Thursday, May 22, 2014

Five Early Lessons from Everest 2014

On a weekday night in February 2009 I started this blog. With relatively little thought I came up with the title: Learing to DO. It emphasied learning which I am a huge life long fan of, and doing, with a capital o because you can learn everything but if you don't apply it to do anything, what is the point? I'm very much in the comtemplative phase of my Everest expedition trying to figure out what it all means. There are a few things I learned that are obvious to me, but I know there must be more to it. So I figure trying to fill out a list of five things will give me a chance to really see what I learned. I'm calling this an early list, because I feel that in the months to come I will have more revelations with deeper meanings and this is certainly not an exhaustive list.

  1. Inexperience is rampant on Mt. Everest. I have a much longer article drafted and waiting for sufficient time to pass before I publish on this topic. A simple example is the number of people who had slept above 7000, or even been above 7000 meters. Of the 15 clients on our expedition, I believe only seven, including myself, had been or slept above 7000 meters. Three of those had only slept above 7000 meters on Everest, in previous seasons. In short, while people may generally gradually build up their climbing skills and altitude experience slowly, when it comes to Everest, people will make a big jump in altitude, and even technical skills to get there. 
  2. The cultural and political situation in Nepal, specifically in the Kumbu valley or Solokumbu region is not nearly as stable as we thought. I would still consider it safe. Even after I first heard about the threats I hiked by myself multiple times to Gorak Shep, the 3G rock, and Kalla Pattar. 
  3. The world loves tragedy. Maybe this is the media, maybe this plays to our fears, maybe we just like to feel safe. I announced I was going well in advance, I offered to do interviews while I had a good Internet connection, but no one really cared. After the tragedy, CBS, BBC London, Al Jeezera America, among others filled my inbox with interview requests. This is not what I want to get attention for. 
  4. Hundreds of people were really worried about me. I spend so much time alone, running, sitting in my apartment, typing at the coffee shop, working at work, that frequently I feel lonely. Sometimes I feel like I could dissappear and no one would notice. Well, I seemingly almost dissappeared on the other side of the world and I had scores of people tracking me, making sure I was safe every night. I guess it's not a surprise, I care about my family and friends and they returned the favor, I guess I was just not expecting it. I should really write some thank yous (blog post idea...).
  5. Describing my risk tolerance is really hard! I don't ever plan to go bungee jumping. I will never attempt Annapurna or Nanga Parbat, two very deadly mountains. I always wear my seatbelt. On the other hand, I do on occasion like to free solo routes that are not truly "easy". I am scared of heights somewhat, yet I've still been at a hanging belay 1500 feet up a cliff with just air below me. I've almost died three times in the mountains, yet I keep going. I rarely speed in my van, although the thing can't really speed on the interstate. Yes, I've been skydiving, solo of course. I've tipped over my fair share of sailboats. My Eskimo role is terrible, so I just don't kayak. I quit playing baseball when I was young because I was scared of the pitching machine, and I still am a little. I have a motorcycle, but it's a 125 cc 1966 Yamaha and once I went 62 miles per hour downhill. I've gone 52 miles per hour downhill on my road bicycle, which is more dangerous? I think the things that scare me and the things that scare most people are so different it's hard just trying to communicate the differences. I feel this is challenging when I am trying to build personal relationships. I am willing to do things with a statistical percentage chance of death, but I make sure when people ride in my van with me to always wear their seatbelts. 
There we have five things I have learned so far. The two most dramatic ones for me are the inexperience of Everest climbers and the surprise of how many people were worried about me. 

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