Getting a good night’s sleep while lying on a small rock ledge 1000 feet above the ground is challenging. I awoke to rain drops hitting my face and immediately realized my climb might be ending early. A mixture of emotions filled my head. On one hand I was relieved; when you try to live on a wall your brain thinks of a million reasons to go down but very few reason to keep going up. My brain was happy that this debate might soon come to an end. But at the same time, even though it had been exhausting and difficult, I would be disappointed in not summiting the climb known as “The Nose”.
It was day three of a five day push up this 2900ft vertical wall known as El Capitan (The Captain). We had made slow but steady progress and spent the first night on Sickle Ledge. On day two we started up Stove Leg Cracks to our second camp at Dolt Tower. Now, as my guide Miranda and I ate breakfast, we considered our options as the rain continued. It didn’t look promising.
We could wait out the rain but our food and water would not last us an extra day on the wall. This would result in an epic climb the next day to make up the lost time; and with my compromised lung function I was worried about keeping up. The other option was to retreat and rappel to the valley floor.
30 years ago, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This caused my immune system to attack my colon. After several years that included extended hospital stays my large intestine was removed and an internal pouch was created as a stool reservoir. I always thought my biggest medical challenge in climbing Big Walls would be due to having no colon I would have to use the bathroom 6-8 times per day. Over the years, I developed medication & diet changes to try to adjust to living on a Big Wall. I didn’t know that IBD would soon present another greater challenge: compromised lung function. The 11 months leading up to my climb had not started out very well. My lungs had been declining rapidly, a result of IBD that was now manifesting as chronic bronchiolitis, a pulmonary disease. My lung function declined to 25% of normal and I was dependent on using portable oxygen, even for walking around the house. I started to undergo testing to qualify for the lung transplant list. Last May during a visit to the emergency room my doctors discovered that changing the type of steroid I had been taking made a dramatic difference. Overnight, my lung function improved to 65% and I left the oxygen tanks behind. Not knowing how long this remission might last, I started making plans for climbing The Nose. It was no longer a long-held dream instead it became a priority.
Sitting on the wall in the rain, retreat was the obvious option. As we came down and in the days following I thought a lot about the progress and decisions we made and was content. I was not motivated or thinking about a second attempt. As the weeks went by however the memories of the difficulties and the pain began fading as they often do and the desire to summit El Cap began to take over.
Stone Gardens Climbing Gym has sponsored my climbs and they have provided generous donations to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation on my behalf as well as giving me support and training. They recognized that I could not just quit and pledged to match any donations I raised up to $10,000 as a contribution to the Crohn’s & Colitis foundation, if I made another attempt.
I was inspired to start another Climb to Cure Crohn’s & Colitis fundraiser, thus my second attempt on The Nose coming in June 2017. Follow me on Facebook (Facebook.com/C4Now) and my blog (C4Now.org) for regular updates on my progress as I train and climb posting live updates.
Please support my climb which contributes to research to find a cure for this disease that affects me, too many of my friends and patients plus over 1.4 million Americans. Please make your tax-deductible donation to C4now.org. 100% of any donation goes directly to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and will also be matched dollar for dollar up to $10,000 by Stone Gardens.
Never, Never, Never Give Up,
Trina Seligman, N.D.
Thank you to my sponsor: