#STEPUPTOGETHER CHALLENGE

As the world contends with Covid-19 and we individually become seemingly more isolated and detached from the daily routines we have known there are means by which we may remain connected to health, wellness, and one another. For though we are presently sheltered in our homes, it doesn’t mean we aren’t still connected to our dreams awaiting us in our future. 

Personally, in the last 10 days I have had both my first marathon and my expedition to attempt Mount Everest and Lhotse in Nepal – the highest mountain in the world and the fourth highest mountain in the world – canceled after months upon months of training and years upon years of preparing and dreaming.

BUT…no marathon, no Everest, still means no reason to stop training for the unknown before me which will one day arrive. We can all continue to step up for what must be done now, so we can all step into the dreams of what we long to do one day in the future. 

I invite you to join me in my own #STEPUPTOGETHER CHALLENGE over the next 30 days.

Here is how it will work:

Each day seek out a way to do 100 step ups / stairs / box steps

It is that simple!

I will share my daily steps via my stories on Instagram at @andrew_i_hughes and keep them in my highlights. Would love to see your own as we #STEPUPTOGETHER – so please share and send photos and videos my way so we can motivate one another during these difficult moments in time.

As for the step ups, go as fast or as slow as you would like. Throw on a backpack with items from your pantry or carry water jugs in your hands. Provide a piggy back to your kid as you knock them out on your front stoop or in your apartment building’s staircase. The key is to stay in or around your home / neighborhood and most importantly to stay active.

Feel free to extend this to up to 30-45 minutes for a full workout session. Get creative, just keep it close to home as we all do our part to combat Covid spreading throughout our communities. And remember to always apply social distancing (so don’t choose a busy staircase, like say the Howe Street Stairs in Seattle which is a favorite of mine, but which I am avoiding during this time).

Also share on social media your responsible and respectful way of staying active, staying local, as you step up for yourself, for one another, and step up to the challenge we all share. This is a time to motivate one another, come together, and inspire positivity amidst these shared challenging times.

I have always believed no summit is arrived at alone, for in that seemingly singular moment and step it is all those in our lives and all that we have experienced prior that is present with us as a part of reaching that moment of summit realization. Much like now, we all seemingly are isolated and alone – but together we are working ever towards a goal in support of one another through the steps we take.

We can gain strength through struggle and can reach great heights though daily committment. We are being called to step up for our communities…so let’s also step up for ourselves. Our own “Everyday Everest” is calling – it is time to reach for our highest selves and redefine ourselves through a small dose of daily discomfort as we #STEPUPTOGETHER

To Dream of Everest

Loosening your grip on your dreams, doesn’t mean letting go of them. At times we simply must submit to the conditions that are outside of our control.

Allowing your dreams to flow and you with them provides peace in the midst of adversity and the unforeseen. Instead of wasting energy fighting the current, believe the coursing current will carry you ever towards your genuine end goal – streaming with it and saving your energy to direct yourself into ever expanding rippling positivity, self realization, and experiential learning.

Singular focus has its place too, but it can also overshadow the fact that dreams aren’t often a single brush stroke on the canvas of our lives, but one of many unique and meaningful ones. All the memories and steps towards your dreams deserve gratitude and doing so will lift you over obstacles as they manifest like mountains with the desire to inhibit your overall progress towards that which you reach for.

On the eve of the expedition team’s final push up Everest to the summit from Camp 2, I awoke with a violent cough. With tears I was forced to embrace and watch as my team ascended the next day leaving me to hopefully heal and seek out a second later summit window. This year though, the earlier cyclone during the season had already forged and factored into creating limited weather windows that we along with everyone else now faced, adding to the already numerous other elements that were exasperating the safety of summit seekers.

After days of medication and sleeping on oxygen we decided to pull back the evening oxygen, which sadly sent my body into havoc – igniting my chest on fire and forcing an emergency helicopter evacuation decision to be made. Before tucking into my tent I watched one last sunset over the flowing Himalayan glacier. That night, I laid in my tent in a codeine induced state to suppress my cough with the summit directly above my tent. I listened over the crackle of the radio as my team & mountain family ascended to the summit one by one and most importantly safely – especially in light of this being one of the deadliest seasons on Everest ever. My heart ascended to hold in joy each friend who found themselves atop the world on that morning.

At dawn, as my team descended from the summit, I was helicoptered off the mountain. Taking in the Khumbu Icefalls below in all their complexity and with their network of gashing crevasses we together had crossed so many times already. In two hours, I was admitted to a hospital in Katmandu where I found out after testing that my right lung had contracted pneumonia from someone before the third and final rotation. It had waited to blossom and root itself within me during our rest days at Camp 2. I remained in the hospital for days being treated and am so grateful the pneumonia didn’t come to fruition a day or two later at higher altitudes as my evacuation would have been quite more questionable and complicated, if possible at all.

This was not the Everest I had dreamed of, but I can’t stop counting the moments, memories and multitude of details for which I am grateful during these past months even in light of just coming short of the highly focused on summit. I know I am beyond blessed for all I have been fortunate to experience and all those I got to meet and share this time with both here and at home. Releasing myself to this reality is not without difficulty after two months placed me within two days of my dream – but I believe it wasn’t my time and that this dream was not yet ready to be realized. I continue to be beyond grateful for all the loving and positive thoughts that have held me from home throughout and helped carry me through this, even when my body stumbled.

Everest is also not a perfect mountain, but neither are any of us that seek to stand upon its summit. The dreams that drive us to ascend it are no more perfect than the dreamers themselves either. Yet the news that wraps up the mountain is but a small snapshot of the mountain and the experience. We focus on the tragic loss of life and the crowds along with the pollution that permeates parts of the mountain. These are unfortunate realities, conditions born from a number of factors – none existing in isolation of the others. However, you need only ask to better determine these complexities playing out on Everest from those who have witnessed them personally and also the desire of so many to change the dangerous dynamics within our control on the mountain.

Mountain dreamers will continue to seek the realm above the clouds on the summit of Everest. Some absolutely will continue to grasp too hard to the summit and forego the humility that sadly ends up hurting them by pushing an impermanent body against a body of rock and ice which is far more lasting and durable. Yet the current of summit dreams is not diminishing – as my own has not been diminished by my own falling short of the summit.

The question is then can we change conditions to improve the safety of summit dreamers and can we the dreamers learn to live with and if need be let go and flow temporarily away from our goal of the summit to change the perspective and identity of Everest…and in doing so, make us humbly worthy again of knowing its heights.

The Ever-Changing Khumbu Icefalls

Ever-changing and full of uncertainty and risk, the path we pursue for our most aspired for aims means we must constantly assess and adapt each step, while always continually pursuing progress. Acknowledging that at times progress means pausing or going in a direction seemingly distancing one from where you are trying to arrive.

Embracing the obstacles, new perspectives the path provides, and also remembering to savor the steps and surroundings as you go all will create from the challenges of the course a sense of present value and empowerment – both which can fuel you further through the unforeseen difficulties you surely will encounter.

Our first rotation through the Khumbu Icefalls began by headlamp and several days later we descended in the reflective late morning sunshine and heat down a path seemingly completely different.

From the dark solitary shadows of ice we first met to glacial pools and weeping wet seracs overhead full of uncertainty as to their stability on our way down – we carefully weaved over, up, and down ladders, straddle stepping large crevasses while ever so softly navigating questionable snow bridges. Our gloved and mitted hands continually clipping our carabiner provided protection into the fixed lines should the ice beneath give way. This is the dance between climber and Khumbu.

Our second rotation approaches in the days ahead. Once again we will enter the Icefalls and again the path will be different, but we will carry the lessons and approach already learned to progress onward, as no summit of Everest can be reached absent respectfully entering the Khumbu Icefalls.

*featured image thanks to Rob Smith

The First Rotation Up Everest

The dominion we have over the world and nature are narratives often written by us to make us feel empowered and in control, where in truth our scale and stature in this world and time is small. This doesn’t make us weak or insignificant, as the way we connect with the world and all that and those in it with the time we have eternally leaves the touch of our existence within and upon it.

At times, by acting or simply standing in awe we can advance ourselves with the humility needed to near our passion driven dreams and also further connect us to the universal and tie us to everything we witness and even that which we believe we are unattached from in this life.

Our first rotation up Everest took us through Camp 1 and 2 reaching nearly 23,000 feet. We beheld the massive mountain making a snow covered tent seem miniscule and stopped to soak in Everest’s summit serenely standing still thousands of feet above us with clouds caressing it. We ascended and descended vertical ice and snow walls, digging crampons in and using ropes to navigate our way through a maze of natural obstacles, literally tying us to the glacier and mountain and symbolically tethering us ever more to this place and one another through this shared experience.

Safely back in Everest Base Camp now for some needed rest, I do not look at the mountain nor those around me the same. We exposed ourselves to Everest with humbleness and made ourselves vulnerable to its dangers – and will many times more before the end of May – but because we put ourselves in the position we did we eternally now are a part of this place and all those who have known or know of this sacred and special site.

Into the Khumbu

Practice can only go so far, in the end you must put yourself on to the stage to discover the reality of where you stand in the endeavor you have worked so long and hard to realize.

This was our dress rehearsal. Waking early, we moved in the early morning light into the theater of ice known as the Khumbu Falls. Two heavy days of snow deterred others from entering and so we laid first tracks in the snow which blanketed the ground and buffered our movements in a heightened silence.

Through a foggy mist, we slowly worked through the initial ladders and fixed lines. Crampons kicking into ice and hands gripping ascenders and rope – patiently we progressed. The ice falls embodied the full spectrum of glacial blues and seemed formed in abstraction.

The awe inspiring design of the ice though can lull you momentarily into forgetting the formidable nature and danger of it. Two of us stood as we began to descend only to heard a boom and feel a drop beneath us – driving home that the Khumbu Falls are alive and we are but guests within it. A Venus flytrap, it opens to us and yet at its discretion can also end us.

With gratitude we one by one exited safely the Falls, as a rainbow ringed the ridge line overhead. Confidence increased for our return, but also great reverence and respect for our next time entering upon this stage.

Training for the Khumbu Icefalls

Proximity to a dream can also be deceiving as to the realization of that dream. A dream within reach still requires the requisite commitment to fully become one with one’s heart’s desires.

You have come so far, but like any love driven dream – proximity is simply a humbling and thankful point at which the most meaningful work and acknowledged risks must be undertaken to realize the full depth of the love – be it a mountain summit or someone who you would move mountains for.

Waking each morning the Khumbu Falls greet me with their brutal and dangerous beauty through which I must pass in order to reach the summit of Everest. Acknowledging them I do not remain frozen and fixated upon them. Instead I train on how best to hone my skills to soon humbly enter them.

Simulating what will be asked of me to pursue this beloved dream, I climb higher to acclimate, I clarify my skills to mirror what will be presented before me, and I ceremoniously open myself to the traditions and spirit that are interwoven into the tapestry of this dream.

In the end, I choose to let the hope and risks fortify one another and give me courage to reach each day ever closer to my heart’s truth, which holds this summit and so much more.

Humble Blessings Before The Everest Ascent

Every moment we arrive in a new place in time with an opportunity to embrace, alter, or just sit bearing witness to the world and where we now find ourselves within it. We can aspire to open ourselves to newness and release that which has anchored our hearts, minds, bodies and spirits in places that undermine who we are and who we dream ourselves to be.

Sitting in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal receiving a blessing from a local Lama for the journey ahead I relinquish the need to know the words being chanted, nor the complete tenets of his beliefs – I instead respect the shared moment and honor the connection to this person, this ceremony, and our coexistence in it.

I also acknowledge the dance between the difficult times and those in which we delight are part of the rhythmic movement of life and the universal. I aspire with you to find the worth of what tries to harden us and to spin happily with you in the joys which grace our lives and make us feel free to be our most truest selves.

Thank you for sharing with me your love and support through all my moments on this grand adventure. You frame each new day with light and levity to lead me ever toward my dreams.

Finding the Spirit of Nepal

In striving for new heights the celebrations we share on mountain tops do not eclipse the imbedded and deep spirit of Nepal, nor the spirits that have come to rest here in the pursuit of the same dream – the summit of Mount Everest.

From the prayers flags beaten by the elements, but ever unfaltering in their essence – to the local Nepalese toiling with and tilling the land while the Himalayas hang humbling overhead – this is a place where peace and spirituality are heightened by the the elemental and existing struggle this place also provides. It is a beauty fortified through hardship, not an avoidance of hardship.

As we continue our journey, I acknowledge and embrace ever more the deep connection of this country and its communities to the meaningfulness of my dream to summit Everest.

Namaste and thank you for joining and sharing with me this path.

The Trek To Everest Base Camp Begins

Never have I known a place like Nepal. It is a place seeded in spirituality, rooted in the kindness of the Sherpa people, and boundlessly blossoms with natural beauty.

After days in the pollution and intense energy of Katmandu, the first days of our trek to Everest have daily unveiled an ever deeper peace as we have traveled through the Khumbu Valley.

Mediation through movement, I have been moved into moments of awe over and over again.

I’ve witnessed the incredible diversity of travelers along the path and learned the range of reasons which have brought each us to this place. We are not divided by these differences, but delivered to a place where are common calling here highlights are commonalities.

As I continue my journey, I wish to you that the peace of this place find you wherever you are and I hope to return to share the positivity with all of you which has been poured into my heart and spirit.

Namaste to you all!

My Dream Of Everest Begins

Years have led to this day. So many steps – upward, downward, forward, and at times backwards – but all towards this moment as I step into my dream of reaching the summit of Everest. 

Over the next two months I will journey from Seattle through Nepal and hopefully to the summit of Everest at 29,029 feet. I will carry the love, positive thoughts, well-wishes, and prayers from any and all faiths with me every singular step. Knowing every one of them fills me with strength and fortifies my spirit during those times I struggle as I strive for the summit. You are with me and together we will ascend and advance on this adventure as one.

As I go, I hope to share as much as possible from this opportunity for which I have the greatest gratitude to be on no matter the outcome. Below are some key links surrounding my Everest expedition to keep you ever connected to this hopeful pursuit.

Thank you for all the love and support!

Instagram Photos + Stories from Everest:
https://www.instagram.com/andrew_i_hughes/?hl=en
My Instagram account will be where I try to daily post stories and occasionally new photos beginning in Katmandu today and throughout the adventure whenever I have wifi (as I may in basecamp). Feel free to message me here as well. 

My Everest Blog:
https://andrewihughes.com
First, thank you so much to Katie Collins who helped me get this functional in a few days before leaving. Here I will try to leave longer pieces about the Everest experience I am experiencing, sharing, and witnessing.

Humane Society of the United States – Fundraising Page:http://action.humanesociety.org/site/TR?px=12134672&pg=personal&fr_id=1173
Trying to make every meter count, this is the link to my Humane Society fundraising page where I am striving to raise a $1 for every meter of elevation of Mount Everest. Feel free to share this with anyone as together you can not only join me in the journey, but in using it as a path to support an incredible organization and cause.

Adventure Consultants Webcast From Everest:
https://www.adventureconsultants.com/latest-news/dispatches-everest-2019/
My expedition will be with Adventure Consultants who have been running Everest expeditions for 26 years – one of the first to commercially operate on the mountain. They will often post dispatches from the mountain and will be the only real access to up to date information on our position and progress when we are above Everest Base Camp and on the mountain.