Mentally Preparing for the Summit

Posted by: Melissa Arnot | May 15, 2009
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 21,200 ft.

Waking up at 3:30 a.m. is never easy, especially at 17,500 ft. Somehow though, as the alarm went off yesterday morning, it was easy to rise. The wind was blowing gently, making the tents speak - I think they were saying “get outta here.” As I began crunching through the icefall, the normal adrenaline kicked my pace up a notch, but also the excitement for what is ahead. Even though I have been through the icefall many times, this time it feels different. I am hopeful that when I come back down, I will not have to go back up again - this is our summit push.

As I wind through the ice blocks and snow-covered crevasses, I have to admit I am filled with a new kind of trepidation. Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain on this earth, and even in normal conditions it would hand me a challenge. This year has been different though, as it has been filled with some extra challenges. I wanted to attempt to climb without supplemental oxygen, and that certainly added an unknown element to the trip. I have had many questions for myself since I made that decision, the biggest of course being: “Is it possible?” Early on in the trip I injured my ankle and that has really slowed me down, not just physically but mentally as well. I really feel like I need to be 100% to try to climb without O2, and as the trip has gone on, it has become clear that this isn’t the case. At any rate, climbing Mt. Everest will still give me a great challenge and there is still so much work to be done.

As I lie in my tent resting at Camp 2, I think about the climbers surrounding me. It is certainly humbling to be around some of the world’s best (and strongest) mountaineers, as well as the cameramen who work twice as hard as any of the climbers. It is also pretty special to see Erica attempt to tackle a goal so large. At times I have to remind myself that she is really one of the only people here who isn’t climbing for a profession, and I admire her strength and adaptability to work with this group.

Today is a rest day, and my mind is already playing with the thoughts about summit day - how will the weather be, will I feel strong, how can I be an asset to the team… But summit day could still be days away, so for now I will quiet my mind, rest my body, and let the gratitude I feel for where I am right now wash over me.

Ed Viesturs doing a final gear check. Ed Viesturs topping out the icefall just before camp 1. Melissa Arnot and Peter Whittaker practicing with oxygen masks at camp 2.

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