Tragic events in Nepal over the past six months have showed us over and over again the many ways in which high mountains can kill and injure. Falling ice, rock, and snow, storms, landslides, falls, altitude illness, and more take lives in a heartbeat. These hazards give me pause, make me question if the benefits of climbing outweigh the potential consequences, and fuel my respect for the mountains. When I learned yesterday that one Sherpa was killed and three climbers injured on Ama Dablam, a peak I was about to climb, that pause was deeper and longer. My heart filled with sadness and grief for the family and friends who in a heart beat were left to grieve and pick up the pieces. I sent prayers and intentions to those folks as well as the injured climbers-wishing them a speedy and complete recovery. And then I began to seek information…
I wanted to understand what factors lead to the accident. Was is a situation of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Could the accident have been foreseen and therefore, prevented? What weather, route choices, timing led the climbers to be there at that moment? And many more…I reached out to trusted climbers friends and to the leader of my own expedition to understand what happened.
I asked myself if I still wanted to go.
My goals for this climb are to learn and polish my climbing skills. The climb is a check-in/shakedown with myself. I’m using it to take the pulse of my high altitude climbing career. My goals can be met without going near the summit. I will make active decisions each step of the way to manage and choose the risks I am willing to face/be present in/under/around. I am a skilled risk manager-I do it each time I teach outdoors.
I’m level headed and don’t tend to be at risk of summit fever. I know why I am there and what I have/want to return to…that doesn’t mean that accidents don’t/won’t/can’t happen in the mountains but I couple that will all the risks I face in daily life: driving a car, driving a motorcycle, being a pedestrian, paddling, eating vanilla dip donuts…we all have our own level of risk tolerance and fears to walk through. Managing exposure to risk is a skill just like ascending a fixed line and lighting a stove and I know skills need to be practiced…and that’s what I intend to do on Ama Dablam…practice, reflect, be smart, evaluate risks, learn, enjoy the hardships, revel in the views, be mindful, pay attention, listen to my gut, heart, and mind, practice, reflect, be smart, evaluate risks, learn, enjoy the hardships, revel in the views, be mindful, pay attention, listen to my gut, heart, and mind, practice, reflect, be smart, evaluate risks, learn, enjoy the hardships, revel in the views, be mindful, pay attention, listen to my gut, heart, and mind.
Two sleeps until departure…
R.I.P. Dendi Sherpa