Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Everest vs. Lohtse

Well, the votes are in. The better value between Mt. Everest at $44k and Lohtse at $20k is Everest. It was a close vote seven to six. Interestingly that result mirrors my own feelings at this point very well.

The tallest is the tallest. Is that simple fact worth an extra $24,000? I happen to think so. That being said, I don't have the kind of money right now so perhaps my opinion will be different when I do have that kind of money. Everest and Lohtse share the same basecamp and camps 1, 2, and 3 along the route, at least on the Nepal side. In other words, for a 60 day expedition the difference between the two is probably about 30 hours.

The reason I ask is that when I was a little 18 year old I decided that I liked climbing mountains. I  had more or less taught myself how to use crampons and an ice axe. I had started reading climbing lore through some of the classics, such as Into Thin Air. One of the questions that often came up during my formative high school summers in the mountains was, "would you climb Mt. Everest?" I decided in the summer after I graduated high school 'yes, I would like to climb Mt. Everest.' Being a goal-orientated person who likes timelines because it allows me to break the project into smaller pieces I set the arbitrary date of ten years from then for me to go to Everest. That is 2014. This is 2011 and I have already missed out on the spring season this year, that leaves three chances for the spring season on Everest to meet my goal.

What is stopping me from doing it as low budget as possible, go-into-more-debt, and used climbing equipment? I want to give myself all reasonable safety advantages. I'm not planning on getting any frostbite and I will gladly pay another $160 for another pair of mittens if it means I get to keep my fingers. Additionally, mountaineering is a hobby of mine. I am an engineer. As long as my brain is intact I can do that. Mountaineering is dependent on my body as much as my mind. In other words, I want to engineer now. I also want to run because I can only run to my potential for about the next ten years in distances of a marathon or less while I can climb mountains well into my 50s and be competitive in ultra races into my 40s.

I do not think I have been quite as bold with my plans on the blog before, but this has been in my mind for some time and well, I'm shopping around right now. If I live that long (age 28) you can be assured that I will show up at Everest basecamp with my gear sometime between now and then.

To the question about oxygen some of you might be wondering. I plan to go without. I have a huge aerobic capacity and an incredibly efficient metabolism which should greatly help my ability at altitudes from 23,050-29,035 ft. Up to 23,050 ft. I know that I operate decently well. That being said, after spending more than 40 grand I will spend the extra 1-2 grand to ensure that high altitude porters (typically Sherpas) carry a few bottles high on the mountain so that if I hit the wall on summit day or even the day before I can start sucking Os from a bottle. Honestly, above 23,100 ft I am not sure what to expect. At 23,500 ft would I be a useless pile of bones, muscles, water, and down feathers? I don't think so, but I don't know for sure.

To the other question that some of you might be wondering, 'am I qualified?' Yes I totally am. I am relatively light on time spent at high altitude, but I have a night spent above 23,000 ft, which is more than is required by most outfitters. I also have more technical experience than many commercial climbers.

Finally, to the question a few of you might be thinking, 'how am I going to willfully take two months of work off and re-enter unemployment?' I have a few ideas, like leave of absence, going back to school, contract work, a second book, a speaking tour, or a new job. In other words, I'm not going until I am confident that I have an income source lined up for my return or at least half a year after my return.

I can read about what others have done, but I want to do it! Reading is not the same as doing it. Do you want to know what it is like to run the Wonderland Trail? Go run it! Go be adventurous! Yes, it will hurt sometimes, but you can handle it because you had what it takes to take the first step.

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