There is a special bond that comes with sharing a tent with on a high altitude mountain with someone. You sleep close to another. You pee in your pee bottle next to them. They smell you. You smell them. You laugh together for no apparent reason and you cry when times get very tough. You eat next to each other in the tent. You puke (hopefully in the vestibule) together. You lose things in the fluffy world of down together. “Where’s my inner boot?”
You hold your tongue when they are driving you crazy and you cheer them on when they have a break through. You teach each other. You share snacks. You offer to fetch things. It’s give and take. It’s take and give. It’s the two of you (or three or four of you) living in the size of an average picnic table…and that’s no picnic sometimes. Two weeks together like this and you know each other better than some friends you’ve known for twenty years.
I shared my Vinson tent, experience , and summit with Li Ping Ma. We looked out for each other-me sharing climbing hints and she, her prosciutto.
Two months after summited Vinson, Li was diagnosed with cancer, forcing her on a mountainous journey of a different sort. I learned today that Li passed away on Boxing Day. Her husband shared stories of Li’s last nine months with us, her Vinson teammates, and her mantra for the trying months since then:
Live life to its fullest
Live the life you love
Love the life you live
They are indeed words to cherish and live by and I will carry a small bit of Li’s spirit with me on all future climbs and I’ll always pack the prosciutto!
Rest in Peace Li. I hope your spirit is now wandering freely amid the high peaks of beyond.