…was two days ago.
I’m sitting here in the Kathmandu airport on my way back to the US after having decided to leave the expedition early.
First, I want to thank everyone that has been regularly following this blog and supporting the team from afar. I’d also like to thank Mountain Trip, Expedition Himalaya and everyone else associated with this trip for everything you’ve done and continue to do.
I’m sure by now, there are a number of questions as to the “why” of the aforementioned decision. I’ve always prided myself on being transparent, and probably even sharing more than I should. With that, here’s “why”
Most people will struggle with truly relating to why I would have wanted to leave a comfortable life with those I love around me for two months of mental & physical anguish simply to strive for a mountain on top of which there is no prize or treasure. Why climb Mount Everest? The simplest answer as related by George Mallory almost a hundred years ago: Because it’s there. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, but it’s aside the point. This has been a goal I’ve been working towards for several years, and represents a major life goal which is apart of another larger goal I’ve been slowly chipping away at – reaching the summit of the highest point on each continent of this place we call Earth. So far, I’ve successfully reached the highest point of four continents (North & South America, Africa & Antarctica) which is still pretty cool all by itself. Everest was to be number five.
Regardless of outcome, this was an incredible experience from day one. Getting to see Kathmandu for the first time along with its chaos, beauty, poverty, opulence and tranquility was an experience of a life time without ever needing to leave the city. Then, we flew by helicopter at the last minute into Lukla, which is famed as the world’s most dangerous airport. From there, we started a 10-day trek through the Khumbu Valley in the foothills of the Himalaya. Each village was special in its own right on the way in. From Pangboche, to Namche Bazar with its outdoor markets and cafes with amazing pastires to Debouche where we got an impromptu blessing from a 79yr old Lama granting us safe passage and return. We continued on to Dingboche where Mingma took exceptional care of us, and made roast chicken I still crave while sitting back in civilization. The French fries we had that first day, made with love, make me salivate while I write this. I had the best tea of my life at that lodge – Fresh ginger, hot lemon & honey. I want one now. We were fortunate enough to get a blessing by Lama Geshe, who is famed for blessing countless climbers & Sherpa on their way into the Himalaya and asking for their safe travels. We then pushed on up the valley to stay a final few nights in Lobouche where you had to take a pitcher of water and dump it in the toilet itself to force a “flush” It seemed that no amount of water truly did the job, but hey, that was part of the experience, right? Icing the cake in that luxurious bathroom was getting dripped on when you walked in from the bathroom upstairs. I think if that was the first bathroom of the trip, people would be a lot more disgusted & discouraged. After 8 days of progressively worsening conditions, you just wrote it off as part of the deal with no real consideration to what was happening. Finally, we pushed out and onward towards Everest Base Camp where we were greeted with teas, coffee, treats and a massive dining tent that would become our homebase for the rest of the trip.
Up to this point, you still might say “Sounds like a great trip, I don’t see what’s wrong.” Well, under the surface were boiling several negative emotions which everyone kept trying to fight & push through. Personally, I had a bad vibe from the moment I landed in Kathmandu. I knew this trip was going to be mostly a mental challenge and less of a pure physical push. Starting with a bad premonition was not allayed by getting sick for 3 days on the way in, nor was it when I couldn’t shake being sick. I knew that physical ailments were just par for the course on the trek, but this seemed to transcend that. On all prior trips I’d definitely had “WTF?” type moments where I questioned why I was putting myself through the suffering when I could be home, but they had all ultimately faded and disappeared. Not this trip. Not this time. I can’t explain why, but I just felt red flag after red flag. The catalyst of red flags came when we were en route to camp one for our first rotation. Just prior to getting to the first real stopping point, I started coughing up blood. The cough persisted for the next two days. On the way down, the desire of the entire team to continue on completely fell apart. Jon decided that he’d had enough and was wanting to leave. The red flags were too great for him to ignore as well. When we were back at basecamp, we had several deep conversations about the trip, why we do it, and what was most important to us. The answer was pretty straightforward for the three of us. Everyone reading this blog was whom we cared about most. None of us felt worth it to push through the warnings we were getting about the hill. This was not our year, and not our trip.
The decision to turn around and go home gave us peace of mind if for no other reason than it gives us the opportunity, should we choose it, to try the mountain again, or to simply do anything else. We all get to go home and see loved ones. We all have our digits. We all have our pride, if bruised slightly. This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. This was a big deal. I put a lot of people through stressful times worrying about my safety, worrying about my absence. This decision wasn’t totally about me. This was as much about those around me that care. I wanted to see them again, and I didn’t feel comfortable pushing through the warnings simply to reach a goal of “mine.” I have reason to go home. Jon & Trudi felt the same way. This was not the trip to push it. We all felt it, and we all recognized it. We all made the conscious decision to go home, albeit an incredibly difficult one.
Manoj has chosen to stay on and give the mountain his all. We truly commend him, and wish him the best. I want that summit shot of Manoj and Scott! I want to see him at the top. Manoj is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met and he sees himself at the top. So do I. You’ll get it Manoj!
This is the end of the series on Everest in 2013. Thank you to everyone whom have been regularly reading this and sending good vibes! It was always nice to get emails, and comments from everyone supporting us. This was a life experience I will be eternally grateful for and never forget. I learned a lot about myself on this trip, and I’ve got some amazing new friends, well except Jon, he doesn’t count 😉 j/k.
Take care, and thanks for following.