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.