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Summit day on Tent Peak

The summit of Tent Peak rises amidst the clouds.
The final climb before the summit ridge

After three hours of climbing in the dark, the sky turned blue. The sun’s rays peeked out from behind the towering peaks. I continued trudging up through knee-deep snow, reminding myself that every laborious stride brought me inches closer to my goal. Life became the next step.
As I approached the rock wall to my left, the steep slope came to an end just above me. My guide, Korbindra and I decided to stop for a brief respite from the grueling snow conditions. I carved out a seat in the snow for my pack. Annapurna I, Annapurna South and Huin Chuli dominated the skyline around me. While soaking in the pristine surroundings, I scarfed down a cliff bar and gulped a few sips of water.
Glancing over the lip, I encountered my next challenge, a half-mile passage across a level glacier. It appeared to be a short and simple stage of the journey. A quick movement. However, the mountain resisted.
Each step forward, my foot plummeted deep into the snow the instant I weighted it. I attempted to replicate the grace of a polar bear and spread my weight effectively over the snow. To no surprise, I fell short of polar bear efficiency. My struggle continued.
A 1000-foot climb followed by the summit ridge loomed out in the distance. The final obstacles. “Nothing in life is given to you, you have to earn it,” I repeated to myself. One foot in front of the other.
But, I did not reach the summit of Tent Peak. For the first time in my life, I attempted a mountain and failed. Looking back, I have no regrets. I needed to be brought back down to earth or risk falling victim to hubris. Sometimes the greatest lessons in life come from failure.
Until that fateful day, I had only read about climbers who reached within an hour or less of the summit. Forced to retreat, these warriors descended back to base camp dejected, but alive. Then there are those that conquered the impossible and triumphed, immortalizing their names in the annals of climbing history. Yet, for every legend, there are many others who have perished on the mountains in the eternal quest for personal glory.
Korbindra and I turned back about three quarters of the way up the sharp incline before the summit ridge. I will never know if I would have succeeded and returned by pushing on through the last 400 feet in waist deep snow with afternoon storm clouds approaching and avalanche prone slopes encompassing me. But I do know that by moving faster, my odds might have improved.
I stepped of the mountain that day with a look toward the future. To what if the situation and wonder what could have happened was a fool’s errand. Instead, I wrote down the factors that remained within my control in order to make the necessary changes before my next expedition.
I left Nepal without the summit, but I walked away with the rewards of failure.


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