As I was paddling last evening against a potentially building wind, I thought about how this expedition shares similarities with climbing Everest. I’ve made three attempts at climbing Everest and reached a high point of 7600 metres in 2010. I’m currently on day 58 of this expedition (paddling 3000 km between Jasper, Alberta and Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories) in my tent being blasted by wind and baked by the sun and am flooded with memories of similar times on the flanks of Everest.
So you ask, “how are the two expeditions alike?”
1. Both are long expeditions. Everest is usually a 50-60 day expedition and this one is 90 days.
2. Both involve living in a tent for most of the expedition with your tent being key to your safety and securing. A thin nylon cocoon, that is both surprisingly resilient and remarkably fragile. A sudden intense gust can break a pile which can rip a hole in seconds if your tent is not properly secured ( or sometimes even if it is).
3. Both involve leaving positions of relative security to move through the landscape, exposed to intense elements of weather, topography, and water/ice. These intense environments can change from awe inspiring and easy to terrifying and life threatening in the time it takes to consult your map.
4. Both involve moving through the above in the dark, at dusk or dawn, with little sleep. This makes such movement more challenging than moving in the daytime but also more special and rewarding as you are treated to displays of stars, planets, and the wicked dance of the sun setting or rising.
5. Both involve the ability to stay focused and motivated for the long haul. Everest requires that you traverse lower camps repeatedly as you acclimatize to the altitude and paddling North requires that you paddle a marathon most days and then set up camp. You must ride waves of motivational doldrums when weather forces you to sit still and progress stalls for several days in a row. You must be able to stay positive and committed to your expedition goals on both easy and difficult days.
6. Both involve spending time away from friends, family, and support networks in remote locations where rescue is very expensive and never guaranteed. Current communications technology helps cross this divide but it can be time-consuming and sometimes distracting, to keep all electronics working to enable such contact across the miles.
7. Both involve “Stay or Go” decisions at regular intervals where you need to assess weather and environmental conditions as well as health and psychological factors in deciding whether to push on or stay put.
8. Both are deeply rewarding, intensely challenging, and ask you to be the best adventurer/climber/paddler/teammate you can be.
9. Both (for me anyway) are spiritual quests that connect me to my core to the landscapes I am traversing, regularly humble me to my core, and provide embodied lessons of spiritual teachings around every corner and crevasse.
10. Both involve long months of planning and preparation that are indeed, part of the expedition.
OK. Gotta stop for now since the wind is gusting more strongly and I want to add more guy lines our our cocoon. I love having you along on this (and all my expeditions). Sharing the experiences helps me understand them more deeply.