Story by Melissa Arnot; photos by David Morton
The waiting game is not one I am good at. It seems that all the nervous energy of an entire expedition can be pushed into the days preceding a summit attempt. Each morning creates the same intense set of emotions: Will we rest today? Will we head up? Is a typhoon coming? I feel like I am playing the lottery. My emotions spike from actually having some hope that I could win and plummet to resigning myself to the odds and knowing that my ticket is a donation to the state fund. Only the state fund here is a collection of the last 30 days of hard work, and it is a hard fund to “donate” to without return.
Sometimes I wonder what I am thinking when I formulate my goals. I have wanted to climb Makalu for as long as I can remember. It is a beautiful mountain. Being here has humbled me beyond belief. My relative inexperience in Himalayan Mountains is obvious in comparison to Dave’s many expeditions.
Being unsupported puts all of the work squarely on our shoulders. Every day is hard, but the rewards of each day are immense and lasting. It is extremely rewarding to look around a camp after a hard day of climbing and know that everything there has been brought by us and will be carried down by us. Nonetheless, having the goal of attempting an unsupported summit of Makalu as a two-man team seems lofty. And to add to that, having the goal of summiting with enough time to make a solid summit attempt on Everest in the same season, well, at this point I really am wondering what I was thinking.
Although I am playing an emotional lottery today, it is one of the reasons I love the mountains. A good friend told me the definition of adventure is an outcome that is unknown, and it is true. That is a huge part of the allure of this sort of adventure. And the outcome is certainly unknown.
But as I sit here, and we scan weather maps on the computer, it looks like there is a window opening (more of a porthole really, but a small opening). Immediately, my excitement and nervousness return. If we wake up to similar forecasts, we will head up tomorrow morning, aiming for a summit bid on the 19th. That will give us enough time to go to Everest after our summit attempt here. My excitement continues to swell. We have a tremendous amount of hard work ahead of us in the next few days, but I am ready. We have done everything we can, and now we hold tight to those lottery tickets, knowing they were purchased with all the work we have done this season. And winning is certain. Winning doesn’t mean a summit. Winning is just being lucky enough to play this game.
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