29 May 2005 Alt: 6400m
Silence...the sheer absence of sound. Doubt, fear, ego, pride..they all came into play today. Let me lay out the facts before they fester into fiction. The past 48hours have been some of the most mentally challenging moments of my life.
We woke up today in eager anticipation of a new weather report, what we were looking for, truly, was a miracle. This divine intervention never materialized. As we sat in the sun, looking up towards the 75 or so people making their way to the south col, watching the huge, swirling clouds signaling the high winds aloft, we began to face a few hard realities.
1. The crowds heading up were ignoring all weather reports, putting lives in jeopardy to stay within their "timelines".
2. All 4 independent weather reports we had, were saying high summit winds well past our summit window. How high? 40 knots and climbing sometimes to 50k. We were banking on our 5th report offering a glimmer of hope, but the glimmer turned out to be nothing more than a mere confirmation of what the other 4 reports said.
3. The icefall, while facing increasing temperatures and melting anchors, had an added paradigm of teams receiving the news apparently from Kathmandu, that the Sherpas maintaining the icefall were to close it. ie. pull up the ropes and ladders, by the 4th. Period. Given our dates needed for our Sherpas to clear the mountain, there was no way we would even come close to this date.
4. The fixed line, that a collection of Sherpas from a few teams was supposed to put in, has not happened yet. Delays due to the predicted high winds and deep snows in certain places delayed the attempt to tomorrow, when winds are supposed to be worse than today.
So, with the above facts laid out on the table, we started weighing options.
Quote from members-
"lemme get this straight, no end in sight of the high winds, icefall closures, Sherpa safety, no fixed line yet...what are we debating again?!"
Quote from guides-
The decision, after 2 days of hard deliberation, and 2 MONTHS of hard work, was made. The expedition, is over.
What does this mean? Tomorrow we head down to basecamp and the Sherpas begin clearing the mountain. What does it really mean?...heartbreak. Crushing sense of failure, a failure that's beyond our control. But....
Pride. Yes, pride, believe it or not. In the face of all the uphill traffic, all the sheer ignoring of facts, we are trying to stand our ground, back our decision, and stay true to our choices.
I hope that someone, on this side, makes it...and the weather breaks, and they achieve their dream of the summit.
I have come closer to a goal I never knew I had, the ever elusive goal of balance. For 5 years, Everest has been the touchstone of my life. My world relvolved around the triumph and tragedies I faced here, among family, among friends. This decision, the loss of the traverse, has only deepened my desire to keep reaching for that balance in my life, that ever elusive combination of drive and compromise. The people that I love and that love me back, I see the sacrifice they make to watch me burn through life. I hope to honor that sacrifice more. But that burn? It runs deep. Deeper than at this point in my young life I am able to fully comprehend. It WILL bring me back to this place, back to the traverse, come what may.
"Because life", as Forrest Gump said,"is like a box of chocolates". "you never really know what your gonna get".
Till nextime.... Luis Benitez