The most often asked question of anyone who does a dangerous or unique undertaking is "Why?". My altimeter watch shows that I have climbed over 300,000 vertical feet - 90,000 on Everest expeditions alone. I must like it! Here is my clumsy attempt to answer the question for me:
Why do you climb? An age-old question first publicly asked in the 1920s of George Mallory during his attempts on Everest. His incredibly complex or dismissive answer was "Because it is there." Similar to mine and no less understood by strangers, acquaintances, friends and some of my family.
To see the sun rise before it does. To understand fellow climbers in an accelerated environment. An alternative to the day-to-day world. To see if you can do it. To spend time with yourself and see if you are really whom you think you are. To discover your limits.
Climbing captures the allure and mystery of life for me. First there is the peacefulness of being high on a mountain as the sun peaks around the Earth. Then there is the camaraderie of friends being roped together as they work up a mountain - not as individuals but as a team. Finally, there is the challenge of taking a step on a steep slope knowing that a mistake could be deadly but the next step will be rewarding.
After six weeks of climbing up and down the Khumbu Icefall, Western Cwm and Lhotse Face, I leaned heavily on my right knee. My headlamp showed pure white snow at my foot - a sharp contrast to my bright yellow boots. I felt another wave coming over me. I gagged once again and struggled for breath. Even with my oxygen bottle turned on, I was having serious difficulties at 27,200' on Mt. Everest. After a quiet discussion with myself, I turned around to return to the South Col and Camp 4. My 2002 summit of Everest would have to wait.
A test of my body or of my mind?
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