I remember reading a book by Jon Krakauer called Eiger Dreams. It’s a collection of short stories about mountain climbing. He describes the sport as this addiction. Once you climb one you start planning the next almost immediately. I don’t know if I’d make a good mountain climber but I love, love, love reading stories or watching movies about it. The courage, determination, risk, planning, athleticism, ambition, the life-and-death scenarios, the friendships, and pushing yourself to the limit — everything about it just screams inspiration to me.
This weekend I watched a documentary called “Meru.” It’s about these three mountain climbers: Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk, who planned an expedition to the mountain Meru in India. It’s known as one of the hardest mountains to climb. Harder than Mount Everest and no one, not even the best mountain climbers in the world, have been able to reach the top. Like, not even Conrad’s mentors were able to reach the top and they were the best of the best.
Anyway, these guys are determined to get to the top. I won’t give it [all] away but their stories are incredible. The things they’ve survived! On their first trip they were stuck on the side of the mountain in a tent for something like four days because of a storm. Four days stuck in a tent! Can you imagine?! They barely had any food rations left and still wanted to try and get to the top. They were so determined! Even after a major setback that threw them off by four days! They still tried to summit and they were so close but the timing was off. They had to turn around and go back. They were crushed and in really rough shape. Full of frost bite and foot rot.
The documentary goes on to tell more of their story and the things they’ve survived on other expeditions. Renan got a severe head wound from a skiing trip that left him paralyzed. He was so determined to get back to Meru, that he spent all his time and energy into recovery so he could join the next expedition.It seemed like all his odds were stacked against him but he did it. He was strong enough for the second go. Jimmy survived a massive avalanche. No one knew how he survived but he describes this moment where he was fully buried in snow. There was a shift beneath him that seemed to push him closer to the surface and he was able to pull himself out. Not one broken bone. Then Conrad — who’s climbed Everest four times — tells these stories of loss and survivor’s guilt.
One of the things I took away from that movie was how determined they were. Maybe a little stupid but determined and razor-sharp focused on the goal of summitting. Getting to the top. They didn’t let grief or guilt get the better of them. They didn’t live in fear of the next avalanche or brain injury or failure get in the way. They weren’t so traumatized by their bad experiences that it kept them from trying again. They pushed through all the pain of exhaustion, altitude sickness, frostbite and fear to get to the top.
I don’t know what you’re facing but I’ve got a couple mountains that I want to summit. Maybe I’ll get trampled by an avalanche. Maybe I’ll get crushed and die like Conrad’s friends. Or maybe — by some miracle — I’ll survive like Jimmy, and keep climbing. Or maybe I’ll suffer a bad blow that will throw me off my feet for a couple months. But maybe I’ll be able to recover like Renan and keep climbing. And maybe one day, I’ll plan to summit my impossible mountain. Maybe I’ll be prepared this time. Pace myself and plan for the challenge ahead. Stay focused, push through and keep climbing. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally summit my unconquerable mountain.