Here we go. For those of you who follow my progress, y'all knew that I was climbing Everest again via the same route I did back in 2011. And also, that I was planning to do a two-fer: Everest + Lhotse (the neighboring 8000m peak), back to back.
Well, scratch that. I'm going North Side.
It sounds like a small, quick switcheroo, but honestly it was a long and hard decision to make. Just a few months ago, as my climb started to rear its head around the corner, I started to feel a sense of dread, rather than excitement. It was a weird feeling to have because I've always had butterflies in my stomach before a climb, especially before Everest. The feeling wasn't 100% dread though really - I mean, I have such amazing memories of my climb of '11. I love the Khumbu Valley, Everest Base Camp, and most of all Peak Freaks and their Sherpas. But I also realized that knowing exactly what I was going to have to do to summit (having come within 280 ft of the summit last time) was mentally messing with me. The Khumbu Ice Fall always scared the shit out of me - it was my favorite part of the climb by far, but I had serious nightmares about that thing - just because of the uncertainty of it. And then there's the way I felt up to Camp 4 and then my summit push. I was strong, but it was painful - mentally and physically. I think knowing that I was going to have to go through that pain again was just mentally draining me and making me not want to fully climb it again.
With those thoughts in mind I said to myself that I would only climb Everest if I was excited and motivated to do it. I thought of pushing it back a year, or abandoning it entirely, just because I didn't know if I'd ever get that gusto back for climbing it. After mulling about on it for a few weeks I suddenly thought, well what about climbing it from the other side?
The northern side (in Tibet rather than Nepal) has always been the side I first fell in love with when I first set my sights on Everest. All the books I had read (aside from Into Thin Air) and all the Discovery Channel episodes I saw back in '06 and '07 were all North Side. That was actually the side I had originally intended to climb on, but after doing all the research, I soon found out how tricky and unreliable it was to climb over there ever since the 2008 Olympics in China. Not only that, but the North Side had a reputation of being very "wild, wild, west" (quoteth Alan Arnette). So I did my research again, and found a company called Altitude Junkies that runs a pretty reliable operation over there. I had briefly met their leader Phil Crampton while descending through the Ice Fall back in '11 and he seemed like a good fellow. The more and more I got into the research, the more I felt that excitement come back. Once I noticed that, I knew exactly what I had to do.
There's nothing better than climbing with a huge excitement before a climb. On top of that, add the fact that it's always been a dream of mine to travel through Tibet ever since the early 2000's and that I perform physically better when I don't know 100% what to expect. Altogether it made sense. So it's official. I'll be climbing the North East Ridge Route from the northern, Tibetan side with Altitude Junkies.
Nothing has changed other than the route. The climb is still for the same cause and I'm still as motivated as ever. What's even better about going on this new adventure is that it will create a completely isolated memory in my mind. I love that! Plus, I'll have this incredible view from my tent at Base Camp: