Departures are always a mixed bag of emotions and energies.
I was up until about 2:00am last night (and the night before), frantically packing and organizing mountains of gear, carefully packing cameras and lenses and tripods and batteries and solar panels next to climbing boots and crampons and ice axes and ropes. When all was said and done, the load was lighter than my normal trips: four bloated duffel bags weighing about 60 pounds each.
The alarm went off too early this morning, waking me from a heavy slumber packed in with my wife, two kids, and our 85 pound dog. What was supposed to be a leisurely morning quickly became, as it often does, a busy one, taking care of last minute things around the house, playing with the kids and trying to keep it feeling normal as I’m about to leave them for 45 days.
Last night, my daughter was talking about the funny feeling of having a lump in her throat at her new school, feeling alone and far away. Sitting on a plane now, watching the jagged peaks of Colorado disappear behind me, I have that same feeling, and that same lump. It’s truly devastating for me to leave on long trips, and I’m a bit out of practice having not traveled extensively since July 2012. I hate leaving my amazing family, my life, my routine…but my melancholy is mixed also with excitement about the journey ahead.
The trip I’m heading off on has been a long time in the making and dreaming. It started back in 2012 when Pete McBride suggested I get some snow from the summit of Everest – presuming I made it that year, which I didn’t – and bring it home as part of a possible Ganges watershed story. That got me thinking more about the Ganges and sharing the story of this remarkable watershed, revered and reviled by hundreds of millions.
A year and a half later – with huge thanks to the generous support of many people and companies, including Eddie Bauer, Microsoft, National Geographic, Ambuja Cement Foundation, Julie and Tom Hull, and more – we’re off.
In about 20 hours, Pete McBride, Dave Morton, and I will hit the ground in New Delhi, India, to start a great adventure. We’ll begin with an attempt on Chaukhamba IV, an unclimbed, 6985 meter peak at the very head of the Gangotri Glacier, and thus a true source of the Ganges River. Post-climb, we’ll follow the Ganges from true source to sea, by foot, boat, car, and aircraft, documenting the river, the watershed, and some of the 400 million people who revere and revile it…and depend on it for their very survival.
So, the journey begins. The lump in my throat is still there, along with a stinging pain in my heart. I can see my kids now, looking at snow leopards and lions at the zoo, enjoying a beautiful Colorado day. My wife is working, her dedication shining through in all she does. We’re half a world away from each other, but not a moment passes when they’re not as close as can be in my heart. The journey begins, as well as the heartache.