Happy Break in the Storm to Everyone,
One year ago, I was very nervous. I was leaving the next day to fly to Nepal to fulfill a lifelong dream of climbing Mount Everest. My heart went out to all the climbers and Sherpas who learned this week that Everest was being closed on the north side by the Chinese to prevent any disruption and protest of the Olympic Torch Run. The torch is being carried to the summit of Everest on its way to the Olympic Stadium. The Chinese also pressured the Nepal government to restrict access to the southern side of the mountain and it’s not quite clear yet whether climbers will be restricted from higher camps before May 10 or only during the period of May 1-10.
I can only imagine the mountain of emotions that this year’s climbers must be facing right now knowing that the climb they have been training all year for might be taken away for political reasons. I know how many in the Khumbu Valley rely on the employment from expeditions for a large part of their livelihood. I’ve also been deeply disturbed by the violent repression of protest in Tibet that’s happening and news of monks self-immolating and being shot outside monasteries brings deep questions to mind about how we humans treat each other sometimes.
I had a good rest week, and for once, the universe didn’t “pile it on” to keep the pressure on. Often, it seems in the past, the time freed from training has had to be devoted to cleaning up plumbing disasters and other such adventures. Instead, this week, I invited friends over for dinner on two separate occasions, lowered my bed off its stilts, and cleaned the house. As the week went on, I felt my cells fill with energy once again and I loved getting to play hockey freed from the curtain of cumulative fatigue. I actually perceived a restlessness near the end of the week which nurtured a sense of excitement to “get back at it” tomorrow.
On my Buddhist path, I often work with Lojong Slogans. These 59 pithy pieces of wisdom give instruction on how to work with my mind and emotions. Today, I am working hard with slogan thirteen: “Be Grateful to Everyone.” I am working especially hard to be grateful to Joe. I don’t even know Joe.
The Telegram published a nice article about the upcoming Kilimanjaro climb in today’s paper. I had a grand chat with Nadia Bell, the reporter on Wednesday and I thought she wrote a good piece about the climb and the team’s preparations. I captured the article on-line to send to the team and then noticed Joe’s comment on the bottom of it.
Instantly, I was set off and swimming upstream against the current of my emotions feeling slighted and then feeling misunderstood and then feeling angry and then feeling sad and then wanting to respond…you get the picture. I went outside and shoveled the day’s worth of storm snow away from the car as a way to kinesthetically work with the feelings then sought the opinions of a few friends.
Through the conversations, I could finally dehook Joe’s words and see how my default thinking/feeling patterns had arisen. Eventually, I could rouse gratitude to Joe for giving me the opportunity to work with my stuff and to practice getting out from under the cascade of emotion/thought that was pushing down on me. I know the more practice I have at this, the easier time I will have in climbing because I know for me, the high altitude environment tends to be an emotional magnifier. Another of my favourite lines is “wherever you go, there you are.” So, despite temptations towards geographic cures, I can’t run from myself and need to continue to learn to work with my mind and emotions. My sangha is having a meditation retreat this week and I look forward to experiencing discipline both in my physical training and in my meditation practice.
In case you’d like to see the Kilimanjaro article from the Telegram, you can follow this link: http://www.thetelegram.com/index.cfm?sid=117664&sc=85
It seems I left some of you in a state of suspense last week by not divulging what my next climb is going to be. It’s tempting to leave you hanging for another week because I don’t totally feel like I have all the words yet but I’ll step outside my comfort zone and let it come forth without it all being fully conceptualized.
In October, I will be climbing Mount Pumori. Pumori is often translated as “Daughter of Everest,” sometimes as “Sister of Everest.” It is a peak that has crossed my wish list in the past and now, I think the time and circumstance is calling me there. I climbed to Pumori Camp One last year while on Everest. The view of Everest from its flanks is amazing–when you get high enough, you can see both sides of Everest.
I’ll be participating in an Everest training program sponsored by Peak Freaks, a Canadian outfitter. I want, in the time before I return to Everest, to continue to develop and polish my mountaineering skills. Learning from my past experience on Everest, I want there to be no possibility of doubt in my skills when I return there. Given the high-pressure reality of life on Everest, I am committed to working really hard to maximize my technical and climbing movement skills over the next while as I chart the course through the rest of the Seven Summits and back to Everest.
With Pumori connection as a daughter or sister of Everest, I imagine spending time nurturing the feminine. I hope to honour the feminine parts of myself that can sometimes be set-aside in the macho world of climbing. I see it as a journey to climb in a new and different way, to climb with my complete self, and to spend a month gazing both at the snow beneath my boots and the snow across the way on Everest. I often talk about the need to balance “view” with “footsteps.” Pumori will be an opportunity to take action steps while setting a new vision for the journey back to Everest.
We’ll be climbing the Southwestern Ridge and will be responsible for fixing the route and carrying loads, a style of climbing that really gives the opportunity for ownership and learning. I look forward to being back in Nepal and to sucking the marrow from the bones of another big climb. I’ll take a break in training after Kilimanjaro and then start an intensive program again to be ready for the rigors of load carrying at high altitude. Pumori is 7161 metres high. I hope to find a sponsor so I can cybercast off the mountain again.
OK-time to go meet the Kili team for five ascents of Signal Hill as celebration of completion of another training cycle. Have a good week,