By guest blog writer David Walrath for A Room for Pilates
The first mountain I climbed was Mt. Hood in Oregon with the Mazamas in July, 1968 on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the club. I still remember shivering in my sleeping bag for some hours as the Oregon rain trickled into my sleeping bag, inadequately protected by my poncho converted into a bivouac covering. The moisture was slowly spreading through my bag and I was finding less and less space that was dry on which to lie, I wasn’t sleeping.
I was relieved to get up at 12:00 am to start the climb of Mt. Hood. I had found whatever equipment was available in our basement, my father’s pack from World War II, his worn logging boots, which I realized on the mountain were nearly worn smooth after his years of wearing them to work. I managed a combination of pigeon toed and snow plow technique of walking gaining a bit of an edge to get some bite into the snow and ice, since there was no tread on the soles.
I experienced my first sunrise on the flanks of a mountain, delighted in seeing the shadow cast by Mt. Hood and began my life long love of climbing.
Over the 40+ intervening years I climbed many peaks, gradually improving my equipment and practicing better conditioning. On that first climb of Mt. Hood I had not done any conditioning, not even so much as a walk around the block. As the mountains I climbed grew in altitude and difficulty I would sometimes spend months hiking, running and lifting weights, gradually building my conditioning.
An exception to this training regime was when I climbed the tallest peak in Nevada, Boundary Peak.
I had just begun taking my first Pilates mat class at the local community college and wasn’t doing any other physical training at the time.
Midway through the semester I went to the Owens Valley to scout out areas for future backpacking trips. Since I was a mountain climber and found myself at the foot of Boundary Peak, the tallest mountain in Nevada, I thought I would walk up it a little way to see how it went. Because I had not been training to climb but was only doing beginning Pilates mat work, I did not expect to go to far.
Well as it turned out I hiked all the way to the top, over 13,163 feet. I had not been training for hiking or mountain climbing and was amazed at how well I did just based on my Pilates training. I felt it was surely the strengthening of the torso/leg connection that made it possible for me to walk so effortlessly up the mountain.
On the way up I even passed a group of 5 mountaineers who had been planning and practicing for the trip for months. And they were all at least 20 years younger than me.
When I returned to class the next week I proudly shared my story with my Pilates teacher and came to realize that there really was something to this core strengthening practice of Pilates.