Today was yet another rest day. I say yet another, not because I begrudged the essential resting time, but because it was almost 4 weeks into this expedition and I hadn’t even set foot on Everest! Reflecting on this, I begin to realise why so few people try to make it to the top, and of those that try, why so few of them have made it to the top.
Time – this expedition is really time intensive, from the approach to base camp, the acclimatisation, the training etc, if you don’t have at least 2 months to spend in the Himalayas then you have no chance, and that is after you have spent months on preparation, training and getting the experience.
Stamina – a lot of climbers ask the guides how they get fit for Everest, and they get the same type of answer. They don’t. You can only get mountain fit on the mountain. 2 hours in the gym will not prepare you for a 10 hour day climbing a mountain, with only 50% of the oxygen available at sea level. Gym time will help fitness, but in the end, this will come down to will power and real reserves of “guts”.
Endurance – this is slightly different from physical stamina. Living in rough conditions for 2 months, will take its toll. Sitting around in tents at altitude for days on end, will take its toll. Eating the same rehydrated food for days on end, will take its toll. Living in freezing conditions…you get the idea
Money – there are the direct costs, indirect costs and the opportunity cost of being away for so long. Expeditions like this cost anywhere from $60-100,000, and that is just for the organisers. On top of that, there are the “other” costs that are not included, such as all the equipment, flights, insurance etc that can add another 25% to the total. And then of course there is the opportunity cost. Most climbers will have to take unpaid leave for such a long absence and that can be quite expensive, depending on your salary.
Desire – this might be the biggest factor within an individual’s control. Without the burning desire, this idea will be still born, as there are just too many obstacles along the way. With enough desire, a solution, a work around, or the ability to endure every obstacle will be found.
Sacrifice – there are so many things that have to be sacrificed in the pursuit of this goal. When I was at University, I remember players on the rugby team having to give up going out at night so they could get up early for rugby training. As a student, getting up at 0600 seemed like a ridiculous idea and the thought of sacrificing a social life was too extreme. Now, climbers are leaving families behind, jobs, responsibilities…all for the chance to be one of less than 3,000 ever to climb Everest…
Luck – the biggest factor of all! It just seems unfair, but with all the best planning, organisation and logistics, your chances of succeeding still only increase from unlikely to evens. There are so many random factors that could kill, injure or just end an expedition, from the obvious like bad weather, and avalanches to the common cold, which can be a lot more debilitating at extreme altitude.
And after all my time and effort, I am just praying I can beat the odds…