This is the second piece in a two part series by RyAnn. The first blog, “It Wasn’t Always This Way” can be found HERE.
When I realized I wanted to climb mountains, I didn’t know where to begin. I was just a single mom out hiking whenever she could. My goals felt far-fetched and I still had so much to learn. But life has a funny way of throwing a curve ball that can set you on the most unexpected path.
In the midst of learning how to be a single mom and adjusting to a new schedule, I met someone. We started out as friends. He was someone to spend a random Friday night with, eat pizza with, and talk of exciting outdoor adventures. He shared stories of his climbing experiences: summers spent at Yellowstone and Rainier as a park ranger and travels to far off places.
I was mesmerized. All that time I had spent watching movies and dreaming of one day pursuing my goals of climbing big mountains, and here was this man making his goals happen. The more time Scott and I spent together the more questions I had and the more I thought it might actually be possible to fulfill my dreams.
Then, right when I was starting to see the light, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test.
Life was just beginning to get comfortable and I was finding balance between all the roles I played. My 3 kids and I were creating a life we were proud of. How was a baby supposed to fit into this life?
Thankfully Scott is not the type of person to put goals on the backburner, regardless of what life throws at him. Both through the pregnancy and after, we continued to pursue an active outdoor lifestyle. Together, we learned how to integrate this new little bundle into our adventures. And somehow I found my time spent outside was that much sweeter.
I had shared with Scott my dreams of climbing and he gladly showed me the ropes. I remember the day we went to our local climbing gym and he showed up with a brand-new harness in hand. My hopes were finally starting to become a reality.
Knowing that I had lofty goals in mind, Scott introduced me to the Mountaineers Organization here in Washington. The Mountaineers have been around since 1906 and are a vital part of WA’s outdoor community. They offer classes from beginning hiking to ice climbing, and all the skills in between. I decided to enroll in the Basic Alpine Climbing course at my local branch in Tacoma. This was a big commitment, but I knew it was time to jump in.
For the better part of late winter and spring I sat through lectures on proper nutrition and conditioning, avalanche awareness, team dynamics, and weather patterns. I conditioned my body by strapping on a 35 lb pack and hiking up trails with leg-numbing elevation gains. I slept in freezing temperatures only to rise at ungodly hours, tie into a rope team, and trek through the swirling snow. I learned how to plunge my ice axe into a steep hillside to save my ass from falling. We practiced setting up systems to save our fellow climbers from deadly crevasses. After climbing granite slabs and cracks, I stood on high perched ledges with views and then prepped for an airy rappel back down to the ground. And no night at home was spent without practicing one of the many knots I would need or reading from “Freedom of the Hills” also known as the mountaineering bible.
The first time I stood on the summit of a sought-after peak, I knew my hard work and sacrifice led me to exactly where I was meant to be. It had all been worth it.
Over the course of the summer I climbed 4 more peaks, including the mountain that drew me to this icy, alpine world: on July 28, 2017 I stood on the summit of the 14,411ft peak of Mt Rainier. It was an emotional climb, one I wasn’t sure I would complete. But with the support of my amazing team and the knowledge of my kids rooting for me at home, I made it to the top. I felt profoundly proud as I stood there on the summit.
After all of the hard work and determination, I am proud to call myself strong and determined, a leader and a mountaineer. I am living the life of my dreams.