Post 10: Summit Push

Post 10: Summit push
Namche 5am: I wake and unplug my electric blanket, take my last hot shower for the next 3 weeks and head to the helipad to fly back to the team and basecamp.  I feel healthy and my legs felt strong for the 3000 ft climb.  After landing at basecamp we rejoin the rest of the team. After a month together it’s like being separated from a family member. We get right into weather forecast potential and summit windows and there is great news. 
May 18 looks like a perfect window. We set our departure to camp 2 on the 15th of May. In just 2 days we finally start our push for the summit, make it or not. My expedition will be over by the 22nd of the month and I will be on my way home.  In 7 weeks I have made lifelong friends, I have seen things of such beauty I will never forget, I suffered more than I thought was possible, and it is now down to the next 7 days.  Will it all be worth it if I don’t make it or will I view it as a failure? Either way it is my last shot at the top of the world.  
1 AM:  It is the 14th and I am leaving in an hour. Confidence is at an all time low. Once through the icefalls I have to make it to C2 without help or O’s. Last 2 rotations I fell short.  After C2 I get a rest day then on to Lhotse face.  
I get to C2 in good shape arriving in a snow storm unable to see 100ft in front now 2 more days.  
We set a 5am departure for C3 at midnight I hear vomiting from the tent beside me. Mike R. for the 2nd time on the expedition is sick.  We also lose one of our leaders, Lydia, who is also sick. We push our summit off one more day.
C3: The climb went great. I reached C3 early and healthy.  Lhotse face was icy and steep. Our camp is around 7200 meters, above 23,000 feet. We are placed on a steep ridge and once we arrive we start boiling water and cooking our meal.  The next morning we depart for the final High camp at 6am.  
C3: 6 AM: We look out from our tent and see a line of climbers on the ropes. We now are breathing O’s. It will be a slow day with the crowds. Our sherpas are not on ox yet and will have to make it to c4 (26,400 feet) without O’s. They struggle and we arrive at C4 at 4pm.  
The plan is to depart at 9:30 along with the long line of other climbers. Three of us are late arriving due to the crowds on the ropes and consider staying and attempting to summit the next night. After considering the impact that another night at altitude the decision was made to leave tonight, recovery doesn’t happen at altitude.  I eat my biscuit and gravy meal and try to rest.  9:30 comes early I get dressed out of my tent and see what looks like a freeway of headlamps going up the triangular face hanging on the ropes.  We are told if we dont pass many of the slower climbers we will not make the summit.  The weather is cold. I meet Namgel and he points to a short burnt face sherpa that has been carrying O for the summit. I am told to follow him. We get started, unclip from the fixed line and off we go passing climbers hanging on the ropes like they are standing still.  My heart rate is redline. I crank my o’s to the max rate but still feel winded. By the time we make it to the balcony we are in the clear and have the rest of the mountain with the crowds behind us.  

I make the south summit, my highest mark. As the sun rises I am surprised that I feel this good.  I load my last tank and start my way up the Hillary steps and the summit ridge. Before I know it I arrive at a small cluster of people gathered at the flags. I have reached the top.
So what do I do?  What do I say?  I think of what Hillary said here. I look up and see nothing, look down and see the world. The wind is picking up and I can hardly stand. I sit straddling the top with Tibet on one side and Nepal on the other. I see a few people making their way up that I will have to pass to get back down.  It feels unreal. The colors are so bright they glow. I know I have maybe 20 minutes to get done and start down.  Maybe I was too busy to think about it but reaching the top usually comes with an emotional outburst but until I get lower no celebrating.  My sherpa has a GoPro around his neck and lucky for me gets my summit pic. Everything I had was frozen.  You have to get a picture of the summit to take to the ministry to get your summit certificate.  I don’t need a piece of paper to prove I made it to the top, but get the picture anyway.
I have a request to get a rock from the summit I am wearing heavy leather mits and my suit is frozen shut. I find the rocks, scoop a handful and find the only place to stick them was down my collar.  They end up in my boots, not a very smart place to store rocks.  I start down and observe most of the people I passed during the ascent have turned around due to the cold and wind and the way down was mostly unblocked.  
I have summited Everest. I still have problems saying this.  I have seen the last few hundred ft of the mountain and it is time to get home to family.  I start thinking about all the hardships i had on the way up and every time I would get above them I would say to myself this would be my last time to experience this.  My thoughts turn to getting home as fast as my tired legs and a heli from Basecamp will take me. 
Lesson to grandchild:  Be Humble, I have made it to the top of the highest point in the world and I still have problems telling people I climbed Mt Everest.  Maybe it’s because I may have stood on top but there were so many people that got me there and for me to take the credit for everyone who helped feels wrong.  So where do I start? Who is responsible for my success? Is it family, co-workers, trainers, AC, climb leaders, sherpas, good weather window or health? If any of these went wrong I would have spent 2 months again without reaching the top.  It would have been seen by me as a failure and would have been my last shot at Everest and something that I would have had to learn to live with. The lesson here is to be humble. You will climb as high as the people around you lift you. When you think you’re doing this by yourself is when you forget about the people that got you there. Even Hillary had a team that got him to the top.  If you’re foolish or get blinded by success and forget the people around you, you will learn that you don’t walk this life alone and from time to time we all need help. Be humble, acknowledge and identify the reason for your success and you will be sure to repeat it.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I am so happy for you and your family. Glad you made it. Thanks for sharing your journey with the world. You are the true meaning of inspiration. Thanks again.

  2. Congratulations and thank you for sharing the adventure with us. I have enjoyed and learned from your lessons to your grandchild. God Bless.

  3. You did it right and you did it safe. I’m so proud of you as I know a lot of people are. You got to conquer something that most have only seen in pictures. Few have survived it. I’m with you and share the meaning of succeeding in a conquest that meant even more than standing at the top. My hat is off to you and my heart out to your family knowing that you are safe at home. You are a leader of all leaders. If only more of are leaders would follow your qualities. Love you,

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