Twenty years ago today, I heard the…

Twenty years ago today, I heard the...

Twenty years ago today, I heard the news: many killed on Everest, up high, near the summit. As the tragedy of the loss set in, there was also a peculiar relief: a feeling that maybe the summit lust by increasingly inexperienced climbers would be diminished by the stark reality of the dangers ever present there. Sadly, 1996 had no effect – or perhaps the opposite. In the years since, the mountain has seen an unrelenting stream of climbers hoping, more often than not, to tick that highest summit off their to-do lists, and an ever increasing toll of death on its highest flanks. I’ve struggled for years to understand why: Why are people so attracted to that tiny, urine-soaked patch of snow on top of the world…attracted so much that they’ll push well beyond their abilities, well beyond where their strength and ration would say to turn around? I think much of the challenge stems from our societal barometer of success. We tend to value the paycheck, the promotion, the homerun, or the summit more than we value the experience, the process, the journey to the top. We celebrate the summit – even when it comes at great cost – yet we pass by the beauty of the challenge, the thrill of learning through tough experience and abject misery, the sublime beauty of life in the world’s harshest environments. In short, the issue is that our vision of success is fundamentally clouded, and we need to refocus on the process, the journey, the highs and lows, sunrises and sunsets, on the way to the summit. As George Mallory wrote in 1914: “[Sunrises and sunsets] are not incidental in mountaineering but a vital and inseparable part of it; they are not ornamental but structural; they are not various items causing emotion but parts of an emotional whole; they are the crystal pools perhaps, but they owe their life to a continuous stream… ” Here’s to the memory of those lost on Everest, and to changing our perspectives about the climb, the summit, and the meaning and purpose of it all.

Hillary Step

View this photo in Jake Norton & MountainWorld’s Instagram ⇒

About the Author : Jake NortonClimber, guide, photographer, speaker, founder of www.Challenge21.com, and - most importantly - husband and father.View all posts by Jake Norton

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