A few months back, I wrote of my trials and mini-triumphs along the trail of my training toward climbing Mt. Rainier this summer. My work as a musician requires a ton of traveling, and finding time to train for a 14,000-plus-foot mountain within these confines is quite challenging (hotel fire-escape stairs do work, and I always take a jump-rope). I have a few days off from work this week, and will use them to do some "survival training" in the high-altitude back country of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Mountain man/ladies man Tim Medvetz. Duff McKagan's column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
My first foray with Tim was up 10,500-foot Mt. Baldy, and I made the rookie mistake of wearing brand new boots. Don't EVER do this. You can't really say that my feet blistered, because frankly there just wasn't any skin left to form a blister. I couldn't tell Tim that my feet hurt on the way up Baldy, because he quite possibly would have tagged me as a pussy, and my brazen manliness won't allow for that. They say that the worst thing that can happen to you on Everest is getting blisters on your feet. Not only can't one walk, but there is also just no way to keep your feet clean at all times, and infection is sure to happen. A simple infection on your foot can turn to staph at any time, some strains of which can be terribly resistant to antibiotics. Staph causes blood poisoning and that poison will kill you. First stop before the back country. . . get better boots!
Adventure 16 is L.A.'s version of REI. They have everything you might need for some serious outdoor activity. The people that work here actually climb mountains and kayak the rapids. When a tattooed guy such as myself comes sauntering into a place like this, they instinctively know to shun and make you feel an outsider. "Hey, aren't you that 'rock guy'?" says Roman, a climber and salesman at A16. "What the hell are you doing HERE?" Ah, yes, the old discrimination. I find this everywhere I go. Apparently, I'm not supposed to do ANYTHING besides, well, rocking. Luckily Tim joins me at the store, and the salespeople realize that if I am with him, I must be somewhat OK. I get it: Just because TIM climbed EVEREST and has his own TV SHOW on DISCOVERY, he is taken seriously. And because I play ROCK 'N' ROLL and NEARLY DRANK MYSELF TO DEATH and look like I COULDN'T CLIMB A LADDER, I am not. Whatever. . .
The name of my new guy for boots is Alia, who has the tell-all nickname of "the shoe Nazi" (I'm not sure if he knows this or not). Alia takes footwear seriously, and I was his newest mystery to solve. He examined every aspect of my foot before I even tried on a boot. When I did finally get to the point of putting on a pair, he methodically showed me how to stomp at the heel first, and how to lace up with his complex formula of loops and knots. As I walked around the store, Alia would follow and have me stop at certain junctures so that he could adjust the boot and/or jab a finger inside the back to see if any space had opened up. Tim, meanwhile, was getting friendly with a family outfitting for a Himalayan foothill adventure. This family included two daughters in their 20s, and Tim had found his wheelhouse. The ladies love Tim.
Back in the real world, now that I have finally the right boots, the realization that Mt. Rainier is in my near future kind of hits me out of nowhere. I know that huge summer crevasses will be yawning under-foot for the one most unfortunate to be above when the exact amount of thawing will cause a breakthrough. The threat of overhanging ice calving in huge sheets is also very real (a boyhood friend died just this way back in the '80s). For now, though, I must focus on training and getting as much high-altitude knowledge as I can outside of my teeming personal Alpine library at home. The shit is getting very real now.
Something else helps pull me from my chilling daydream: "You have such beautiful blue eyes!" Ah, yeah, the girls have come under the mad spell of Tim Medvetz. I will not let him live THIS moment down for our whole trip this week. I can already feel him getting mad.