Here I am, sitting in my tent atop a 20,000 foot peak, eating mash potatoes, stuffing, and bacon. Yes, bacon. I don’t think it gets any better than this. But in all seriousness, I can’t help but feel elated at the prospect of what I am doing. I reach over and pinch my forearm- yes, this is real.
After a successful ascent of Island Peak we returned for another attempt of Lobuche Peak, aiming to spend the night on the summit. We couldn’t have picked a better day. Blue skies, views for miles, and only a bit of wind. Rather than the standard 1 a.m start, we opted for a casual morning, because we only had to make it up, not down. We were stripped to our base layers as we ascended to the high camp, up a steep scree field. Next we climbed up steep slabs of rock, weaving our way around cliffs to the beginning of the glacier. There we strapped on crampon, harnesses, and clipped our ascenders to the fixed lines that trace a path to the summit. Nearing the 20,000 foot summit, oxygen felt as scarce as a two dollar bill. Reaching the summit, I dropped the rope to the ground, and embraced my team members. There is nothing quite like standing on a summit, clear skies showing mountains extending infinitely into the horizon, with people whom you love.
Quickly celebration turned to setup, chopping a flat platform for sleeping and setting up the tent. We finished around four, and crawled into the tent, the sun penetrating the walls and warming us out of our jackets. As the sun goes down, the alpine glow illuminates Everest, and we watched the lights of base camp flicker. I felt so grateful to be laying there, clad in down, with two people who have showed such belief in me. Who have overlooked my size, age, and let me into their world of high peaks and breathtaking views. Part of me worries that this is too good to be true, that things this good don’t last. But another part of me feels as if I have found what I have been looking for.
After the aforementioned “white meal” of freeze dried mashed potatoes, dehydrated stuffing, powdered gravy, and pre-cooked bacon, we lay down to sleep. I stuck my earphones in, put on the Counting Crows, and closed my eyes, mentally reviewing the day. I thought back to pushing my way up the summit ridge, each step taken with effort. I thought about the lessons Melissa has taught me. And the one that stands out is that we are truly capable of anything. The way she has fought for everything she has, makes me believe that I can do much more. Pushing through the discomfort, the fear, the insecurity, to achieve our goals. Because there is some comfort knowing that although the road ahead is bumpy, she gave a little Mini Cooper the belief that it has four wheel drive.