I made it! I actually did it! I was sitting at Base Camp at Mt. Everest. It came at the end of a long and grueling day, after two weeks filled with struggles and challenges, and months of planning before that… but all the pieces came together, all the hard work paid off, and there I sat. At Base Camp. On Mt. Everest. With Jon Miller. On The Rest Of Everest.
Climbing into that familiar dome tent that evening, I was exhausted. More exhausted than I’d been at any other point of the trek. And I didn’t care. It didn’t matter. I was so overwhelmingly happy to be there, so deeply proud of what I’d accomplished, that all the exhaustion in the world couldn’t impact how good I was feeling right then and there. The sequence of emotions and thoughts that ran through me that night could not be muted, now matter how tired or how cold I got.
The first emotion that ran through me as I stepped into that tent and finally sat down to rest was an unusual one for me: pride. I’m often my own worst critic, and don’t do a terribly good job of taking credit for things that I’ve accomplished. Feeling a bit like all the things I’ve done have never been all that special. But this was different. This was something that really was a rare and special thing to accomplish. How many people will ever visit Mt. Everest? How many people will ever spend the night at Base Camp? More importantly, how many of them will do it as part of The Rest Of Everest and have the whole thing so well documented? Fewer people will ever appear on The Rest Of Everest–even if Jon keeps doing this for many years to come–than summit Everest each year. This is an elite club unto it’s own, and I’m damn proud to be a part of it.
Beyond that, this was a case where I had a clear goal I wanted to accomplish, and I made it happen. I’ve always had an interest in Everest, but it was the early episodes of The Rest Of Everest back in 2006 that really triggered that desire to actually go out and see it for myself. So I set about a plan to make it happen. I got in shape, dropping 50 pounds and completely changing my lifestyle. I went out and took mountaineering classes, hoping for the opportunity to perhaps push a little past Base Camp when I got there. I saved up the money and worked with my job to plan out how I would take the extended leave that would be necessary for such an expedition. I even contacted Jon to both thank him for the inspiration and get suggestions on guide services to use. I had even made preliminary contact with several firms, including Mountain Tribes, about a possible expedition. When Jon & Chris announced their trek, I immediately contacted Jon to let him know that I was going to be a part of this. When they announced the first-come-first-served registration, I planned out how to make sure I’d get my name in the hat as quickly as possible. I got a form auto-fill plugin installed in Firefox and tested. I sat there watched the timer tick down on the registration page, immediately refreshed the page, and clicked the auto-fill button. A couple quick tweaks later the form was submitted within 10 seconds of registration beginning.
And then I waited…
The call finally came a few weeks later, Jon let me know that not only did I make the cut, I was registrant number one! My spot on the trek was as guaranteed as a spot could get. From there it became a whirlwind of activity to get ready in time. Booking flights, taking the official time off from work, arranging for my apartment to be taken care of while I was gone for nearly a month, buying gear, packing gear, re-packing gear when it doesn’t all fit. Training, training, and more training. Flying half way around the world and spending more than a week trekking through the Himalayas. Pushing past my limits again and again, fighting off sickness and exhaustion. And finally, on that cold May day in Nepal, three years of planning and busting my ass came to it’s successful conclusion.
I did it. I made it. I was standing at Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier, looking up the ice fall towards the shoulder of Everest.
Thing is, I realized (a bit while I was there, and certainly more so after I got back) that there was no other place on the planet I could have been that night. I was exactly where I was meant to be, as if the universe had said “I have some people I need you to meet, and some places I need you to go.” Not to diminish the accomplishment and chalk it all up to fate or anything, but I think it would have been harder for me to have not been sitting at Base Camp with Jon, Steve and Jeff that day. So many wheels had been set turning, so many forces put into motion, all syncing up to put me in that chair, in that tent, with those people. Where else could I have been last May?
And then I had my total Rock Star moment. I had this realization that I was sitting in the orange and gray dome tent from The Rest Of Everest and Everest: The Other Side. And Jon Miller was sitting right there next to me. I was on The Rest Of Everest, one of my favorite podcasts–and the inspiration that drove me to work towards getting there in the first place. It was one of only three times on the whole trip where I was at all aware of the context of the experience, the other two being when I first met Jon at the airport in Hong Kong, and when Chris interviewed me on-camera when we arrived at our hotel in Kathmandu. The rest of the time, it just felt like a bunch of new friends going on this awesome adventure together. What podcasts?
As the night rolled on, it just got more and more special. You can see the amazing meal we were served, easily the finest on the trek. A very special treat lovingly prepared for us by Dawa, who I now understand why Jon is so fond of. The hospitality extended to us by Dawa was unprecedented, and he’s also just a damn nice guy. We then ended up staying awake into the wee hours of the night sitting around a propane heater they brought into the tent and just hanging out. Listening to Jon and Dawa reminisce about the 2003 expedition, and just generally bonding and enjoying our time together. There was a certain kinship developed that day, I think. A bit of a “band of bothers” sort of thing with the four of us who were crazy enough to continue on to Base Camp that day, and that was the greatest part of the experience, I think. Once again, it’s all about the people. It was a night I wouldn’t have traded for anything in the world. I was probably happier that night than I’d ever been in my life. Being tired and cold was pushed way to the bottom, allowing pure joy to take over. You don’t get many nights like this in your life, so treasure them.
(Images from The Rest Of Everest podcast are © 2003-2010 TreeLine Productions.)