64-Success Is Not Necessarily The Summit
There was an unspoken excitement lingering in the air as we prepped for our summit bid bright and early day 4. Gear was sorted, breakfast consumed, knots tied and pack on. It was time to face the unending “microwave oven,” a massive glacier bowl of snow and ice that was hot enough to burn the inside of your nose from the reflections off the snow. We roped up, helmets on, ice axes out and ready to dig in on a moments notice. The hike looked long and felt even longer. I don’t know if you can ever compare something in everyday life to the feel of seeing the end of the ridgeline, walking continuously toward your goal, but never seeming to gain any ground… the walls on the North Sentinel grew insanely high as we skirted around the base to access the bowl.
Once inside, we went from feeling small to nearly microscopic. The cold, slushy desert pressed on from all sides, the heat of the sun in full burn mode for maximum discomfort. After forever ended, and a quick break to replenish the on-going pink lemonade slushy in our Nalgenes, it was time to tackle the largest sledding hill known to man, kicking steps to the top. Thighs burning, hips on fire from the fourth consecutive day of pack rash, breakfast calories have long-since been burned off and dissipated as heat from our exhausted bodies; the summit is in sight. It actually looks tangible, and a sense of hope sweeps over us and urges us to push forward. This is it, no way we could turn back this far into the journey, climbing 8,308 vertical feet into the air over all sorts of different terrains… words fell short and we were left with shouts of joy and fulfilled dreams as we stepped off the snow and onto the rocky summit of Mt. Albert. It was far more than I ever imagined, the high ridge seemed so low as I scanned my surroundings that dropped off at my feet… we made it.
I hope that this brief narrative gave you a little sense of the joy of success. Success can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but to the mountaineer, success is not necessarily the summit. It is the journey and relationships along the way. The stories come from the storm endured, the injury overcome, unexpected fall that scared the living daylights out of someone on the team, the fly time, sharing and depending on one another to make the team function in perfect harmony… this is success. Reaching the summit is just an added bonus. So it is with life.