Position: Event Services Manager

Age: 50

Has worked at CompuSystems for: 12 years

Accomplishment: Hiked Mount St. Helens

Q: Why do it?
I hiked up Mount Saint Helens and actually survived! The reasons that I wanted to do a hike up Mt. St. Helens were the challenge and the photo-op. Friends I know do it every year, and after seeing the pictures last year of their hike, I just wanted to take pictures at the top! So I told my friend I was going to do it next year with them, and when the time rolled around, I thought oh, crap, that’s right; I said I was going to do it.

Q: How long of a hike is it?
It’s five miles from the base to the top, and I thought, that’s fine, I can do five miles (ten miles round trip). However, I didn’t take in the elevation of 4500 feet!

Q: How did you train for it?
People told me, there really isn’t a way for you to train for this. It wasn’t until about 3-4 weeks before the date I thought, okay, I need to get serious about this. So I did amore walking (on trails and treadmill) and stretching and I did get over to Swallow Cliffs to do the “stairs”. A lot of people go there to go up and down the stairs. There are 125 steps on one side and 168 steps on the other. In the end, I just said I’m going to trust everything will be alright. But, the more I started reading about the hike and Mt. St. Helens, the more I started freaking out about the little earthquakes that take place on a regular basis because it’s still and active volcano. Some things I read were very helpful like about breathing and your cadence – inhaling with every step of the right foot and exhaling with the step of that same foot. And the rest-step method: as you step forward, you lock your back knee and keep all your weight on that rear leg. The forward foot rests on the ground, but carries no weight at all. I tried this but after a while I just needed to rest! They said it’s best to slow down but keep moving because it’s harder if you stop to start all over again – but I had to listen to my body. It was difficult, but I started to get comfortable with the stops and all the gear.

Q: What kind of gear did you need?
I brought a big backpack (but could have gotten away with a nap sack) that held four liters of water, a propel, jacket, gloves, sweatpants, pull-over shirt – because you never know what the weather is going to be like, and the last thing I wanted was to be stuck somewhere and cold! I also had snacks – a few Cliff bars, a Balance bar, some veggie chips, baked snap peas and taffy apples. Finally, I had some gum, Aspirin, Tylenol, Aleve and a First Aid kit.

Q: Tell us about the hike
We started around 9:00 a.m. and the first two miles are through forest but once you’re out of the trees it’s about two miles of rock climbing and the sun is beating on you, so I took off my jacket and took out the trekking poles to try to maneuver better. I had gloves on because you hold on to rock to lift yourself over and up at times. And you have to watch your step because some rocks are steady and some just slip right from underneath you.

It was hard and at the time the group I was with said, you know what, let’s take your backpack off, and just take what you think you’ll need. We stashed it beneath a rock and got it on the way back down. I didn’t think the backpack was slowing me down, but as soon as they took it off I realized the difference and it did make it easier.

The trek poles helped a lot. Going up the ash I needed both of them. The last mile to the summit was nothing but ash. You take two steps forward and you slide back a step! There’s nothing to hold on to so the poles really help anchor you. The last mile took over an hour and fifteen minutes. And it’s a straight incline.

Q: How long did it take to reach the summit?
It was 4:00 p.m. when we reached the ash with about a mile to go, so at that point it had been seven hours. We stopped at the tree line because that was the last bathroom facility. We had some snacks and took off jackets. Then another mile and a half later we stopped again to eat and hydrate. That was around 3:00 pm. At that time the girls with us said we should turn around. The guys didn’t want to hear that! I thought, I’m not going to do this more than once, and as long as I was feeling physically well, I want to keep going. So everyone kept going but at 4:00 the girls said, we’re not going to get down the boulders before it gets dark if we keep going to the summit. The guys said if we can get to the top by 5:00 and on our way down by 5:30, we should be able to get to the tree line by the time it gets dark. All I knew was we were right there at the ash, so I had to keep going. The girls turned around, so then it was just me and the guys from then on. It was exactly ten after five when we got to the top. We were up there with just one other guy and we rested a little bit, took in the scene, got some photos, but then we had to get going to get down! We didn’t have the luxury to relax!

Q: How did you feel once you got up there?

It felt good, I was relieved. I made it up there; I didn’t pass out or need any medical assistance. And I started thinking about going down and didn’t think it was going to be that hard. But what I found was the boulders weren’t all secure and it was slippery. You try to find the biggest rock to step on but it’s a lot of maneuvering.

Q: Was that scary?It was and then I started to internally freak out when I saw how slow we were going and how far we were from the trees and what time it was. When the sun was down around 8:00 we were still going down rocks – no trees to be found! It became really, really scary when it was 9:00pm then 10:00pm and you literally cannot see anything. We had a half moon and all the stars; an abundance of stars.

Q: How was your energy level at this time?
Everything was up. I really didn’t feel tired, I don’t know if it was adrenaline or what. My legs didn’t start hurting until about midnight when we finally hit the treeline. But we just kept going. At some points I just sat down and slid down because it was easier and less scary! I joked that my backside will be exposed by the time we get to the parking lot!