Happy New Year!

As I watched the famous ball drop on New Year’s Eve in  New York’s Times Square, I couldn’t help but notice the ball I now have firmly stuck in my throat.  Its 2009, and after nearly 9 years in the mountains it is the year I am to make an attempt of Everest.  Gulp!  How is it possible to be here already?  When I began this quest Everest seemed so far away-in the very distant future. Now I am less than three months from facing “The Goddess Mother of Earth.”  Man, I hope she is a good mom.

I have just completed a weekend in Bend, OR with Brooke and Robert Link training on the lower slope of Mt. Bachelor.  We arrived in Robert’s truck with  ladders of various sizes protruding from the open cab.  We looked like we were there to paint the ski facility not set ladders helter skelter in the snow. Soon a varitable obstacle course was set up and I commensed this valuable lesson for crossing the famous Khumbu ice of Everest.  What a mess. 

Crossing the ladders in mountaineering boots would be difficult enough, the ladders are horizontal, vertical, crocked and whobble.  Robert assures me they were acurately placed this way.  Some are long, others short. Ropes fix the ladders into the ice and snow and me to the ladder.  Now add the element of crampons to my feet.  Those sharp pointed claws that keep a climber afixed to the mountain.  I love my twelve pointed crampons as they grab a slippery slope and give me the confidence to stand and climb.  But put a heavily footed crampon onto a slippery ladder rung and things get dicey.  I crept and literally clawed my way across the first  ladder a mere eight inches off the ground.  Whew made it to the other side already panting and sweating.  On to the next ladder, slightly higher, slightly more vertical.  The next and the next.  I was klutzy, awkward and certain I sounded like a squealing pig…..not very brave mountaineeringish. Had to let that image go.  The points of my crampons make balance nearly impossible.  Every time a point scraped a rung it felt like fingernails on a chalk board.  The ropes running along the sides of the ladders  were to give  some stability and protection. I hoisted myself up and sort of lowered myself down.  I gave up on finess and decided looking inebriated was far better than falling and getting tangled up in ropes and gear.

The local news media arrived by mid afternoon.  I looked no better and hoped the audio wouldn’t pick up the stream of cursing that now seemed to be impossible to contain.  I was so glad when the time came to pack up and head out. 

Yesterday we repeated the same exercise only this time the ladders were higher off the ground and more precariously placed.  In addition I had to ascend ropes and rappel down just to get to the ladders.  Robert stood below bellowing that if I didn’t get faster I would miss tea and popcorn at Everest base camp!  Imagine missing food as splendid as mountain popcorn one of my alpine favorites!

As always seems to happen something magical took place and suddenly I felt my transformation from gangly Labrador retriever pup (did I mention that I always feel like this on and off the mountains?) to Khumbu ice fall crosser extraordinaire!  I repeated the obstacle coarse over and over and by days end think I finally got it! 

But I must admit I found this entire experience rather fun and am just a little anxious to now try it out for real in April.

Climb On!


6 Responses to “Happy New Year!”

  1. 1 Terri Griffiths-Granard January 17, 2009 at 5:02 am

    YOU HAVE TO DO THIS!! i am 41, have MS…and If you dont do it,…I will have to!!

    LOTS of love and good thought to you from Los Angeles!@!!!!!!!

    DO IT!@!!!

  2. 2 Martha February 5, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Wendy, I can hear your voice in the written word and love that. Good luck in Mexico. See you next week.


  3. 3 paige innocent February 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    happy new year and congradulations on everything

  4. 4 Kathy Flynn February 11, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    My students and I read your story in National Geographic’s Extreme Explorer. I am blown away by your desire and determination. As someone who is afraid of heights, I cannot imagine climbing the highest peaks in the world. And to do this with an illness like MS is truly amazing! We couldn’t help but wonder why you wanted to do this!! I was nervous just reading your account of practicing with the ladders! We would love to follow your attempt at Everest in April. I hope you plan to continue your blog!

  5. 5 DSD February 12, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Wendy,
    You are a very inspiring and amazing person!
    All our best in your adventures.

  6. 6 Goldenrod March 7, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Hi, Wendy!

    It’s March 7th. You haven’t posted since January when you were in Oregon training for the Khumbu ice on Everest. Last month, supposedly, you were in Mexico – training on Mt. Ixta. I’d hoped to read something of your activities there on this site, but there was no news. You were probably very busy.

    ANYhoo, it’s now March, and you are either in Nepal or on your way there right now to begin what will no doubt be a tight schedule, what with getting all of your equipment organized and Sherpas together and your whole expedition registered with the powers that be, acclimatization to the altitude and weather, and practice climbing with oxygen … not to mention getting your mind ‘set’ for this last big challenge, your successful ascent of Mount Everest.

    I’ve been following your story ever since “Sunday Morning” aired that segment last May, and I just want you to know that I’ve been thinking about you more and more lately and am sending all of the positive and strengthening thoughts I can possibly imagine your way.

    Climb On!

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January 2009
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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.


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