It's that time of year again when uncertainty takes precedence over all that is routine, familiar and predictable. No matter how many times one embarks on a high altitude Himalayan expedition, the feeling of excitement and uneasiness never ceases to be anything less than overwhelming.
Am I strong enough? Will my body endure the harsh low oxygen environment? Am I mentally tough enough? Am I emotionally stable? Have I trained hard enough? Have I forgotten anything? Will the weather hold up? Will my camera gear survive the sub-zero temperatures? How worried should I be about the 600-plus other climbers, some which have very little experience, for one false move on their part could mean the end of our expedition... or worse. These are some of the questions you must ask yourself while undertaking such a challenge.
Today marks the beginning of the Fall 2011 FindingLife Expedition -- Our Cho Oyu Challenge -- What's Yours? Together, with my climbing partner Kheiry Sammakieh, our basecamp manager Jeremie Stall Paquette and our team of experienced Sherpa's, we will attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Cho Oyu in Tibet -- The sixth highest mountain on planet Earth.
We've come up with a unique initiative through my non-profit organization Findinglife.ca where we are challenging young Canadian students to set a goal in their own lives and achieve it as we achieve ours. The idea is that our six-week climb serves as inspiration for their 'climb'. As a class, as a team or as individuals, students are encouraged to set their own goal, define the reasons why it's important to them, then strategize and take the necessary course of action to achieve that goal. They are able to watch us online day to day through our interactive website which utilizes HD video, blogs, GPS mapping systems, Q & A sections and more. All updated day to day from the Himalayas.
Check out the Cho Oyu Challenge video here.
Some facts about our expedition:
-We're self-guided, which means no commercial outfitting company is guiding us.
-We've hired three climbing Sherpas, all of which summited Mt. Everest numerous times. They'll be supporting our filmmaking and climbing efforts.
-We're acclimatizing in Nepal before climbing in Tibet, which includes the ascent of a 6000 metre peak and a visit to some very special Sherpa communities.
-We're climbing on supplementary oxygen to 8201 metres above sea level.
-We've got three laptops and 100-plus pounds of filming equipment, all of which will be used to capture this entire process daily. (Lucky me!)
What personally fuels my determination is the impact that these expeditions have on young people. We've seen students raise money to build wells, schools and classrooms in the past though our expeditions. We've also seen youth step up in their local communities, schools and households while making a difference in the lives of others. This time, we want to see students achieving goals that perhaps they never deemed possible. Whether big or small, the idea is to grow, experience and to discover their untapped potential in life throughout the expedition.
For those that do not understand our challenge, the reality of climbing an 8000 metre mountain, allow me paint a portrait for you.
Temperatures can plummet to -40 degrees Celsius. Due to the low oxygen levels in the atmosphere, simple tasks become monumental chores. Tying your boots, packing your sleeping bag, zipping up your jacket leaves you breathless and winded. It becomes difficult to think, eat and drink, let alone climb! On a brighter note, you're blessed with some of the most majestic views on the planet. The sunsets are glorious, the stars at night and the Himalayan vistas that are lit up by the moon are considered by some to be heaven on Earth. However, the catch is that often when you are experiencing these moments of euphoria you are tired, dehydrated and hypoxic. So why?
Everyone has a different reason for climbing mountains and achieving these kinds of goals. Some set their sights high for the glory, others for more altruistic reasons, some for the pure athletic challenge and others with the simple intent to experiencing life fully. In my case, this platform of adventure combined with education and technology creates a language that youth resonate with. Hearing the stories of youth succeeding and reaching new heights in their own lives will become the inspiration I need to carry on.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all faced with challenges in our own lives every single day. We also frequently overcome these challenges. As adults, we long for stability and certainty, yet unintentionally fail to live out the incredible possibilities that come with uncertainty. Which is usually beyond our comfort zone. What we don't realize is that by putting ourselves into a position where we are forced to take action in order to succeed, that the results can be monumentally rewarding, each in our own unique way.
So why not take on a new challenge? We encourage you to follow us as we embark on this new adventure.
If you're an educator we encourage you to take part and sign on for free with your students.
Let's live the journey together.
Ad Astra! Always Aim High.
Follow Elia Saikaly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/eliasaikaly