Sauraj Jhingan tackles the “training mountain” of Lebouche East in preparation for his planned Everest climb. It turns out to be a living metaphor for personal change.
On the morning May 22, 2014, I stood on the summit of Lebouche East at 6,135 meters above sea level, looking out over the Everest Glacier. We had started at 1:45 a.m. that morning and, by 8:40 a.m., gained an altitude of 1,100 meters. After slogging through below-zero degrees and hard snow conditions, my team and I stood overlooking this fantastic view above the world.
Though tired, I was not exhausted, for ahead of me the huge mass of Everest stood with commanding presence. It was not just an obscure name in a book, but an awesome sight, beckoning me on. At this point, my Everest Expedition of 2015 could not be more real. The sight forced me to focus on my objective, compelled me to train for it, demanded me to rise to this challenge.
My decision to climb Lebouche East was quite easy. Located strategically close to Everest, it is considered best for simulating the very climbing conditions for which I need to prepare, in terms of geography, atmosphere, and terrain. Lebouche is often used as a training peak for Everest expedition climbers, so I figured it would make an ideal short-term goal to prepare for my much larger objective.
I momentarily blink and instantly find myself in a memory of sitting in a classroom. It’s a PTA meeting, and my parents are walking in to speak to my teacher. To say that I’m nervous and afraid really would be an understatement. My lack of clarity in life is about to be summed up by that bold red comment in my school report card, a constant companion of every academic year: Has potential.
I blink again: I am now sitting at a desk, a Human Resource Manager. I am young, dynamic, aspiring to grow in the organization, but not sure whether I should make my way up the corporate ladder. Am I truly passionate about this? Or am I going to receive the same bold red comment on my performance review: Has potential – a familiar symbol of my indecisiveness.
My decision to take a break to climb mountains changed that self-perception. Most people who have specific objectives in life have a proverbial mountain to confront. For me, it is actually a mountain. I have come to realize that Everest has become not just a physical target, but an aspiration, consisting of a level of drive and intensity required to attain successes of incredible magnitude. The preparation, the forethought, and finally the focus must be at par with men and women who, in various walks of life, strived to achieve not just greatness, but to accomplish their life’s ambition.
My feet are firmly set on the path I must take. The time spent in confusion and indecisiveness is behind me. Although the world views my life and actions with shock and bewilderment, I smile and move forward. Often, I am asked: Why? Why would I subject myself to this cold, this physical exhaustion and strain, time spent away from friends and family, in a remote valley or glacier? How do I explain to them that I am following my heart and doing what I want to do; that I climb because it is a natural extension of who I am; that, I have truly “Realized my potential.”
Mountains are not Stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the cathedrals where I practice my religion…I go to them as humans go to worship. From their lofty summits I view my past, dream of the future and, with an unusual acuity, am allowed to experience the present moment…my vision cleared, my strength renewed. In the mountains I celebrate creation. On each journey I am reborn.
— mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev