I closed my eyes for a moment as I made my way up another Colorado 14, 000 foot mountain. For that instance, I saw myself on the Lhotse Face taking one calculated step after another, there moving my jumar higher, occasionally looking up to see what was ahead. I had transported myself into the future.
By now, mid March 2015, this practice had become commonplace as I trained for the world’s fourth highest peak, Lhotse at 27,940 feet or 8516 meters. I know the route well from my Everest, K2 and other climbs.
I had learned from my previous climbs that preparing your mind was as critical as preparing your body.
Clear the Clutter
The last couple of weeks before leaving for a big Himalayan climb is busy. Not a long to do list but rather having your mind filled with questions.
“Did I have the right gear, did I train properly, did I select the right operator … Maybe I should have climbed something else first. The money, it was a lot of money that could be spent on better things” the questions seem endless. You know all the answers but your mind keeps playing with them.
It is time to look at the check list one more time, make decisions on items you kept open, those where you need to check just one more source, that one piece of gear you keep wanting to on or get the perfect one.
Once you arrive in Lukla to begin the trek, all this clutter will seem like last year’s news. That perfect jacket you wanted will be the one you have with you, those boots will become your friend immediately.
Prepare to begin your adventure by preparing your mind to let go, starting now.
Quiet the Voices
By now you have been asked every known question about climbing Everest. You did you to answer them honestly, but it became more and more difficult as the news media spun up the annual Everest coverage filled with sensationalized stories. How many times did you talk about Sherpa exploitation, trash, oxygen, experience of your teammates and more? And your favorite question “How much did you pay to climb Everest?”
You’ve never been to Everest but now you are an expert, as is your spouse and family members. Take this role with honor and responsibility. Take advantage of each opportunity to be honest and transparent. “Yes, I will use supplemental oxygen like 97.3% of all the previous summiters. The cost to climb Everest is the price of a car …” But feel free to say the average price is around $45,000.
Talk about the Sherpa people with pride and honor. Acknowledge their role in your climb. When you blog or write home, use their names and their village.
But most important is to let all those questions go. Avoid getting drawn into the old, tired debates. Most of the people who try to get you into those conversations have an agenda, and seeing you succeed is not in their top ten.
Focus on the Objective
You are going to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Re-read that last sentence. You are going to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world.
How many have come before you or will follow you is immaterial. Each step you take will be your first. Each view will open your eyes in ways you never dreamed. This your climb.
Everest is not “easy”, it is not a walk-up. It is a serious mountain that demands serious climbers. Remember, quiet the voices. For every one person who wants to play critic, there are nine who admire and are pulling for you. You are doing what few actually do. Many talk, but few make the sacrifices to live their dream.
What you are about to do does not come easy, cheap or without determination. Take credit for who you are and what you are attempting.
Nothing left Unsaid
As you put that last stuff bag in the duffel, look around. See something small, unbreakable that will remind you of home? Carefully put it in the middle of that open bag. Let it be the first thing you take out at base camp and the last thing you pack when leaving.
By now you have had that quiet talk with your spouse, spoke to the kids, parents, friends. But there was one more thing you wanted to say and never got around to it.
When you sit down on the airplane seat, close your eyes and focus on your dream. All the training is behind you, you are as good as you can be now. All the gear research and shopping is now in the belly of the jet, you have what you need.
Put your headphones on and play your favorite song, you know the one …
Open that book you have been putting off, savor each word …
Or just close your eyes and give yourself permission to relax, take a deep breath.
You are about to climb Mt. Everest.
Memories are Everything