Yesterday, the name Mount Everest seemed to pop up everywhere.
First of all I watched the film ‘Touch the Top of the World’ which was the documentary film of Erik Weihenmayer’s journey to Everest from his youth when he started going blind, to his family’s battle that he have a normal childhood and not be packed off to a blind school, through the wrestling days and the beginning of his love of climbing, the teaching, and meeting his wife-to-be, meeting P.V. Scaturro, the team leader, and the actual ascent of Everest.
The film showed eloquently the difficulties he had and the amazing support he had from his team of good friends. I mean, imagine going up one of the climbing ladders with crampons on your boots, holding onto ropes with both hands and not being able to see the next rung… Being told that he has to jump a crevice and that he has to take a run and jump as far as he can because if he doesn’t make it he will definitely fall to his death – and not even being able to see exactly how wide the gap is and where exactly to take off.
It beggars belief. It is an amazing story. Did you know that only one in six people who try to conquer Everest actually summit and get down alive? There are two dominating factors when attempting Everest – “ambition and fear. Ambition is the overwhelming desire to get you to the top, and fear is what keeps you alive”.
This was advice that P.V. gave Erik in the early days when he was struggling in the ice fields. Because of Erik it had taken them 13 hours to get over the ice fields on one of the practice days – when in reality they HAD to do it in 6 to get to the next base camp.
There is an old Tibetan saying: “The nature of mind is like water; if you do not disturb it, it will become clear.” In other words, when taking on a challenge, clear your mind of expectation and take it one step at a time and this is what Erik did.
You need 6 – 10 weeks on Everest doing practice climbs, getting to base camp 2 and back, base camp 3 and back, base camp 4 and back before you make the final challenge. This is absolutely vital to help you acclimatize. Technically Everest is not as challenging as some of the other Seven Summits, but it is the altitude that can kill you.
25,000ft is called The Death Zone. When asked what he felt like when he reached this stage, Erik said “I feel like I’ve run a marathon with a plastic bag over my head.” The reply was something like “it’s alright dude, you’re supposed to feel miserable!”
As you all know from my previous article, Erik summited and got down in one piece.
… and then I heard about Jane Dougall. Who is Jane Dougall? She is a reporter for Channel 5 News amongst other things.
Right at this minute she is trekking up through the foothills of the Himalayas to acclimatize – a 6-day trek. And what is she up to? She is about to cover a story about skydivers jumping over Everest for the first time…
However, there was a snag. To cover the story she, too, has to jump and they, the news channel, magnanimously gave her a practice tandem jump over Oxfordshire to see what it was like before “the big one.”
They have had to have suits especially made with the capability to attach oxygen masks because the air is so thin at 29,500ft. It will be -45* when they jump out of the plane so not only will the air be very thin but they will need to be protected from the extreme cold.
They are expecting to jump early next week – I will keep you posted, but you can google her yourself and read her blog.
Thanks to seracfilms for the video.