What I learned by climbing Mount Si.


Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 6.47.38 AM.pngIn the legends of the Snoqualmie people, Mount Si was the body of the moon, Snoqualm, fallen to earth through the trickery of the fox and the blue jay.  The mountain more than lives up to this otherworldly tale.” – Washington Trails Association 


Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 6.53.57 AM Unlike many 1300+ metre climbs in the Pacific Northwest, it has a ~1,000+ metre gain.  You are on your feet for 4 miles up and 4 miles down, as no glicade route down exists.  The battering up the granite/slate/basaltic remnant of an oceanic plate volcano is doubly so coming down.  No mountaineer enjoys climbing down.   This is one reason it is the go-to mountain for practicing assaults on Mount Rainier, as well as, its balance of steap 20% grads and subtle mid-mountain flats.  In early spring, climbers getting ready for Rainier-san come here with weighted packs. Conventional wisdom says if they can reach the end of the trail in under two hours, they’re ready to conquer the state’s tallest peak.  At the top is “The Haystack” – a the jumble of rock that is a boulders’ paradise.


(1)   I learned that KT is not only used in sports competition, it can help young knees absorb the battering of 4-7 hours of nearly constant climbing. A Millennial woman climber ~23 years old stopped to explain this to me, as I pondered my own knees and hers with KT.

“I apply it after a shower the night before the climb, sleep in it, and it can stay on for days afterwords,” she gushed in almost joy.

This valuable lesson may help future Millennial climbers to stave off knee repair later in their careers.  It may help future explorers on Mars and the Moon, as well.

(2)   I learned for people who love all people, Mount Si can be wake up call.  Always be prepared to meet and greet your fellow traveller. But despite your trust in long-lasting friendships dating back to your high school days, or even close father-daughter relationships FRIENDS WILL LET YOU DOWN.   Be prepared.  The mountain knows your true friends in a way that you do not.   Always bring extra food and water.  Always.  Planning is everything; Plans are nothing.  Be self-reliant.  This so reminded me of our story on Walter Bonatti, the famous Italian climber.

His “had to learn” to distrust people, but loved them none-the-less.  Like climbing Mt. St. Helens from the South Face: two steps up, one step back, to the crater rim on volcanic ash.   For a long time Bonatti was accused and vilified by a part of the climbing community but over time the growing amount of evidence in support of his version of the facts proved his honesty.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 7.26.26 AMIn 1980 Bonatti met the former actress Rossana Podestà in Rome and they soon relocated to Dubino, a small town in the Alps.  Bonatti, aged 81, died alone at a private clinic where the hospital management would not allow his partner of more than 30 years to spend the last minutes of his life together.  The two were not married.  His funeral took place in Lecco on 18 September 2011, where he was cremated and the ashes interred in the cemetery of Porto Venere.’ -Wikipedia

“Bonatti was one of the greatest climbers of all time – the last true Alpinist, an expert in all disciplines.  But more importantly Walter was a marvellous, tolerant, loving person.  He leaves a great spiritual testament: he was a clean man vilified for 50 years over what happened on K2, but in the end everyone accepted that he was right.” – Reinhold Messner


(3)   Finally I learned that what we can understand from Alpinists and great mountaineers like Walter Bonatti and Jim Whittaker,  will one day serve us well in colonizing Mars.   Choose your partners well and critically.  Women make great leaders. Expect tragedy,  Be at home with yourself to love and not-love.   It is not about you, after all.  I will never go to Mars or the Moon, but I can see how we will survive and thrive there.  Today on Mt Si,  on the volcanoes, the Alps, and the Himalayas, but mostly on the mountains at the South Pole – the true proving ground for colonization of a lifeless planet – those lessons and people can carry over to successful first missions and first true colonization attempts on Mars, the Moon and other worlds.


IMG_20180515_150958I will never go to Mars or the Moon, but I can see how we will survive and thrive there.  [Also, sorry I was an hour late. The offer still stands to my fellow climbers.]


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s