Rainier is on the front burner

When life gets busy, some things end up on the back burner. Lately, that item has been sleep. There has barely been a night in the past couple of months when I have gotten more than seven hours of shuteye—usually the number has been closer to five and there have been times it has been less.

What has forced sleep onto the back burner?  In part, it’s a large, glaciated peak named Mt. Rainier that I will be climbing very soon. Along with my full-time job, life lately has consisted of these four things:  hiking peaks every weekend to prepare for Rainier, going to the gym in the evenings to train for Rainier, keeping up with my physical therapy so that my joint issues don’t crop up on Rainier, prepping and packing for the Rainier climb. See a theme here? All these things take up an incredible amount of time. Many evenings I don’t get to bed until late trying to squeeze it all in.  Most every training peak we have done has required a wake-up time of 1 a.m. in order to make it to trailheads early so that we can summit peaks before afternoon storms roll in. And even then—we experienced static electricity and buzzing hiking poles on one peak as a rogue storm cloud blew in at 9:30 a.m. Yikes!

With the climb on the front burner and sleep on the back one, my blog has worked its way into the far rear corner of a little-used cupboard behind a large kettle. Tonight I clanked through the pots and pans and dug it out for a quick post.  To everyone who has been tuning in to the blog or who have emailed or commented and not gotten an answer: thanks for your patience. I will be back to posting and corresponding regularly once I return from the trip. Below, I am including some photos of our adventures so you can see what I have been up to. Since my last post about five weeks ago, we have climbed six 14ers and four 13ers, including a three-day backpack trip with one of the adventures. Whew!

As I prepare for Rainier, I am starting to get a little nervous about some ostomy-related things. I am wondering what it will be like trying to discreetly swap out closed-end pouches while roped up on a team, including some strangers.  I hope I can keep up with my hydration needs.  I am afraid that during short breaks, all my time will be used dealing with my ostomy and that I won’t have time to eat and refuel.  Will my ostomy supplies make my pack heavier than everyone else’s? I know it will all be fine, but there are a lot of unknowns on the trip.

One thing that has really helped me not worry are the amazing staff at the guide service we will be using, International Mountain Guides. I have explained what having an ostomy is like to them and have asked for their suggestions on everything from dealing with poop on the mountain, to questions about hydration and accommodating my gluten-free diet.  It is always a little awkward bringing up the intimate details of life with an ostomy, but being open about it helps me get the answers I need. The staff has made the process so easy. I feel comfortable asking them anything which definitely helps quell the fears.

In many ways though, I love the uncertainty. The best thing I have discovered for becoming confident with my ostomy is to throw myself into new situations wholeheartedly. Through those occurrences, I learn that I can be resourceful and adapt to anything. I can’t wait to see what challenging experiences await me on the gorgeous ice-covered slopes of Mt. Rainier. No doubt I will come back from this adventure with my horizons stretched even farther.

On the summit of Mt. Bierstadt at 9:30 a.m. in what we thought was just a rogue misty fog cloud rolling through. Moments after this photo was taken, Doug's hair started to stand on end and our poles started buzzing. We never ran so fast down a mountain.
On the summit of 14,060 ft. Mt. Bierstadt at 9:30 a.m. in what we thought was just a rogue, misty cloud rolling through. Moments after this photo was taken, Doug’s hair started to stand on end and our poles began to buzz. We never ran so fast down a mountain.
Gorgeous views often come with early starts. The moon sets over the saddle between Grays and Torreys peaks.
Breathtaking views often come with early starts. The moon sets over the saddle between 14,270 ft. Grays Peak and 14,267 ft. Torreys Peak.
Taking a breather and soaking in the view after hoofing it up a steep gully on our acent of Mt. Evans with a 45 pound pack.
Taking a breather and soaking in the view after hoofing it up a steep gully on our ascent of 14,264 ft. Mt. Evans with a 45-pound pack. We make our packs heavy for training by carrying bags full of water. I actually threw in a few rocks for extra weight before heading up this slope:) I definitely won’t be doing that on Rainier!
Resting with my 55 lb pack on an 3-day backpacking trip to climb Mt. of the Holy Cross. After a night of sleep at basecamp, our route asended the ridge on the right side.
Resting with my 55 lb. pack on a three-day backpacking trip to climb 14,005 ft. Mount of the Holy Cross. After a night of sleep at base camp we ascended the ridge on the right side of the photo.
A gorgeous early morning sunlight greets us mid-route after starting our hike up Holy Cross at 3 a.m.
Spectacular early morning sunlight greets us mid-route after starting our hike up Mount of the Holy Cross at 3 a.m.
On the summit of Mt. of the Holy Cross.
On the summit of 14,005 ft.  Mount of the Holy Cross.
Descending from Notch Mountain. Mt. of the Holy Cross, which we hiked the day before, can be seen in the background.
Descending from 13, 237 ft. Notch Mountain the day after ascending Mount of the Holy Cross–obvious in the background.
Ascending Mt. Yale with my monster pack in some early morning fog.
Ascending Mt. Yale with my monster pack in some early morning fog.
No Views from the summit of Mt. Yale on this day.
There were no views from the summit of 14, 196 ft. Mt. Yale on this day.
Yet another 3 a.m. alpine start as we leave for Turner Peak.
Yet another 3 a.m. alpine start as we leave for the 13er called Turner Peak, the day after hiking Mt. Yale.
On the summit of Turner Peak. The day before we climbed Mt Yale which is the peak in the center behind the mist cloud.
On the summit of 13,233 ft. Turner Peak. The day before we climbed Mt. Yale which is the peak in the center behind the mist cloud.
For our final training climb we did a chain of peaks: Mt. Chapin, Mt. Chiquita and Mt. Ypsilon. Just for fun we reascended Chiquita on the way back to throw in a little extra elevation gain.
For our final training hike, we did a chain of peaks: 12,454 ft. Mt. Chapin, 13,069 ft. Mt. Chiquita and 13,514 ft. Ypsilon Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. Just for fun, we reascended Chiquita on the way back to throw in a little extra elevation gain.
On the summit of Mt. Ypsilon. The next time we are at this elevation will be during our Mt. Rainier trip.
On the summit of 13,514 ft. Ypsilon Mountain. The next time we will be at this elevation will be on Mt. Rainier.

15 thoughts on “Rainier is on the front burner

  1. Just returned from 7days of hiking around Crested Butte. Got to 12,500′ 3X
    Can’t wait to hear about your Rainier ascent. What is the date?

    Les C, (76 yrs. old, urostomy Dec. 21 last year).

  2. Best of luck to ya on the Mt Rainier climb… while I never climbed the mountain, have spent plenty of time snowshoeing at Paradise and hiking on the Wonderland trail. All the best, Alan (Charlottesville, VA)

  3. WOW!!! This is totally inspiring…what an amazing adventure. I feel a bit ridiculous now all I have stretched to so far with my ileostomy is a short bike ride and that felt exhausting enough for now 🙂 I can’t wait to see the pictures of your climb, and to hear how you coped with your ostomy at the same time.
    Good luck

  4. Thinking of hiking the AT again. Last time was in ’99 and did not have a urostomy at that time. Any comments, suggestions greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Willard,

      I am so excited to hear that you hope to do the AT again!

      Your ostomy shouldn’t stop you at all. The longest backpacking trip I have done since my surgery was only 9 days, but way back before I got my ostomy I was a backpacking guide and led 30-day trips. I know without a doubt that I would still be able to do those long trips with my ostomy (I can’t now because I have a job with limited vacation). I would just need to make sure that I had plenty of supplies in case I had to change my appliance more often than usual (though so far my wafers have stuck great on trips with no difference in wear time). Generally I bring about twice what I would usually use in a given time period. Fortunately ostomy supplies are light:)

      I change my appliance in the tent or siting out on a rock. A portable wash basin is nice for holding a little warm water to use during the change. I use the following wash basin called the Kitchen Sink: http://www.seatosummit.com/products/display/13. My appliances adhere so well that I need to use adhesive remover to get them off or I damage my skin. The problem is, most adhesive removers leave a residue that must be removed with soap and water or the new wafer won’t stick. There is one silicone based adhesive remover that doesn’t need to be rinsed off called Convatec Sensicare (used to be called Niltac). It works great in the backcountry during those times when rinsing the skin around the stoma really well with soap and water would be difficult.

      Also, to avoid parastomal hernias, I like to use a hernia prevention belt from Nu Hope when wearing a heavy pack. So far the heaviest backpack I have carried is 55 pounds and it was no problem at all.

      Have you gone on any shorter trips since surgery? It might be good to give things a test run so you have your ostomy system dialed before the trip.

      Otherwise– just get out there and have fun and don’t let fear of the unknown stop you! I find that any issues that arise tend to sort themselves out with a little trial and error.

      Hope this helps and please let me know if you have any specific questions.


  5. Had wondered if I could ever backpack again now that I have a urostomy, (10 months ago). My concern has to do with the need to use a ‘night bag’ that must be lower than my appliance so that the urine can gravity flow into the bag. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

    1. Les, thanks for replying also. I thought of you when Willard asked for advice. It sounds like urostomies present some different challenges. I can see how that might be tough if you had to keep the night bag lower while sleeping on the ground. I will post this question on my Facebook page (I won’t get to it tonight though as I feel a cold coming on and need to head to bed!) and see if there are any insights from readers there. I will get back to you both!


      1. Heidi,
        Thank you for your response. I am planning to make some trial runs to work out the kinks. Another issue for me is how my pack belt sits. I have a Gregory and it will prevent flow into my ostomy bag. Are you aware of any pack styles that do not sit as low on your hips. I carried a 60 lb pack in ’99 but was only 65 y.o. at that time. Will be 80 when I attempt this next trek, will travel much lighter and will have friends and family support.
        What do you wear for a pack and do you have issues with the belt causing problems for your ostomy? Saw some devices on your blog. Not sure the plastic one will stand up and the will need to try and fashion something that resembles the metal device that one of the other hikers in your blog designed.

        Bill (Willard) Ware
        Trail Name , Poopajack

      2. Hi Willard,

        I usually wear a GoLite Odyssey backpack, though they no longer make it. It is too bad that it has been discontinued because it had a very large capacity but only weighed around 3lbs! I will be very sad if mine ever wears out. I love the GoLite Odyssey for carrying loads of around 40 pounds. For heavier weights than that it is not supportive enough. For heavier loads, I have a North Face Snow Leopard (my old pack from the mid-1990s) and it works well too. I had advanced notice of my surgery, so I brought my packs to my stoma placement meeting and the nurse placed the location in an area below my pack waist belt. As a result my pack rests above my stoma and bag. I am not sure what packs might work better for you. I would probably just head to some outdoor stores and try things on. If nothing works better than what you have, you could try a stoma protector which might allow your pack belt to rest on something other than your pouch so that output can freely slide down. I haven’t tried any stoma protectors for backpacking, but I have heard good things about Stomaplex (http://www.stomaplex.com/ostomy-belt/index.html) which has a stretchy belt that looks like it might conform well to movement. Ostomy Armor is another possibility (http://www.ostomyarmor.com/). The Ostomy Armor has a non-stretchy belt. Since I haven’t used either, I really can’t say which of these would work best. Maybe someone else will chime in. And of course… designing something of your own is always awesome! If you find anything that works please let me know because I get questions about this a lot and would love to share any tips you have.

        Gear has gotten so much lighter since 1999. About 6 years ago I invested in a bunch of new stuff ranging from a lightweight 800-fill down bag to titanium cookware and a super lightweight shelter. I couldn’t believe how much of a difference it made once all the things came together in my pack!

        I am so incredibly happy that you are going to go on this adventure! Way to go for continuing to do what you love!!!! It is a huge inspiration. Please let us all know how it goes.


      3. Thanks to all for your responses. Have some time to work on this as hoping to start from Springer Mtn in March of 2015. God and health willing.
        Will be spending some time pack shopping and looking for the lightest equipment available. . Much good luck to you Heidi on your upcoming trek to Rainier. Will be anxious to see some pictures and hear about your experience. You are an inspiration to us all!

      4. Hi Les,

        I posted the question about backpacking with a urostomy on my Facebook page and got the suggestions below.


        “No worries, sometimes my bag is on the bed with me. There is a drop from your tummy to the bed (or ground in camping) unless you sleep on your stomach, which most urostomy folks don’t. If worried, sleep on a hill or a bit of a slant, or just sit up once in awhile in the night, you’ll probably wake up a few times anyway when camping. Stay hydrated, that’s the main thing to do!”

        “I don’t have a urostomy, but just thinking about it in my head, what if you slept on your side so the ostomy is higher? Or like the previous poster said, you would probably wake through the night and could just sit up, or prop yourself a bit. Or get a hammock tent and let the bag out the door if you were really feeling brave.”

        “Small cot? I know backpacking that might not work…ooh! One of those Thermarest things”

  6. Heidi, Just read on in your blog and see that you completed your trek on Rainier in August. Wow, what an accomplishment ! Congratulations!

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