Hello Family, Friends, Supporters and Followers,
First let me say thank you for all your good wishes and support of not only me but Annette during my journey! It is comforting to feel the support of so many gracious people.
I returned home this past weekend safe and sound but a little worse for wear one month earlier than expected.
Since the official announcement of the decision that our commercial expedition was being turned around to head home was made, it took me 2 days at Everest base camp, 3 days of trekking on yak dung trails, one small 30-minute plane ride, 2 days in KTM during a strike, a large plane ride from KTM to Doha for 6 to 7 hrs, a 10 hour layover in Doha and a 12 hour flight to get home.
I do not know if the decision will ever settle well with me. There is a chance the entire experience may haunt me for some time, if not forever. While shopping in KTM for gifts for friends and family I found myself not interested in a momento or reminder of the trip. Instead I felt a need to push the experience out of my mind. As of now, it is unlikely that I will return to Nepal nor attempt another climb in the area. The cost, time and other sacrifices one must make in their life to allow for such a journey are too excessive and currently outweigh the potential reward. I say this now, at this moment in my life, fearing that my feelings my change in the future. That I may, some time in the future, have an internal need to return to the area to see if I am strong enough to meet the challenge again.
Before departing for this expedition the team blogger asked me the question… “Are you prepared for not making the summit?” I answered in my own way that I do not think or look at making the summit in those terms. Instead that I have always focused on the climb and being prepared for it… Rehearsing the actions required until I can preform them to almost perfection in the worst conditions. Reviewing the schedule and route until they can be recalled in all most every detail. Being mentally prepared for what is to come, knowing when it will be time to rest, when it will be time to preform at my utmost ability. Knowing that there may come a time that my best is not good enough or that some other circumstance may overcome my abilities or preparations forcing a change of plan.
This is similar to how a climbers builds anchors or connections to the wall, rock or other medium they are attempting to ascend. These anchors keep the climber prepared and safe in case they or their partner falls, there is unexpected bad weather or rockfall or other circumstances occur that are beyond the climber’s control. A climber builds these anchors to be solid, redundant, equalized and with no extensions.
Solid - the anchors are tied with and to known good solid objects able to handle the potential loads
(one selects the best possible folks and equipment to travel with)
Redundant - there are at least 3 solid and separate anchors used, if one fails the others will remain solid
(the team is practiced and focused)
Equalized - the climber and their equipment load is equally balance between the anchors, if one fails the others are not over loaded
(if one piece of equipment or member falters there are back up or other are prepared to back them up)
No Extensions - if one anchor fails, the others are not over or shock loaded
(Everyone works together)
This climbing anchor system and evaluation process does not take into account the climb itself being closed or completely removed from the face of the earth while the climb is in process. Leaving the climber in the middle of nowhere or in something like sensory deprivation.
This is in essence how I felt when the decision was announced. I have had never thought about or taken into account in all my years of climbing that the chance to climb would just be removed, not allowing for even for a chance to attempt the climb. The chance of putting in the utmost mental and physical efforts to climb, to at least try for the summit. All though I was not the strongest or faster at the beginning of the expedition I was improving and doing quite well near the end. One friend even noted that I appeared to be improving as we gained elevation. I had figured out the processes and procedures of Himex and had adjusted to their schedule. I wasn’t exactly slow through the ice fall or on our practice day hikes from Camp 2 to the base of the Lhotse face. However, I never got a chance to go higher. This is a experience I have never really dealt with before in climbing. On top of all this, I was not an active member in the decision process nor had influence on the decision itself. I have made a commitment to myself to never allow for that to potentially happen again. As this was only the second time using a guide company, the first being on a honeymoon which doesn’t really count. I will be quite hesitant in going with or choosing another guide service in the future. Preferring to travel as a climbing team over being guided. Please note this is not a poor reflection of my experience. Rather I found the guides to be of and preform at the highest standards. This is instead a realization that I may not operate the best in a guided situation and thus prefer a team environment.
On the positive side, during my recent travels I have come to realized that the accomplishments of the climbing team of whom I have been so fortunate to be a member of for over 15 years (team JAKKed or Chicago which includes myself, Andy, Karen & Kev) was more successful and stronger than we ever realized. In speaking with many many wonderful folks along the trail, in the camps and tea houses I came across not one person whom spoke or told stories of their climbing friends or team as I did. I mention this not to toot our own horn but rather to note that what we have is special and to thank them for their years of friendship and ensuring I got home safe. We are fortunate to have climbed as successfully and for as long as we have. I look forward to our future trips. On another positive note, I found traveling through the Khumbu Icefall exhilarating and have pics to come!
For now… I am working on settling back into industrialized society and currently find level sidewalks and car keys fascinating. Annette and I are continuing our efforts to move out West and have added SLC to our list of places we may move to - Denver still being number one. Anyone know anyone hiring cell phone guys like me out there? I have no near or long term climbing goals or trips planned. For the first time in my life I am not interested in spending any time in a tent anytime soon. Instead, I look forward to dinners with Annette, AC, driving in normal cars and comfortable nights at home on the couch. My climbing gear may stay packed in storage for a while as my mtn bike and snowboard get a little more use.
Annette hopefully will continue to aid me with her multimedia skills in efforts to release a final package of the all pictures and videos of my journey. The ones of my return trip through the ice fall are quite amazing! So was the cab ride in KTM to the airline office during a strike.
Again I thank you for your support of this most amazing endeavor, besides marriage, in my life.
I did return my radio at base camp but… this TheJoeMartinet from Home signing off…