Let's Summit Up
2003 Boaz Rauchwerger
Next time you take off in a commercial airliner, note that it will usually climb to a flying altitude of about 36,000 feet.
If you had an altimeter at your seat, and you were watching the plane ascending, I'd ask you to make a note of the moment the aircraft passes 29,028 feet.
That is the height of Mt. Everest, the highest point on earth and part of the Himalayan mountain range. The north side of Everest faces Tibet and the south side overlooks Nepal.
It was in 1921 that the first attempt was made to climb Mt. Everest. In 1924 Englishmen George Mallory and Andrew Irvine were last seen at almost 28,000 feet, moving toward the summit. Mallory's body was found in 1999.
The most famous climber of Mt. Everest was New Zealander Edmund Hillary. He reached the top of Everest on May 29, 1953. His team used the southeast approach from Nepal.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting an amazing husband and wife team who reached the summit of Mt. Everest not once, but twice -- from the south and from the north. In fact, she was the first woman to climb the mountain from both sides.
He is Ian Woodall and she is Cathy O'Dowd. They are both originally from South Africa. Cathy describes their incredible adventures in a fascinating book entitled "Just for the Love of It." It is published by Free to Decide Publishing (email@example.com).
Before you decide to take a hike up Mt. Everest, please realize, as Cathy notes in her book, that "one in three climbers who goes above 8,000 meters (26,247 feet) becomes a casualty in some way." She relates that three out of every four who attempt the climb fail and one in a hundred will die in the attempt.
Then there's the large amount of money that must be raised from backers and sponsors, equipment to be bought, a team to be assembled and permits to be obtained from Nepal. Cathy relates that the most dangerous thing about the climb is not the mountain, but the people on the team.
Her adventure begins in November of 1995. Cathy was living in Grahamstown, South Africa. She scanned a newspaper headline: "Sunday Times Everest Expedition. We take the South African flag to the top of the world." This was the first ever attempt by South Africans.
Cathy had been rock climbing for a number of years and was passionate about the sport. Much of the team for the Times Expedition had already been selected. However, they were looking for a South African woman climber. Cathy applied, met the expedition leader, Ian (her future husband), and was eventually selected.
In May of 1996, the team arrived at the foot of Mt. Everest. As Cathy's team began to make its way up Everest, there was news that a member of a team from Taiwan had fallen from the mountain and died. She states, "I was horrified by the suddenness with which someone had simply ceased to be. Complacency was one of the biggest risks we faced."
Sherpas are the local guides who are hired to help teams get to the top. Cathy comments: "I watched with envy as the Sherpas moved so swiftly. They were a curious people, with their stoic acceptance of life's hardships and their easy delight in its pleasures."
What a powerful lesson for all of us from the Sherpas of the Himalayas – they accept life's hardships and delight in its pleasures.
It was on that first attempt that the team faced a killer storm while huddled in their tents. Cathy writes: "It was as if we were plunged into a Dantean hell as the mountain was raked by howling winds, cloaked in swirling snow, frozen to its very core. Caught on the line between calm and panic, between safety and death, we could do nothing but wait."
Throughout that first climb, there were contrasts between tragic events, team members who became ill and an encouraging call from President Nelson Mandela of South Africa. The team kept going and finally made it to the summit, planting the flags of Nepal and South Africa.
The lure of Mt. Everest brought Cathy and Ian back in 1998 as they attempted to climb it from the opposite direction – Tibet in the north. She writes: "The north face stood nearly four kilometers (2 ½ miles) high, a vast bulwark of black rock, covered in part by snow."
That second attempt would end in failure. The team, only a few hundred meters from the top of Mt. Everest, tried to help a dying American climber. The woman's first words were ‘don't leave me.' However, the woman was in such bad shape that it was impossible to bring her down from the mountain. Cathy had to eventually leave her to save her own life.
In May of 1999, Cathy and Ian were back at Everest for another attempt from the north. Cathy states: "More worrying than weather was illness. The harsh environment was taking its toll on our bodies. Ian's chest infection lingered, resulting in body-wracking fits of coughing. At these altitudes, the body does not recover."
Cathy and Ian did make it to the summit that year and Cathy became the first woman to climb Mt. Everest from both the south and the north. She writes: "I had sent in the application (to climb Everest) because I loved the mountains, and because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life merely wondering what would have happened if I had applied."
Is there, figuratively, a mountain that you wish to climb in your life, a project you wish to start, a career change you wish to make? Maybe its time to send in the application.
A Daily Affirmation of Application
I will apply today to make the change I desire in my life.
Article reproduced with permission from Boaz Rauchwerger. You may reprint any of these articles in any publication or Web site so long as you credit Boaz Rauchwerger as the author and include this Web site address, www.Boazpower.com.