With every single step there is a weight of a thousand pounds on my shoulders, if feels like little trolls are following me with rocks to put in my pack, and my lungs crave oxygen. Higher and higher we go, for days, nothing but uphills and if we are lucky the occasional downhill. Slow and steady. Step by step. If there is one experience that breathes new life into the meaning of those words it is climbing a mountain.
My dream began with a simple and amusing Idea: you can climb to Everest base camp? "How interesting" I thought. Wouldn’t it be cool to be there and meet people summiting to the top, where earth meets heaven? Wouldn’t it be a great story to tell grandkids when I am older. My ego liked this idea: the bragging rights, the glory, the photo ops. "It shouldn’t be too hard, I can do that", I thought to myself.
And so I did, stepping into the white cold abyss with air so dry at times it felt like breathing in little knife stabs. Little did I know how much a personal inward journey it would be to try to get to the gates of heaven with 15kg on my back.
When entering the world beyond vegetation, beyond trees, beyond life and oxygen, you enter a realm of otherworldly proportions. A world with snow, ice, and rocks. With gods that tower over the valley like parents whose wrath can be seen in quaking avalanches destroying that which they brought life. The shadows of the sun casting stark lines on the faces of mountains, alighting the crevices that kill and the snow that is swept up off the rock face into a swirl in a poetic fashion.
And then there is me.
A small green dot, struggling to make it through. Each step I take is like a crack of the whip to my lungs and my heart races out of rebellion for having to work so hard. Why am I climbing this damned mountain? Higher and higher we go jumping meters by the thousands: 3,500 m to 4,200 m to finally 5,600 m. Deeper and deeper I reach for that internal strength to move forward.
Over the course of 16 days, I had submitted Gokyo Ri (5,400m) Cho la pass (5,500 m) EVB (5,400 m) Kalapathar (5,600 m) all the while dealing with a cough, a cold and a knee injury. With each summit I reached, I found new dimensions within in myself. New Levels of internal strength and resilience I never knew I had. Unchartered territory of my internal landscape.
I almost gave up. On the last and tallest summit, 200m from the top of Kalapathar (5,600 m), I sat on a rock and started to cry. I had a cold, my knee hurt and my heart was racing a million miles per second and I was exhausted mind, body and spirit. “I can’t do it anymore” I said to my friend, “I give up, I don’t care, I don't need to see the top of this damned mountain!”. Three words was his response “yes you can”, and off he went leaving me in my failure.
I could I thought, but "I don’t want to". Yet as I looked up to the top, I took a breath and drew upon pools of power deep inside of me and took my first step. Step by step. Just keep going.
I learned two things:
Resilience comes when things aren’t easy and when you don’t want to.
Power comes from harnessing that strength that we all have inside of us and channeling it into something that drives us.
Sitting at the top, finally looking over the village of multicolored tents set aside a massive glacier that made the whole camp look like skittles scattered across the snow, I reached the place beyond my limits. Marked by prayer flags dancing in the wind was a place of my own wildness that was not shaped by limitations and negativity.
It is there, inside all of us, waiting to be discovered.