MARCH 14: As I write this, I am 4 days to departure. I can’t say I am looking forward to what will be a 2 day travel marathon from Boston to LA to Guangzhou, China to Kathmandu, Nepal, but I am ready to get this thing underway. Countless books, films, and history channel documentaries later, this 55 year old is ready to realize lifelong dream #2 of time in the high Himalaya amidst the mighty Everest. Dream #1 was summiting Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa (19,341 feet), an accomplishment in September 2017 with my friend and climbing partner, Amy Daniels. Here’s a link to that experience: https://kiliclimbjosh.wordpress.com/.
With the help of a guide and porter, we will be above 11,000 feet, and as high as 18,159 feet, as we climb/trek through breathtakingly beautiful terrain, cross three high passes, traverse the famous Khumbu Glacier, summit Gokyo Ri, and feast the eyes on the highest mountains in the world, including the majestic Everest. I’ve been training for 6 months – a mixed regime of interval work, cardio-endurance activity, core training, and a LOT of steps on the Stairmaster. Unfortunately, training for elevation is not really possible, but with the help of Diamox (a diuretic that helps ward off altitude sickness and saved Amy’s and my bacon on Kili), and pacing oneself, I am hopeful all will be fine. Lest anyone worry too much, we are not climbing above the death zone, although high altitude edema is possible at altitudes where we are and something that our guide is trained to observe and has ways to address (including ordering a helicopter evac, something for which travel insurance covers). I’m actually more worried about the cold – below zero in the morning!
Let me close with what I often get asked (as does my climbing partner Amy). Why do you do this? Hiking and the outdoors in Vermont where I grew up is deeply embedded in my DNA. So is my desire to set goals and be guided by the energy of effort to achieve them. I’m also motivated by what I have seen throughout my professional life working at a regional state university that enrolls large numbers of first generation, low income, and students of color. Students that every day work to overcome challenge, realize an educational dream, and make their families and loved ones proud. Serving them to the best of my ability has been my passion. Yes, what I am about to do is hard, but what they do every day to navigate a world that isn’t always optimally set up for their success is harder.
George Mallory, the famous British alpinist who tragically died on Everest in 1924 and may have actually been the first to summit it, was once asked why he sought to climb it. He matter-of-factory responded, “because it is there.” There’s a bit of me in that quote too, someone that likes challenge and then goes after it. I’m excited for the challenge ahead, with some butterflies, but optimistic for success. Talk to you again in a few days.