It seems that 5 weeks of chest infection and the constant struggle for physical and emotional health has taken it’s toll. I did finally get on the mountain and up near Makalu La for an acclimatization session, but when I returned to base camp my illness did not abate. After learning of Alexei’s death on Everest, well, as I wrote to a friend, the human heart can only take so much, and my attempt for the summit this year on Makalu would not materialize.
Climbing 8000 meter mountains requires a tremendous amount of time, preparation, and commitment, and my 2013 Makalu expedition was no exception. In the past, leaving mountains where I did not reach the summit, I’ve often felt extremely disappointed and discouraged, departing base camp feeling entirely defeated with tail tucked between my legs. But on Makalu in 2013, my sense is that I did as much as possible to recover from my extended illness and accrued weakness- and I found the terrible news of Alexei did as much to deflate my motivation as my illness did my energy stores.
Yet aside from the extreme sense of loss over Alexei, I felt almost matter-of-fact when leaving Makalu, believing in my heart that I did as much as possible to hang in there, fighting for weeks on end for a chance at the summit- and I did not fight alone. I received many notes and letters of encouragement, and each of these words helped me to continue, assuaging my sometimes overwhelming sense of loneliness and reminding me that many people support and follow my expeditions. To simply say thank you to all my supporters and followers feels like such a small gesture when compared to the tremendous strength I draw from your thoughts, prayers, and comments. So perhaps I’ll say it another way: I simply could not do this without you behind me.
On the headwall around 7200 meters below Makalu La.
More images and video to follow.