An 18 year old summits Everest fulfilling a dream and then experiences the trauma of passing newly perished bodies on the descent. A 70 year old, turns back from the summit choosing family over a summit as the relentless winds force an obvious but still difficult choice.
Summit or not, young or old; Everest remains significant for every person who steps foot on the route.
Over this past weekend we have witnessed the harsh realities of climbing the big Himalayan mountains like Everest: attempts, success and death.
It was a difficult journey for those on the mountain, and for those home watching their loved ones. For those on the sidelines it was a lesson in life. For those who don’t understand, they never will. And that’s OK, the rest of us do.
Over 300 people accomplished their dreams, some had an easy time, others barely made it and four did not.
The early window was fraught with ambitious and aggressive climbers. They worked to get in position to maximize their chances and many won. It was difficult, standing in line at 28,500′, controlling each breath of bottled oxygen as if it was their last, cursing the crowds and then straining to look beyond, to the see the next anchor, to see the top of the world. And then they celebrated, forgiving the pain it took to get there.
The next wave added an element of difficulty beyond understanding. Those teams with the most experience, climbed as a team, constantly checking in with one another, moving as a group; the brotherhood of the rope. They climbed together, summited together and descended together. Now they celebrate together.
But some who climbed that night felt the harsh reality of altitude. The sudden onset of fluids on the brain, in the lungs; the instant feeling of weakness, of bliss, of sleep. Those around tried anything, everything in their power; but it is never enough.The simple equation of life, of death.
Phone calls were made, reports filed and the grieving began. The questions without answers, the blame, the guilt. The process is unforgiving. And it will happen again.
Climbers climb for the same reason teacher teach, writers write and dreamers dream. Without goals that challenge your essence, provide satisfaction from the pursuit itself and feed the smile at the end of the day; the questions of life often have empty answers.
The next set of Everest climbers are on their way. They will move to the High Camps, rest and focus. Then they will move to the stating gate and stare at the snow capped peak in front of them and wonder, is this my time?
We will never now the precise details of what happened to Dr Ebehard Schaaf, a generous doctor who wanted to see everyone accomplish their dream. Or Shriya Shah who said proudly “This is my dream and passion, and want to do something for my country. Nothing is impossible in this world, even the word ‘impossible’ says ‘I M POSSIBLE’!
And the others who remain on Everest, remain a mystery.
But if the work of those who summited or those who didn’t are simply dismissed as a moment of entertainment, real life reality; we have all missed the point, and missed an opportunity.
Memories are Everything