TMC Athletes: Mountain Climbing A Physical and Mental Challenge

Frank Marini, Chief Information Officer


Frank has made it to the summits of three of the seven summits, the highest peaks on each continent – Mount Kilimanjaro in east Africa, Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount McKinley. Mount Elbrus in Russia is tentatively on the calendar for 2013.

What do you like best about it?

You travel to interesting places and you see interesting things, but what I most appreciate is that it’s both a physical and mental challenge.

What’s the hardest part?

There are all kinds of challenges. Part of it is just maintaining focus and maintaining positive momentum as you’re working your way up a mountain. You’re loaded down with a lot of gear and equipment and pushing up a steep hill and dealing with lots of adverse factors, including the altitude, the cold, wind, precipitation, challenging terrain. There’s avalanche risk and crevasse risks and fall risks, so you have to be constantly gauging the environment that you’re in.

What are people most intrigued by?

They want to know why I do it, but a question I get quite often is, “Did you summit?” It’s nice to land a summit, but mountains are fickle and you’re at the mercy of other factors you can’t control. I was on Mount Rainier last week and we didn’t summit because of weather and adverse conditions. We got to a point on the mountain that we determined the risks outweighed the benefits so we turned around. You can always go back. As they say, getting to the top is optional, but getting down is mandatory.

How do you train, given that you really can’t emulate the conditions in this environment?

It’s really not realistic to train for altitude, but what you can do is train for endurance and physical strength. I run, I lift weights. I’ll climb hills with packs. Last year for McKinley, I would hike for about 4 hours with 70 pounds on my back.

How do you keep your head in the right place when it gets hard?

Partly, you just have to get through it because you’re in a situation where there really is no option. I find myself literally in situations where I think something is going to break or give out at any moment. But I really believe human beings can do a lot more than they think they can. The mind is the biggest limiting factor. When my mind starts to work against me, I acknowledge it. I even call it my internal whining, but you learn to contain it and push through the physical strain and you get to the other side. And inevitably, after you get through the tough slogs, you’re in a beautiful wilderness environment, with good friends with you. You’ve accomplished something and functioned as a team, and those steps become milestones that you can really appreciate.

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