The New York Times Book Review \ \ \ \ \
Climbing High: A Woman's Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedyby Lene Gammelgaard, Seal Staff
On May 10, 1996, Lene Gammelgaard became the first Scandinavian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. But a raging storm and human error conspired to turn triumph into catastrophe. Eight of her team's climbers, including its renowned leader Scott Fischer, perished in a tragedy that would make headlines around the world. In her riveting account, Gammelgaard
On May 10, 1996, Lene Gammelgaard became the first Scandinavian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. But a raging storm and human error conspired to turn triumph into catastrophe. Eight of her team's climbers, including its renowned leader Scott Fischer, perished in a tragedy that would make headlines around the world. In her riveting account, Gammelgaard takes us from her weeks of determined training to the exhilaration of arriving in Nepal to the arduous climb and deadly storm that forced her and her fellow climbers to huddle throughout the night, hoping to stay alive. Gammelgaard also writes movingly of Everest's awesome beauty; of the passion and commitment required to face the daunting challenge of climbing to high altitudes; and of the complex personal relationships forged in the pursuit of such dangerous ventures. Arlene Blum, author of the classic account of women and mountaineering, Annapurna: A Woman's Place, calls Climbing High "an honest and deeply personal account."
The New York Times Book Review \ \ \ \ \
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It's early morning on the Baltoro Glacier in Pakistan. Scott and I are headed for Concordia, a giant crossroads created by some of the largest glaciers in the Himalayan mountains. I have just spent a month in Pakistan, trekking in to Broad Peak Base Camp in the Karakoram Range. Broad Peak (26,402 feet/8,047 meters), neighbor to the notorious mountain K2, is Scott's next expedition. I'm on my way out of Base Camp to meet up with my team to climb the steep Gondogoro La Pass. Scott insists on joining me on the two-hour hike.
Enormous massifs surround us: Gasherbrum II, III and IV, Mitre Peak, Chogolisa, Broad Peak and, behind us, the characteristic pyramid shape of K2. Here on the glacier, just before our roads part, Scott asks the question that will change my life.
"Do you want to climb Everest with me in spring 1996?"
It takes only a second from the moment the message hits the receptors of my brain to formulate my answer.
No spontaneous doubt. Nothing. Just inner certainty. I know Scott is serious about his invitation. And he knows I am serious in my commitment. My words and actions correspond.
Now he just has to survive his Broad Peak expedition.
What just happenedhis question, my responsemakes me think of something I wrote in my journal ...
It is possible for us to celebrate life and transform the invisible into the visible. To experience that our existence is a whole. This is how life can be perceived by the creative humanbeing. Because when we reach the point where we stop trying to control reality, we become capable of accepting, welcoming, what is offered us.
Freedom for me is learning to accept realitywith all its contradictions and paradoxes, the formidable and discouraging aspects as well as the pure and inspiring. The freedom of limitation.
Therefore, it is possible for mewith no doubt whatsoeverto want Everest 100 percent. My yes is a tribute to the subtlety of life. A return to innocence, leaving the defeats and sorrow of the past behind. It is a yes to trusting my own strength to carry this project through successfully. It is a yes to life's grandeur. It is a yes to trusting that there might be a meaning to my life. A yes to a naiveté that does not correspond with my life experiences and cynicism, but is rather the pureness that might follow the total resignation of a human being.
For several years I've been working with drug addicts, spending my life's energy on the dark side of existence, and now I'm in need of input from people who have succeeded in life. People who set fun goals and achieve them. People who don't take themselves too seriously because their outlooks are characterized by victories. Climbing the highest mountain in the world with a kindred spirit tempts me to return to the light. It is a yes that opens the floodgates at my core. All blocked energy is now coursing freelywanting Mount Everest!
And why shouldn't I climb the highest mountain in the world?
I know that this drive is more than the desire to summit Everest, much more than the rather superficial act of climbing to the top of that mountain. For periods of my life I have hidden from the world because that was what I needed to do. But it's obvious that now I must grow, I must strive to reach my full potentialin spite of my desire to escape the responsibility that follows. Maybe now I am ready to bear the responsibility of living a significant life with a wider horizon.
* * *
August 13, 1995
Greetings from Islamabad.
I am grateful to inform you that Scott Fischer and two clients summited Broad Peak this morning at 9:05. More are headed for the summit. We wish them all good luck and a safe trip down and send our best regards to you.
I regret that we were not able to meet when you returned from Chitral, but some urgent business came up. Hope everything is welltalk to you later. Hope to meet up with you next time you are in Pakistan.
All the best,
Nazir Sabir Expeditions
Later that day I received an update from Scott himself on my answering machine: "I reached the summit and am safe down in Base Camp. Do you still want to climb that big thing with me?"
Finally it is time to work toward Everest: to intensify my climbing training and get sponsors to cover my share of the expenses.
Not long after Scott's telephone message, a letter arrives:
Broad Peak Base Camp August 16, 1995
Thanks so much for your letters. The crisis right now is seven dead on K2. On the 13th we all summited Broad Peak, and Mountain Madness did good. Late afternoon a hellacious wind came up (we were already down to Camp III). It killed those still on K2. They called from the summit at 6:00 P.M.that's the last we ever heard from them ...
My friends Rob Slater, Geoff Lakes and Alison Hargreaves all died. Plus three Spaniards and a guy from New Zealand. The only contact to the world outside is our illegal satellite phone ... It makes me realize how frail we actually are. That we are playing a deadly game. I don't want to be deadI want to be alive ...
Did you get my message on your machine? I do hope so.
This is all pretty painful. Alison leaves two kids. Same ages as mine. (A lot of tears.) Major bummer. Don't let me die, Lene. Keep me humble. (I am probably not humble, but I need to be.) The mountains are supreme. Most powerful. You should have seen it, Lene, the wind came up and just killed them. Geoff Lakes turned around and found his way back down to Camp IV, but he got killed by an avalanche that hit the tent during the night. Bivvier came as far down as Camp III, just to find it destroyed. He forced himself to crawl down to Camp II, where his friends were, but died during the night. None of the remaining managed to climb down. We can see a corpse on the slopes. It's a major tragedy.
Alison was the driving force toward the summit, with little respect for the power of K2. K2 won. What strikes me just now is that I trust my survival skills totally. But I had the same trust in their ability to survivethose who are now deadand they had similar confidence in themselves. And they died. I must be careful ...
The expedition blues are here. I'll start hiking ...
* * *
To grow up is to learn that one's mature life consists of a sum of personal choices and decisions, and to realize that options give freedom. To dare to take upon oneself the responsibility and the pain in this kind of freedom is the condition of living.
My life and the time span that makes up my life are my concern. It is up to me and me alone to decide how I will spend my lifeand the consequences of each choice are my responsibility.
One day I receive a letter from Scott with a short plan for the trek and the climbing schedule for Mount Everest:
Our goal is to get as many climbers as we can as safely as possible to the summit. To summit the highest mountain in the world will stretch the limits of our physiques and psyches to the utmost. To reach the top of Mount Everest is one of the greatest athletic challenges in the world. Correct training will be crucial so that we arrive well prepared for this extreme challenge.
On Everest, attitude and mental toughness will determine who reaches the summit.
|March 23, 1996|| Departure on Thai Air for Kathmandu, Nepal. |
|March 24-27|| Climbing team arrives. We will meet at Hotel Manang in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. Our local agent, P.B. Thapa, will take care of the last details. The expedition members meet our high-altitude Sherpas. Lopsang Jangbu Sherpa is the sirdar, leader of the climbing Sherpas. |
|March 28-30|| Helicopter to Lukla (9,200 ft/2,800 m). We rest three days in Namche to acclimatize. Team up with our Base Camp crew and porters. Control luggage and gear. |
|March 31|| To arrive on foot to the home of the Sherpas is like gaining insight into how it must have been for the Jews to arrive in the Holy Land. |
Mike Thompson, anthropologist and
We start trekking toward Everest Base Camp. In about a week's time we'll have to gain 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) of altitude from Namche. First day, we'll traverse the mountainside along the Dudh Kosi valley, cross the river and ascend through pine, fir and rhododendron forest, to Tengboche (12,700 ft/3,870 m), where we'll camp next to Tengboche Monastery.
|April 1|| From Tengboche we cross the river Imja Khola, trekking up to Pheriche (14,000 ft/4,270 m) and the Himalayan Rescue Association's Trekkers Aid Post. |
|April 2|| Resting day in Pheriche. An easy trip to Dingboche to improve acclimatization. Great views of Ama Dablam and the Nuptse-Lhotse Face. |
|April 3|| From Pheriche the trail climbs steeply to the end moraine of the Khumbu Glacier and follows it to Lobuche (16,170 ft/4,930 m). From Lobuche we see Everest's South Wall and most of the West Ridge route. |
|April 4|| We proceed to the two shepherds' shelters in Gorak Shep (16,958 ft/5,170 m) and establish camp at the base of Kala Pattar. Views of Pumori, Nuptse and Everest. Our route follows the Khumbu Glacier, on the moraine as on the glacier itself. |
|April 5|| Early rise to scramble up Kala Pattar (18,443 ft/5,554 m). From the top are the best photo options of Mount Everest. We descend this famous outlook and make our way to Everest Base Camp, following yak trails through the labyrinth of the Khumbu Glacier. |
|April 6-26|| We arrive at Everest Base Camp (17,600 ft/ 5,364 m) and make ourselves at home on the glacier under the notorious Khumbu Icefall, taking sufficient time to acclimatize. We climb the Icefall, establish Camps I and II in the Western Cwm, climb the Lhotse Face and establish camp at the exposed Camp III. Sleep a couple of nights in Camp III (24,000 ft/ 7,315 m) to maximize acclimatization. |
|April 27-30|| With the entire team in super condition, we return to Base Camp. Rest will be our main priority. Trekkers support team visits. We eat, rest and make final preparations for the summit bid. |
|May 1-4|| Ready for the summit bid, we climb directly to Camp II. Rest day. Camps III and IV. Those who are fit climb to Camp IV in South Col (26,000 ft/7,925 m). Going for the summit. |
|May 5-7|| We climb in the footsteps of the legends of climbing history. The ultimate goal of mountaineering transforms into reality. We summit Mount Everest (29,028 ft/8,848 m)! |
|May 8|| After descending from the summit, we return to Base Camp and prepare for the trek out. |
|May 15-20|| We fly out of Syangboche by helicopter when our yaks arrive with the expedition gear. |
|May 17-20||Stay at high-class Hotel Yak & Yeti. Party! And good-bye.|
At first I feel elated reading through the expedition plan because it makes reaching the top of the world sound so easy, as if anybody can achieve it. Just follow the schedule, step by step, and you reach the goal. No problem.
Our itinerary makes me forget realityfor a little while. Maybe it is that easy. Maybe they are right, the people who claim that anybody can climb Everest. But most of those people haven't even set foot in the Himalaya! And if it is that easy, where's the ultimate challenge? Then again, my chances for success are bigger, and that prospect appeals to my laziness.
"If climbing Everest is as easy as you make it sound in this plan, I'm not even sure I want to climb that mountain," I tell Scott on the phone. We have a tacit agreement that he calls once a weekthat is, if he is not traveling, on an expedition or slide show tour, or doing a photo session, commercial or the like. We are trying to coordinate "the business Lene Gammelgaard" with the introduction of his company, Mountain Madness, to the European market. Simultaneously we do the best we can to make Everest happen.
I draw on Scott's experience with high-altitude climbing: What equipment shall I use? Which ice axes do you take? How do I prepare myself to climb the highest mountain on this planet without supplemental oxygen? Scott has been there, has done it, so I take his recommendations seriously.
Scott is a man of vision and has proven, by the way he lives his life, that he makes dreams become real. But sometimes his wishful thinking stretches the bounds of reality. Or I guess it's more correct to say that what he plans is possible, but typically requires more time than he prophesies. That's where I play my role, patience learned through disappointments. If you have patience and endurance, almost anything is possible.
Scott and I met in Nepal in 1991. We have corresponded over the years and, through writing, have gotten to know each other. I see Scott the human being more than I see Scott the "American heroone of the world's strongest climbers." He comes from another culture, is used to strong, competent women in the high mountains, and thinks it's natural that I can "climb that big thing."
I realize that I actually thrive on being believed in, being backed upsomething Americans are good at, and something that I, being Danish, had looked down on as a superficial and pathetic phenomenon. But it does help me!
Actually, it ought to be methe less experienced climberwho believes it's easy and Scott who punctures my illusions, but it is the other way around. My experience in the mountains can't convince me that it's simpleon the contrary. My experience is that nature determines.
After all, how many winter seasons have I spent in the Chamonix Aiguilles, with great plans and aspirations to climb this and that route, and, winter after winter, been rejected by the weather? Gale, snow, whiteout and various cocktails of weather have left many an ambition unfulfilled.
To me it's the most natural fact in the world: Nature determines!
If you come from a small country like Denmark and therefore don't live with the breadth of nature's catastrophesother than as thrilling entertainment on TVit can be a shock to learn that, in other parts of the world, nature is the master of what you can and cannot do, that nature can be deadly in all its greatness.
I do not believe I can conquer Mount Everest, but I do hope I will be capable of estimating the conditions and be allowed to ascend Chomolungma, "Mother Goddess of the Earth," with due respect and humility in the face of her powers.
I am frightfully aware that if nature rises in all its might, I stand no chance. And no fine plan will make any difference then. That is what I discuss with Scott this morning.
"What about the weather, Scott? What if it doesn't adapt to your schedule? I also find it hard to see that the itinerary gives me sufficient time for acclimatizing properly to climb without oxygen. Your plan is made for the bulk of the expedition, who are climbing with oxygen."
"If you really want to climb without oxygen, I will back you," Scott answers.
The Everest trip is actually a double expedition: Everest as first priority and then Lhotse, the neighboring mountain and the fourth highest in the world. Moreover, Scott has his own ambitions and will, if time allows, make a summit attempt on Manaslu (26,781 ft) with other world-class climbers attempting Everest this season.
My ego wants to bag Lhotse as well as Everest in my first 8,000-meter season, but common sense says otherwise, and my name is not on the climbing permit for Lhotse. I stick to one goal at a time; otherwise I would unconsciously begin dividing my mental energy between the two mountains and risk not gaining the summit of either.
I believe we see the world differently, Scott and I. I have had numerous setbacks in the mountains; Scott has had, for a period of five years, nothing but success on his expeditions. Except, that is, for Mount McKinley in 1995 when, profoundly astonished, he wrote to me, "I am back from Alaska. Guess what? Mount McKinley beat me this time. It was the worst weather I have ever seen, anywhere."
His defeat by the weather made me smile and think, "So much the better if nature teaches you a bit of humbleness." I didn't think this out of malice, but because I care about Scott and wish him a long life. He has already survived longer than I dared believe when we first met in 1991.
Back then, I kept my distance from this big, boyish guy who climbed high mountains for the fun of it and partied like a madman. I had a feeling that one day I would receive the news that Scott Fischer had perished in the mountains. But it didn't happen. Instead, one letter followed another, recounting his climbs of peaks around the globe.
Maybe it's just me who's paranoid. Maybe it is possible to indulge in mountaineering and expeditions without getting killed. Maybejust perhapsyou can't equate climbing with death. A few manage to pull through and create the grandest adventures as well as living a long life, including marriage, children and grandchildren. Maybe it is possible?
Our climbing itinerary fulfills my desire to make the chaos of life manageable. Scott makes the intangible secure by writing up a planblack print on white paperand thereby convinces others, as well as himself, that this is how reality has to be. We are in control.
But I know that some choose to trust our climbing itinerary to avoid taking complete responsibility for themselves. I want to trust that all is going to run smoothlyand why shouldn't it?
The phone's ringing jolts me from the realms of dreaming. I enjoy sleeping and dreaming and have experienced how dreams can be a guide to finding my way in the infinity of being awake. I've learned to respect the potential information I can receive from more spiritual tribes than ours. And I detest being roused by something ringing. Alarms clocks are the worst. The fine balance of mind and matter gets disturbed. But this rousting at four on a November morning is less horrible than most because, before I grasp the receiver, I know it's Scott phoning from Kathmandu.
"I came across a good friend out here and invited him to climb Everest with us in the spring. It's Anatoli Boukreev, Russian superclimber. Have you seen the James Bond movie Moonraker? Anatoli is a lot like the guy with the metal jaws."
I interrupt: "Do you have it?"
Scott is in Kathmandu for a weekin his role as businessman and expedition leadermeeting with his dear friend and Nepali working partner, P.B. Thapa, and diverse "officials"meetings at the Ministry of Tourism, meetings with the right people in the right ministries, all in the battle and race for a climbing permit for Everest via the South Col route during the spring 1996 climbing season.
"Do you have itthe permit for Everest?"
"Nah, not yet. But we'll get it!"
I know that Scott needs that certainty as much as I doif not more. For years he's worked systematically toward making the Everest expedition the culmination of his business as a professional mountain guide. The success of his company depends on having that permit. Mountain Madness has arranged almost the entire expedition without knowing whether the promised permit will be issued.
I know Scott well enough to realize that his "But we'll get it!" expresses the belief he needs to have to make things happenthe same kind of belief I have to have to make summiting the highest mountain in the world a reality for me.
In each other's company, Scott and I achieve a knife-edge balance of enthusiasm, realism, criticism and mutual encouragement. We know that each of us has more than a full load to attend to, and we see each other through the momentary depressions which, for my part, stem from the hard work of fundraising.
We find a balance amid the psychic strain of knowing that what we are planning is a dangerous game. When stressed and excited it's tempting to complain and moan, but such behavior is useful only if somebody exists who can fix the world for you. We both recognize that those negative exclamations are sure death for the initiative that's necessary to overcome allallhindrances on the path toward the goal. We remind each other: I am responsible for myself in this.
The climbing permit is the all-important key to transforming the media show that I have sparked here in Denmark into reality on the mountain. Lene Gammelgaard written on that piece of paper will be permission to set my feet on the Khumbu Icefall in four months. A few letters worth $10,000. Oh! I so intensely hope that everything is fine, so that I won't make a public fool of myself and the sponsors that have committed themselves so far. I want to get to the top of Everestand safely return!
I never talk or think about my ambition to summit Everest in terms of getting to the top at any price. Every time I mention it, think about it, train to achieve it, I say out loud or think to myself, "To the summit and safe return."
On the inside of the front door to my colorful little flat, I've pasted two pictures. One is a large photo of Hillary Step, the hardest technical climbing bit on our route up Everestmixed climbing of vertical rock, ice and snow, just a short distance below the summit of the highest mountain in the world. On the photo I've printed in huge letters:
TO THE SUMMIT AND SAFE RETURN
I am a believer in mental training. Years spent absorbed in psychological literature, education as a therapist and practical work with the human psyche have revealed to me that we humans are a bit like computers. Through our upbringing, culture and life experiences, we are programmedand program ourselvesin certain ways. Being aware of this, one can indoctrinate oneself to a certain degree. At least that's the strategy behind my mental preparation for ascending Everest.
So I start the training, the indoctrination, with simply stated imperatives:
>>Train to climb by climbing.
>>Improve my mountaineering skills and knowledge of our route by reading expedition reports.
>>Talk to and learn from those who have been there.
>>Think of Mount Everestto the summit and safe returnwhile climbing, swimming, jogging and practicing Tai Chi.
I prepare myself for each passage up the mountain from the route descriptions I have collected, prepare myself for the climb to the summitprepare myself to win! I shut outconsciouslyall doubts, all thoughts of death, frostbite and turning around because of bad storms. And I make myself alarmingly goal-oriented, narrow-minded.
I consume the necessary literature on the medical hazards of high-altitude climbingacute mountain sickness (AMS), pulmonary edema, cerebral edemawell enough to diagnose the symptoms, to know what to do under the circumstances, but choose not to go deeper. I shut my eyes to the health risks inevitably connected with oxygen deprivation on 8,000-meter peaks. Naturally it's not good for the brain or the body to function on too little oxygen for a sustained period of time, so I just don't think about that.
Selectively, I study the accounts of successful expeditions and communicate with people who have a playful, positive attitude toward mountaineering. My incentive is to code my mind with enough positive input to overrule my own healthy scepticism and to forget the stories I myself have gathered over the years as arguments against climbing mountains. I have made frequent use of themwith others as well as myself.
One story I heard as a young climber had an unforgettable impact on me. In 1985, I first heard rumors about the woman who sits at 27,600 feet on Mount Everest, her long blond hair blowing in the never-ending wind. The Norwegian mountaineer and expedition leader Arne Næss, Jr., describes his encounter with her:
It's not far now. I can't escape the sinister guard. Approximately 100 meters above Camp IV she sits leaning against her pack, as if taking a short break. A woman with her eyes wide open and her hair waving in each gust of wind. It's the corpse of Hannelore Schmatz, the wife of the leader of a 1979 German expedition. She summited, but died descending. Yet it feels as if she follows me with her eyes as I pass by. Her presence reminds me that we are here on the conditions of the mountain.
The body of Hannelore Schmatz has since been removed. For that I am glad. Many mountaineers die on their way down from a successful summiting. And being a woman, I notice the destiny of my female kin. The British climber Julie Tullis died on K2 descending from the summit. She succumbed to exhaustion in her team's highest camp during a storm. And, of course, Scott's friend, Alison Hargreaves, a world-renowned mountaineer, died on K2, also after summiting.
I am planning my fundraising and training with the aim of being on board Thai Air on March 23 bound for Kathmandu. Nepal as intermediate goal is nothing compared with the stamina I will need to reach the actual summit. And the self-reliance necessary during these preparations is nothing compared to that demanded to survive the high mountains when it truly counts.
Best when it counts ...
So, to me, it becomes impossible to complain about anything whatsoever in this everyday living because the vision of what awaits me puts any difficulty into perspective.
The second picture on my door is the painting of a clowna multicolored, happy clown, created by my lovely niece Lise. The clown is there to remind me to have fun. After all, what achievement is worth anything if you are incapable of enjoying life while striving to get there? The process ought to be worth the goal, because even if you get to the summit, you can't remain there. I need the clown to draw my attention to enjoying what I'm arranging and to emphasize that even though climbing Mount Everest is serious business, it's only considered news for a short while. In a hundred years it's all forgotten.
Humans set goals for themselves throughout their lives. They achieve some and set new ones ... so it's all about enjoying the journey of life while it lasts. And what is a goal anyway?
Select only the most sublime; force of habit will take care of the rest.
I have chosen obsession. Or have I? What determines why we act in one way or another in our lives, or abstain from choosing?
I realize that, at any point, I can make a new choice. Any day, any time, I can decide whether I'm still willing to pay the price for the way to the summit. I realize that my choiceseven choosing to bail out at this pointhave consequences.
This time, I train to win, to get to the top of the world. In the past, I didn't think and act as I do now: I was more flexible, more compromising; I wanted to tread on an even path, and I guess I succeeded. What has this challenge sparked in me? Am I a gambler, who ticks only when this much is at stake? Or is it simply the right circumstances coming together at the right time?
Normally I try to find answers to questions like these. Analyze. Perhaps I have finally achieved the state of just livingliving without pondering too much about it.
To the summit and safe return.
This self-programming will fuel my body in the thin air above 23,000 feet. I know that all motivation will disappear as I climb upward. Oxygen deprivation causes nausea and extreme headaches and debilitates the will and the ability to think straight, so every cell in my system must be charged with "To the summit and safe return." That will drive me up and back down, even when my brain tells me I am exhausted and can do no more.
The hazard of my little experiment is that by focusing entirely on the summit, victory becomes all-encompassing and may be so powerful a motive that I will be incapable of turning around before the summit, even at the cost of my health ... or my life. Sometimes the true victory is to let go, to be capable of turning around in due time without suffering defeat. I have practiced this for five years. Have I mastered it?
The well-balanced person strives not only for a goal but lives fully in the flow of life, because every expression in the process is equally important:
What vanity in the art of Zen archery, wanting to hit the target! There will always be one stronger than you. The only importance is the correctness of the movement. Kungfutse
Many people I've talked to about Everest have a certain idea of what an expedition is like, what it must be, to answer their perceptions of reality. Sometimes they even become insulted or offended if the facts I deliver do not correspond with their imaginings. Then I turn inward and become mute, sinking into the stored-up loneliness from other times I have expressed myself earnestly and found no understanding. It makes me insecurefor a little while till I regain the inner strength, the faith, that I have the right to perceive the world and live in it the way I am.
A fax arrives from Mountain Madnessfrom Karen Dickinson, the company business manager. I've told her that I transferred the money to cover my portion of the climbing permit, porters and so on. She claims I haven't and, therefore, can't go with the expedition. "You are off the climbing permit. You cannot climb Mount Everest."
What a shock! Just when I trusted everything was finally falling into place.
Not climb Everest?
Never! No way!
No matter what, I will climb to the top of that mountain. (And safely return.)
Scott is already headed for Kathmandu, so he can't help me. My friends Flemming and Kirsten Marie keep me company in my small flat in the midst of the mess of expedition gear. Flemming believes it's possible to work everything out with Karen, but my patience with her mistrust is wearing thin. Why, I've already delivered two expedition duffel bags to Wilson Air Freight, the firm that has so generously sponsored the weight Thai Air doesn't cover.
Pretty difficult to keep cool just now, I am pissed and act with cold-blooded speed. I grab the phone and call sponsors and others who are part of this web. And the armies turn out. Documentation on long-ago transferred amounts is faxed across the Atlantic. Den Danske Bank traces the check that, according to arrangements, was sent ten days ago. Tears well up in my eyesI'm moved by the support and fighting spirit from strangers who are helping this project become reality. Where have you been all my life? I am grateful for the experience and for the friends who are there, because I need them.
One thing I do know: I will be on board that plane tomorrow. And I will climb that mountain.
Meet the Author
Lene Gammelgaard has climbed some of the world's highest mountains and has been an ocean sailor, lawyer, psychotherapist, and journalist. She cofounded several drug treatment centers and currently works as a writer and motivational speaker, owning her own company, which focuses on the development of human resources using wilderness as the classroom. She lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.
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