You evolve when you meet the Himalaya. It happens each time, at every encounter, and when you leave, you yearn to return.
In the Fall of 2010, our four-person team—Mark Fisher, Andy Tankersley, Todd Passey, and I—attempted to make a first ski descent off of Tibet’s 26,289-foot (8,013-meter) Mount Shishapangma, the 14th-highest peak in the world. The mountain is remote, located on the skirts of the majestic and mighty Himalayan chain in the southwestern corner of the country (in Chinese territory).
We arrived via the bustling bedlam of Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu. At the threshold of this exotic world, we were greeted with an overwhelming display of noises, smells, dust, two-stroke smoke, and an overpowering visual of used plastics strewn throughout its narrow and congested streets. However, once the introductory veil was lifted, the chaos became an organized frenzy. The winding passages had their own symmetry and the overabundance of visual stimuli dissolved into a more rational perspective. The plastic and waste was in part due to Western impact. And, at that time, neither Nepal nor Tibet had solid infrastructure in place for garbage disposal.
Transiting out of the city and into the mountains, the scenery and the pace changed quickly. The spirit and simplicity of the Himalayan mountain lifestyle and inhabitants engulfed the core of our daily routine. Immersion occurred slowly as we adapted to our new surroundings. Though our team was focused on the mountain, with the goals to climb and ski, we were transformed not only by our pursuits but also by the people.
The ultimate achievement in the outside world’s perspective of adventure is perceived as reaching the summit; But, success is also attained when the mind aligns with a new culture and environment, and no matter what the objective, and regardless of the outcome, it is inspiring and humbling.
Our expedition was truly an adventure. Travel was hindered and delayed by landslides, our cook disappeared inexplicably for five days, and one team member got brutally sick due to a blood clot that resulted in pneumonia, among other complications. The weather was difficult; we had strong winds and avalanches. All other expeditions left the mountain, and by the time our summit window arrived, we were alone on an 8,000-meter peak, climbing and skiing self-supported and without oxygen, in an attempt for a first descent.