I am always up for a good true story. There aren’t many that don’t get my attention. I can have my interest peaked in a number of ways: history, medicinal miracles, but especially stories of unlikely survival. The bravery, brawn, and brains that are beyond what seems humanly possible, these are the kinds of true stories that fascinate me. What made those people survive that disaster and come out swinging? I simultaneously want to admire, sit back in amazement, and take notes in case God forbid I am ever in that situation. Luckily for me the chances of falling into the trouble my latest obsession has is not likely.
Mount Everest is known the world over as the highest point on Earth. Saying that simple fact isn’t enough to entice me to see it in person but I know there are MANY who do not share this sentiment. The desire to seek out Everest and climb to it’s submit, which is 29,029 feet above sea level, astounds me. I was already terrified and I had yet to learn how many more dangers there were than what is obvious. The history of Everest’s geography, exploration, disasters, and accomplishments will never get old for me. In fact a recent movie has created an obsession leading me to want to learn everything I can about this Mecca for mountaineers.
While I have always found Everest fascinating it was the recent release of “Everest” this past September that brought it fully to my attention. The commercials had my total focus and I knew I had to go to see it. I grabbed a girlfriend and some popcorn and I sat in anticipation. I know there have been mixed reviews, especially by Jon Krakauer who was on the particular mission featured in the film.
For the first time I was able to follow this story, which takes place in 1996, step by step. Also the layout of the mountain has phrases commonly used like the Hillary Step, Base Camp, etc. and now I have actual images to go along with those words. I was able to learn quickly how many issues become deadly so fast in that environment.
When it was over I was stunned. I was still absorbing all of this new information and at the same time asking my counterpart a long series of questions. I needed more information, much more.
That led me on a quest first through Netflix. I watched “The Wildest Dream”, “Everest” (2007 version has a different story than in the one from 2015), and “Into Thin Air”. Then I decided to read “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer being as he was there on that infamous 1996 trip. This book is a first hand account of what happened, through his eyes. It is a riveting book; one you don’t want to put down despite how hard some of it is to read.
I felt like I was there but grateful that I wasn’t every time I got to a part too upsetting to think about. I utterly cannot believe anyone would put their bodies through that even if they are ‘successful”. The SEVERE altitude sickness and essential brain death sound too horrific to imagine. It is completely incomprehensible. On top of that there is the extremely dangerous terrain into the mix. I had no words when the whole scenario was laid out in front of me.
I also had no clue that to begin the climb to Everest you had to walk to the mountain for days to weeks. That seems like an adventure all in itself. Apparently you also had to plan to be away from home for at least two months or longer. Between trekking back and forth, taking the time to acclimatize to the attitude, and go to the summit back down to base camp, the days fly by. I am sure that time ticks by slowly when you are one the living through it.
The time, dedication, and enormous expense (anywhere from around $65,000 and higher per person) is mind-blowing especially when you consider the high probability of death. I have a pit in my stomach as I type those words.
“Everest is not real climbing. It’s rich people climbing. It’s a trophy on the wall and they’re done,” he says. “When I say I wish I’d never gone, I really mean that.”
After most of the literature I have read I still can’t quite get my head around Mount Everest as a bucket list item. There were even some positive stories, miracles actually (I wont ruin it in case you haven’t seen the current “Everest” movie yet) but sadly they are few and far between.
Mount Everest is called “The Goddess of the Sky” and the Sherpas from Nepal that provide the crucial aid for climbers believe very strongly in the power of this Goddess. Mother nature is central to their religion. To pay their respects before any expedition there is a special ceremony all must participate in to ask for permission and show respect to this high holy mountain. I wonder what the statistics are when you compare the negative warnings after this ceremony to timing of the natural disasters. With something so dangerous I would heed every single warning that appeared even if it came from a carrier pigeon.
So after discovering all of this, why would anyone even attempt to climb Mount Everest?
I think the quote below, from “Big Magic”, is the best way to answer this question. (http://thequeenoffckingeverything.blogspot.com/2015_09_01_archive.html)
“If you can’t see what I’m already getting out of this, then I’ll never be able to explain it to you………When you do it for love, you will always do it anyhow.”
And that is something I certainly can relate to.
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