Kili off the airplane wing. Julia Hubbel

A commitment to the clouds...again

The sweat poured down my back, heat rising from inside my Goretex pants as I hiked the lovely leaf-strewn trail at Spencer Butte, just south of Eugene, Oregon. This should have been a breeze, barely a mile hike on a pretty easy trail. However that morning I had been doing lots of Bulgarian split squats which left my quads quivering. I was spent, my legs barking, but I was in heaven.

I'm training to climb Kilimanjaro. Again. My god, I love a Big Hairy Ass Goal.

I am a ways from the unbelievable shape I was in back in 2013 when I first got to the top of Kilimanjaro. I can blame that in part on Covid and quarantine, the massive distractions of a major move, multiple injuries and also, just plan laziness. However that last isn't so much true as sheer emotional exhaustion, to which I finally admitted recently, and realized that I needed to redirect.

As I topped off each section of the two hundred concrete stairs that good folks had laid in for my fellow Oregonians, I paused to rest my pegs and take stock.  The previous weekend on October 30th, I had returned  to this trail for the first time in months. I realized how much I missed it. Not just this trail, but hiking in general. I've been hiking near my house, which is also pretty, but, cars. Exhaust. Not a lot but you get it.

A few days ago I started a new page on my website, (that is for those of you not reading this on my website), announcing my commitment to summit precisely ten years from the day I did it the first time. That makes summit night November 27, 2023. I'll be 70.

I'm tracking my workouts, my progress and my challenges. I am due to have shoulder surgery November 18th, and increasingly it's clear that I will also have to have CMC surgery on my left hand before I make that attempt.

Both of those events will create both challenges and opportunities. First, I will be in a sling until early January, and PT to regain my shoulder mobility and strength will take time.

The hand is another challenge. That will impede my writing and my workouts for longer, and necessitate working out with bands.

Both will hurt. A lot. That's temporary. I hope.

So: the last two Fridays I've been working with both my fitness trainer and my sports chiropractor to develop one-armed workouts which allow me to continue to exercise my upper body. And, that's why lots of emphasis on legs.

After all, legs and endurance are a big part of what gets you up and down that mountain.

Line of hikers walking uphill in the mountains, moss, heather and small bushes on red coloured sand. This is the Route Rongai climbing Kilimanjaro.
Photo by Crispin Jones / Unsplash

The rest is pure heart.

Like lots of folks, I've had a rough couple of years, given that my chosen work is adventure travel. Industry shutdowns, no clients and bankrupted clients have all added to the picture, and online platforms' tinkering with payment algorithms have leveled my income to the point where I am now working on moving away. I am folding my efforts around writing into my efforts around this summit for several reasons:

-There's potential to turn this into a fundraiser for good causes

-The climb engages my clients and builds both their reputations and my resume along the way

-It's a perfect motivator to get back into tip-top shape

-The bigger goal helps me focus through surgery recoveries and PT

-It gets me fully involved with my local  hiking, biking, running and swimming communities, which will really help me get integrated locally

-It reminds me in every single way that if I want to move anyone's life, which is my stated purpose, I bloody well have to begin with my own.

That's the short list. There are thousands of benefits here. I will be writing about those as I go.

My favorite performance writer Brad Stolberg penned this recently:

The Mental Health Benefits of Doing Real Things
Activities such as lifting weights, hiking, or even woodworking teach us humility and keep us grounded in reality

From this article:

In the past I’ve referenced the work of the philosopher Matthew Crawford, who writes that “despite the proliferation of contrived metrics,” most knowledge-economy jobs suffer from “a lack of objective standards.”

Ask a white-collar professional what it means to do a good job at the office, and odds are they may need at least a few minutes to explain the answer, accounting for politics, the opinion of their boss, the mood of a client, the role of their teammates, and a variety of other external factors.

Ask someone what it means to do a good job at their next race, or on their next deadlift, however, and the answer becomes much simpler.

“The satisfaction of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence has been known to make a man quiet and easy,” writes Crawford, who in 2001 quit his job in academia to become a mechanic. “It seems to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He simply points: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on.”

I have shared with my readers my delight in schlepping heavy wood from place to place in the cold, rain, on mud and uneven hills. That I can do this in the first place is rare at my age; I do it because it bloody well gives me pleasure.

Ofada rice is a name for heritage varieties of rice grown in south-west Nigeria. It is used in a variety of dishes. Ofada rices are mostly blends, and some of the rice varieties in the blends are not indigenous to Africa; however, they usually also contain African rice. It is grown almost exclusively in Ogun State, a state in Southwestern Nigeria. It is named after the town Ofada in Ogun State.
Photo by Stephen Olatunde / Unsplash

When I recently returned from five weeks in Africa, I also returned triumphant. Not because I'd scaled some huge mountain, but after eighteen months of travel lockdown I got regularly reminded of what I am very good at. We need to feel competent and capable. Hard physical work is one way. Hard physical work humbles us. In every way we need that in an increasingly fake online world full of folks who suffer from imposter syndrome. The only way to beat that is beat back the fear of inadequacy. Do the work.

What Stolberg writes in some ways gets to the heart of part of what ails us. Instead of spending so damned much time setting up avatars, fake profiles and imaginary people we claim to be, getting deep into the weeds with something damned hard conveys a whole other kind of confidence. He writes:

But it seems increasingly likely that one powerful way to stay in touch with reality, especially as you rise, is to stay in touch—quite literally—with reality.

Not by spending all day tweeting, or by attending Zoom calls, or by joining fancy board meetings. Not by endlessly refreshing your bank account or stocks. But rather by doing actual, real, hard things in the world. (author bolded)

The author moving wood Julia Hubbel

This is in large part what I mean when I keep saying, Do the Work. My work is physical labor. Getting in shape again for that formidable climb is my kind of work. Having done it once, I know what's involved, and unlike many, I don't scoff at the challenge. When asked during a recent climb, one American, as told me by a fellow serious adventure traveler, said that he had "done a little Stairmaster."

He nearly died.

I will refrain from commenting.

My preparation will involve a lot more than "a little Stairmaster." While this rainy Saturday I ache all over, these days I know when to take a rest day. Eight years ago, I didn't have that insight. Perhaps that will be one guiding light on this two- year journey.

We'll see.

Take me anywhere
Photo by Adam Gong / Unsplash

This is a double-edged invitation. I invite you to come along on this journey. And I invite you to set your own BHAG. Let's see how we do. Send me your stories and progress, your failures (inevitable) and your funny stories. I'll share them along the way.

Whatever happens, let's do the work.