Two Sultan moms will climb Rainier; you can climb along at home
By Polly Keary, Editor
Heidi Dawson might be a stranger to mountain climbing, but she's no stranger to huge challenges.
She is a mother of four, and one of her children has cerebral palsy.
So when her friend and cofounder of The Determined Parents Foundation, Kelly Tipple-Moran, suggested they train for a climb of Mount Rainier in September as a way of raising awareness about the needs of families with special needs children, she took it on.
How to train for Rainier
At 14,410 feet, Mount Rainier is not among the world's tallest mountains. But it is among the world's longest mountain climbs, because the climb begins at a much lower elevation than do ascents of many taller mountains.
"Climbing Mount Rainier is not an easy endeavor, no matter how fit you are,GÇ¥ says the website of the International Mountaineering Guides, the company that will guide Tipple-Moran, Dawson and Tipple-Moran's father, Mike Tipple, an experienced mountaineer, up the slopes. "In general, you'll want to arrive in the best shape of your life.GÇ¥
The ascent involves several days of climbing at least five hours at a time at high altitudes at a rate of 1,000 feet of elevation per hour, wearing a pack of at least 40 pounds.
Summit day is a 10-hour climb, although with less weight.
The training plan recommended by the International Mountaineering Guides is rigorous, and begins months before the climb itself.
Most of the training involves cardiovascular exercise; exercise that elevates the heart rate and respiration.
"Strength comes with cardio, but mountain climbing is mostly cardio,GÇ¥ said Dawson, 39.
The guides suggest cardio training at least three times a week for 40 minutes or more, with a two-hour workout at least once a week.
That is above and beyond any weight training or flexibility training a climber is already doing.
The best training is hiking up and down hills.
"This exercises the exact muscles you will use on the climb,GÇ¥ the guides explain.
Eventually, climbers should be able to hike for several hours at a time carrying a 40-pound pack. Before the climb, trainees should undertake at least one multi-day hike carrying significant weight.
If weather, conditions or location make outdoor hiking impractical, climbing indoors on a Stairmaster or up and down stadium stairs is a good alternative. Stadium stairs and high rise buildings are the best choice, because they involve the muscles required for walking back down, which Stairmasters don't.
Running is Kelly Tipple-Moran's main sport, and she is predominantly focusing on that to build cardio endurance. It is excellent at building strength in feet and legs, as well as developing cardio strength, but as it can't be done with a heavy pack it should be supplemented with rigorous hikes.
Other forms of cardio such as swimming, skiing, fast walking and biking help with cardio endurance, and Dawson for right now is focusing on doing aerobics at home. When the weather improves, she plans to start running and will walk Spokane's Bloomsday Run with her mother later in the spring.
Every Sunday, the Tipple-Moran, Moran and Dawson will take on a mountain hike, rain or shine.
Beyond cardio, the mountaineers recommend two to three days of weight training per week, focusing on legs and core strength.
A personal trainer can set up a routine; the mountaineers suggest doing three sets of 12-20 repetitions each exercise. Doing that, rather than building bulk with low repetitions of high weights, will help build endurance.
Finally, in the last three weeks before the climb, it's best to ease off a bit and let the body recover in order to arrive at the mountain in peak form.
Climb a mountain at home
The reason Tipple-Moran suggested climbing Mount Rainier is that September, the month in which they will climb, is also the month of the World CP Challenge.
The World CP Challenge is a means of raising funds for people and the families of people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. For the month of September, teams of four people challenge themselves to take 10,000 steps per day, tracking the steps by means of a pedometer provided by the CP Challenge and logging them on a website.
Running, cycling, swimming and even yoga can count toward the goal as well; the idea is to simply increase fitness that month.
As the team logs steps, their progress is measured in mountain peaks. Different numbers of steps equal the distance required to climb seven different, progressively higher, mountains, beginning with the 16,024 foot Carstensz Pyramid and concluding with Mt. Everest.
The event, called Steptember in every participating nation but the United States, was started in Australia in 2010. To learn how to participate, or to donate to those taking the challenge, visit www.worldcpchallenge.org.
Registering to take part in the challenge is $25; $10 for kids under 18. Every registrant gets a pedometer, a lanyard and information about the challenge.
Participants are encouraged to seek donations and can choose from a list of local United Cerebral Palsy affiliates where the funds could go.
Dawson, Moran and Tipple-Moran are also supporting the Seattle organization Provail, a group formerly among the UCP affiliates. The organization "offers a comprehensive range of services designed to expand opportunities for people with disabilities to live, work, and fully participate in the communities of their choice.GÇ¥
Dawson and Tipple-Moran also will support their own small organization, The Determined Parents Foundations, with a mission of providing financial support to families of children with disabilities to help with co-pays, deductibles and treatments.
Learn more at http://www.thedeterminedparentsfoundation.org.
Currently, Dawson has a gofundme.com site to raise funds for the cost of climbing Mount Rainier, which includes $1,500 in guide fees for each climber, plus the cost of equipment. To help, visit http://www.gofundme.com/5rsaxs.
Dawson said that, if not for the importance of the mission, she doesn't know that her lifelong love of outdoor activities would have extended to climbing Mount Rainier.
"I'm not a big fan of cold,GÇ¥ she admitted with a laugh. "It wasn't on my bucket list.GÇ¥
Scenic view of Mount Rainier reflected across the reflection lakes on a clear day