No photo in tbis blog. I’ve been too busy. I started this post with five days to go. And now I’m staying in the hotel at the airport in preparation for a 6 am flight, followed by 24 hours plus of traveling.
I’ve faced my usual paranoia that the ridiculous hours I’ve been working in order to garner 2 1/2 weeks off will have so impeded my training I’ll find myself coughing as soon as I hit 10,000 feet, only to have a so far unexperienced asthma attack, get pulmonary edema, and expire somewhere at an unimpressive 12,000 feet. Matters have not been helped by the death of Ueli Steck a few days ago on Everest.
One can’t help but wonder about the possibilities. But more important than the possibilities – however tantalizing they may be – at least for those of us who have some great need for adrenaline – is figuring out why you’re going up the damn mountain in the first place.
The busyness – business of our lives has taken over. I don’t know about you, but if one more person asks me to do one more thing, I might just combust. I’m called upon every hour multiple times per hour to make decisions. Some small; some large. Whether my recommendation affects one or thousands – you know what? It’s just as important if it affects one person’s working life as it is if it affects many. Jobs are important to people.
Back to topic. I’ve been training for this trek since we came down from the last. And I really, really need to get away from that busyness – business. I’m hoping that somewhere in Nepal, on the way to Everest, there’s some fabulous lost horizon that’s going to give that sense of peace.
I’ve been thinking about bridges a lot lately. Perhaps partly because I am living by a ten year construction project called the Ultimate I4. So far it has manifested itself as a series of disconnected bridges to nowhere. There’s nothing quite as majestic as running under an overpass, only to be met on the other side by a 1000 foot strip of raised concrete floating on mid air like some sort of giant teeter totter.
But I’m also thinking of bridges because I’ve been looking at photos of the trek to Everest Base Camp and have suddenly realized there are a heckuva lot of suspension foot bridges that cross extremely high ravines. I think I read somewhere that there are 27. Now, when I was much younger (and to be truthful, up to the present day) I used to have a recurrent anxiety dream that involved being stuck on a swinging bridge over a deep gully, absolutely frozen and unable to move either forward or back.
I’m sure this goes back to the kernel of a true childhood memory (funny how “truth” becomes relative when you’re talking decades ago) when my family went to Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. While I frequently recalled crossing the swinging bridge – from which you could quite definitely have slid through the side chains that were all that separated you from doom – I never admitted to anyone that I was absolutely terrified, right down to the white cotton ankle socks that I’m sure I had been made to wear.
Mountain climbing – or at least aspects of it – is like that. Regular readers may remember a post from a few years ago about training to climb Mt. Elbrus by scrambling around on my roof. ( Training Up on the Roof ) We did have leaves to remove from the gutters but I also thought it might help conquer a fear of heights.
I guess bridges will be have to be my next such training location. Making myself go forward one step at a time without freezing in place – that’s something to which we can all aspire. And these days, it’s a lot better to cross a bridge than to build a wall.
It’s certainly not the glamorous part of scaling summits or long distance trekking, but without it, neither of the former would happen. And so with the close of a holiday season that unfortunately held as much in the way of work as it did gift giving and merriment, it is time to jump back on the training horse and start to ride. OK, that may not be an apt analogy but you get the picture.
I’ve been scraping by with a 5K here or there and a few sets of weightless stair climbs in my building over the last few weeks. Yoga fell by the wayside entirely. So wrong. You’d think after as many years as I’ve been doing this I’d know better. But it’s hard to get your head into the necessary place even to start to exercise when the world is swirling around you with demands on every aspect of life – from family to social to work.
In fact, for inspiration today I even found myself changing my Facebook profile picture to one of me sitting on our front porch after a five mile run with a look of what I thought showed grim determination. But after one of my friends commented that it looked like I was saying “get off my lawn!” I decided I better swap it out.
So, with Nepal and Everest Base Camp beckoning – and some deadlines now met – it’s time to take that proverbial deep breath and just start. (Note I resisted the “Just do it” slogan.) Due to some changes in yoga class times I’m going to have to revamp last year’s schedule. I figure if I can write up a five page work to do list, surely I can assemble a seven day training schedule.
I’ll take any inspiration I can get. Right now those Tibetan prayer flags are helping. Just under four months.
I’m not sure I’ve formally announced the next choice of mountain…but the winner is – Trek to Everest Base Camp! Now I realize for you purists out there it’s technically only a trek up part of a mountain, but for those of us who took up mountaineering in our 50s it’s probably as close as we’re going to get to that particular summit. And there are a few peaks along the way, so surely that counts. Much more to come on this latest adventure in the coming months.
But the title of this post is Seeing the Summit and that has particular meaning at the moment. For – for the first time since the reading eye following my lasik for monovision in the early 2000s stopped reading – I can see without glasses!
The secret – a little thing called contacts. I haven’t worn them since the late 90s, but suddenly the glasses were just too much and too heavy. You need a light touch for summits and the glasses weren’t doing it.
It’s quite disconcerting to see your face close up without glasses for the first time in years. I definitely have more wrinkles and grey hairs than I realized. But the ability to read something whenever I look down (ok- I still can’t read the directions on cleaning products) – is amazing.
There’s got to be some clarity in that. And as I resume the type of training regime I think I’m going to need to reach the highest overlook of Everest – Kala Pattur- at almost 18,500 feet – and to spend about 10 days at over 12,000 plus feet…some clarity is sorely needed.
You can see a lot looking down from a summit – but getting ready to look at one up can be equally as important.