The Lure of Everest
Every April I start getting Everest fever. Not the fever to climb Everest but the insatiable fever to read about and know everything that's going on during the climbing season. You probably already know that at 29,035' Mt Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth. And you are probably aware that over the years Everest has become more accessible to aspiring mountaineers, and each season the debate on if Mt Everest is now too accessible is reinvigorated. I've found it interesting to follow the discussions and opinions among the professional outdoor and climbing communities. But what really fascinates me about Mt Everest is the drive that its aspiring climbers have to reach the summit. Just consider how passionate you'd have to be to achieve the goal of summitting Mt Everest to put yourself through all it takes to achieve that goal. The training takes months, maybe years, depending on how fit you are to begin with. It costs more than $45,000 to climb with a reputable guide company. And it takes an average six to nine weeks of acclimatizing and setting up camps high on the mountain before you're even ready to go for the final push to the top. On summit day you start out in the middle of the night in order to allow yourself the 10-18 hours it takes to reach the top and come back down safely. I'm so intrigued by what it is that drives people to want to go through all that, and how they achieve it, and what happens when they finally put all their training and planning into place.
No amount of training and planning, however, can eliminate all the dangers of climbing, and each year there are tragedies on the mountain. In 2014 an avalanche in the Khumbu icefall killed 16 climbing Sherpa. In 2015 a massive earthquake in Nepal left almost 9,000 dead, including more than 20 people killed at basecamp when the earthquake triggered a huge avalanche of ice and rocks.This year there have already been 2 deaths. One of those was Ueli Steck, a Swiss climber who's career I've followed for years. Ueli fell while training to climb a route linking Everest to it's neighbor Lhotse, the 4th highest peak in the world. It was heart breaking to learn of Ueli's death. He was awe inspiring, courageous, and driven to accomplish some of the most incredible achievements in climbing history. He's most well known for solo climbing the North Face of the Eiger in under 3 hours. In 2015 Ueli climbed all 82 peaks in the Alps over 4,000 meters in just 62 days. And he did it without once getting into a car to reach the next mountain. Following Ueli's climbing achievements was thrilling to me. To know that there was someone out there capable of such incredible feats of fitness and skill was inspiring. And then he was gone and another tragedy is written in the the history of Mt Everest.
As I continue to watch this year's Everest climbing season unfold I will think about Ueli Steck and all the others that have perished attempting to achieve their dreams. As I continue to train for my Summit for Someone climb I will think about the climbers in Everest basecamp who've put so much into preparing for their chance to stand on top of the world. And on days when I falter and worry and question why I've committed myself to the challenge of raising $4,000 and climbing a mountain that scares me I'll remember something Ueli said:
"And now I’ll just go; and only worry about the events that lie ahead of me. Day by day, one by one. It is the here and now that counts. What comes next is uncertain in any case.Learn from Yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”