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For 21 days starting on Saturday, my team and I will attempt to climb the highest mountain in North America – Mt. Denali. Some of you may know him as Mt. McKinley.
At 20,310 feet, it’s the highest point in the world in any direction until you get to the Andes Cordillera skyscrapers.
There is, however, a small difference. Mount. Denali is in Alaska and less than 1,000 miles from the Arctic Circle, so it’s colder. Being this far from the equator has the added benefit of making the air thinner, so that at 16,000 feet the oxygen level is only half of what it is at the sea.
A quick comparison of summit temperatures between Denali and Everest illustrates my point well.
- Mount. Denali Summit (Saturday) – High of -27F; Low of -31F; Wind chill of -53.
- Mount. Everest Summit (Saturday) – High of -9; Low by -15; Wind chill -31.
So cold and sparse on the O2 – I mean oxygen and not those O2 hydration packets I brought with me – but at least we have sunlight all day. Translation: no headlamps and optimal conditions for recharging devices with a solar panel.
Denali is also the third largest and third most isolated summit on Earth, which means we can carry all of our food, fuel, and gear without any support. No carriers. No welcome to the camp with tea. The backpacks are full and we can pull a sled with 50 pounds of gear each up a hill, in the snow and in the cold, and try not to fall into one of those earthquakes like cracks in a glacier.
Sounds like fun, right?
So why do all this?
âWe choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they’re easy, but because they’re difficult; because this objective will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and our skills, because this challenge is one that we are ready to acceptâ¦ â- President John F. Kennedy
I am excited about the challenges: physically and mentally.
Setting goals, succeeding or failing along the way is the essential point. To reach higher than you think possible, to succeed or fail, you take this life and live it, not for pretense, but for real.
When I left my political career, I decided to live my life. Live it, however it presents itself.
And it turns out I love the challenge of rock climbing. The mental and physical struggles that drew me to CrossFit, are made up of up to 11 in mountaineering.
It turns out that CrossFit is the perfect preparation for being a mountaineer. Long, hard WODs teach you to deal with physical stress over long periods of time, to keep moving one rep at a time. It’s also the perfect physical preparation training for the mountains. After all, don’t we just haul large loads over long distances (as quickly as possible)?
- Denali training WOD example
10 laps for time
50 m walking lunge
50 step-ups (20 “all athletes)
20/14 pound weight vest
CrossFit actually has a strong history in the mountains. Another CrossFitter – Mark Pattinson – tries to be the oldest person to climb the Seven Summits of the World. He’s currently on Everest right now. National Geographic Photographer and CrossFitter Cory Richards has peaked Everest twice, most recently without supplemental oxygen or a sherpa.
Guys like these laid the groundwork for rock climbing in CrossFit. I hope to take advantage of this.
So in conclusion
I really need a vacation, mentally. I don’t really like to sit still, so the idea of ââbeing on a beach somewhere to rest doesn’t really appeal to me. I prefer to chase the sky, wake up to a sunrise painted just for me, a sight that is deserved.
So for 21 days – I hope no more – it will be a full shipment.
If you’d like to follow our progress, follow @chalkupmountaineering and @chalkupjlo for updates. You can follow our team by following our Garmin map.