continued from Part 3
Here is the first light piercing through the sky. It illuminates the entire Stok mountain range. It also helps to provide light for my thoughts as I reflect on the last 9 hours of climbing.
We started from base camp at 2130hrs. Because of the large size of our group, I believe that a larger time allowance was given.
Summit Day is the day every climber looks forward to the most. And yet, today I wasn’t that sure anymore.
It could be the long hike through the cold. It could be the trekking in total darkness. Or the full exposure to the wind and elements. Or my sour stomach.
The date was 7 July. Seven is the number of completion and perfection. Tonight (7/7) would be a rather good time to affirm that statement.
The route to reach the summit traces its way across the ice glacier until it reaches a steep slope at the final ridge. Admittedly these milestones were the last thing on my mind as I trudged through the darkness.
Only 3 words come to mind: up, up, and up.
We took a moment to rest at the shoulders before the summit ridge while waiting for the remainder of the team made their way upward. I recalled an instance when Onno, my Dutch team mate, and come up to me after I’d paused to recover from some breathlessness.
“Remember: it is only a number. Take care.”
Why are we always chasing numbers? Even when this journey first started, my sole motivation was about trying to improve my climbing record each year.
If I can get past the numbers, I can find myself thankful for a life reborn with the mountains. Mt Batur was my first climb in 2013 and my perspectives changed instantly when I reached the summit. A new purpose arrived.
I have a new career. I have a new purpose. I have a renewed relationship with my family. Travelledpaths and Trek For Hope were born from this.
I am grateful for these moments and for this flashback. The lyrics of an old hymn comes to mind, serving as continued motivation for the next portion of climbing.
“On Christ, the solid rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.”
“This is a long climb, so you should be mentally strong and prepared psychologically.”
That was the advice from the operator’s itinerary for this day and it is so true. Our barriers tend to be more mental than physical in nature.
Sure. To me, climbing a mountain is 30% physical work, and 70% mental endurance. You don’t have to be in perfect physical shape to climb a mountain. Just like weight loss, the key to success has little to with exercise but a positive mentality, and what you put in your mouth.
You’ve just got to want it.
And right here, right now, I want this.
Mental strength doesn’t have to just be for climbing mountains. We have it at home with us every day as well. When there is stress from work. When there is a disagreement with a spouse. When people choose to do things that just don’t seem to make sense.
Our mental strength allows us to make consistent choices. We choose to stay at work. We choose to make sure there are no unresolved issues with a spouse or significant other. We choose to maintain friendships.
If you know someone who is taking a journey or going on an expedition, bring him/her out for a meal or give a handwritten encouragement note. In the mountains, they will look at those beautiful words more often than you might think, and be strengthened.
Looking back at previous footsteps, it is amazing to see where a path can lead. The feeling of being this high is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Today is the day to be a champion. We attach the ropes to each safety harness and make the final push up the summit ridge. The air was thin and we are feeling breathless. At least we still have the warmth of the sun, which is a good thing.
8 July 2016. 0721hrs. We celebrate our success at the summit.
Nothing can stop you except you.
The summit offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the Stok mountain range. Towards the north is the Karakoram range. The Saser Kangri dominates and the Zansker ranges are in the south.
The final 15 who made it to the top. Over the past 9 days, we laughed, we cried, we may have disagreements over some issues at times but we also encouraged each other… This moment we all celebrate.
This is the last image taken before I took the 5 hours descent to Base Camp. With this pic, this blog concludes the Stok Kangri expedition 2016 story. Thank you for following my journey. Whether you are here as an aspiring climber or looking to climb Stok Kangri, I leave you with the following words and hope that it will inspire you as much as it did for me:
The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
2 Corinthians 6:11-13 (MSG)