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!)