Why or Why not
Sunday Feb 18, Plaza de Mulas
Max returns from the communications tent and tells me I need to call home. I know this is not good. I get in touch with Lisa on a satellite phone and then Luke tells me his girlfriend Maddie is gone. She fell trying to get into her apartment late at night and died from exposure to extreme cold in Lexington, Kentucky. She has been a part of our family for the past year and had so much life left to live. After the shock I start to plan how to get out. It is a twenty-four mile walk out and Max tells me a rescue helicopter can pick me up in 45 minutes. The weather was good and I had a window to get out. This was the same place where a week earlier I saw the two climbers with life threatening pulmonary embolisms unable to get a rescue chopper.
I had been in camp an hour, beat and dirty. I quickly packed everything and was heading to the helipad. The rest of the team was also shot, and they leave their tents, food, and hot showers to help me get loaded. We say our goodbyes. I am seeing them for the last time, huddled and saddened by my bad news as I fly away.
I didn’t know any of these people a month ago, and we don’t even speak the same language, but we will be friends for life. Three days later, I am at Maddie’s funeral in Chicago, so lucky to have made it.
I said I hoped to find out “why” by the end of the climb. It has been almost three months since I got off the mountain, and I am just finishing my last post. It has taken me this long to heal – both physically and mentally – from the trip. I had visions of writing about my feelings while standing on top looking down on the Andes. I have been asked if I made it to the top and I tell people yes to keep from a longer explanation. I made it as far as I was to go, which, after three weeks just a few hundred meters from the top. I hear people talk about conquering the mountain. The mountain can kick your ass at any time, in many different ways. With my attempt, it wasn’t injures and illness, of which I had both, it was bad news from home that ended my climb. If you’re lucky and prepared the mountain will let you up and down, if you’re not prepared or take too many risks it will kill you.
This is a retrospective account of my time on Aconcagua; it isn’t a how to live or self-promotion, but my attempt to understand why and continue to grow and learn. I have had time to think and look at what is important without the clutter of everyday life and this gives me direction. I challenged myself physically and mentally, and removed myself from my comfort zone to become present and aware. I have always looked for inspiration, and gotten it from many places – a coach, friend, coworker, nature, art, my children, my wife. Climbing a mountain inspires me, and in some strange way makes me appreciate my friends, family, and life more. Aconcagua’s biggest lesson was how precious life is and not to waste a single day.
So did I find out why? I have forgotten the why nots and list only the Why’s. What’s next? I am now training for another climb this July in Russia to Mt Elbrus not as tall 18,600, but cold and nasty. I will write on another blog Elbrus15.blogspot.com
Have time to think about what’s important in life
Have something to train for
Will never regret not trying
See something that I have never seen
Challenge myself physically & mentally
Learn Portuguese? probably not
Met new friends with similar interest
Best steak and Malbec ever
Seeing and feeling the South face of Aconcagua
It’s a sin to waste the gifts God has given you I have been blessed to be able to do this
Only God knows why
Over coming days like yesterday
Learning Hebrew, a few words
Sunset looking down on the Andes
Living my Life wish
Mate gets me jacked up
Think I can survive a nuclear winter
The thin air makes me goofy
Don’t need food
Made me appreciate simple things again – toilet, bed, shower, real food
I look real scary