We get sick. And unfortunately, germs and bacteria really don’t care about our mountain climbing schedules.
Wednesday, 2/6: It presents as a sore throat and full body ache. I drink tea, eat oranges, and avoid talking. My lymph nodes swell and I’m acutely aware of every time I swallow. Wow, we really swallow this many times a day? I stock up on Emergen-C and brace myself for the storm.
Thursday, 2/7: I wake up at 4 am to sweats and shivers. My throat is burning and I call in sick. I crawl out of bed at 9 am, having slept twelve hours, take a hot shower, eat an orange and bowl of cereal and go back to sleep. I wake up at 3 pm and repeat the cycle. This is a classic start of the semester cold. For three weeks, I’ve been walking up and down aisles teaching Environmental History and Interpersonal Communication while listening to students hack and sniffle. Luckily, I don’t get sick often. Though if I were a betting person, I would put money on the first week of February. Our plane leaves in one week. Damn.
Friday, 2/8: The illness moves from my throat to nose. Swallowing is no longer painful, though the congestion pushes against my temples and it feels like I have to constantly pop my ears. I cough and blow mucus out my nose. I prop my lower back and head against a stack of pillows, dab peppermint oil around my nostrils, close my eyes and relax. Note to self: Worrying about getting sick is worse than being sick.
Saturday, 2/9: I feel like I should get up and do something. Maybe go for a hike or do some course prep? Good, my mind is awakening. That’s a start. But I’m tired and stay in a horizontal position for another few hours. Mentally, I go over my gear list and pack and unpack my luggage. Where can I cut out that one item I don’t need? I eat a full dinner and dessert. And then a snack, my stomach has awoken too. I can taste again!
Sunday, 2/10: I wake up around 5 am and my first thoughts aren’t of sickness. I feel good and have all the pent up energy of someone who hasn’t left a house for four days. I go for a hike with Justin. I take the lead towards Algonquin Peak and warn him that I’m going to be spitting and blowing a lot of snot rockets. He laughs. “I had a Stewart’s breakfast sandwich, so I’m going to be farting a lot.” Good, we’re in the right hiking order. The temperature hovers around zero degrees and does wonders for my lungs. This is why TB patients came from the cities to the Adirondacks in the 1800s. Algonquin and Iroquois are epic. Algonquin is an ice field and clouds roll in as we crest the summit. I feel like I’m on a much higher mountain and love it. Justin and I complete the MacIntyre Range in four hours and 17 minutes. Three summits and no blisters or bloody socks this time!
Again, we get sick. We get injured. Back country care is an important skill set to have, whether you’re in the Adirondack High Peaks or an airport headed to South America. We’ve got a strong team on the medical front. Paul is a trained doctor with a lifetime of knowledge. On the mountain it will be important to take every precaution to maintain optimal health. That means sunscreen on the ears, lips and really any exposed skin. That means proper water treatment and hydration. In my med kit, I’m bringing: Inhalers, prescription medicine for UC, daily vitamin and iron supplement, anti-diarrhea meds, generic pain killer, band aids, moleskin, vapor rub, sunscreen, hydration packets, and Emergen-C. On top of that, I’m bringing all the knowledge and wisdom I’ve gained from every sickness and illness I’ve ever had. Including this pre-Aconcagua cold.