It's 9 p.m. on May 20 and we've been in the death zone on Mt. Everest, the world above 8,000m for just over five hours. For the first time in my life, I am terrified to fall asleep. Why? Because I'm afraid I'm not going to wake up. This is the most terrifying moment of my life. With the sound of oxygen flowing through an artificial mask, I surrender and drift away wondering whether or not I will ever wake up.
I'll never forget the day I was sitting in the airport lounge in Atlanta in 2008, on my way to Russia to climb the highest mountain in Europe, when I looked up at the monitor and read the headline "War erupts between Russia and Georgia". My flight was set to depart to Russia in less than 45 minutes.
Imagine being in total darkness, knowing if you fall you die, and being so completely out of breath and energy that you can only move forward an inch at a time. I'm wasted. Finished. Out of energy. My only savior at this point is the sun.
The reality here is this: People die on 8,000-meter mountains and it is irresponsible not to have a plan in place in the event that something goes wrong. I found myself packing all of my gear as though I was never going to return.
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 fee...