I’m writing this two weeks after failing to reach the summit of Ama Dablam. With some time to reflect on the expedition since I descended from Camp 2, I’m more disappointed now than at any time since that morning I decided to head home.
I can’t reproduce the feeling of hesitation that convinced me to decide against heading back up to attempt the summit. I can’t reproduce the extreme fatigue from lack of sleep. Without the immediacy of these feelings I am left only with doubts. There is a process underway in my mind similar to the sand flowing from the top of an hourglass to the bottom. As time passes the certainly of my decision is ebbing. Should I have tried to summit?
With more time to reflect I speculated that there might be a sense of calm reason about the decision I took. Instead, I’m frustrated and disappointed. I know I made the right decision, and I’m not going to re-write the story from the present day, but failing to reach a goal that seemed so attainable before I arrived in Nepal doesn’t sit well with me.
The weather forecast for the day when I would have been trying to reach the summit was awful with very high winds and very cold temperatures. I may have been able to wait a few extra days at Basecamp to push the window back, or perhaps the weather would have changed. But ultimately, I didn’t feel confident that more time at Basecamp was going to help me regain the energy I needed to make it to the top of this mountain. This mountain. A difficult climb that had already claimed one life this season.
Reflecting on my mood today, I am motivated to try again. And I will.
Can this single-minded determination and my failure to reach the summit be the legacy of this extraordinary expedition?
Sitting in my hotel room in Kathmandu, I was overwhelmed by the comments from family and friends posted on Facebook when learning there was no attempt to summit. I was alone, and yet I’ve never been more aware of the connection I have to so many. Some wrote that I had been an inspiration, regardless the elevation I reached. Making the attempt is what mattered most. The love expressed at that moment brought me to tears. This profound sense of belonging, felt through messages written to me while I was on the mountain, are the legacy of this expedition. I have a message from my younger brother that I will never forget.
The people I met between Kathmandu and Camp 2, the breathtaking magic of Nepal, and the devotion and friendship of my expedition team will live with me forever. These relationships are the legacy of my expedition.
Physical and mental vulnerabilities challenged me daily. Where did they come from? My response to them has enriched my life, provoking challenges of a different kind. They have made me think. This is the legacy of my expedition.
I will continue to climb because I love to climb. Will you come with me next time?