Chinese Proverb

"Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I'll understand." - Chinese Proverb.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cello performance at 14,035 feet with 11 cellists

Time to catch up on my blog entries! I've finally finished my move from Colorado to Oregon - the first move with most my furniture was in a 20 foot truck last month, the second move this weekend was with a 14 foot truck with a hitch for my Subaru.  It was a very loooong drive! I'm procrastinating doing some of my un-packing (although I did unpack my "cello room") so I figured I should catch up on my entries!

Anyway, before I left Colorado we did a hike up a 14er with the Boulder Cello Project and performed our annual summer concert collaboration with Chase the Music, so I'll post entries on both of those.

About a month ago, our cello group hiked to the summit of Mt. Sherman, which is a mountain that is above the elevation of 14,000 feet, with 11 cellists and our cellos. We performed a small concert at the summit for a wonderful audience who couldn't be more enthusiastic and encouraging. The audience members were mostly friends and family, and random hikers who happened to be at the summit.

(c) Hodge Podge Photography

The day before the hike, I had planned to fall asleep by 7 pm since I had to meet a couple cellists around 3 am (yes, three in the morning! Have I mentioned that I'm NOT a morning person?), and then had to carpool with them to our rendezvous point before heading to the trail-head with everyone. I couldn't fall asleep because I was too excited about the hike and it took me longer to create my extra "cello protector case." I was worried what the weather may do to my cello so I wanted something to help with that - and yes, I brought my more expensive cello so I was a bit paranoid. ;)

I lent my good soft cello case to another cellist participating in the hike and borrowed another soft cello case from a friend. Unfortunately, the soft cello case was more than 10 years old, falling apart and not padded very well. I decided to wrap that soft cello case in reflective insulator so my cello didn't get too hot or cold during the hike. It also provided extra protection because it had bubble wrap on it too, which I'm glad it did because I counted three times where I accidentally scraped against rocks fairly hard while making the descent from the summit. I'm sure I probably scraped against jagged edges more than three times, but didn't notice too. My friend Ben came back from the hike with a bunch of scratches on his hard cello case. Without the extra layer (especially using this particular soft case), I'm sure my cello would have had some dings on it. It probably would have been safer to bring my hard case, but honestly, there was no way I could have made it to the summit with the extra 11 pounds from my hard cello case.
Three out of the eleven cellists who participated brought their hard cases and the rest of us brought soft cases, and none of the cellos were damaged. Yaay! I was really impressed with the three who brought their hard cases.

Anyway, I used a hot glue gun and tape, and wrapped my soft cello case like a Christmas present and then cautiously slid the soft cello case out from the bottom. The reflective insulator held its shape, so I just cut a couple holes for the straps and voilĂ  - extra protection for my cello! I just slipped the extra cover over the soft case during the hike.

After getting my supplies together, I couldn't fall asleep until 11:00 pm and I was really worried about having enough energy for the hike. I did wake up a bit late (and tired), but arrived just when the other cellist arrived to carpool to the rendezvous point. We moved all our supplies into my Subaru (three cellos and a bunch of hiking gear) and drove to the rendezvous point. We arrived about 10 minutes past the scheduled meeting time, but I was happy to discover that we weren't the last ones to arrive. :)

Once everyone arrived, Abram (our leader for the hike) gave instructions to get the trail-head. Those who needed a ride, because they didn't have All Wheel Drive (AWD), hopped into other vehicles to carpool to the trail-head.

We had great conversations on the way there, but accidentally drove past the turnoff to get to the trail. However, we got this awesome view of the sunrise!

Purple mountain majesty!
Sunrise against a river. This photo doesn't do it justice! Photo taken on my iPhone.

Once we reached the trail-head, we parked and gave our misc supplies and items to our sherpas/volunteers, which were mostly Abram's hiking and climbing buddies. I swear all of them had super-human strength!, I wish I was as strong as them... I need to get in shape!
I was determined to at least carry my cello all the way up to the summit and back, but was happy to give my stand, chair and misc supplies to our volunteers. :)

Meeting in the parking lot around 6 am. We started the hike at 7 am. Photo taken on my iPhone. 
Our photographer, Clark from Hodge Podge Photography in the orange jacket.

 Through the gate - the start of the hike! (c) Hodge Podge Photography

Hiking up with my cello - makes a good coat hanger too! Photo by Abram H.

Clark, Susan & Dave traversing across snow. Photo by Abram H.

Two sections of the mountain had a lot of snow we had to hike up.  Abram (center) carrying my cello across the snow field.
(c) Hodge Podge Photography

There were a few spots that were a little scary for me. I brought my cross-trainers instead of hiking boots because I didn't have time to break in my hiking boots. Luckily, they had extra crampons to put on the bottom of our shoes to get across the snow, and another cellist (Anna) lent me her extra trekking poles. I didn't think trekking poles would help at all, but boy, did they ever!! I'm going to purchase one those for my next hike.

Anna making it across a snow field. (c) Hodge Podge Photography

Reminds me of ants on a hill! We slid down the side of the mountain to get down. See the snow chutes? Our porters carried our cellos down while we sat on our jackets and slid down! Scary, but fun! :)
(c) Hodge Podge Photography

Not the summit, but a great view nonetheless! Michelle, Abram and I. (c) Hodge Podge Photography

 Steep sides of the mountain. Photo taken on my iPhone.

 Photo of hikers on the trail. Photo taken on my iPhone.

The view was amazing! Photo taken on my iPhone.

This hike was so much fun! Even being more out of shape this year, I think Mt. Sherman was definitely easier hiking than Grays (another 14er). 

At the summit it was very difficult to play and even more difficult to pretend to play when I made a mistake (ha, ha!) since the sound seemed to disappear right away! My endpin kept sinking further into the snow so I couldn't find my fingerings very well. I figured it would be better to pretend to play when that happened until I could figure out the geography on my cello, but I couldn't find my fingering because it kept slipping (yeah, that's what I'm blaming that on!). Unfortunately, it was really obvious when I didn't play so I played out of tune (really quietly, I hope...) until I could figure it out. I wonder what I was supposed to do in those cases?

Photos of the concert at the summit: 

I'm in the yellow CU hat! I packed my finger-less gloves, but I couldn't find them in time. (c) Hodge Podge Photography

Wearing three layers of clothing. I was told not to wear cotton since it doesn't dry quickly. (c) Hodge Podge Photography

(c) Hodge Podge Photography.

This was such a great experience, and I enjoyed it thoroughly - talk about feeling a sense of accomplishment! I'm going to submit this to the Guinness World Record (GWR) for the most cellists atop a 14er. I'm waiting for the videos from our guide before I can submit it, since GWR requires a video of the hike from start to finish.

14,036 ft altitude (and attitude!) + a group of amazing hiking players from the Boulder Cello Project + wonderful weather + friends and family of the group who helped at every step along the way + random hikers on the trail who cheered us on (lots of hikers from Kansas!) + summer solstice = an EPIC experience!!!


  1. Always look forward to your blogpost. This is amazing, Gemma!! Congrats on this really epic adventure!

    Hope we get to see the videos of the concert at the summit. That would be so awesome.

    All the best for GWR :}

    1. Thanks Shi!!! Hopefully I will be able to post videos sooner than later.

      [I posted a reply (twice already!), but it doesn't seem to want to post...]

  2. Everything about this trip is thoroughly impressive. The logistics alone... just wow. I mean, this could seriously be turned into a movie about adult cello students, and I would totally watch that movie. The climb itself could allegorical ;) Awesome work!