The length and duration of this expedition definitely wears you down. Living in a tent at 17,400′ for weeks and weeks on end (and counting), eating the same types of food over and over and over again (Spam anyone?), crawling in your cold, solitary tent night after night around 7pm and passing countless hours as thoughts drift to home is mentally exhausting. Missing friends, my beautiful girlfriend, family, good food, a warm, comfy bed, a toilet, a real shower, running water, soft drinks, beer, walking to the refrigerator and choosing something to drink or eat at will, warm weather, etc., all weigh considerably.
The hard part is simply sitting idle and waiting. If we were climbing and moving closer to our objective then the time would certainly pass faster and easier. Waiting around base camp is a much tougher endeavor. Today, 100s of climbers are making their way to the summit in the short 5/19 window and finding success. This is both reassuring and demoralizing. We don’t know when our window will arrive and what it will hold in store for us if/when it finally materializes…
Much of what lies ahead is completely unknown. How will my body perform above 24,000′? Will my physiology hold up? Will I have any strength left after deteriorating at altitude for the past 6+ weeks? Can I stay healthy over this next week to even put myself in position and have the chance to go for the summit? What will conditions be like up there when it’s our time? Will the icefall hold-up through the “heat” of late May and allow us safe passage? What the hell am I doing here?!?
All of these questions, doubts, concerns weigh equally if not more than the tug of home, and all of the additional days at base camp don’t help. As I lay in bed each night and listen to the avalanches crash down off Nuptse and Pumori all around our base camp, I can’t help but wonder if one of those has my name on it in the days that are to come. These moments of self-doubt and introspection are inevitable on an expedition this long, but certainly grow exponentially while sitting idle. This is the mental test that is Everest. Physically, it is as demanding a climb as there is, but mentally it wears you down in ways that other mountains and other expeditions typically do not. At least not to the same degree.
I fully expect to be pushed physically as I never have before in the next week or so. More than any other mountain I have climbed. More than any other physical endeavor to which I’ve dared to subject myself. Despite all of the health issues I’ve had to push through on this trip, the mental strain of the undertaking at hand, and the physical challenges that I am sure are ahead of me, I feel that I remain up to the challenge. I can only hope that the next weather window provides us a reasonable opportunity, the conditions on the mountain remain stable enough to allow us safe passage and that my body and mind are equal to the challenge. Wish me luck… I’m going to need it.