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.
Your narratives paint a picture, in the mind’s eye, so descriptive it’s like being transported there with all five senses. And, from previous comments, it’s obvious others agree you also have a gift of motivation for others to set goals and live their best lives. Thank you for that.
Due to our previous exchange of Theodore Roosevelt quotes, it seems you also might find him interesting. If you’ve not read it and find the time, there is a very good book, “The River of Doubt”, by Candace Millard, chronicling his expedition’s journey to charter unexplored parts of the Amazon River. He was an explorer, an adventurer, a visionary …. because of him, we have bird and game reserves; national parks, forests, and monuments; as well as the Forest Service. Not too bad for one mere lifetime.
With appreciation for your efforts.
Alan, you continue to inspire me.
I was wondering, would you consider selling any of your photos in exchange for a donation to Alzheimer’s research? I really like the everest photo and the mountain range photo. I collect everest photos. I’ve never been and I would consider a trek just to see Everest.
Take care. Thank you again for the blog.