrying a heavy pack, PITCHING A TENT. That's right... I'd never even pitched my own tent before. The thought makes me laugh now; I've come so far in only a year.
The thin air on Kilimanjaro left me an utterly changed woman. I was not an "outdoorsy" person by any stretch of the imagination before Kili. Shit, I didn't even get out and hike once in training for Kili. (You can read more about that adventure here). So why, now, was I hunkering down at 10,000ft in a rabid snowstorm on Mt. Rainier in the middle of February? At the time, I had no answer for that question. I still don't really know other than the mountains are so much a part of who I am, my purpose, that I can't distinguish the two sometimes.
So I guess the point of this whole piece is to prove that if I, an unskilled-in-the-outdoors, shy, scaredy cat from Fayetteville, Arkansas can get out there and conquer her fears, you can too. And you know what - not only did I feel unstoppable (after spending a week on the couch eating pizza and recovering from my first run-in with Rainier), I was filled with the Spirit of boldness and able to take even bigger, scarier leaps of faith later in the year.
Following your passion is scary. It probably seems crazy and impractical. I've been on both sides of the fence and I can tell you, being uncomfortable for a minute is absolutely worth it. So just get out there and face your fears! They're not as powerful as you think.