2012: A year in review
2012 was a mixture of highs and lows and at times saturated with tribulation.
I was grateful to have been a keynote speaker for 18 speaking engagements. 14 of those were for Syncrude Canada Ltd; last year they had their biggest turnaround in the history of their organization. 3 were for Finning (Canada) and 1 for the Colas group (E Construction). All revolved around Safety, Teamwork Leadership, Balancing risk with caution, Goal-setting, Courage, Accountability Motivation of self and others, Living your potential and facing new challenges.
Once again I had set my sights back to the Himalayas, this time I traveled to Pakistan to attempt to climb Broad Peak the 12th highest mountain in the world and K2 the 2nd highest “nicknamed the Savage Mountain. Last year consisted of two sponsors, Finning (Canada) and Remax from Fort McMurray. Finning (Canada) was the major sponsor. I am so grateful and appreciative for their support. For the past several years the clothing that I have used on all my expeditions has been supplied by Mountain Hardwear. The Broad Peak team consisted of nine international climbers and four high altitude porters from Pakistan.
To participate in such a climb it takes determination and courage. Considering the altitude, harsh conditions and dangers the international team members showed incredible intestinal fortitude. Once the Broad Peak expedition was over myself and one other team mate (Matt) switched peaks and hiked over to K2 with two high altitude porters. There we worked the mountain as a very small independent climbing team. Climbing is a mental game just as much as it is physical. In the end Mother Nature dictates who gets to the top. On both of these mountains we got weathered off. As I was hiking out through the Baltoro glacier in Pakistan I thought about how nice it would be to have another chance at an 8,000 meter peak and if the weather gods were on my side to try and stand on its summit. I knew another climb would be starting in a few weeks on Manaslu the eight highest mountains in the world in Nepal. I contacted Seven Summits Trekking, Sherpa’s that I have met in the past and who own the company (six brothers) leading the expedition. Two of the brothers have high credentials in the climbing world. One has stood on all fourteen of the 8,000 meter peaks, while another has just one to go. We set up a meeting as soon as I arrived back in Kathmandu (Nepal) and they had to scramble fast but managed to get me on a Chinese permit for Manaslu. Seven Summits Trekking are known for putting great international climbers and Sherpa teams together on big mountains. I had to move fast in Kathmandu to purchase food and other supplies that I would need high up on the mountain.
On September 1st a van arrived to pick me up at hotel Tibet in Kathmandu for the long days drive. We traveled all day till the road ended and that’s where the journey began. From there it would take us ten days on foot winding up through the valley until we arrived at Manaslu base camp. For the next several weeks with new team members the process of carrying gear up the mountain and establishing camps started. Soon we would have camp three in place, one more to go. I and others descended the mountain on September 22nd to get some rest and get ready for a summit push. Camp four would be established on our summit push at just over 23,000 ft. In the early morning hours of September 23rd death came for a visit and his instrument of choice was to release a serac (a large mass of ice attached to the side of the mountain) and thus creating a huge avalanche before dawn that swept down the side of the mountain and onto the climbers as they slept in their tents at camp three. Killing eleven and injuring another sixteen.
Through out the day rescue helicopters dominated the sky while smoke could be seen as juniper was being burnt at the Puja Alters (a stone alter erected for a Puja Ceremony) A Puja ceremony is a Sherpa ceremony of offerings to the mountain gods. It takes place before an expedition begins. The tragedy could be seen on faces of those that I came into contact with. Base camp was a river of tears. Many of the teams packed up and headed home after the tragedy .The teams that elected to stay also had members that packed up and headed home. Some felt that the mountain was just too dangerous; others were overwhelmed with the magnitude of the tragedy. Our team had a meeting and felt that the mountain had shaken its shoulders and that the threat of another avalanche was less likely to happen. Conditions were changing, the temperature was dropping, and snow was consolidating. After losing all my high altitude gear in the avalanche, I was told several times by different people that no one ever summits an 8,000 meter peak without a high altitude suit. I had bought big warm mittens from a departing team member and used all the clothes that I had at base camp and layered myself in them. Cold penetrated and coursed through every pore of my body as if I were a junkie and cold the drug of choice.
In the early morning hours of September 26th I decided to carry on in the face of adversity and with the team headed back up the mountain. On September 29th at around 10:30 Nepalese time the team and I stood on the summit of Manaslu the 8th highest in the world.
The drum beat of the Mountains are calling once again and the rhythm is picking up as if it were the sweet sound of thunder.
The foundation for this year’s expedition is set in monition, its going to be exciting……