Archive for June, 2008

Moving Up….Moving On



Every time I close my eyes I picture my (notice how possessive I’ve become here) MY kids on the last day I got to share with them as my mountain climbing fourth grade class.  While last year’s incredible group greeted me with a boisterous “hola!”  This year’s climb culminated in Nepal and so they would soon learn a Sherpa greeting.  With hands clasped just below their chins and heads bowed they would say “namasta”. Namasta.  As I’ve written before, Namasta is one of those words that says it all.  I’m not certain if we have any words like that in the English language; a word that expresses a hello, a goodbye, respect, acknowledgment, peace and love.


Since last year’s class raised the bar climbing New Hampshire’s Mt. Monadnock, it only seemed fitting that this year’s group be given the same challenge.  And a challenge it was with temperatures reaching 94.  For many this would be their first encounter with a mountain and their first time in their ten years having to pull something from deep within to physically reach the top.  It wouldn’t be easy, but then again as I have tried to teach them, it never is and every mountain is different.  Every mountain will require something from you you didn’t know you had.


Our day started out close to a Saturday Night Live sketch.  Once we arrived at the Monadnock parking lot, a very large enthusiastic park ranger boarded the school bus.  He looked like Santa Claus, he was huge.  And did I mention he was from Colorado?

‘Mr. Beard’ proceeded to tell the gang what their day on the mountain would be like.  He told them the wonderful things they would see.  The fresh water they could drink from the springs better than any they had ever tasted.  23 pair of fourth grade eyes were riveted on this giant man in the ranger uniform.  Suddenly Mr. Beard, Santa Claus, jovial story teller changed his exuberant expression.  In a forbidding tone Mr. Beard described the hazards that they could suddenly find themselves in should they not use good judgment.  Okay, I’m fine with that after all this is a mountain and one needs to be cautious and aware of their surroundings.  But our once jolly old elf suddenly became something from a Stephen King novel.  “There are only two of us rangers on the mountain today.”  Okay we’ll be careful. “And should one of you not stay on the trail and fall and break your leg….” I turn in the bus seat to see if the kids are paying attention to this lesson.  “If you fall and break your leg you will be in for at least six hours of excruciating pain before help arrives!”  I look to Jen my Boulder trainer who accompanied me east to meet this incredible group of kids.  We try to stifle an uncomfortable laugh. Then I turn to the kids and see 23 pairs of eyes the size of dinner plates.  In all the years I have been climbing and all the mountains I have approached I don’t think anyone has been quite as graphic as this park ranger.  Even I was now nervous about today’s ascent.


It wasn’t easy.  It never is.  All day long the kids asked “Miss is this harder than Everest?” I told them I didn’t know I had never done Everest.  “Miss Wendy? Can we stop now?”  “How much farther?”  But look!  There is the summit, look how close you are.  And after over four hours there we stood on the top of its rocky dome.  All 23 kids made it to the top, the last to arrive using everything he had and then some was Carlos.  Carlos who in the year I have been visiting the school has grown so very much. Physically of course, but even more intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.  Carlos arrived at the top flopped down on a rock, sweat mixed with the biggest smile you have ever seen and said “I did it.  I did it for Wendy.”


Every mountain is different.  No matter the elevation, the ascent, the conditions.  A mountain is a mountain and will always present the climber with more than they arrived with.  I don’t care if it is 29,000 foot Everest or 3,000 foot Monadnock a climb will bring something out that you didn’t even know you had.  Gut wrenching, thought provoking, tears, pain and a feeling like no other when you turn back and look at how very far you have come.  We all climb our own mountains in some way and once we reach our summit we can stop and savor the sweetness of life and life’s lessons learned.


I returned to the class once more before the year ended.  I stayed most of the day I just couldn’t pull myself away and say goodbye.  This class of rock stars on CBS Sunday Morning, interviews with magazines and all the commotion my visits have created.  Just as the class was about to be dismissed I turned with my hands about to come together in that now familiar clasp and before I could get the word out 23 heads were bowed and in a wonderful chorus my kids ended our magical year with a resounding “Namasta!” 


I grew an awful lot this year and I’m not done yet but thanks to the Donald McKay School, a great fourth grade teacher and now 60 incredible kids my journey has been made even sweeter.


Climb On!




Posts by Date

June 2008

About Wendy Booker

In June of 1998, this 55 year old mother of three was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS after experiencing balance problems, blurred vision and numbness on her left side. When first diagnosed, Wendy was devastated. But it took very little time for her to transform anguish into inspiration. She immediately turned her hobby of casual running into a continuous pursuit and has now completed nine marathons.

Mountain climbing became the next conquest. Wendy learned about a team of mountain climbers with Multiple Sclerosis who were attempting to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali) in Alaska. With no previous climbing experience, she dedicated a year to hard training and set off with them in 2002. Although weather conditions prohibited the team from completing, Wendy attempted the summit again in 2004 on her own and she succeeded!

The feeling of accomplishment she experienced propelled her next aspiration: to climb the highest mountain on each continent. Just five years later, Wendy Booker has successfully reached the top of six of The Seven Summits – Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. McKinley, Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, Mt. Vinson Massif and Mt. Kosciuszko. Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on earth, still awaits for 2010.