Mt. Everest Expedition: Sara’s Thoughts on Her Mt. Everest Experience

Posted by: | May 18, 2011
Categories: *Expedition Dispatches *Everest
Elevation: 17,575'

Yesterday I decided to end my quest to summit Mt Everest, and although I am still torn and wondering whether or not it was the right decision, I thought that I would try and explain to you why.

Dave Hahn always says that he wants to climb mountains with people who climb with their head.  Now, I don’t always understand everything that Dave Hahn says (ha) and he says a lot of things (ha again), but what I think he means by this is that he wants team mates and climbers who think about the repercussions of their actions, who think about how they are physically feeling, and who don’t push themselves into dangerous situations.

Secondly, my dad ended his trip between Camps 2 and 3 (he says its closer to Camp 3, but whatever - ha).  The end result is that after May 3rd he wasn’t climbing with me anymore.  So, for the first time in all our adventures, I had to be climbing by myself.  Its been a bummer.  Why I climb is for fun, and to be with my dad.  And over the past 3 weeks its turned from being a fun experience to really more of a chore.  Dave and Linden are awesome guides and great people, but they are not my dad.

So, part of my job as a climber is to think (I know this sounds funny, but I know that a lot of climbers don’t think).  I have to think about how I am feeling, how strong I am, how much energy I have, and how much I “want it.” As we started out our summit bid climb yesterday (the 17th), I was feeling physically strong, but I started to doubt that risking so very much was worth the summit to me.

I don’t expect others to understand why I lost my desire to go for the summit and to take the risks needed to do so.  All I know is that you just can’t manufacture desire to do this.  So, as we got to our first break through the Ice fall I told Dave and Linden about my thoughts, and we decided to re-assess and walk back down.  What I also didn’t want to happen was to push myself to a very high point on the mountain, say 26,000 feet, have the winds blowing at 40 miles per hour, and me not wanting to go on.  Then I would have not only have put our entire teams’ summit chances in jeopardy, but I would have also created a huge safety situation.  People would have had to put their lives on the line to get me off the mountain, and I wasn’t going to allow that to happen.

After we got back to Basecamp yesterday, I knew I had to make a decision. The more I thought about it, the more the right decision became clear - but repercussions of that decision were so scary to me that it took me awhile to make it. I’m was (and am) afraid that people will be disappointed in me, that people will believe that I gave up without trying. As I sit here I struggle with the same thoughts, did I give it my best shot? Am I just giving up? The more I think about it though, the more I am reminded of the reason I love going on expeditions so much, and that is because I love to climb, not because I love to summit.  The summit is the icing on the cake, but you can still have a great cake without icing.  I’ve done some amazing climbing here, and I think the difficulty of the climbing and the way I’ve climbed safely and quickly on this mountain has been as good as anyone.

However, I still have a lot of regrets. The repercussions of my decision have made this last day a hard one. I feel horrible everything that has been “invested” in me over the last year to get me to this point and I will not summit.  For a year I have been training, buying gear, ice climbing, backpacking and getting ready for a summit bid on Everest, and then when it comes along I have decided not to go.  I know my teachers at school have made great sacrifices and invested a lot of time outside the classroom with me to allow me to go on this trip. I thank all the people who have been rooting me on, and sending me messages encouraging me on this climb.

But I also know that it is the right decision.  I do have regrets about this, and I know in the coming months that I will have even more, but I just don’t think that I am willing to risk what you have to risk to try to summit this mountain.  I also think that it is just too difficult for me to access those risks up high without my dad being there.  And if I assess those risks incorrectly, the costs are just too much.

So, all I ask of you is to know that I tried my hardest and please don’t be disappointed in me for not reaching the summit. Sometimes its really not about the summit of the mountain, but what you’ve learned and experienced along the way.

Perhaps climbing a mountain isn’t really about the mountain at all.

Sara McGahan

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Comments

Sara, when I first heard about your decision not to summit, I wanted to jump to conclusions however, our friends helped me to understand what a strong person you are and we are all DEFINITELY SO VERY PROUD OF YOU. All of us were waiting to hear the story from you before being disappointed, and we all know the sacrifices you made and if you are happy, we are happy. Although summiting would have been an amazing experience, if you are okay without it, so are we. We are so proud of how far you made it and you will definitely go down in history maybe not for the summit but for the smart decision you made. You will be an example and a legend for future climbers. Hopefully when you come home, we can all catch up and you can fill us in on all of the wonderful memories you have made and you can reminisce on the climb. Yeah, we will wonder what could’ve happened but our curiosity is trumped by our happiness that you are safe and sound at home with us. Just know that we are all proud of you and you are a fantastic person and everyone who is disappointed in you, does not know your story. You know I am a harsh person and I hold you up to the highest standards, and even I am totally okay with your decision and GOT YOUR BACK.

I love you, Sara and hope you have some quick flights home because I cannot wait to see you!

Love, Kathryn M.

Posted by: Kathryn M on 5/20/2011 at 7:14 am

Sara and Bill,
We have all been following your blog and praying for you.
All we have to do is look at the incredible pictures to see that you have ACCOMPLISHED more than most of us ever would dream of even attempting.  So, congratulations on your climb and the successes you experienced along the way. I think there are many folks in Atlanta who will be happy to have you back safe and sound a little earlier than the original plan.

Posted by: Jennifer Leinweber on 5/20/2011 at 5:50 am

Respect & admire your decision Sara. You have nothing to be ashamed of at all…coming from one who set a foot in the Khumbu right before you at RMI EBC—we met at Gorak Shep. Great job! Loved following your adventure & I am sure you will have many more (with dad tagging along with you I’m sure)! :)

Posted by: Tim McLaughlin on 5/19/2011 at 10:35 pm

Uh yeah - comes=cokes

Posted by: Eileen on 5/19/2011 at 6:53 pm

Sara and Bill - I am so over the top filled with admiration and am happy you both are returning safely and soundly to Atlanta!  I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.  Thank you for sharing this journey so openly and candid.  Much love to you both!!!
Sara - no disappointment from anyone - your choice to climb like you did without dad, even with dad, well I don’t know many people that can make that choice.  The summit of this mountain takes everything you own, any amount of doubt takes everything you don’t own and makes moving forward worse with each step.  I hope that makes sense.  To make the choices you make to stay on that mountain top - KNOWINg your Dad was drinking your comes and having a party all while you were sleeping in a tent cliff sides without him holding down the tent - you made the right decision.  You, young lady, have inspired more ppl around the World then u are aware of.  The decisions you’ve had to make after you’ve been climbing a mountain - at altitude, all while having the luxury of sleeping in a tent - that will strip anyone raw.  I cannot wait to hear the tale from you!  So proud Sara.  Eventually the immensity of this endeavor will truly sink in, and you will know it was the right decision.  Soooo easy to second guess the decision - so hard to make the decision.  Very proud of you making one of the hardest decisions of your life! The mountain isn’t going anywhere - for now you’ve learned what you needed to learn.  Thank u for sharing this journey with everyone.  See the family soon.  Big time Congratulations to you two!!! Here’s to the other half with a safe summit and return.

Posted by: Eileen steil on 5/19/2011 at 6:49 pm

Sara and Bill,

We are all awaiting your return to ATLANTA! 
Take safe steps back.  We are praying for your return.  We are so very proud of your incredible efforts and grateful for how you included us in the journey with your candid blogs and daily updates.  It was an AMAZING JOURNEY and you are both inspiring!  Everest is not going anywhere——if you choose to return!

Thank you, thank you for bringing us along!  We can’t wait to give you hugs and hellos in person!

The Caswell Family

Posted by: Nancy Caswell on 5/19/2011 at 4:51 pm

SAYY!! look at all these comments.
Take a moment to appreciate just how special you are and that everyone here and so many more recognize that. You are truly one of the strongest and bravest girls I know, and now I can say you’re also the smartest. The fact that you suspended your climb because you knew it wasn’t right for your mind and body proves just how AWESOME you are love!! I CAN NOT WAIT TO SEE YOU!! I’m so proud of you and I really hope you are too.

Posted by: Ans on 5/19/2011 at 3:59 pm

Sara…super effort…I climbed Mt. Everest last year with IMG and have been in the mountains with Dave Hahn…he and Phil Ershler are the best. I always climb with my son and if he doesn’t go, “we” don’t go. I got to the top at 67 years of age, so you have plenty of time to reach that goal again. I am retired high school Principal and the first thing I would do is give you a big hug, congratulate you on an incredible journey and then ask you to give a Everest talk and side show to your classmates…all the great memories…no toilets, great food, base camp, the Lhotse Face and the ability to make good decisions. I really believe you will be back and the second time is so much nicer and easier…you know the “gig!” Enjoy your summer, get ready for really tough times: the SAT, finding a prom date, A.P. classes, etc. As Alan Arnette says, “Memories are everything” and I truly believe life is “one step at a time” which very few people like yourself will fully understand. Hi to your Dad too.

Best of Luck and “climb on!
Dr. John Dahlem
:)

Posted by: John Dahlem on 5/19/2011 at 2:47 pm

Sara,
You are so mature.  You made the right decsion for you and that was the BEST decision.  I hope that given the same facts I would be able to make the same decision.  I’d climb with you any time on any mountain.

Posted by: John on 5/19/2011 at 11:27 am

Hi Sara,  I met you and your dad and Dave at the Lobuche tea house.  We were on way down from Everest Base Camp with Linden and you were on your way up.  I am very glad that I was able to meet you.  Once in a while one gets the chance to meet remarkable people.  I was impressed that day and since following your blogs my admiration for you has increased.  Congratulation on your journey!
-Kate Faber

Posted by: Kate Faber on 5/19/2011 at 8:26 am

Hey Sara, I climbed E with Dave in ‘08, and certainly had my moments of doubt about how much I wanted it.  During one of those times, Dave told me that if I didn’t want it, I had to ‘have the guts’ to tell him so.  I know perfectly well how you suffered at base camp, trying to decide if you really wanted it, and the fear you felt that your answer to that question might be no.  Saying that I applaud you for getting through that, for facing all the baggage that you so eloquently discussed in your latest blog, and making a decision to stop, just doesn’t convey how big a deal it is to ‘have the guts’ to turn around. However, those are the only words I have, so congratulations, I applaud you (and your Dad) for having the guts to say no.

Posted by: Nicky Messner on 5/19/2011 at 5:44 am

Sara, you are to be applauded for making the decision you have, and in no way should or will anyone be disappointed in you. As Ed Viesturs says, Summiting is optional, getting down is mandatory. Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment.

Posted by: Dane on 5/19/2011 at 5:32 am

Hello Sara & Bill!

Nobody will ever know what you guys been through both physical and mentaly the last months. I was “egg & bacon” in Gorak Shep and that is not even basecamp! I admire your wise and brave desicion.

With love from Sweden,
Lars

Posted by: Lars Börjesson on 5/19/2011 at 3:50 am

saysey. number 1 please look at all these posts/responses. you are the most amazing person! your strength astounds me and you made the right choice. you worded your decision making perfectly and im so happy youll be home soon! I cannot wait to see you and hear everything about your climb..i am beyond proud of you. I and we all love you and miss you oodles!!

Posted by: emma on 5/19/2011 at 3:35 am

Wise and eloquent words, Sara. Well played. Getting to the top is optional, returning safely is mandatory. Ed Viesturs turned around 300 feet from the top on his first attempt at Everest.  The big mountain will be there for quite some time if you ever decide to have another go at it. It’s been inspiring following your blogs from Seattle. I admire your courage, integrity, and accomplishments.

Posted by: Bill Horn on 5/18/2011 at 8:29 pm

Sara, You are an amazing young woman and have an awesome relationship with your Dad. I have been following your climb as you and your Dad and Dave have met our son Dennis also on Everest. He has descended from the Balcony.  Congratulations on your achievement and God Bless. A Mom in Ga

Posted by: Nancy Broadwell on 5/18/2011 at 7:56 pm

Sara, Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and being so honest. Following your heart with a clear head is sometimes the hardest to do. I am truly amazed by your actions and impressed by your courage. What you have done thus far is astonishing and you have your whole life ahead of you. I am excited to see what your future holds. Your trip with your father and the memories along the way will be something that you will have forever and help shape who you are. Congrats to you on a wonderful adventure/journey!
I was with your sweet mom today and the family is so excited to see you an your father!! Safe travels home!!! xoxo
ps.I want to go shopping with you and Ang…

Posted by: heather yager on 5/18/2011 at 7:54 pm

Sara—
It is, really, all about “The Climb”, just listen to the song.  We look forward to having you both back in the ATL!

Posted by: Henry G on 5/18/2011 at 7:09 pm

Sara (and Bill), my 8-year old daughter and I have followed your blogs for several weeks.  We are both very proud of you and your dad.  As you mention, climbing isn’t just about “reaching the top” all the time.  It is an “experience”, which both you and your dad have shared together.  Your experience to Everest should be one that you always treasure.  Although I understand your self-guessing, the reality of the situation is that your decisions are your decisions and not anyone else’s.  Once you make your decision, don’t second-guess yourself.  Be at peace with it.

Also, you definitely should remember your experiences from Everest for what you did and not what you didn’t do.  To see the Khumbu Ice Fall, the Lhotse face, and the various base camps is something only a micro-percent of the human race have seen.  Although I haven’t been there, I know it is an amazing thing to see, and that is something that you and your dad have done together.

Great job, time to go home, and enjoy your family, friends and memories!

Posted by: E.Black on 5/18/2011 at 5:59 pm

Sara, you have taught yourself one of life’s most important lessons and one whicht so many of us adults spend our lives trying to learn.  It’s about the journey, not the summit.  Good for you for challenging yourself with the climb, AND for confronting the decision to stop. As I’m sure you’ve heard from Linden and Dave, the mountain ain’t going nowhere.

You have been such an inspiration to so many,Sara,. Thank you for allowing us into your world and for sharing your thoughts with us.

Safe travels and God Bless!
-Dana Marie

Posted by: Dana Marie Buchanan on 5/18/2011 at 5:48 pm

Way to go, Sara!!!!!! You have learned, taught yourself!, one of life’s great lessons.  It’s about the journey, not the summit! So many of us adults are still struggling with that message- so you are so far ahead of the game.

You are inspiration to many,Sara, and you have an incredible life before you.  Thank you for letting us into your world, and for sharing your thoughts. 

God Bless!!!!
-Dana Marie

Posted by: Dana Marie Buchanan on 5/18/2011 at 5:38 pm

Sara, a last thought, at least from me, a fellow base camp trekker, who you seemed to pass on the trail with elegant ease! As you wrestle with your demons, as you must be doing, perhaps you can reflect on what you said about your Dad.  That if he wasn’t summiting his daughter didn’t feel inclined (sorry about the pun) to either - you were together on the mountain. I think your feelings of disappointment will fade far faster than his feeling of fatherly pride :)
Chris

Posted by: Chris on 5/18/2011 at 5:24 pm

Like others, I have been following the adventure of you and your dad for a while. (My daughter also goes to your school, and your sister was on her TopHat team for a while).

Your writing and attitude really show you have learned and grown so much through all of this. You have so much to be proud of.

In reading travel writers like Paul Theroux, what always comes through is that the journey is often much more valuable than the destination. In life, too,  since it is really a journey—-of experiences and relationships as much as traversing distance (or altitude).

Best wishes,

Jeffrey Folinus

Posted by: Jeffrey Folinus on 5/18/2011 at 5:11 pm

A successful summit of a major mountain is a team effort.  You’re a team player, Sara.  “Did I give it my best shot?”  Yes.  “Am I just giving up?”  No.  Not ascending beyond 23K feet on the third rotation was an indication another 6K feet was not likely reasonable.  As you stated, you might have made 26K but then not have been able to ascend beyond.  That would have jeapordized the team’s chances to summit, and may have jeopardized the team’s chances to descend safely.  A climber and team player evaluates his/her contribution to the team and does not jeopardize the team’s chances for success and safety.  You’re a team player—and a climber.  The mountain will still be there in future years.  In future years you will be more mature and physically stronger, better able to handle the emotional and physical demands of the mountain.  If you want to try it again, the mountain will be there.  For now, you made the right decision, for the team and for yourself.

Posted by: Chris Newbill on 5/18/2011 at 4:56 pm

Sara,
I am so very proud of you for all of your efforts to get to where you were AND for your decision to listen to your instincts to suspend your climb.  I have enjoyed following your journey these last couple of months, and I can not wait to see you back in Atlanta. 

PS.  There is some state championship gear waiting for you in my office.  Go Cats!

Posted by: Coach Watts on 5/18/2011 at 4:33 pm

Hi Sarah- I have been following the blog and think you are so brave, not just for Everest but for your courage to make a tough decision.  In time, you will look at your Experiences in Nepal as a reflection of your strength…and when life gets tough you will take yourself back there and know how incredible you are and what an incredible thing you have done.  Your the best girl- keep climbing and keep your chin up….HIGH!!!

Karen
/Toronto Canada

Posted by: Karen on 5/18/2011 at 4:17 pm

Sara (and Bill…  since this was a Father-Daughter journey).  I say Congratulations to both of you!  I stand in awe of the accomplishment that both of you have made in the recent months and in life itself.  You are both two people (with the addition of a VERY supportive wife and mother and siblings) whom I REVERE and hold in the HIGHEST of esteem.  NEVER let what might be seen as the “judgements” of the world cloud the amazing accomplishments that both of you have had and will continue to have in life.  It is pure JOY to know you and to call you friends. 
Sara,  We prayed for God’s protection and presence before you left and all I can say is that “the still small voice of reason” you heard was truly God’s protection of you for this day.
YOU are such an amazing person and such an inspiration to both young people and “older”. (sorry Tay for that reference!)
My prayer for you and Bill and your family is safe travels, happy homecoming and nothing but JOY in the journey you have experienced. 
I stand in awe of you.
Kathy

Posted by: Kathy B. on 5/18/2011 at 3:36 pm

Sara,
I am so proud of you! I know that must have been a very hard decision for you to make and I am so proud of you that you were able to make the right one. Great job on everything you have accomplished!
Izzy

Posted by: Izzy Eicher on 5/18/2011 at 2:53 pm

Sara,

I am so impressed by you. You made the right decision and don’t ever regret it. I am very proud of you for thinking of the others first and making such a hard decision. Enjoy you trip back and good luck on all your other mountains!

Posted by: Tracey on 5/18/2011 at 2:40 pm

sweet sara, there is not a tiny glimmer of disappointment in me.  i am bursting with pride to just know you and reading eagerly the blog entries so i feel i have been with you on this journey.  you absolutely made the right decision.  end of discussion.  remember you cannot drive by looking in the rear view mirror.  there is a whole world out there waiting for you to climb!  you are my hero always,xoxoxo,lynn

Posted by: Lynn Crow on 5/18/2011 at 2:39 pm

Sabes,
I could not be more proud of you for everything that you have done this year. To think that you have been climbing for the past two months blows all of our minds and like you said summiting just would’ve been icing on the cake. You broke your high point by what? at least 2,ooo feet? That’s incredible! We miss you so much and eagerly await your homecoming :)) love love love you and cant wait to see you. we’re all so proud and wouldn’t even think of being disappointed

Posted by: Tabes on 5/18/2011 at 2:18 pm

Sara, 

1) You made the right decision!

2) There are loads of folks who are proud to know you and no one is disappointed in you.  If you find someone who is, let me know and I’ll have a talk with them.

3) One doesn’t get to 24000’ on Mt Everest without ‘trying.’  I wouldn’t be on the edge of my chair anticipating for blog updates every day if I didn’t know you were trying.

4) No doubt, you gave it your best shot, and your best shot is seriously better than any young woman I know.

I am proud to know you.  You have made such an incredibly brave choice, and done it for all the right reasons.  (And what an incredible example for the kids from Taos!)

Posted by: Penn McClatchey on 5/18/2011 at 1:29 pm

Sara - you do not know me but I have followed your trip because I follow all of Dave’s trips I worked with him at Taos Ski Valley as a nurse in the clinic there - and have the greatest admiration (and envy) of what he does with his life.  What you have done over the last year was not just getting ready to summit Everest but to get ready for the rest of your wonderful life - hard decision, perseverance and fun.  In life you have to listen to that little voice as you did in your decision and as my mother has always told me life is to short to not have fun and when it became a chore you knew what your decision would be - congratulations on a wonderful trip and great renditions of all you did in writing.  Stay safe and have a wonderful adventurous life - Carol G. Portland OR

Posted by: Carol Gentry on 5/18/2011 at 1:15 pm

Sara-

No one could ever be disppointed in you.  You made a hard decision that is right for you and that is all that matters.  We are all happy that you are coming home and that you and your dad are safe.  We love you very much and can not wait to hear all of your stories.  You are an amazing young lady and we love you very much!  YOU GO GIRL!!!!!! 

Aunt Stacey

Posted by: Stacey on 5/18/2011 at 12:34 pm

Dear Sara,

I am SHOCKED that you think anyone would ever be disappointed in you. It takes the strongest of wills to be able to make the right decision, the one that you feel in your heart and to face your fears of disappointment.  Some of the worst decisions ever made in the history of time, are the ones where people continue on a course that they feel is wrong, to avoid the fear of a damaged ego. I am so proud of you.  You are making the right decision.  There is no failure.  Failure is wasting a moment of your life doing anything that is no longer rewarding.

We love you,

Kari Wells and family

Posted by: Kari Wells on 5/18/2011 at 12:11 pm

Sara,
I couldn’t be prouder of you than if you had climbed to the top 10 times.  I think the words you wrote in making your decision say it all, and I agree, it is about the journey, not the destination, and the fact that you climb for fun, for spending time with your dad, for the lifetime of memories and relationships that you’ve gained, and not for the “trophies”.  I admire your drive, guts, toughness, courage, maturity and intelligence so much.  I know how proud your mom and dad are of you, and they should be, they have done an tremendous job raising an amazing young woman.  Congratulations and my prayers with you and Bill and all of the team for a safe trip home, I have been so anxious for you both to get home safely, so many variables up there as you know better than anyone.  God bless you and your family Sara!
David Eicher

Posted by: David Eicher on 5/18/2011 at 11:52 am

sara—one small doubt is not worth the risk, no matter what you do when you face nature. OMG—NEVER are we disappointed in you. your grandma said it best, the best lesson is understanding it’s in the journey, not the arrival. please, never underestimate what you have done and will do. you have won this game already. and you did not give up, you realized that at that moment it was not the best thing for you. i love you. come home.—aunt mary

Posted by: aunt mary on 5/18/2011 at 11:46 am

Sweet Sara,
What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for unabashedly sharing your thoughts on the decision that was always yours to make. You are wise beyond your years and well ahead of the curve -it blows me away that you are only 16!  What I loved most about the above was the complete honesty you shared with all us…your feelings of letting people down, and the internal struggle to not disappoint them or yourself. That honesty, coupled with humor, is a refreshing quality that both your dad and mom possess- you are a beautiful reflection of them both.

Please don’t second guess your decision, as Dave said “...it was the harder one to make”. You listened to that still small voice inside that always tells us what to do.

I love you lots “Rockstar”- Get home soon, we have shopping to do!!!
xxAng

Posted by: Angela Perry on 5/18/2011 at 11:40 am

Hi Sara - my name is Douglas Lindauer and I live in Atlanta.  I think I met your dad one evening, a few years ago, as I remember we shared a few stories about climbing Aconcagua and Kili.  Yes, we’ve climbed all the same mountains and I was sitting in that same base camp just 6 months ago looking up at Mt. Everest and wondering what it would be like to cross the ice falls and walk up towards Mt. Everest.  Your last post really hit home - so well written and wise beyond your years.  You’ve experienced and learned things that just can’t be taught in a classroom.  My daughters go to Lovett and not a day has gone by these past few weeks when i haven’t heard them or their friends talking about what you where doing over in Nepal.  On Monday, I spoke to some 8th graders at Lovett on career day.  I shared what I do to earn a living, but I also shared my passion for mountain climbing.  When I was done nobody wanted to discuss my day job, but everyone wanted to hear about my adventures to different places and what I’d seen or felt on those trips.  The teacher asked me to share some advice or words to live by and I remembered what my mom (who’s quite the adventurer herself) told me after I didn’t make it to the top on one of my climbs.  “It’s not whether you get to the top of the mountain that matters most.  It’s the desire to give it a try that really says who you are”.  I think you pretty much said as much in your last post.  You and your dad gave it a try and I’m in awe of your efforts.  I’d want you on my rope team, I’d want you in my college, I’d want you working for my company (of course, you’ll probably be running your own company!).  Congrats on an unbelievable adventure and the stories you and your dad will be sharing (amongst yourselves and with others) for years to come.  I hope to meet you sometime soon.  Safe travels home.

Posted by: Douglas Lindauer on 5/18/2011 at 10:34 am

Sara, I have been following this blog with great interest over the past few weeks, and always enjoy reading the updates from you and the guides.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  I have never climbed a huge mountain myself, but would love to give it a shot one day.  When I do, I hope that I will have the same wisdom and courage as you (because, sometimes, courage also means making the difficult decision NOT to do something).  Congratulations on achieving so much—you have every reason in the world to be proud of yourself.  Best wishes - Catherine.

Posted by: Catherine on 5/18/2011 at 10:12 am

Hi to Sara from Taos Academy 5th graders. We hope you are still checking in! The students think the world of you and they really wanted you to know that. (Also, they said that they don’t always get what Dave Hahn says either, but apparently they still think he’s hilarious).

Here’s what a few wrote, and they are unanimous in wanting you to come and talk to them if you ever get the chance:

I think that it is a good idea not to go if you aren’t feeling up to it becuase it won’t jeopardize anyone’s life or mental situation.

Good choice, espeically with that avalanche the next day.

It was a brave decision, Sara!

If someone got hurt, it would be hard to be back down.

She made a great choice and is awesome for trying, especially without her dad.

She’s brave to even go in the first place.

It is a good choice becuase she wasn’t mentally in the right place to climb.

Sara, you have an invitation to Taos, anytime!

She listened to her instincts.

We think you are awesome!

Thanks for letting them in on what this was like for you. They’ve enjoyed every minute. Ms. E & Class

Posted by: Ms. E's Class on 5/18/2011 at 10:11 am

Sara,
I am incredibly proud of you and of the person you are. I am impressed with the time and care and depth of your self-examination, and that is time and effort many people never experience until sometimes much later in life, if at all! You are a role model for young and old. Know that many people will benefit and learn from your experience, in addition to the gift of growth you have given to yourself. We live in a society that often looks always at winning or achieving the goal as the only valuable thing, but if we do that we miss out on so much. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with so many. You are awesome! Your old sixth grade English teacher and grade chair thinks the world of you!!! :) JA

Posted by: Jan Allen on 5/18/2011 at 10:00 am

Dear Sara,

There’s no way anyone could be disappointed in you!  The journey is the outcome.  It is much harder to make a decision to stop something that isn’t right for you than it is to keep going.  Just a few of your amazing qualities that are evident in your note here are your ability to forecast how you would feel under contingencies (i.e., at 26k in a 40mph wind); your focus on your purpose (i.e., climbing and being with your dad); and your consideration for your teammates.  Supremely well done and much harder than summiting, I suspect.  I hope you enjoy that helicopter ride and the flight to Katmandhu and being with your dad and being who you are.  Love, Anita

Posted by: Anita on 5/18/2011 at 9:53 am

Sara you are the bravest girl I know.  There is NOTHING harder than deciding to go down.  I’ve heard people, when asked why they didn’t turn back when they knew things weren’t right, say “it’s WAY easier to do what’s expected, even die, than risk disappointment and failure.”

Hugs to you and Dad for showing a great example to everyone of your strong character!

Posted by: Dr Lulu on 5/18/2011 at 9:41 am

Sara, at 16 years old, what you’ve DONE is incredible, not what you haven’t done. You climbed the tallest mountain in the world! You made major decisions with great understanding of yourself and others. Above all, you see that it’s all about the journey. This is huge! I love you beyond belief and will keep the inspiring record you wrote above as a tribute to you. Come home safely.

Posted by: Grandma on 5/18/2011 at 9:14 am

Sara,
Wow.  There sure are some amazing thoughts for a young woman.  I am youth minister in Missouri and I have been following your journey over the past week or so (had a lot of reading to catch up).  I have been working with teens for about 7 years and I don’t know many that could have made such a brave and mature decision.  Please know that the people that “invest” in you, teachers, parents, family, coaches, and guides are doing just that, investing in YOU and not some dream.  Their investment can only pay off if you come home safe and sound.  The fact that you made this decision gives you the rest of your life to share your experience and the wisdom gained with others.  God Bless - Ben

Posted by: Ben Wilson on 5/18/2011 at 8:45 am

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