My love for mountain climbing was birthed in the Himalayas in 2013 as a member of the Mount Everest Base Camp Freedom Climb team. I was privileged to have had this climbing experience alongside the founder of The Freedom Challenge, Cathey Anderson; as well as with many other amazing women from countries around the world. It was a life-changing experience that led me to not only better view the world through God’s eyes, but it also ignited a passion in me to climb mountains.
Prior to my involvement in the 2013 Freedom Climb (now called The Freedom Challenge), the subject of human trafficking was not even on my radar. With my life focused primarily on my family, coaching, and other activities, the world that I lived in was safe and comfortable. When I first heard about the Freedom Climb, I began to search the internet to research human trafficking. What I discovered shocked me and I wanted to get involved in efforts to combat it. As a former NCAA Division I collegiate athlete, I have always been an active person who has prioritized exercise and staying in shape. As a result, doing something physical, like mountain climbing, was appealing to me and I believed God had called me to be one of the climbers in 2013. I knew that I would have to devote myself to getting in great shape for climbing at high altitudes. So, with excitement and anticipation, I embarked on my training and fundraising. In the end, standing on the summit of Kala Patthar (18,504 ft.) just above Mount Everest Base Camp, was one of the most incredible experiences and accomplishments of my life. Having endured several long days of intense, arduous trekking and climbing, our team was blessed to reach our goal. The journey we all went through bonded our hearts and minds and made us ever aware of the struggles that enslaved women and children endure every day,
After having lived in Texas for 30 years, I moved to my original home state of Michigan in 2014 with my husband and high school-age daughter. My son and his wife, who were married last summer, live in Texas. After a period of adjustment to living in Michigan, I am the varsity volleyball coach at Frankenmuth High School, a leadership and teamwork motivational speaker, as well as a women’s Christian conference speaker. You can read more about me and what I do by visiting my website: shellyginterconrad.com. To bring awareness to my efforts in 2019, FrankenmuthClimber.com is linked to my professional website so that people could easily access my fundraising page and read more about the 2019 Freedom Challenge and learn about why I am climbing.
Since moving to Michigan, the timing for me to climb with the Freedom Challenge has not been right...until now. I am excited to once again join the Freedom Challenge movement as a member of the Mount Rainier Summit team. I committed to climb Mount Rainier this past November and I have been training and fundraising since then. I have primarily been using Facebook and Instagram to communicate with my friends and family, but I will also be mailing personal fundraising letters to friends and family to seek additional support. I have also been blessed to have a local sportswear company (Grasel Graphics) that is supporting me through designing and providing me with personal workout gear printed with Freedom Challenge Mount Rainier information printed on it. I wear this apparel when I train to bring awareness to my efforts as a Freedom Challenge climber. They also designed Frankenmuth Climber support team t-shirts for me to sell to help raise awareness and the needed financial support.
Just as I did in 2013, I formed a prayer team of women to come alongside me and support me on the journey. I communicate with them through a private Facebook page. Every few weeks, I share prayer requests and post various updates about the progress of my training and fundraising efforts. They use this forum to post encouraging messages to help keep me motivated and trusting God. I know that God has called me to this effort and that He is faithful to help me succeed in my training and fund raising efforts. I encourage all climbers to surround yourselves with a group of women who are committed to faithfully pray for you. Their involvement and encouragement will be a blessing.
So, how do I personally go about training for climbing Mount Rainier? Well, training for mountain climbing when you live at fairly low altitudes like where I live in Michigan is a challenge that requires me to be creative. I have incorporated the following as part of my indoor cardio training routine: The Stairmaster and treadmill (working up to its highest incline) while carrying a weighted backpack (increase weight over time); step ups with a weighted collar or backpack, and an elliptical machine that has a “climb” feature set at its highest incline. I also incorporate cardio training outdoors two days a week, weather permitting. My outdoor training days, I do much longer cardio workouts that are focused on hiking distances with a weighted pack, and walking up and down stadium stairs or steep hill inclines to develop endurance. When the weather warms up here in Michigan this spring, I’ll do some long trail rides and hill work on my mountain bike. I currently use a Training Mask (2.0) for some of my cardio training. It is a resistance tool for your lungs that I have found to be extremely helpful in building lung capacity. It mimics a high-altitude environment by forcing you to focus on your breathing as you learn to take deeper breathes and slow the pace of your breathing. I also include weight training as part of my routine to focus on building strength in the lower body, back, shoulders and core. Developing outstanding cardiovascular endurance is critical, but you also need to be doing strength training for optimal success. I lift a minimum of three days a week, using strength training ideas from mountaineering websites; as well as a strength-training regimen developed for me by a friend who is a professional strength training coach in Texas (Roland Jehl). There are lots of ways to strength train; you have to just find what works best for you based on your climbing goals and the amount of time you can devote to training.
While physical training is important, I have found that “spiritual training” is also very important. This part of my training routine consists of prayer and Scripture memorization. In 2013, I memorized Psalm 139. I wrote the verses out on 3x5 cards and carried them with me when I went on long hikes. You do a lot of thinking when you train, especially on long cardio days, and that is the optimal environment for me to memorize Scripture and pray. When the climb arrives, I want to be able to recall and recite the Scripture I have learned to help me endure and persevere when I get weary.
There are many components to preparing to climb and it can sometimes get overwhelming and it is not uncommon to experience some fear and doubt. Despite this, I am learning to enjoy the process as God uses our journey (to include training setbacks) to teach us about our limitations and our constant need of Him. God is faithful and He has proven that to me over and over in my lifetime. I love an adventure and having the opportunity to climb again with the Freedom Challenge and fellow climbers is something I am looking forward to. The friendships that were forged in my 2013 climb remain ingrained on my heart. The shared experiences bonded us and we developed a sisterhood unlike any other I’ve ever had. In 2019, I will meet new sisters-in-Christ and I look forward to getting to know them and as we climb for a common cause. Ultimately, I pray God is glorified and His work is done in and through us as we humbly seek His strength as we embark on a climb that will forever change us from the inside out.
Climbing for Their Freedom,
Shelly Ginter Conrad
Facebook: Shelly Ginter Conrad