5:00 AM

The alarm goes off at five and Kyle and I both leap out of bed.  But we don’t start throwing on layers and stuffing essentials into our backpacks.  Instead, I grab the laptop and Kyle plops down in front of his desktop and we start filling out an online application for a mountaineering course through Boealps.  About ten minutes later we were both submitting our application and, with a sigh of happiness, climbing back into bed to snag a few more Zs before work.

This mountaineering course is our big adventure for this spring.  Kyle has had it on his mind for months and months now, bringing it up occasionally, reminding me that it is his main priority for this year, etc etc.  I however, was not planning on doing this mountaineering course until recently.  Let’s be honest, I’m a little scared of heights, crevasses are terrifying, and I can’t stop thinking about avalanches.  But the more he talked about it the more it start to haunt my thoughts as well.  I couldn’t stop thinking about what my next step was going to be, where would I grow next, what fears would I conquer?  In the end, even though things about mountaineering me, the course was sounding less intimidating and more like another challenge for me to overcome.  I was starting to feel like if I could just demystify those situations that make me nervous and garner some skills in the snow and ice I might come out the other end a stronger surer person.  And so I signed up with Kyle.

One of the requirements of the class is that you participate in a fitness evaluation.  This entails hiking up Mt Si with a twenty pound pack on and being timed on your ascent and descent speed.  Kyle and I are training for the class, wanting to be as strong as possible, and so we decided to head out to Mt Si last weekend to test ourselves, see where we are at.  As many Washingtonians no doubt know, Mt Si is the most heavily hiked trail in the state.  It is an eight mile round trip hike leading to the top of a mountain where, on a good day, you have incredible views of the surrounding Cascades and Seattle itself.  The day we decided to hike it was not a “good day”.  It was a very cold, foggy, and eventually, rainy day.  Despite these deterrents there was still a steady stream of hikers heading up the trail.  Mt Si is also renowned for being a hard hike, a steep hike.  Kyle and I headed up the trail not knowing what to expect, which is, as always, part of the joy of hiking.

We found the trail to be graded well, with some steep sections but nothing outlandish.  If people think that trail is steep they should check out Mt Rose in the Olympics or the old route up Mailbox peak.  Mt Si on the other hand switchbacks rather smoothly up to the top.  About two miles up the trail started to be coated in a thick layer of ice and so Kyle and I stopped and put on our MSR micro-spikes.  I have never loved my micro-spikes more.  We passed so many people, all of them slipping and struggling up the mountain and crunched along happily as they looks longingly at our traction.  By the time we reached the top (in a satisfying hour and forty-five minutes) those with micro-spikes had been separated from those without and everyone around us was wearing some sort of traction on their feet. We stayed at the summit for approximately two minutes before descending due to an ice mist and scary bird that wanted to steal our snacks.  We got back to the bottom of the trail in an hour and fifteen minutes making our total trip three hours long.

Our trip up Mt Si left us feeling good about our fitness and the course in general.  For our training we are running, climbing, doing yoga and walking a intimidating long set of stairs next to our house with weighted packs on.  The fitness is test is on the 7th of February and then the course begins.  Wish us luck!

PS One of the morals of this post is that if you are planning on hiking any of the trails in the Cascades in the near future don’t forget your micro-spikes or yak-tracks or some sort of traction.  And yes, I recommend the MSR micro-spikes.  They rock.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."