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Youth Movement: Preparing for a Himalayan Climb with Melissa Arnot
Posted on April 6, 2016

Prayer flags waving in the wind as Everest season starts anew.

Recently, we received a very polite email from Elliot Singer, a 13-year-old girl living in San Francisco, California, who has already climbed Adams, Whitney, Rainier and Longs Peak. The young mountaineer—who has also heli-skied in Greenland and trekked to Everest Base Camp—was preparing for a trip through the Himalaya with Eddie Bauer guide Melissa Arnot to climb Lobuche Peak, Kyajo Ri, and Island Peak, which all top out at more than 20,000 feet. We read her email, her outdoor resume, and her story, all of which were impressive for someone just about to enter high school. So, as Everest season starts in the Himalaya, we’re giving Elliot her first adventure byline here on the Live Your Adventure blog. —LYA Editor

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Words and Image by Elliot Singer

As I walk down to the YMCA, guided solely by repetitious knowledge and my iPhone’s pitiful excuse for a flashlight, the sky begins to unload on me. “S**t,” I whisper to no one in particular, and hurry down to the gym. Most mornings begin for me this way: a 5 a.m. wake-up, followed by a grueling gym session. Sprinting, incline workouts, lifting, squats, core—I make my way through an hour-long circuit of exercises designed to prepare me for the unforgiving mountains of Nepal.

I suppose this love of the mountains began for me when I was just a toddler, spending my summers in Idaho at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains. The obsession slowly grew, and by the time I was a teenager, I had scaled Mt. Whitney, Mt. Rainier, and Longs Peak, some of the highest mountains in the U.S.; trekked to Everest Base Camp; and skied in both the Himalaya and Greenland. But most of it was just side trips, things I did on family vacations or during the summer. That is, until the summer before eighth grade, when I began to plan my most ambitious expedition yet. The idea slowly formed into a reality, which became an itinerary, and before I knew it I was on a 16-week training program, including an AIARE 2 avalanche certification, to prepare me for a two-month trip to the High Himalaya.

Prayer wheels in the Khumbu. Image: John Mancuso

For me, there were really two main aspects of preparation: physical and mental. The physical training was straightforward, mostly lifting, cardio, and core. I needed to prepare my body to climb to 20,000 feet carrying a gear-laden pack, without buckling under the misery. I jumped up and down on boxes: both feet, right to left, left to right. I cut out sugar, and subscribed to a “lean, mean fighting machine” eating regimen. But at the same time, I reveled in the toil. I have always been a driven person, and for me, this was the ultimate goal. Crème de la crème. The second aspect was mental, which was definitely the more difficult of the two. I have always been a somewhat anxious person, and this trip was a lot of pressure for me to handle. Expensive, but also the opportunity of a lifetime.

Eight weeks out, when I was really feeling the stress, I made a big change. I decided to take up Buddhism. After exchanging my language periods in school for independent study, I went on a mad search to learn about this new and different way of life. I ordered Awakening the Buddha Within and immersed myself in the four noble truths, eight-fold path, and three jewels. I interpreted famous Buddhist quotes, watched TED Talks like “The Habits of Happiness,” and downloaded the Simply Being app to meditate twice daily. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became, and I truly believed in the teachings. It was all just so right to me. All of it made perfect sense. I felt so empowered by the notion that happiness can only come from within because it took some of the pressure off me regarding the trip. I didn’t need to summit all of the mountains to be happy. I could gain knowledge and wisdom from doing this, which might lead me to better understanding and therefore happiness. But the labels didn’t matter—just the experience.

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As Everest season kicks off, the Live Your Adventure blog will be tracking all of the Eddie Bauer guides and athletes heading for the Himalayas, including Ed Viesturs, who will be trekking to base camp with his son Gil, as well as Cory Richards and Adrian Ballinger who aim to summit via the Northeast Ridge route without oxygen on their #EverestNoFilter expedition.

Author: - Wednesday, April 6th, 2016
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