It has been a rather unsettling week. All my climbing plans were turned 180 in a day, when China decided to close the border with Nepal, preventing any foreigner to access Tibet. After 7 months of training and preparation for Cho Oyu (8210m), all my planning has been wiped out by a political decision which I cannot oppose. It was hard to swallow and for few days I have been living in a state of shock. After a first moment of despair, a plan B was quickly drafted, keeping the dates of the expedition unchanged and tackling a beautiful giant, known as “Mountain of the Spirit” or Manaslu (8156m).
There is a darker side to the beauty of Manaslu: it is one of the more risky 8000ers to climb. As of May 2008, there have been 297 ascents and 53 deaths on the mountain, making it the 4th most dangerous 8000m peak, behind Annapurna, Nanga Parbat, and K2.
Do I worry? Of course I do, but I must be strong and remind myself that in most cases winners and losers go through the same challenges, and what makes the difference between them is the way in which they react what doesn’t go as planned. Anyone who has summit a peak know how close they have been to quit, to turn around, sometime even close to die. But rather than dwelling on it, spiralling downward into negativity and losing energy, dissipating strength and faith, they have kept calm and raised to the challenge, progressing one step at the time, one meter at the time, until finally they have moved to a safer, more comfortable position.
For the first time since I have commenced my gruelling training routine 7 months ago, I have had good vibes about my mental fitness. For the first time, I managed to keep training even when my body was shutting down, even if my body was screaming to stop. I have not interrupted my session tricking my mind by removing any thought from the task I was performing and visualising Manaslu. And as I was training, I was thinking that no matter how hard it will be out there, I will not give up. When my legs couldn’t take it anymore, I thought about the months of hard training I have endured, I thought to the late nights training and to the early mornings, in the freezing cold of a long and dark Melbourne’s winter. I don’t know exactly how this thing work, but I lost myself in my thoughts and kept pushing. And when the session was finally over, I was almost surprised at the ability to take so much pain for such a long time, struggling to believe I managed such a big session. The feeling was the same on my summit day on Mustagata, when I lost myself in this strange state of mind, blocking out the pain of the climb and getting to the summit without oxygen.
Looking at some pictures of Manaslu in the comfort of my room, you ask me, my friend, if I am scared. Yes I am, very much. But fear will keep me alert, will keep me alive, I will get used to live with her, I will embrace her and turn that energy into something that will propel me on top of Manaslu.
Stay close to me, my friend, because I need to know that I won’t be alone up there, when it will get cold and scary. I need to know you understand that I am chasing a dream and while it may sounds a bit crazy, it give me so much joy to touch the roof of the world, to be where few have been before.
Keep following me and I will bring the thought of you at 8156m