Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Training Outings with PD Teammates

Doug and Nan at foot
of Mt. Si Haystack
Nan and John were the first with PD to join the team. Doug and Martha, their spouses would also join the team as companion climbers. The whole idea about having a companion for each person with either MS or PD on the climb was a big advantage over how most climbs are organized. The benefit of having companions will become more obvious when we actually start walking on the mountain.
Monique and Sierra at foot
of  Mt. Si Haystack

Nan and Doug also live in the Seattle area so we planned on getting in some hiking. The weather in the Northwest was cooperating in January, so we headed out to North Bend Washington to hike Mt. Si, a favored training site for climbers getting ready for Mt. Rainier. We started out early enough to give us time to get down before dark which is around 5pm in the winter when in the thick wooded trails of Washington. The hike starts at 750 feet and over the next 4 miles we traveled through a couple ecosystems of old growth forest and the beginning of subalpine terrain before the rocky summit. We didn't have any views that day due to the low hanging clouds. We had lunch at the Haystack Basin which sits at 3900 feet. Mt. Si tops out at 4167 feet, beyond the basin is a rock scramble of class 2 or 3. With the snow, wind and likely ice we decided to descend. We spent a good five hours hiking that day and a great way to gauge fitness.   
Glenn joined the team in February. He has a lot of mountaineering experience and a good amount of experience living with Parkinson's. He is a patient from our clinic. Glenn had to drive a long way to have access to expert care. Washington has a surplus of doctors that specialize in Parkinson's however, most of them work in or around the Seattle area. We lived too far away to get in any training hikes with Glenn. Glenn would be teamed up with Sean, also a very experienced hiker and athlete from Oregon. 
Sierra, Monique and Nan
Snoqualmie Pass

John Snoqualmie Pass

We planned another training outing while John was in town in March. We headed out to Alpental ski slopes at Snoqualmie Pass to get in a little fitness training. We had a fun day of laughs and snowshoeing is great for fitness training. This is the first time meeting John. He is a lot of fun to be around and very experienced in the backcountry. A good guy to have around on a big mountain climb.

Nan, Doug, John, Monique and Sierra
snowshoeing at Snoqualmie Pass

Martha, John's wife and companion climber wasn't in town for the snowshoe outing. I had looked at her profile on Lori's website for the climb and was hoping to meet Martha before going to Kilimanjaro, possibly on one of our trips to Denver. We planned to climb Pike's Peak for some time at elevation and hoped that John and Martha could join us. We had climbed Pike's Peak and Mt. Adams the month before our successful climb of Mt. Rainier in 2010 so we thought we would use the same schedule for Kilimanjaro training. Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to trek up Pike's Peak due to weather when we were in Boulder nor did we have time to meet up with Martha and John.  

Monique, Nathan and Sierra
returning from Camp Muir,
Mt. Rainier
Nathan joined the team in March. Really the last month anyone could be added to the team unless the person was already fit to climb Kilimanjaro. We had only 3 more months to train. Nathan has a lot of experience hiking around Washington and also has PD. I had known Nathan for a short time from our clinic. I have never seen a person with PD train so hard and accomplish so much in such a short time. Monique and I climbed to Camp Muir in May with Nathan. Camp Muir is not an easy nor moderate climb, it is a challenging climb physically and mentally as it just keeps going up. The climb to Camp Muir from Paradise lodge parking lot is 4.5 miles and 4700 foot elevation gain over snow and at times steep terrain. We had a beautiful sunny day above the clouds with full views of Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens. The day was long and hard work but definitely worth it seeing Nathan standing atop Camp Muir. 

We had a chance to add one more person with PD at the end of March. He had just returned from trekking in northern Eurasia and was hoping to join the team. He was found to have a medical issue that would take some time to sort out so he decided to take a pass on the climb. As of April, Lori has accepted 4 people with PD, two of them will be bringing their spouse and along with Monique and I, brings the total to eight PD related climbers that will join the Kilimanjaro team. In all, there are now 28 confirmed climbers for Lori's Leap of Faith adventure.

Monique running the Howe stairs.
We continue to train on the trails of the Cascade mountains of western Washington. There is no better training for a big mountain than getting out on the trails with a backpack. Additionally, many teammates were cycling and running and working out in a gym setting. We added in stair climbing and hill running for more intensive cardio. Seattle's East Howe Street stairs are a favorite stair climb with 282 steps with elevation gain of 153 feet. Nan and Doug were also climbing these stairs with backpacks of increasing weight and improving their stamina with every step.

John and Martha were training on the peaks of Colorado and both John and Nan are getting good results from cycling for their PD symptoms. Their good base of cycling endurance can only help with the upcoming climb of Kilimanjaro as the legs and cardio will be an asset when trekking for 7 days.

John has lived with PD a long time and over the years has found ways to negate the symptoms of PD. Martha's supportive attitude and investigation into alternative therapies has helped John find beneficial complementary therapeutics to manage the PD. I haven't seen anyone doing as well as John considering the number of years he had been diagnosed. I think John's positive attitude is a big contributing factor for his very slow progression with PD.Monique and I have seen over a thousand people with PD in our clinic from all walks of life. From couch potatoes to serious athletes, the key to doing well seems to hinge on the mindset and how stress is managed. Poor handling of stress can take a big toll in both the physical and mental changes from the PD. Of course the fitter the person is with PD the better all aspects of life will be from getting out of a chair to coping with setbacks from illnesses.

With just a few more months to train, the team is carrying more weight in the backpack and training for longer periods of time. The anticipation continues to increase as we make final preparations to leave home for the two week adventure, select last minute gear items and focus on good nutrition.


  1. Sierra, Nice chapter...I'm hoping this is from the upcoming book. Very motivational! I've had to sit back down after twice getting up to go exercise while I was reading it..mucho inspiring!

  2. Your comment makes it all worth while! Keep moving and aspiring.