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Comfort Zone

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Comfort Zone

Postby Matthewkphx » Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:36 pm

Background: I've been hiking for 5 years, backpacking for 3+ years. I'm 45, comfortable doing 15+ mile days, in good health, fairly fit (although I could lose 15#). I hiked the JMT in 2015 with my main hiking partner (my son). I'm comfortable outdoors, confident in my skills, NOLS WFA, can read a map. I live in Arizona.

I went backpacking alone for the first time in July at Sabrina Basin. I was very nervous about being out alone but felt totally comfortable other than getting totally destroyed by mosquitos.

I've got two permits for three night solo trips in the Sierra in the next three weeks. I've got Sabrina Lake in a few days (again) and Cottonwoods Lakes in early September. I can't get away for both of these permits, so I have to make a choice. On one hand, I'd like to go back to Sabrina Basin and see all of the lakes and trails I didn't see the first time. On the other hand, I'd like to go to Cottonwood Lakes and climb New Army Pass and Mt. Langley…

I mentioned earlier that I hiked the JMT with the kid but that's not entirely true. We didn't summit Whitney. We were out of food, not feeling strong, there was slushy ice on the ground and storm clouds brewing. We went over the Trail Crest and dropped down to the Portal without doing the last 1.9 miles to the summit. I've been quietly disappointed since that day. I wanted to gain the summit and know that I could do suffer my way up to 14.5k'.

I'm scared to do Langley by myself. I'm mildly concerned about the altitude (I live at 1,200' in Phoenix). I did fine on the JMT but we had tons of time to acclimate. I've got a scrip for Diamox, which I tried at Sabrina in July and felt ok. In the end, I'm mostly scared that I won't feel strong enough to summit and that I will feel defeated. (Important note: I don't think I will feel defeated if there is snow or lightning.) I want to have a successful summit and know that I can get to 14k'.

So here's the question: Do I do the safe thing and go putter around Sabrina or do I push myself and go try to summit Langley? Backpacking has shown me that I have been rewarded when I push myself past my fears and get out of my comfort zone. Hiking 220 miles of the JMT was so far past my comfort zone when we started off (I had never been out more than 2 nights backpacking). Going solo at Sabrina 6 weeks ago was fantastic (I realized I am comfortable alone in the mountains). Does anyone have any wisdom about pushing your comfort zone?



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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby mort » Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:58 pm

Did you read this one?
Climb Langley. Have fun, take pictures. Post a trip report.
-mort
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby chulavista » Fri Aug 19, 2016 5:05 am

The best substitute for experience is preparation. For scrambles, study the routes/pictures from a resource like summitpost (or here).

Why do you need a prescription for diamox? I've done plenty of solo climbs, but I'm not sure I would do so if I had a prescription for altitude sickness.

If you do this long enough, you will have lots of "failed" attempts at making a summit. You'll get over it quickly.
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby SSSdave » Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:26 am

Your question leaves out reasons why climbing Langley is apparently important to you personally as though that ought to be obvious. Note for most of we backpackers, climbing to the top of peaks is neither of much interest or important as we can greatly enjoy these wilderness places in other ways without having to climb peaks.

There are of course modest numbers of backpackers that do focus their activity during wilderness trips in climbing peaks for usual reasons and key among those is a fair number of individuals feel a need for challenges. Are you one of these peak bagging enthusiast? Or just a few years newer backpacker looking for more reasons to be out there?
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby Jimr » Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:31 am

When you say you are mildly concerned about altitude sickness, is there any history or other foundation for this concern other than living at 1,200 ft? Was it experience or fear that prompted the diamox?

This may be the first fear hurdle to push past. Most of us who live in lowlands (I live at 500') do quite well with an overnight above 8 or 9k and staying hydrated. If you have no history of altitude problems, I would make that my first fear hurdle to overcome.

Langley is a very nice 14'er to cut your teeth on. It's a walk up. I would use the trip to bag Langley as the testing ground for how your body performs at altitude. Don't worry about whether you will make it or not. No point in worrying about failing. The only failing is to be stopped cold by bear fear (bear fear is based on "oh crap, what if <fill in the blank>"). I call it the "What if" monkey. Reasonable fear must be paid attention to. Bear fear needs to be let go of.

Camp overnight at Horeshoe Meadow, stay hydrated, hike up to camp for night one, bag Langley on a day hike the next day. That's a reasonable time at altitude before bagging the peak. If you have symptoms greater than a bit of a headache, turn around and have fun exploring the lakes around Cottonwood basin. You have not failed. You have learned something.

Go have fun.
What?!
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby psykokid » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:18 am

Langley is a nice hike. I did it solo the first weekend of October last year. Stayed at HM on Friday night, hiked up and set up camp by lake 5 and then headed up Old Army Pass above lake 4 on Saturday. Made it to the top and then back down to my camp right as it was getting dark. I live at sea level down here in LA and was fine. I think I took a couple of Advil here and there as a prophylactic, but other than staying hydrated and taking your time it's a nice hike and easily doable if you're in moderate shape. I wrote up a trip report, it's on here somewhere..
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby FeetFirst » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:38 am

Every time my grandfather and I talked about backcountry trips, the conversations ended up with him talking about all the places, routes, peaks, etc. that he planned on doing, but never did for one reason or the other. You could see the frustration on his face knowing now that it was too late.
I'm still rather convinced that you can achieve more than you've ever dreamed of if you just lower your standards.
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby Matthewkphx » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:42 am

@mort - I'm not sure I get the point of that trip report.

@chulavista & @jimr - I do not have a history of AMS. I have read about acclimatization (mostly on the FB Aclimitization group) and I understand the general advice to be increasing your sleeping height by about 1,000'/night above ~8k'. I asked my doctor about this and he thought it was wise to take a low dose of Diamox prophylactically. To be honest, I've not decided if I will take Diamox or not on this trip. I'd sleep at 10k (trailhead camp), 11.2k (at the lakes). I know I can always descend if I am feeling symptoms.

@sssdave - Good question about why it's important to me to climb Langley. I've never been a peak bagger but not reaching Whitney bothers me. I feel like hiking Langley would satisfy that urge a bit until I have a chance to summit Whitney with my son (I feel like I'd be cheating on him to summit Whitney without him - LOL). Part of my experience of backpacking is knowing that I can be ok without the modern comforts of life and that I can be happy and take care of myself with 8-9# of gear and some food. I started off very fearful in the woods and have been rewarded by chasing those fears away. Altitude and snow travel are the only things that really scare me right now so I want to push a little farther into those areas... Does that make sense?

Thanks everyone for the encouragement and the reminder to just stay present and enjoy myself. If I don't get to Langley for whatever reason, I'll have an interesting experience in the mountains, some time off from normal life and I'll get to see another gorgeous part of the Sierra.
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby Matthewkphx » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:45 am

FeetFirst wrote:You could see the frustration on his face knowing now that it was too late.


Yeah. That's a bummer and a good reason to not hesitate. Thanks for sharing the story. I'm sure your grandfather had lots of good trips despite not making a few of them.
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby BigMan » Fri Aug 19, 2016 10:51 am

Matthewkphx wrote:Does anyone have any wisdom about pushing your comfort zone?


You and I are almost the same age. And have the same fears.

I meditate. Jim mentions the "what if" thoughts; by being present I can see those thoughts clear and for what they are - stories. They're not real. The human mind creates stories and there's nothing I can do to stop it. But I can see it and accept it.

I'm constantly learning how to make friends with fear. I bow to it, and just keep going.

I've also been using a "mantra" recently. It's "I love you, keep going." Love conquers fear.

Sometimes I also say "I got this," but I don't like to rely on reassurance too much.

I also remember a quote from John Wayne:

"Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway."

Edit:

Matthewkphx wrote:If I don't get to Langley for whatever reason...


Sounds like you truly want to do Langley. So the question is "is there a good reason not to?"

That's where I'm at right now - I have no problem creating two dozen reasons for not trying, but none of them are good reasons.
In wilderness lies the hope of the world.
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby Matthewkphx » Fri Aug 19, 2016 11:05 am

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Bigman.

My fear of failure is the only reason I can see for not doing Langley now. And if I do "fail" it will be a learning experience. I'll know I need to acclimate longer or bring a buddy for pacing and moral support when at that altitude.

I think I'm going to go ahead with the Langley trip :)
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Re: Comfort Zone

Postby maverick » Fri Aug 19, 2016 11:51 am

I think I'm going to go ahead with the Langley trip :)


You should!
Listen to your body, gain some knowledge by reading and putting that knowledge into action, and forget any notion of summiting at all cost, the mountain will still be there the next time. Enjoying your wilderness experience, it is about submerging yourself into it and not following a describe trail from point A to point B.

Fear is a good thing, it keeps us in the now and alert, it allows us to see things more clearly when channeled correctly, it also heightens our senses and puts us in tune with our immediate surroundings or situation which can make us pause so we can take the time to re-evaluate our situation. Ego is our number one enemy in the wilderness, if it is allowed to control our emotions it can push us beyond our safety zone and it can also cloud our judgement, never forget, mother nature doesn't keep score of how many times we may have cheated death, only humans boast about such trivial things, she always wins in the long run.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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