Cover photo: When it was all still ahead of me…
So it’s now a week after I was released from hospital in Kathmandu and I am back home in Hoboken 5 days. I’ve had some time to reflect on the expedition and how everything played out.
Honestly, I am not much further along to processing this yet. I completely acknowledge I couldn’t safely proceed but it has been a very bitter pill to swallow, considering how strong and prepared I felt – and was – right up to the point my damn first rib broke – and it was just all downhill from there. That said, with the 4 tragic deaths on the mountain last weekend going to/from the summit USA Today article – and the second 4 dead found NPR article (from a previous year), I am reminded that you need to be on your A-game and no less heading above c3 – and that there are worse fates than being back home early. I also got to speak with two other team-mates from my third rotation that recently made their way up the hill for their summit rotation but had to turn arond beyond c2 due to pulmonary issues – they too ending up in hospital in Kathmandu. This mountain is different in that it really is a war of attrition – and one of the hardest parts is simply staying healthy long enough to make a break for the summit.
I am very pleased for the folks (both IMG and Irish compatriots) just completing their summit rotations this weekend (I get a mention in the Irish Times 5/20, Irish Times 6/3 articles, but not in the context I’d hoped for!!) but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sick to my stomach at the outcome of this climb for me. I just needed a little luck and couldn’t get it. Yes – I’m angry.
Despite – and maybe even because of – the odd ratio of climbing days to rest days on this expedition, this has been one of the hardest trips of my life. I really, honestly didn’t get to enjoy much of it at all – spending more of my time worrying about the next unknown – and I really had not planned on coming back here ever again. However, if I ever want to climb this thing – and from what I have seen on this trip, I know I can – then I will have to come back some day. I have learned some clear lessons from my first experience on Everest – that I could benefit from on any second attempt. Like a boxing opponent – to respect it, not under-estaimte it, but also not to afford it too much respect and be intimidated. There are definitely a few things I could do differently in my day-to-day on the hill also. But I still need to take time to absorb all of the lessons – more to come yet.
I am, as always, reminded of the Ed Viesturs climbing autobiography… that there are “No shortcuts to the top”? (Question mark added by me)… Not bloody kidding, Ed!!! That said, special thanks to my climbing pal and all-round bad-ass, Ryan Laughna – not to mention, best guide around – Jon Schrock – for getting dad’s expedition patch to the summit when I could not – it is bittersweet for me – but definitely happier to see it up there where it belongs.
I am also very curious if they can determine if the Hilary Step is still there or not CNN article – but may have to wait to speak with my pals who are on their way down to see what they experienced.
I’d like to go exercise this frustration out of me – a 10 mile run or 2 mile swim or hour on the stairs… but of course my ribs will prevent that for a while. We’ll rapidly see what an impatient patient I make!! I did at least get the all-clear from US doctor earlier this week to exercise at a moderate level – as my body allows me – so I’ll try a swim or run or yoga over the long weekend and see what works and what doesn’t. The slow road to recovery and match fitness begins here. For once, I have the luxury of just training for the sake of training – I don’t have a pending race or climb to add pressure – and for once, that is a pretty nice thing.
On a lighter note – I am home for my one year wedding anniversary (tomorrow) – so it’s not all bad news – will get to celebrate with Stef and worry about the next climb another day.