Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Why I Climb

I've never liked the conventional reason people give when they are asked why they climb mountains, "Because they are there." That's not the reason I climb, I climb because it makes everything afterwards seem easy in comparison.

Mountain climbing, to me, is the ultimate test of mental and physical strength. There was a point during our summit of Kilimanjaro where all three of us had the same thought, independent of one another, which we discussed afterwards. The singular thought when we were on the verge of breaking, "I'm never doing something like this again."

The irony was I had this exact same thought while climbing Mount Rainier in 2004. It was on the icefield above Disappointment Cleaver where I swore, swore to myself that I would never be so foolish as to attempt something like this again. That moment, so vivid when I climbed Rainier, was only revealed to me again while I was busy summitting Kilimanjaro.

In the days leading up to our final ascent of Kilimanjaro, Andy, Tom, and I would sometimes discuss other big mountains we planned to climb. I had fantasies of climbing Mt Elbrus in Russia, another one of the seven summits, while Andy and Tom were interested in tackling the mountains of Pakistan. We had our eyes on other mountains before we even finished the one we were on.

These planning talks ended abruptly after summit day. Getting up at midnight and hiking for ten hours straight while battling altitude sickness on two hours of sleep will do that. I was stumbling around like a drunk at the end.

The more time passes, the more you forget the pain and hardship and are left only with the glory. That was the reason I was so stupid to summit Kilimanjaro after knowing full well the pain.

When we were flying back, Andy said to me "I think this might be my last big adventure" and I agreed, it was probably mine too. But I know myself well enough to know that it probably wasn't, it's just going to take some time. The memories of pain and fear fade but travelling to Africa and climbing Kilimanjaro are things I will never forget.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Good Advice

From The Washington Monthly:

That's why I always told people who worked for me to never write email when they were angry — or even merely annoyed. Never. Do it in person or over the phone, or else just wait to calm down. No matter how angry you are, you'll come across as ten times worse than you mean to when you express it via email.

People underestimate the power of the emails they send out. Never before has such instant communication to a large audience been possible. I read an email at least three times before sending it out, imagining not only my recipient reading it but a 1,000 other people. At a previous employer, two people were fired for things they wrote online.

Before I write something I think - do I want to attach my name to this message?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Message To My Wife

From Tanzania:

From: Andy Greten
To: Emily Greten
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 2006 04:40:50 -0800 (PST)
Subject: hi

This is Andy on Dave's behalf. He told me to send you the following message:

"Ughhhhhhh......unhhhhhhh......I' Did it just get hotter? beat. Will you send a message to Emily for me? And mail these postcards too? Oh...wait...can you do me a favor? Mail these postcards?"

We're leaving here at about 10pm today (2pm your time). See you soon.

Yes, he made it.


Read more about my trip to Kilimanjaro or look over my website.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

We Made It!

Whoa. I'm back from Africa and Mount Kilimanjaro after a 7,000 mile, 25 hour flight. Majorly jet-lagged, I fell asleep at 8:00 pm last night and woke up wide eyed at 2:00 am this morning. I'm having a hard time remembering what day it is.

Also, on our last full day in Africa, I got a major case of food poisoning and threw up ten times. Want some free advice? When in Tanzania, don't order the fish.

I'll do a more intensive write-up of our climb this week. The big story: We made it to the top, which is something only 40% of Kili hikers accomplish, although I'd hardly say I did it in style. I was a physically and emotionally shattered man at the summit.

In one of my less-proud moments, I collapsed in a heap and was whining to myself "I wanna go home. I wanna sleep in a big feather bed. I want to be warm. I want to not be filthy." But I would have been damned if I traveled all that way and didn't get a picture of myself beside that sign at the top. As soon as Andy gets the photos developed, I'll post the proof and the big write-up.

Couple photos in the meantime, both taken by Tom Banchy.

Now back to work. It's good to be back...