Even as I write this Dan (pictured) and Michelle are in Argentina and starting up the hill. We are very fortunate to have met them on our training track out of Berowra Waters. How unusual to have met someone planning the same expedition/adventure as we, and on the same track! These guys had had a crack at the mountain two years ago and told us they were going back to have another shot at it, this time with as much physical and mental preparation as possible. A key part of the mental preparation is that of visualisation. There are a number of benefits of doing this sort of mental preparation. It gives you a mental picture of each day which helps you anticipate the obstacles, measure the ‘waypoints’ and set your pace – and your expectations. But there is an equally powerful part of visualisation and that is about you not just being a passenger. Why is that important?
It’s important because on these expeditions your life is in your hands as much as it is in the hands of the expedition leaders. At some point you may need to decide to turn around. You do that when you decide you do not have the skills or capacity to go on. If you are simply a passenger that decision making can be dulled to the point of ineffectiveness. And danger. Rather, knowing what each day holds, and what the track looks like helps you understand dangers and threats and to measure your capacity to handle those. It means you have anticipated the gear you need to wear, to plan your day (e.g. start early, or not so early (mountain starts are always early), where to break for meals and so on). And at altitude it helps you understand what the distance up the mountain is doing to your body, and whether your counter measures for AMS are effective – or not.
Knowing what the route looks like is easy today with the advent of the internet. We pore over maps, and check photos of those who have passed along the route before us. Those are positive resources. We do tend to find videos are not so helpful as they incline to the subjective and dramatic, highlighting the negative rather than the objective and positive. If you know a video will be positive and constructive then use it. Otherwise we tend to stay away from random videos posted on the internet. We print and pin up images of the mountain in the house where they are visible and we can be reminded each day what our goal is.
We got together with Dan and Michelle for dinner last week and compared lots of preparation notes, and spent some time studying images of the trip they had posted in their living room. Here we are reviewing pictures of different stages of the mountain, which included some images of their original attempt. Visualisation is such a positive and encouraging way to get ready for the mountain.