This morning I am enjoying my coffee barefoot. I am reclined in a secondhand papazan chair and the rising sun is sending its thin, warming rays through my windows, kissing my toes. I am trying to savor it. In a couple of weeks I will be waking up on the Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska – Denali basecamp – but I will need to melt snow in order to make coffee. This time of year the sun is so high in the sky, it will hardly get dark that far north, so there won’t be any mornings. Just endless dusky days. There will be no going barefoot. Instead, I will be wearing double-layer boots to protect my toes from sub-zero temperatures. It won’t be like the sunny California winters I am used to, where it snows, then the sun comes out, the pavement dries, and the temperatures stay tolerable. I will be camped on an incredibly cold glacier surrounded by enormous peaks, and I will be feeling very small, very fragile.
I learned this week that I have received a Live Your Dream grant from The American Alpine Club in order to climb in Alaska. This grant has the unusual and wonderful premise of giving money not just to elite climbers, but to individuals who love the sport and are pushing their own limits, no matter how small that goal may seem to someone else. This will pay for my air taxi ride onto the glacier, and I am incredibly grateful. My partner and I have a list of moderate routes on the peaks surrounding basecamp that we plan to attempt, conditions dependent. For me, never having been to Alaska before, this will be a big step up in my mountaineering experience. I am looking forward to the adventure, the new setting, and striving towards new goals.
We started packing, which for us means dumping all the gear that we know we will need into a big, sloppy pile on our living room floor. Lately I have seen many similar photos that people post pre-expedition that show meticulously folded clothes and geometrically arranged gear on a clean wood floor. Though our packing will take a more organized form as we get closer to departure, for now we just have this disheveled accumulation, a maybe list, and a list of things we still need to find.
For now I am taking pleasure in the mundane comforts of life. Strong coffee, precious mornings, relaxing in the comfort and safety of my home. These details I usually overlook, but I know I will long for them when I am shivering and frightened on the side of a large and uncaring mountain.