Climbing Everest was NOT one of the greatest days of her life

As of today, eleven people have died climbing Everest in 2019, making this one of the deadliest climbing seasons in Everest’s history. Previously, a high number of deaths in one season was connected with weather or one-time incidents, but the deaths this season are being associated with overcrowding, a lack of strict regulations and management by Nepalese authorities, and the increase of inexperienced climbers.

You may have seen one of those images on the news, with all the Everest climbers lined up like a long colorful centipede along the ridge of the mountain, back to back to back to back. I’m an “outdoorsy” person (as non-outdoorsy people tend to call us), and I love to hike and camp and backpack, but this kind of feat, and certainly this kind of crowded terrain, has never been on my own To Do List.

A good friend of mine, Lisa, climbed Kilimanjaro last year, and she trained for that hike for many months. Even so, she had to stop her climb just shy of getting to the peak, due to some breathing difficulties. She had medical oversight and took the necessary precautions, and she was more than fine with not making it to the top. She stayed in place and waited for her climbing companions to descend from the peak.

It was before dawn, so they were all using headlamps. When Lisa saw her first climbing buddy approaching in the beam of her light, she anticipated hearing the great excitement of what her friend had just experienced. Her friend looked up into Lisa’s headlamp as she took another careful step down the icy slope, “This sucks!” she exclaimed, “All these people are throwing up! My body is hurting all over. And it’s f—ing freezing!” Not exactly what Lisa expected. They had a good laugh about it later.

Perspective, right?

This brings me to a DTBF story that couldn’t be more perfectly timed to highlight again. It’s the story from Alison Levine titled “On the Edge”.

Alison Levine wrote a New York Times bestselling book about her experience(s) climbing Everest, and has since become a sought-after keynote speaker, including giving a TED Talk, on the topic of leading teams in extreme environments. Alison’s message focuses on teamwork and about that all-important perspective: getting clear on who and what matters, the meaning of true success, and how success even becomes possible.

After the news about the latest Everest deaths this past weekend, Alison posted a note on LinkedIn, which she permitted for me to share here:

The headlines this week about the crowds and deaths on #Everest are frightening to be sure.
Nine years ago TODAY I stood on the summit of that mountain. There were not many people climbing that day because the weather was terrible and visibility was poor. But in less than ideal conditions, we made it.
Was it one of the greatest days of my life? NO!
What was great was coming back to the people who are important to me.

For those of you who love “all things Everest” — I OF COURSE share your passion! But please remember that standing on top of a mountain does not change the world.

1. Raising kind, compassionate children who will contribute to their communities (and you don’t have to have your own kids to be part of this — you can do this by being a good aunt/uncle/brother/sister/grandparent/godparent/step-parent/mentor/friend, etc).
2. Technology/innovation
3. Being there when people need you! A few kind words to someone who is hurting/struggling can literally change their life.

Not everyone can climb Everest. But everyone can be a part of one of the above, and that has much more impact than standing on the top of a mountain.

My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones on the mountain this season. May their souls rest in peace.

Once again, here’s the link to her DTBF story: “Over the Edge” by Alison Levine.