On behalf of the 2008 Climb Against the Odds team, Connie Bates of San Jose, Calif., has been blogging for the past several weeks about the experience of training and preparing for the 14,000-ft. climb of Mt. Shasta. Finally, Connie is able to share the experience of being on the mountain and making the summit attempt with her 32 teammates. Thank you to Connie for being willing to share her experiences! The final blog post on Climb Against the Odds from climber and breast cancer survivor Connie Bates:
A week ago today, I climbed Mt. Shasta and made it to the summit. Wow!! Even a week later, thinking about it still puts a grin on my face. We woke up about 12:30 AM for our summit attempt. The full moon reflected off the snow and filled the air with a soft, kind of mystical glow. The air fairly vibrated with excitement and energy. I said to my tent mate, Mia, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” And so we began our journey in the darkness toward the waiting mountain.
After about an hour of climbing, we roped up into teams. Each team climbed as one, traversing together across the steep West face. Every hour or so, our guide Kajsa would stop us for a “maintenance” break. I began to feel nauseous each time we took a break. I didn’t want Kajsa to think I couldn’t go on, so I choked down my snacks and ignored the nausea.
Step by step, we worked our way up Mt. Shasta. It seemed like the “step” became our new unit of measure. How many steps it took to work your way across a steep slope, how many steps it took to recover when your footing was shaky and you slipped. And it wasn’t easy. My concentration began to slip and my feet grew less cooperative. At one point, Kajsa told me she was concerned that I seemed too tired and was going to need to evaluate my readiness. Crap! That definitely was not what I wanted to hear! But I wasn’t ready to give up the climb. I tucked my head down and resolved to keep going until I couldn’t go any further.
After almost eleven hours, our rope team reached the summit of Mt. Shasta at 14,162 ft. You could sense the reverence and respect amongst the climbers for the beautiful and difficult mountain we had climbed. They say Mt. Shasta is where heaven meets the earth. Sitting up there with my fellow climbers, it sure seemed that way to me.
Climbing Mt. Shasta forced me to reach deep down inside myself and allowed me to reclaim that which I lost through breast cancer. Almost as if the missing pieces were finally back together. The part of me that was too stubborn to give up, the part of me that cried on the summit when one of my fellow climbers told me she was proud of me. For each of the BCF climbers, the journey up Mt. Shasta was immensely personal and tremendously rewarding and I am proud and blessed to have been a part of the 2008 Climb Against the Odds climbing team.
Visit the Breast Cancer Fund's Flickr site to view photos from Climb Against the Odds.