A Yearning to Return
Peter Hillary guided a small group of clients up Mera Peak
(6500 meters) in the Everest Himalaya and then on over two 6000 meter passes
to the foot of Mt Makalu, the world’s fifth highest mountain. It’s a tough
journey, painful even, and expensive too. Why then do they do it?
“The charm of
mountain climbing lies not in the climbing, in success, nor in failure, but in
the great range of emotions provoked through these physical experiences.”
Top, Frank Smythe.
laboured across the upper nevé of the Lower Barun Glacier at 6100 meters. Up
here beyond the West Col the altitude knocks the stuffing out of you, and when
the sun sits high in the sky, the reflected heat saps what little energy that
remains. Many of my aspiring climber-cum-high-altitude trekkers were visibly
wilting. In fact they were moving so slowly that even our heavily laden
porters - (with their bamboo baskets slung on head bands and woollen socks
pulled over their shoes for purchase on the frozen snow) - were overtaking
them as if they were studies in timeless motion.
go on,” some groaned, leaning on their iceaxes with a force that sent the
shaft violently and suddenly into the snow, rendering more than one of them
prostrate upon the glacier.
looked up at the impressive form of Makalu’s 8,462 meter western wall, with
the striking line of its west pillar plummeting from the summit into a valley
we couldn’t see.
“I think I
have bitten off more than I can chew,” said one. This wasn’t the place for
such revelations. It would be dark in three more hours and we had another pass
is part of the challenge. Pushing through that invisible barrier and later,
much later, the retrospective pleasure of having gone the distance. Nearly
all of my group, including one with disabilities, made it to the top of Mera
Peak and they all crossed the two tall passes from the valleys of Mt Everest
to Mt Makalu. Already they’re talking about their next adventure.
“ … and he will have within him the yearning to return,
weak or insistent, according to his nature. For this cruel land can cast a
spell which no temperate clime can match.”
Arabian Sands, Wilfred Thesiger
So what is
it about, these journeys and the restless souls who choose to weather the
fatigue and the discomfort?
challenge yourself and you uplift the spirit in the process. The mountains are
just the dramatic stage where we, the punters, go to experience the
wide-ranging emotions and travails of the mission. And it is that sense of
mission that draws these people. They want to go somewhere that extends their
experience and their vision and to gain insight into their own multilayered
“I contain multitudes.”
Interestingly, I think most have a ‘big picture’ vision of life. Despite
immediate discomforts, or even exhaustion and fear, they know that this is not
forever. Eventually, they will go home to other lives. It is up to each of us
to encourage our sense of wonder and to assuage the desire to look across the
next ridgeline; to see what you have not seen before.
journey goes beyond self and the environment you find yourself in. It is the
galaxy of relationships among the group – good, bad and mediocre – that is the
frontier. A group of people is a conglomeration of personalities with infinite
permutations. So the mission contrasts our other lives and breathes fresh air
on to stale emotions.
these journeys open your eyes to what you have at home and often take for
granted - the luxury of a hot shower, the pleasure of clean sheets, the taste
of fresh vegetables and the company of family and friends.
The expeditioner is an ‘inverted sensualist.’ “He denies
pleasure, not to negate it, but to increase its power when he finally gives in
to it.” Roger Clarke
fear and I confess to carrying it around in saddlebags. (In fact, I don’t
leave home without it.) It is perhaps my greatest asset; for acknowledging
your own fear, your own frailty, prevents delusion. Gravity doesn’t care for
But I am
not a pessimist. I love to dream and when I do I always see a way through. A
way to yearn to return.
Digital Altimeter, Barometer, Compass and Thermometer. Time/Date/Alarms.
Chronograph with 24 hour working range. Timer with stop, repeat and up
function. Rotating Bezel. Leveling bubble. Carabiner latch. E.L. 3 second
backlight. Water resistant. 4" x 2-1/4" x 3/4" 2 oz. Requires 1 CR2032
See more here.