Friday, January 26, 2007

To the top!

Reading Sam's post about his burning desire to thru-hike the Trail, got me thinking about my own dreams and such. Like Sam, I have often thought that thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail would be something I would like to do someday. I love the outdoors – I love sleeping in it, eating in it – just living my life in it. I love to camp, though I haven't done it in a while. There's nothing quite like waking up and stepping out of your tent to start a fire and have your morning coffee outside. I love it. And, I love doing anything physical outside. Does it get any better than spending a day on a mountain skiing? That's why I can fully identify with Sam and his wanting to spend six months outside in some of the most beautiful lands that this country has to offer. What an experience!

When I was younger, my dream was to climb Mt. Everest. However, at around $30,000 to do it, it was never really a very realistic one. For about one year, though, I read everything I could on the subject, from the people and customs of Nepal and Tibet, to accounts of countless exhibitions that had tried (both successfully and unsuccessfully) to reach the summit of the tallest peak in the world. I researched what gear I would need, the effects of oxygen deprivation on the human body, training regimens, etc. I even started working out in the oxygen deprivation room at the gym to see what it was like moving around at altitude.

Even the base camp at Everest is at a much higher altitude than what we're used to. Base camp at Everest is at 17,500 feet. At Base camp, you're looking at just a little more than 1/2 the oxygen than that at sea level. It gets less as you go up to the successive camps. There are four more camps between base camp and the summit. At the summit, you're standing on top of the world at 29,035 ft. On a good day, the temperature is at -15 degrees F, and on a not-so-good day, it could get as low as -100 degrees F. At this altitude, there is only a third of the oxygen than that at sea level. Most people are using supplemental oxygen, but there are those that have done it without. Can you imagine that?! To put this into perspective, jet planes fly at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. Humans can do amazing things, no?

Anyway, it takes a lot of money, and about a month to climb Everest. Because of these restrictions (that and the dangerous Khumbu Icefalls!) this was never really in my reach. It was fun to dream, though! Someday, I'd just like to hike up to base camp.

By the way, the Khumbu Icefalls lie between base camp and camp one. They are a MOVING SEA OF ICE that climbers cross using ordinary aluminum ladders. At any given time, a huge crevasse can form where there wasn't one just a little time before. The ice is MOVING!

I did get to climb a mountain while I was in New Zealand. It was physically very challenging, and one of the coolest things I've ever done. I summited a little mountain called Mt. Fyfe. Nothing even close to Everest, but a great experience just the same. It took eight hours, and I went from a rain forest at the base, to snow capped peaks at the summit. I had good shoes, a well-packed pack, and good company. I'll never forget that day.


Blogger Sam said...

It's awesome to be on the top of a mountain. Everest is the ultimate, but New Zealand is pretty stinking sweet as well.

5:30 PM  

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