Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dreams and Goals

An article about me was recently featured in a Language Arts textbook for 6th graders--some of the students who use the textbook have been sending me letters over the past several months. Here are some of the letters that I have gotten about setting goals, and my response to them below!

Dear Samantha,

           You are inspiring to me to achieve my goals. It was amazing for me that you were the youngest person to climb the seven summits. So it would be fun if you made a goal for one to achieve like the one you already achieved.
            My goal is to have a skate or bike shop. I will achieve this by setting goals and working towards them.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Climbing and Dance

Hi Samantha,
I am 11 and my name is harmony. I am a big fan because you are so brave. I always look at your pictures on your blog. I first heard about you in school and I was interested in how old you where and you climbed mount everest. I wish I could be just like u because your so brave. Did u have any second thoughts before climbing mount everest? People think climbing mountains is so easy but you have to practice and practice. My dream is not exactly what you did but I want to be a professional hip-hop dancer. But that has some similarities like being brave on stage and practicing. I wish I knew you because you because inspire me. Good luck on your next adventure love your friend:

Me at a dance recital in June 2000 (when I was 11!!)

Hi Harmony,
I think that's so cool you want to be a professional hip-hop dancer! I did a lot of dance up through when I was about seventeen. It was actually one of the main ways that I got exercise when I wasn't in the mountains. It may not be what you'd normally think to do when training to climb a big peak, but I think it actually turned out to be a really big help. Not only does it work your legs and heart, dance teaches you so much about things like body awareness and balance that are also important in climbing.

I took some hip-hop classes and really liked them, but I have to say I wish I had been better at hip-hop--I think ballet and tap were more in my stride. When I was about 13 I actually thought I wanted to be a professional dance choreographer! Sometimes I still miss dance a lot--who knows, maybe I'll be able to pick it up again now : )

You're very right that both climbing and dance take a lot of practice, and bravery. I think the patience, persistence, and guts (I always had horrible stage fright) I learned from dance taught me a lot that helped me in climbing, not to mention things like school or jobs.

To answer your questions, I was 18 when I climbed Everest. And yes I did sometimes have second thoughts about it, or moments of self-doubt, but I also never gave up the thought that I could do it as long as I really wanted to.

I'm so glad you like the pictures on my blog. Keep dancing!

Spring, summer, fall

It’s been awhile since my last post but life, and adventures, have carried on. The email from I got from Harmony (above) inspired me to write another post.

I’ve had two major developments in the last few months: Finishing up my master’s degree and moving to Washington, D.C. to start my first “real” job as a research assistant to a journalist.  

I spent spring quarter on Stanford’s main campus, my last quarter there. Besides my Earth systems classes I took a couple of classes in the journalism department—I wrote this story for one of them, which I’m quite proud of. It’s about Michael Kobold and two of the Sherpas I climbed Everest with (including Namgel, who I summited with).

Namgel with Everest in the background

I spent my summer finishing things up at Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station, in Pacific Grove, California. I took a class there called “Ecology and Conservation of Kelp Forest Communities.” It was an amazing class—we got to use Monterey Bay, which was right out our back door, as our laboratory and playground. We went scuba diving every morning to get a closer look at the organisms and ecosystems that we learned about in the classroom. I loved becoming so familiar with this totally other world—I felt so happy getting under the surface and seeing what’s really going out there in that vast expanse we call the ocean. (Well, most days I felt happy to. Bad visibility and cold, cold water did make it a little less than fun on some particularly groggy mornings). 

My kelp forest ecology class getting ready for a dive in Carmel Bay.

 One of my favorite dives was to a site where there’s shale beds (most of the rock there is granite), making for a different collection of critters than we found elsewhere in the bay. There were dozens of a type of nudibranch (sea slugs) called Melibe leonina. They were translucent white and anywhere from a few inches to almost a foot in length. Most of them were hanging off the kelp and feeding by letting their tentacles drift around their heads, but some were actually swimming by closing up their foot and undulating their whole bodies from side to side. They seemed so completely fantastical.

Me and a Melibe leonina

While a big part of me still misses seeing (and getting in) the ocean everyday, I think I’m starting to find my groove here in D.C., too. I had never even been to our nation’s capitol before moving here, and there have been a lot of little things to adapt to. But I did survive the two big events that swept through the past couple of week—hurricane Sandy and the election.

I’ve also managed to dip my toes into some of the climbing that the east coast has to offer, with a short trip to the Gunks in upstate New York and a couple of visits to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. Check out my friend Keith's blog to read about my first day climbing (or more like trailblazing!) at the New. But I really enjoyed these trips--both the Gunks and the New have so much to offer. 

Me rappelling down after a climb in the New River Gorge (it's hard to take actual climbing shots when you're there with just one other person--I'd rather have a good belay than a good shot!)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hetch Hetchy: water, water, water


In 1870 John Muir called the Hetch Hetchy Valley the "wonderfully exact counterpart of the great Yosemite." While people travel to Yosemite Valley to marvel at the static granite monoliths, Hetch Hetchy draws visitors to Yosemite National Park's northwest corner with the dynamism of its water. 

The 117-billion-gallon Hetch Hetchy reservoir was created by the O'Shaughnessy Dam in 1923 (its construction was long stalled by a battle against it led by Muir). Fed by alpine melt off into the Tuolumne River, today the reservoir provides drinking water that is pristine enough it doesn't need to be filtered to 2.4 million people in the Bay Area, as well as hydro-electric power generated by two plants downstream. 

It had been awhile since I went to Yosemite with no intention of climbing (given the still healing stress fracture). But when I got home from seeing Hetch Hetchy a couple of weekends ago and drank a glass of water from my faucet in Palo Alto--85 percent of which came from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, now 120 miles away--it had never tasted quite so sweet. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Spring Break Scuba

I spent spring break taking a course offered through Stanford's marine science branch in Monterey to get certified as a scientific diver. In five days we completed the prerequisites--PADI's advanced open water and rescue diver certifications--and then also made good headway towards finishing the AAUS scientific diver requirements (I'll have to go back down sometime to finish up, but I can think of worse ways to spend a weekend or two).

50 degree water means squeezing into a lot of neoprene.

Doing a survey for invasive tunicates  on the Monterey wharf for one of our scientific training dives. 

Getting ready to head out to the deep reef. 

While scuba takes place in a very different medium, there are definitely parallels that can be drawn to climbing--especially the high level of breath and mind control that is helpful to, or even required of, both activities.

Overall a very cool way to spend break (now back to the grindstone).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bummer . . .

After the pain I felt in my foot while running (or bouldering or sometimes just walking) didn't lessen after a couple of weeks, I decided to actually get it checked out by a doctor. The verdict? A stress fracture in my third metatarsal. 

The boot

I've been given this big boot to wear and told not to run or climb for the next six weeks. The boot is pretty much the same one I wore when I broke my calcaneus (on the same foot) a few years ago, which seems weird because this is so much less of an injury. At least I'm not on crutches for this one. I have a suspicion I mostly have to wear it because the doctor (who was great, by the way) wants me to actually take the no running or climbing thing seriously. Which is hard. But, as she pointed out, it's a small fracture now but I have the potential to make it much worse if I keep doing what I've been doing.  

The real kicker is that it means I won't be able to run either the Boston or the Big Sur marathons that I had been training for. And they're making it harder to qualify for Boston after this year, so I'll have to up my game if I want to run it a future year. Or try to qualify at an easier race; I qualified at Big Sur last year, which is notoriously hilly. 

As much as I like the concept of this new trend of barefoot running, the doctor said she thought running in my barefoot shoes is probably what did me in. Apparently I'm a supinator, the opposite of a pronator. I have high, inflexible arches that don't do as great of a job absorbing shock as I run, making me more prone to things like stress fractures if I don't have sufficient padding. 

I guess I'll have to be a little more sedentary this next few weeks. Or become more aquatic; floating shouldn't further stress out my feet. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Running in Monterey

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.

I'm in Monterey for the quarter, taking classes at Stanford's marine station. It's an amazing place to get out and run as I gear up for the Boston marathon on April 16 (just got my plane ticket today . . . getting stoked). 

I love the progression of runs that start out in Cannery Row, continue on down the coastal trail, and then go along the scenic "17-mile drive" toward Carmel. I start out weaving through the crowds of pedestrian tourists that concentrate around the aquarium, which soon turns into weaving through the packs of casual bicyclests along the coastal trail that looks out onto the sheltered Monterey Bay, until I make my way around the point, where it's less populated but I continue to follow along the seemingly infinite stretch of turbulent, rocky shores. This is my favorite part, passing by the surfers of Asilomar that make me crave my surfing stint in Santa Cruz and sites such as "The Great Tidepool," the fabled Doc's favorite collecting site in Steinbeck's Cannery Row

Unfortunately, I think I pushed it a little too hard on my long run last weekend. I luckily never encountered running-related injuries while training for my first two marathons, but this means I'm not really sure how this should affect my training plan. The fact that I'm experiencing some pain in my foot that make me think I should take a little break from running, so yesterday I went on a long bike ride instead. Hopefully I'll be fully back in the game again soon. 

Sport climbing at Pinnacles National Monument

East Buttress of El Cap
I've also gotten to take some advantage of the lack of any sort of winter here in California and gotten some climbing in. It seems so strange to me that Yosemite is still so climbable in February . . . 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Joshua Tree

Spent a couple of days climbing at Joshua Tree before I start up classes again on Monday. All of the jumbles of rocks and Dr. Suess-like trees make it such an outlandish place!

Me on "Dinky Doinks" (5.8)

I had a lot of fun on some of the moderate trad climbs, like "Double Dog Leg" (5.7) and "Dinky Doinks" (5.8). 

Starting up "Mental Physics" 
Nathan on Mental Physics
Our second day we made the long trek out to the highly recommended climb "Mental Physics" (5.7), a long, consistent crack. It was an awesome climb, but it made me wish I had brought better crack climbing shoes: my snug bouldery shoes were starting to make jamming quite painful (note to self). 

Bouldering in the Outback

"Gunsmoke Traverse" (V3), JTree's mega-classic

Also did a bit of bouldering--it was cool to revisit problems I had worked on the last time I was there (a couple of years ago) as a reference point to how much stronger I've gotten.

The Cave of Wonders?