7. Krista Meinert: A New View on Life
“The effects of exercising and mountaineering is that I actually have a life now.”
Krista Meinert never exercised regularly, though in her adult life, she started adding daily yoga sessions to her schedule. She loved the mind-body connection and how it seemed to slow things down, while also strengthening her core. But that all changed on January 10, 2010.
While her son, Jake, was serving in Afghanistan, he stepped on an explosive device and died. “Nothing is the same after that. Jake’s death changed many aspects of my life,” Meinert says. “My firstborn was gone. I didn’t know who I was anymore. At the same time, I didn’t want to be labeled as the mother of a dead son.”
Fast-forward a few years when Meinert found herself looking through old photos. “I noticed in the pictures I was in since Jake’s death, that I had been smiling in them, but it was an empty smile — there was no feeling behind it,” says the 47-year-old. She did spot one photo, though, from 2013 with her daughter and niece, standing on the top of Mt. Cloundry in Colorado. “That was the first real smile I had after [my son] died.”
Not long after finding that photo, Meinert received an email from TAPS — an organization that offers support to people who lost a loved one in the military. They were hosting an expedition with REI Adventures to Mt. Shasta in California. Meinert knew she had to go.
She started researching training plans to prepare for her trek. Upper and lower body workouts soon became a regular to-do, and she began carrying a 40- to 60-pound backpack wherever she could. “It got me out of my comfort zone and thinking about other things besides how miserable I was,” Meinert says. In 2016, she reached the top of Mt. Shasta.
Besides the beauty of seeing the stars at night and the sunrise as she reached the summit, Meinert made life-long friends during that climb and found something that brought her real joy. “I love the planning of it and I love the experience of working with a team and the focus on survival,” she says. And because she was with a group of other TAPS members, she had great listeners to share her story. “I think we all felt really comfortable talking about our broken hearts,” she says.
Since the Mt. Shasta climb, Meinert has summited 19 of the 50 U.S. state high points. And she has no plans of stopping. “The effects of exercising and mountaineering is that I actually have a life now. After I lost my son, I felt like I wasn’t living,” Meinert says. “Exercise and mountaineering let me be in the moment. If I miss my step, I’m going to slide. So I have to make sure I’m present, not in the past being sad. I’m not in the future, wishing things were different. I’m right there and I’m excited and I’m nervous.”
Meinert says this has translated into her being a better mother to her other children, too. “Even mothering my other kids, I was in a haze, a grieving haze,” she says. “The climbing got me out of that haze. It got me out of that dark place and it made me be back to who I was. It’s also gotten me excited about a future.” Two things she has to look forward to? Summiting Mt. Hood in Oregon and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park this summer.