It was such an honor to deliver the convocation address at my old prep school this past weekend.
On May 16th, 2013 at 2:37AM I was one-thousand vertical feet away from achieving my life-long goal. I could taste it. I had visualized this moment countless times over my two years of training and preparation. It was summit night on Mt. Everest, and I was in a zen-like state of focus. So focused in fact that I didn’t realize, or wouldn’t admit to myself, that the weather conditions around me had quickly shifted from unfavorable to flat-out dangerous.
The cry of an anguished prayer broke my summit-fever. It was the voice of Kancha, my Nepali climbing partner. Looking at him, I realized that we had entered a cloud of Rime Ice that was beginning to freeze our oxygen masks and corneas. With winds gusting to 85mph and the temperature hovering around -30F, it felt like we were strapped to the wing of a 747 aircraft. And just like that I knew our summit attempt was over. I was crushed.
Moments before my summit push at Camp 4.
In my four years of high-altitude climbing and guiding I had never once been turned around due to weather. And to be perfectly honest, the thought of not reaching the summit of Mt. Everest had never crossed my mind. It was a forgone conclusion, I had put in the work and nothing was going to stop me. Until it did.
Dealing with this defeat has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done; far more trying than any day on Mt. Everest. Now would be a good moment for me to string together a score of motivational cliches telling you to deny human emotion and push through the pain. Fortunately for you, thats not what I’m going to do because the fact remains that failure is inevitable and inevitably painful. If you are truly willing to chase after your dreams, to lay it all on the line, and give it everything you got, you have opened yourself up to the possibility of failure. And, when it comes, it’s going to hurt.
Here are five things I’ve found helpful in dealing with disappointment as a result of athletic endeavors or otherwise.
1. Allow yourself time.
Whether you dropped-out during your first trail race or injured yourself while training, you need to allow yourself time to digest the disappointment. Allow yourself to feel it. Sit with it. Acquaint yourself with disappointment; the evil step-sister of success.
2. Don’t make any major decisions.
Your not thinking clearly. You’re questioning everything. Decisions at this stage in the game will be made from a point of raw emotion and not rational thought.
3. Take care of your body.
This is the most important step along the way. Stay away from the extremes. Don’t try to jump back into a training routine and certainly don’t stop exercising and eating right. Listen to your body and give it what it needs.
4. Talk to people.
It can be a dark world listening to your own thoughts day-in and day-out. Seek out a training partner or climbing buddy and talk about your experience. You’ll be surprised what you’ll hear yourself say.
5. Answer the question.
The most beautiful thing about not achieving your goal is that despite everything else you’re always left with a choice; are you going to call it quits or are you going to use the failure as fuel?
It’s never a true failure until you stop trying.
Peter Hillary, son of Edmund Hillary, knows a thing or two about disappointment.
Dr. Louis Mariorenzi, friend, mentor and 2011 Everest summiteer, stopped by this morning for some final words of encouragement. Louis and his wife Priscilla have been an incredible source of support over the past year and for that I’m incredibly grateful! His modesty, generosity, and kind-nature never ceases to amaze me. I’m forever indebted to a mountain worlds away for bringing us together.
Thank you Louis for all that you’ve done for me and I look forward to exchanging Everest tales over unalloyed libations upon my return!
As part of his Everest 2013 coverage Alan Arnette has been conducting interviews with some of this seasons climbers. Dawes Eddy is a tough act to follow but here is my interview:
The sounds of “Jambo Bwana” and "The Kilimanjaro Song" echo through Mweka Camp. You’ve just reached the summit of Africa’s tallest mountain and you’re now back down in the relative comforts of the treeline. It was the toughest 24 hours of your life and soon you will be back at your lodge in Moshi or Arusha to rest for a few days before going on safari. It sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?
Known world-wide as a relatively “easy” 5000 meter peak, and the highest point in Africa, Kilimanjaro attracts people from all over the world. A study published by the Overseas Development Institute estimated that 40,000 people visit Kilimanjaro every year, spending nearly $50 million (annually) in Tanzania. The study also revealed that local residents earn nearly 28% of the total revenue; the world’s most successful transfer of resources to a local community. Put simply, nearly $13 million a year goes directly into the local communities impacting nearly 50,000 local Tanzanians directly or indirectly. For one of the poorest countries in the world, this mountain is a lifeline.
As somebody who has spent a lot of time on Kilimanjaro I’m incredibly excited by these findings. It’s been great to see the park use some of this income to clean up the mountain and begin to build new huts and facilities. Each time I return the mountain seems healthier (with the exception of the fading glaciers). What’s most exciting is that the working conditions on Kilimanjaro for the porters, the backbone of every expedition, have improved drastically thanks to the efforts of an incredible woman by the name of Karen Valenti, Project Manager of the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project. In addition to the no-cost clothing lending program which equips porters with appropriate mountain climbing gear, KPAP has managed to make it very difficult for guide companies to exploit porters by implementing the Partnership for Responsible Travel Program as set forth by the International Mountain Explorers Connection. This program sets the standard for acceptable working conditions; minimum wages, load limits, fair tipping procedures, proper shelter and sleeping equipment, and at least two meals per day. If you are guiding on Kilimanjaro and you’re not on this list you need to get with the program!
As always there is still much to be done. As adventurers, trekkers, mountaineers and travelers we have a responsibility to ensure that nobody is suffering on account of our passions. Here are several ways you can help:
3. Only use guide companies who are a member of the IMEC Program
4. Tip your porters directly
5. Spread awareness
Ranulph Fiennes, inarguably the greatest living adventurer/explorer, departed from London last Thursday to begin the world’s first-ever attempt to cross the Antarctic in winter. In doing so, it is his hope to raise $10 million for Seeing is Believing to help fight blindness around the world.
Fiennes has been and continues to be an incredible source of inspiration for me!
Visit www.thecoldestjourney.org to learn more.
Last week I wrapped up the strength-focus phase of my Everest training program with 1RM testing. I couldn’t have been happier with the results.
- Deadlift: 415
- Back Squat: 405
- Front Squat: 290
- Power Clean: 275
- Snatch: 205
- Bench: 265
- 5k time: 19:49
Starting weight (8/15): 198lbs
Finishing weight (11/28): 210lbs
With less than four months to go it’s time to shift the focus to endurance and get my nutrition dialed-in. While lifting heavy is fun, I know it’s not going to get me up the mountain. For the next two months my training will be 70% aerobic and 30% anaerobic. This means I’ll be ramping-up the running, cycling and metabolic conditioning and backing off the heavy lifting. In early January I’ll have an opportunity to train at altitude while leading a group up Kilimanjaro and then head right to Colorado until I leave for Nepal.
The nerves have settled in nicely; there is no denying that they exist but I’ve developed an almost harmonious working relationship with them. They drive my training to new levels everyday and demand upon me unwavering focus. Every once in a while I need to remind myself to enjoy the process because even though I write this from the comforts of my home, my climb on Mt. Everest is very much so underway.