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What the fuck are we doing here? I was screaming at the top pf my lungs trying to be heard over the 80 knot winds that threatened to blast us off the top of the mountain. My hands had a death gip on the tent trying to keep it in control while it tried to beat me to death in the process of setting it up. Out of nowhere a guy appeared offering to save us from the storm and we readily agreed. We were in one of the most secluded spots on the planet earth. Making his gestures by hand backlit by the sun in heavy fog made the whole situation seem that much more surreal.
This is how my trek to Nepal started out, I get sidetracked easily and somehow while sitting in the hot steamy jungle at the edge of a perfect lagoon I got the bright Idea that I would walk straight to the top of the mountain I was staring at. In the early morning sun while lounging with a hot cup of locally grown coffee this seemed like a brilliant idea. On my list was climbing Mt Everest and while this dinky 14k peak is nothing more than a dot on the map it seems like a good training idea. A very short walk led us to the observatory, expecting a warm welcome we were shocked how cold it was inside. Turns out that they use climate control to keep the inside temperature the same as the outside temperature to keep the lenses from fogging. We laid awake late that night talking about life, mostly focusing on how stupid bucket lists are and questioning our motives for climbing a mountain that has a road straight to the top. We didn’t use the road going up or down but we could have and clearly should have.
The next morning we were allowed to top off our water bottles and started walking down the maze of craters in the think fog. We didn’t have a compass and our only map was a small tourist cut out of the whole island but it didn’t matter, all we had to do was go down. Later that day nearly out of water and frying in a barren desert we stopped for a snack and again the whole WTF are we doing here conversation came up. Tired and thirsty we both wanted to call it a day and make camp but without water in the blistering heat we decided to push on, we could easily see the deep blue of the Pacific was only a few miles away and between that and us was a Hwy, our salvation. We watched the sunset from the sea wall dining on cold cuts and cheese with a homemade paper bag ice chest chilling a six pack of beer. Chatting with tourists who questioned how we got so filthy we recounted our adventure. You guys are real mountain climbers they said. Just because you climbed a mountain it doesn’t make you a mountain climber. Being short roped up Everest lost all its appeal that night. Clean and tired in my sleeping bag I fell asleep wondering where the next day would find me. If I run one marathon does it make me a runner? If I pay a guide to pull me to the top of the world am I an alpinist? If I travel by commercial jet to all the most beautiful spots in the world just so I can get a snap shot of myself standing there clean in my no shit I was really there pose does it make me an adventurer?
There was no way I could have known it that night and I did eventually cross every item off my list but the trip and my life took a huge turn the very next day. That dinky little mountain taught me about the journey through life. The hardships suffered prepared me mentally for the many bone headed situations I would find myself in as my journey progressed. Somewhere on the top of the that mountain I decided to live. Three weeks later hopelessly lost in the wettest spot on the planet earth losing all my gear to a flash flood didn’t seem to matter. Getting in was the challenge. Getting out was the end game, but what happened from A to B was that little thing we call life… the journey.
Survival is simple be-it escaping an impenetrable jungle or being laid off from your job. The challenges that life throws us in our journey from birth to the grave are nothing more than a free learning experience that better prepare us for that big Oh Shit moment that invariably lies around every corner. What we do with that challange is what separates of from the flock of sheep. Right now I’m caught in a hurricane and my sails are blown. I could push my epirb and let somebody come save me or I can mend my sails, ride out the storm and continue my voyage.
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”