Six days ago I was at a real low point. Even by my standards this was as black as it could get. I was consumed by envy and extreme jealousy at seeing all the stories of summit success emerging from Everest. I needed to distance myself from this so I made a snap decision to come away from social media; at least until the summit season had ended. For the past week that is exactly what I have done. I will return though. After all social media is ultimately a great thing. It has made the world an open tool for communication, removing traditional barriers of contact across the entire planet. It helped get me to the mountain twice. I would be crazy to shun it completely. Some time away though is not a bad thing, as I have just discovered.
I have had a complete detox of all things Everest and I have to admit that for me it was without doubt the best thing to have done. This online blackout even extended offline in to my own home where I took down all my Everest pictures, prayer flags and anything else that reminded me of the mountain. I felt nothing but contempt looking at the mountain. I needed to remove every element of the peak from my life. And I have done so, for now. It will all be put back up at some point.
I have dug deep and spent the past several days discovering my reason for breathing.
During this self-imposed embargo I have been to some pretty dark places and I have had to call on my resolve to emerge out of the other side. I feel I have done that now.
During this period of reflection, three things became apparent. Firstly, I need to go back. Secondly I want to go back and finally I have to go back.
I have come to the realisation that I cant live the rest of my life knowing that I never got to attempt this mountain on my own terms and under my own steam. Twice I have tried, and twice I have been denied by a tragic incident and a random act of Mother Nature. I don’t need to dwell too much on that. Both years have been well documented in my book. A lot of climbers succeeded on their third attempts. You don’t need to look past Ed Viesturs, arguably one of the greatest climbers of modern times who finally summited the mountain on his third attempt to see that.
I still stick to the belief that it is not about the achievement of the dream. For me it is about having the guts and determination to go after that dream with every ounce of courage and conviction that I have to give. I may come short once more, but at least I will try. If I do make it back then I will give it my best. Nothing can be taken for granted in the mountains. I have learnt that lesson the harsh way.
I firmly believe my biggest battles wont come on the mountain. The big fight will not be putting one foot in front of the other to stand on that summit. Anyone who knows me or indeed has read the book knows that once again my biggest struggle will come right here, right now. I have not, nor will I ever have the luxury of having a place on an expedition handed to me on a plate. If I am to return for a third time it will take nothing short of a miracle. This will not be a short journey back to the mountain. I am expecting this to be an arduous long way back, if I make it back at all.
The high commercialisation of the peak and the sheer numbers climbing it these days mean it has lost a certain amount of appeal. It has become a cash cow to Nepal’s struggling economy, and it has become the butt of jokes to the media, pulverised the world over by those less in the know. This really riles me. Everest is still Everest and is still bloody tough. It is one of the toughest challenges on the planet. Through all the celebrations of the hundreds of summits this season five climbers (so far) have still perished, RIP. That doesn't sound to me like it should be mocked. Make no mistake this is every bit as serious a challenge now as it was back in 1953. Just because a few hundred individuals from all walks of life get up it now each season doesn’t lesson the mental tenacity required or the physicality of the challenge.
To return I will once again need to find, fundraise and save up to get the expedition fee together needed to climb on the mountain. After 2015 I had just two years to return and use the Nepal climbing permit again. That didn’t happen so I am back to square one.
I am also at a transition in my personal working life. My business has slowly wound down to nothing the past few years and I need to move on and address that by finding a new career in life. With that career will come the opportunity to save for Everest. I am realistic enough to know that this will not be offered to me. I will need to go out there and make this happen myself.
Returning to Everest may take me two years, it may take me five, it may take me ten, but return I feel I must. I have to attempt this mountain on my own terms. I have to attempt to achieve this dream given a fair chance at it. Not being denied by avalanches and earthquakes.
At the moment I have no definitive plan on how I am going to get back to the mountain. I am anticipating a combination of book talks, sponsorship (as unlikely as that may be) a kick ass t-shirt to sell perhaps, and then saving, saving and saving some more. Hence why this could take me a decade.
I was listening to a motivational podcast the other day and this stuck in my mind.
"The truth is that life punches all of us; the sad part is the majority choose to stay down. They choose to GIVE UP ON LIFE. Give up on living their dream. NEVER GIVE UP! Show your character; show what you are made of! PREVAIL – Even when no one believes you can. Even when you have no right to BELIEVE things will turn around – TRUST things will turn around!"
I hope with every ounce of my faith and belief that I will get to enter the lions den once more. This time I will just have to roar louder than ever myself if I am to do so.
I will be back online soon enough. Hopefully with some kind of plan in place. Thank you for the messages of support and the literally dozens of emails received recently saying how inspirational you have (so far) found my story.
It is time to launch the campaign to finally finish this thing.
Book 2 is to be concluded…….