Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Will Return to Mt. Everest, but Not in 2015

I didn't think it would take me five months to make this decision, but it did take that long. Why you might ask? I'll give you a list of reasons.
  1. Money. There is no way around it, Everest is the most expensive 8000 meter peak, and most expensive place, mountain or otherwise, to expedition, outside of either pole. I put off paying off my debt, buying a newer car, having nicer clothes, or a nicer apartment so that I could get to Everest the first time as soon as I could. Frankly, I'm tired of being in debt.
  2. An expedition in 2015 was never part of my plan. The plan was expedition in 2014, then spend two years chasing the delusion of getting to the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, then another expedition in 2016, my dream expedition for the record. I know it sounds crazy for someone who runs as slow as I do, but I have planned around the Olympic cycles. However, not getting much above 21,000 feet in 2014 does nothing for my confidence to attempt my dream expedition, because without more high altitude experience the proposal coming from me sounds naive. I highlight that idea in bold because it would be an incredible accomplishment, and in some ways, the culmination of a mountaineering career, more satisfying than Everest.
  3. On every mountain, in every season, that I know of, you can climb in whatever style you want, and it is usually respected, although expect a few experienced people to think you are legitimally crazy if you do something difficult. They might offer advice, they might report you to authorities, they might even yell at you, but I've never heard of it getting physical. Everest, especially in the spring, is not like every other mountain. The 2013 incident scared me, especially when I saw the video last month. Mistakes were made on the side of the Europeans, I won't deny that or condone it. However, I can't condone the reaction either. I learned in Nepal this spring that many people, both westerner and Sherpa show up at Everest every year, with less than one year of climbing experience, and summit. Before I went, I respected the local "guides" immensly! However, I learned that Sherpa does not equal 8000 meter mountaineering guide, in the same way that a Kenyan does not equal a sub 2:10 marathoner. Of course, some are absolutely the best, great people, skilled individuals, yet on the other hand, I am faster than many Kenyans, and similarly have led more ice climbing pitches than many Sherpas. Many people die on Everest because there is a delusion about the skills and fitness needed to safely go up and down. Before an expedition I imagine myself at the top of the mountain, in a white out, alone, without a radio, or any of my own rope, as night falls. I must have the skills and fitness to descend all the way to basecamp, otherwise I could become a statistic. That does not seem to be a pervasive attitude on Everest. To be completely honest, I may change my mind in the future, and never return to Everest. Yet there is only one highest mountain in the world, and the people I interacted with were very nice and supportive through the whole endeavor. 
That's it. For those people that may have started reading this blog because of Mt. Everest, I want to say Everest is not the be all end all. It is simply the highest chunk of rock on Earth. There are other objectives, more interesting, more demanding, and still incomplete more than 60 years after the first ascent of Everest. 

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