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.