Setting and striving to achieve hard goals is central to my life. I’ve found that when I lack a goal, I feel like I’m drifting with no destination in sight. Thus today was a milestone in a series of goals I set almost two years ago.
When that 100 mph wind gust sent me spinning into a rock field breaking my face and leg I knew my life would never be the same. However, I almost immediately began setting goals as to my progress, both short and long term. But, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and that unknown became the fuel to keep me pushing.
I wanted to summit a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado in 2017, specifically Longs Peak. I had over 40 summits and a streak of almost 10 years on my “home” climb. But everytime I tried, my body, or mind, said no. So the streak ended in 2017, and thoughts began to form if my days at 14,000-feet and above were over.
After more “progress” with the help of the miracle worker Nina Paterson with her unique form of physical therapy, I slowly began to go higher in 2018. Climbing with good friends became medicine for my mind. In August I climbed the simple, but poignant peak Mt.Ida cutting my time in half from 2017. I felt my mom’s presence that day. With a strong group of friends, we were turned back on Longs on my birthday in July when the weather turned bad. But summiting Longs was important to me so I went back, alone, and summited on September 18, only two weeks before I left for Nepal to climb the 20,000-foot Island Peak.
High and Higher
I always say “altitude is exponential”. In other words there is a huge difference between 10K to 12K and 18K to 20K and so on. I strongly believe in muscle memory and that my body has been “trained” to adapt to high altitude but after taking a year off, gaining a bit of weight, crossing the age 62 mark and not knowing what I didn’t know … well lets just say, while confident, I left Colorado with a series of open questions.
The trek thus far has been amazing. I know I always talk about what a great experience trekking or climbing in Nepal is, so I won’t go on and on, but seriously, it is really …. OK 🙂 Perhaps it was the anxiety that triggered some long term memories but my mind kept going back to 1997 and my first visit to Nepal for a trek to Everest Base Camp (it really did change my life!) Whoops, sorry about that.
So today, October 13, 2018, Kami and I made our way higher along the less traveled Goyko Route. The scenery was stunning but I was a bit pre-occupied knowing that once we arrived in Goyko, at elevation 4790-meters/15,715-feet, we were going to hike up Goyko Ri for acclimatization purposes in anticipation of Island next week. Goyko Ri tops out at 5,357-meters/17,575-feet – a bit higher than Longs.
We left at noon. In Colorado, I set a goal of hiking at 1,000 to 1,500-feet an hour at altitudes above 12,000-feet. Knowing we has 2,000-feet above 15,000-feet, I set my expectations for a 3 hour hike to the top. Kami set the pace. The dirt path was well worn steadily climbing at a 10 to 20 degree angle.The views became more and more rewarding as we gained altitude. I got into my mental state of “go all day at this pace” and let my mind wander. I paused to take in the moment. Deep down, a strong sense of peace came over me. I felt my pace pick up a bit. 16,000 then 16,400 lead to breaking 17,000. I glanced at my altimeter watch a couple of times then pulled my coat sleeve over the measuring device. I knew where I was.
Prayer flags adorned the summit of Goyko Ri. Kami and I were joined by Maggie and Pete, a UK couple whom we had befriended a couple of nights ago. They are abut my age and are back to Nepal to trek. They said they were changed after their last trip to Nepal in 2002. 🙂
I scrambled to the highest rock, standing with the pride of a Pirate as I looked over the bounty. And I knew this was not a game but rather a passion. We had made the top in 1.5 hours – half what I had planned. I asked my body and essence to take me back higher, and they responded. As I stood on the summit, the most extraordinary view unfolded. Cho Oyu to my left, Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse straight ahead, and Makalu to my right. Four of the fourteen 8000-meter peaks towering above the smaller peaks. All seemed within my grasp.
Without thought, my mind returned to my Cho Oyu climb in 1999 where I reached 8000-meters but fell short of the true summit. My eye traced the routes on Everest pausing at the summit. I closed my eyes reliving that moment in 2011. I studied Lhotse carefully, feeling this peak may remain out of my grasp after two attempts in 2014 and 2015. And Makalu, what a beautiful mountain pyramid. I can only dream.
So yes, goals drive life. Without goals there is no sense of accomplishment and achievement – for me. I will continue to set goals, some small, others huge. This Alzheimer’s goal of $25,000 is what I’m talking about.
I will do my best to reach each bar I set. If I succeed, I will smile and set another, and I if I don’t, I will smile and set another.
Memories are Everything
Thanks to all who donated thus far for Alzheimer’s research. We are at $7,350 of the $10,000 goal. Aiming for $25,000 including the matching $10,000 grant so we need $7,650.