It finally came time to summit. I was lucky and got the typical altitude-related health problems out of the way early—others on my team weren’t so lucky. With 4 of the 5 of us suffering a nasty respiratory infection, we woke up at 2:00 a.m. on summit day, coughing and hacking be damned. I was giddy and glad to hike in the darkness. One hour into the hike, one team member had to turn around. We pressed on and were treated to a sunrise I’ll never forget. Before I knew it, I was roped up and on the headwall approach to the summit ridge. This is what I’ve been focusing on for months. I have to say it felt good to stand at 19,000 ft. and look up a 45 degree pitch and say “I can do that. Just a 100 ft. from the top, my climbing partner, John was pulling on my rope and was flying up the last pitch. I had to overextend myself and take huge steps to keep up. I was toast. What’s it feel like at 20,000 ft.? Try 30 minutes on a Stairmaster with your mouth and half your nose taped shut.
After a short rest on the summit ridge, we had one more hill to climb and we’d have the summit all to ourselves. Island Peak sees about 1,200 summits a year, so during October it can be busy. Fifteen minutes later, I looked up at John and he was snapping photos of Ang Nuru, our climbing Sherpa, and just like that, I was on the summit!!! I MADE IT! 20,305 ft…CHECK!
The weather was clear and windy. I was finally there. I hooted, hollered and hugged my teammates. I took some snaps of the traveling ReadyTalk water bottle, made a few movie clips and hollered some more. I also spent a few moments to honor the memory of my sister who passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. It was 2 days past the 4th anniversary of her death. I carried some of her items with me and knew that her spirit was with me high in the Himalayas.
It was time to get off the mountain—we were only half way there. Luckily, we had an uneventful decent to base camp–a 15 hour day in total. I fell to the ground outside my tent exhausted but totally fulfilled. I did it. The first thing that popped into my mind was “What’s next? What did I discover on the summit? I want to go higher!”