Waking at 3:30 a.m. is the least of my concerns. We haven’t really been sleeping anyway. Our minds are filled with “What Ifs?” and scenarios that leave us wondering if we are struggling against basic fear, or fighting intuition.
Alpine climbing is a labor of love…it’s type 10 fun…the kind of fun that doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. In fact, most of the time spent in the actual activity is consumed by the minds’ pursuit of the base desire that has thrust you into the situation to begin with. In short, it is not something that makes a tremendous amount of sense.
Following your instincts isn’t really an option because your instincts tell you not to leave the ground. But conversely, not leaving the ground isn’t a viable option either…because fighting your desire to climb leaves you more miserable than the climbing itself.
We think about friends we’ve lost in the mountains and wonder if they were feeling the same thing the last morning they crawled from their respective tents. There is a massive question mark that hangs gloomily above the whole situation, and this morning is no different.
I light the incense and tuck it into the makeshift Stupa. Over my shoulders, pre-dawn light outlines the horizon…the dark figures of Makalu, Baruntse, and Ama Dablam. The last of the gear is shoved into the packs in silence as our labored breath rises into the light of our headlamps. The only thing left to do is start climbing. Greater fears are boiled down to specific distractions: Will there be water? Will the weather hold? Can we climb fast enough? And before we know it, the sun warms our backs and we are high above the valley floor on new terrain. The fear melts and melds with joy to create a hybrid emotion that feels almost tangible.
Like my friend Colin Moorehead says, “Climbing is the truth.”
c & r