Climbing to the top of the world
Mountain climbing is a real challenge – especially if you live in the Midwest, in the U.S.
Still, Jen Loeb, an employee at our plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is on a mission to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each continent.
“There’s no opportunity in Iowa to go out and practice. There are no mountains here, so I’m trying to do the next best thing – mimic the activity as closely as I can,” says Jen.
With a 36-pound sandbag on her back, Jen hits the StairMaster five or six days a week to prepare for Mount Kosciuszko, the highest peak on the Australian mainland. She leaves for the trip next week. It will be her fourth climb in the Seven Summits challenge.
“When you do these climbs, it’s kind of life-consuming. I’m kind of reaching a point where basically mountain climbing is taking over my whole life.”
Jen, who is 37, began backpacking in her early twenties but didn’t start mountain climbing until three years ago.
“The backpacking trips would always go around the peaks, so I started to kind of wonder, What would it actually be like to climb to the top instead of just hike around it?”
In 2010, Jen was doing a service project with the National Park Service in California. Afterwards, she had an opportunity to climb Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the Lower 48 states.
“It was really fun. It was exhilarating. It was scary. It was exciting. A whole bunch of emotions go through you when you make it to the top.”
Once Jen knew she could handle Mount Whitney’s altitude of 14,500 feet, she decided to up it notch with each climb.
Over the last few years, she has climbed three of the Seven Summits – Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Denali (Mount McKinley) in Alaska and Aconcagua in Argentina.
Some of the climbs take two weeks just to get to the summit.
“It’s two weeks of wondering, ‘Am I going to make it? Am I physically fit enough? Am I going to be able to tolerate the altitude? What’s the weather going to be like? What’s the route like?’ So you’re kind of stressing about these things for two whole weeks,” says Jen. “When you actually make it to the top, it’s kind of a relief to know that all your hard work, and effort, and time, and money and everything that you sunk into this actually paid off.”
Jen is signed up to climb Puncak Jaya (Carstensz Pyramid) in Indonesia next March. Some people consider the island mountain one of the Seven Summits. Others count the much lower Mount Kosciuszko because it’s on the Australian mainland. To be thorough, Jen is climbing both.
She is set to climb Mount Elbrus in Russia in July 2014 and plans to do Mount Everest in Nepal the following spring if she gets the funding. (It costs $65,000 just to sign up for the climb!) That would leave Mount Vinson in Antarctica.
“I’m going to go for it and see what happens. It’s an amazing experience, and I just want to push myself as much as I can both technically and mentally. I enjoy the challenge.”
We’re exhausted, and humbled, just thinking about Jen’s agenda.
And, we can’t wait to follow her adventures.