Sep
08

Gettin’ High in Washington – Genesis

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Wheeeeew!”

I exhale forcefully and, as I was taught, imagine I’m trying to blow out a candle three feet away. At thirteen thousand feet above sea level, the air is thinner, and something as simple as breathing requires concentration. Mechanically one foot moves in front of the other. I’ve lost all focus except getting that next lungful of air in, forcing that next foot to move upward a little bit more, blowing that next candle out. I’ve forgotten why I am here, way up on the side of this mountain, staring at a route that keeps getting impossibly longer; impossibly steeper; impossibly higher. Nothing makes sense anymore. The lazier part of my brain is pleading with me to stop.

“Wheeeeew!”

The other part of my brain screams, “This is stupid!”

I could say it’s a long story how I got roped into this climb, but actually, it’s not long at all. Last September, hanging around at ringside before a WWE show, announcers John Layfield and Michael Cole asked if I wanted to join their small group dubbed ‘The WWE Climbing Team’ to climb Mt. Rainier. I said sure, and they handed me a cell phone. On the other end was Alpine Ascents, the best guide service in the world. Without much thought on what I was getting myself into, I gave them my credit card number, and, just like that, a year-long training session to get prepared for Rainier began.

I will confess that I have a problem. When I get interested in something that I deem worthy, I go all in. And when I say all in, I mean completely consumed. When I was a wee tadpole, bicycles interested me. I delayed getting my driver’s license because Iwas having too much fun riding my bicycle everywhere; putting literally thousands of miles on that trusty Cannondale. Then, once I did get that license, I got into motorcycles. I visited every state in the union on two wheels. I rode to Alaska twice, Newfoundland once, and just for fun, once from London to Scotland.

When the photography bug bit, I singlehandedly increased Canon’s profit margin by 10%. Camping? Cashed in all my retirement money and bought a trailer.

Mobile Desert Assault Vehicle

Drums? Well…

When dirt bikes became interesting, I trained by racing them (at 43 years old! Ha!) then I rode 4500 miles though the Outback of Australia on the APC Rally.

APC Rally 2012

I would easily be the world’s best drug addict.

After the APC Rally, I was kind of in between things. Mountain climbing was a natural fit for an addictive personality like me. Last summer, John Layfield, Michael Cole and I attempted to climb Middle Palisades mountain. We were so unprepared that we failed to summit, but the fire inside ignited. I began a training regimen to ensure that I would never be so unprepared. I did all the conventional stuff, like going to the gym, climbing and running – and some unconventional stuff, like my Airplane Bathroom Challenge.

I fly four times a week for work, which sounds glamorous but is completely the opposite. I invented the ABC as a way to force myself to so something worthwhile during a flight. The challenge? Every time I had to use the bathroom, on every flight, I also had to do 30 squats. Airplane bathrooms are pretty tiny, but I’ve heard people are able to do all kinds of things in there, so I figured why not squats? One time the bathroom door popped open while I was doing my workout, and the shocked flight attendant glared at me.

“It’s OK, I’m training to climb Mt. Rainier.”

She replied, “Of course you are.”

It got to the point that I would try to ‘hold it’ for the entire flight, rather than having to do the squats. Little did I know then that even ‘holding it’ would turn out to be training for Rainier.

Two weeks before the Rainier climb, Michael Cole and I attempted to climb Grand Teton. Just before that climb, John informed us via email that he wouldn’t be climbing Rainier. Something about a meeting, or something. Regardless of the reason, the WWE Climbing Team got a little smaller that day.

The weather conspired against me and Cole, and though we had a great adventure, we were unable to summit Teton. After that climb, Cole felt maybe he wasn’t as ready as he wanted to be for Rainier, and after some agonizing and soul searching, he decided to sit the climb out. The WWE Climbing Team was now down to two, me and backstage lighting artist extraordinaire, Mr. Chris Ferro.

Me and Chris – The remnants of the WWE Climbing Team – at the base of Mt. Rainer

Coming tomorrow – The Climb of Mount Rainier <- Click This To Read

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Categories : Climbing

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