No one really thought this was a good idea—pulling on 13-year-old Coleman boots for a 5-day journey across 60 miles of scree-filled Sierra mountain range with wilderness survival expert, Thomas Coyne. Our destination: the edge of Death Valley.
What made me say yes to this? Your guess is as good as mine: Momentary lapse in rationality due to a post-workout high or lack of coffee? Or maybe a hangover that made me prone to expressing royally dumb ideas? Whatever the cause, my fate was sealed.
Between regular strength training and cardio workouts; a recent three-week kayaking/backpacking trip in Scotland with an ultramarathoner who is crazier than a box of bats; and weekends spent rock scrambling—I’m thinking maybe I’m remotely primed for this trek. Now, two days before go-time, let’s take a look at how it all came into order.
1. GETTING IN CONDITION
I amped my gym sessions to back-to-back cardio days (stationary bike and treadmill sprints), followed by a day’s rest, then two nonconsecutive days of of lower-body and core strength training.
2. EATING FOR FUEL
Coyne laughed in my face when I said a friend had recommended I shrink my appetite before trip. “Wait for the wilderness to starve yourself!” he said. Given the choices, I stuffed my face with all I could tolerate, hoping it’d power me through in the days to come.
3. PREPPING MY MIND
Adventures are easier to tackle if you compartmentalize your brain—call it functional delirium if you want—and separate the risks you take to make them happen. By taking it day by day, I’m less likely to screw up my task at hand: hiking my way out. I know that adventure-priming my gray matter is all that’ll get me to the other side of Inyo National Forest, in the southern Sierra Mountains, and into the dusty van waiting on the other side.
4. FINDING THE WARRIOR WITHIN
Call it fate, but, coincidentally, a few MF staffers were signing up for the Warrior Dash, a 5K obstacle/running course, the Saturday before my take-off. So seven of us ran, climbed, skimmed, swam, and trudged our way through, till a beer was in our hands a half hour later. Now, I’m that much more prepared for this hike of a lifetime. I can handle not knowing what’s around the corner, I can handle muscle confusion (and mud pits), and I can push through the fatigue of blazing heat on my way to the finish line—wherever it is.
5. GATHERING THE GEAR
Getting the barebones gear selection in order—Coyne takes just a knife, a personal locator beacon, and the knowledge between his ears to get out alive—was disturbingly easy, my list taunting me with its check, check, checks. Everything for this trip is lightweight: my high-tech, 2-lb Mountain Hardwear sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, along with sweat-wick base layers and about 50 bucks’ worth of freeze-dried food—of which I’ll leave 40% behind to lighten my packload.
Jumping into adventure partially blind? I still believe that’s a power, not a weakness. Stay tuned for observations that can apply to taking on any new challenge. Every new adventure worth having will, no doubt, press you to the limit, but you asked for it. And asking is just the start of the process, of living.
Cat Perry is an editor for Men’s Fitness cardio page and outdoor explorer. Though she’s pitched forward with nerves over her latest venture, hiking across the Sierra Nevadas, the support of @Hardwear, @Contour_Cam, @SnowPeak, and @Oakley will make this trek a little more comfortable and memorable.