Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Alaska: 2 weeks and counting

Well... I'm down to 15 days before I head off to Alaska. I'm on the cusp of the a 10 day comprehensive mountaineering 101 course for which I've worked very hard physically and mentally over the last 4 months. And though my thoughts have dwelt on it frequently during that time, never more so than now. And it is now that I begin to wonder... I wonder whether I will be up to the challenge, small though it is on the far grander scale of mountaineering accomplishments in the world. 

I imagine the conditions at Denali basecamp (hot and mildly squalorous) and the conditions out away from that area on the rest of our training days (pristine). I imagine as best I can what must be the sheer scale of the place, something for which I've been told one can't really prepare. I dunno... I've seen some big mountain ranges in my life, but they say the Alaska Range is on a whole different level--and the Andes and Himalaya on levels far beyond that. 

I'd like to think I can comprehend it, but I'm looking forward to being profoundly stupefied every morning as I peek from my tent door, out into a brightly lit white otherworld, to watch the sun rise over such spectacular scenery as to make a man cry, a view that fills my vision in every direction. And then absorbing as much of those incomprehensibly beautiful sights as my brain can take... filling up my memory with those images, soaking them up like a sponge, bulging with portent like a water balloon reaching its bursting point. And then letting it all flood over me as I stand, feet and boots and crampons crunching and squeaking on hard ice among such glittering and majestic cathedrals of ice and rock, stunned that I am fortunate enough to be in such a place, able to see with my own eyes such sights. And I look forward to being humbled by their presence, their permanence, their visual power, their might and ferocity.

So perhaps in setting out to write this entry, I've answered the questions in my head that inspired me to write it: it seems a bit odd having a raft of nagging thoughts in my head this close to departure, and after training so hard. Questions like "Did I train hard enough? Is there something I could have done better? And have I forgotten anything? Should I have started sooner? Am I ready? Am I REALLY ready??" 

I dunno... I think no matter how hard I train for anything unknown, I'll always wonder whether was enough. It's just human nature in part, I think, to have those thoughts when one heads off to experience things they've so far only read and dreamt about. But as I posted elsewhere today, it's an honest, and truly intoxicating cocktail: 3 parts excitement, 2 parts anticipation, and 1 part terror: all shaken--over ice.

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