Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Suzanne's upcoming book, Lead from the Top
As I enjoy the coffee and ready for the day, I reflect on my journey here. I didn’t come to Everest with a death wish, but I did come prepared for the worst-case scenario. I wrote goodbye letters to my family and friends prior to coming to the mountain. I arranged with friends to send on the letters to those who were to receive them, after news of my parting. I poured my feelings into the letters to my family and friends, saying ‘good-bye’, telling them how much I loved them, and sharing intimate, personal mementos of our lives together. Of course, it would be a tragedy if I didn’t return from Everest, but those I left behind would have closure. I am not a fatalist, but a realist. I know the facts. When I came to Everest, one in 6 climbers died. Ironically, more climbers die on the way down the mountain, than on the way up; a hefty toll for making the summit. The average attempts needed to reach the summit of Everest are 2. I can only afford one. There’s altitude sickness, possible high-altitude pulmonary edema, fluid forming in the lungs, and high-altitude cerebral edema, the brain swelling with fluid that not only can affect me, but can kill me. I am at peace for what might lie ahead regarding my own mortality. I am ready for the challenge.
This morning, we are going to start our first leg of Everest. We are planning to climb up through the Khumbu Icefalls and stop for an overnight at Camp One, over 19,600 ft, in the Western Khum. We have divided ourselves up into two groups. Our six-member team is not a huge expedition in comparison to last year’s team. Thus, our team division is merely to accommodate for the strength and speed of the climbers. We can already see a pattern in our climbing abilities. Each of us has different strength and weaknesses.
The Khumbu Icefalls are much like a waterfall, but instead of water tumbling down from a height up above, just as it implies, ice tumbles down. In the Khumbu Icefalls, there is constantly falling ice from the head of the Khumbu glacier at the point where the ice begins to melt. Fissures are created between the blocks of ice, known as crevasses, and as the climbing season extends, so do the fissures. It is a constantly shifting place. It is the area on Everest that has experienced the greatest number of deaths.
I am in the second team. We shall leave a ½ hour after the first group departs. This is good for several reasons. First, I get to sleep in a ½ an hour more than the first group. Second, when we go into the mess tent, food is already available and the air in the tent is warm due to the previous bodies and the fact that the propane heater has had time to kick out some BTUs.
After breakfast, we dutifully march out of the mess tent and follow our camp manager to the Sherpa Shrine the Sherpas have erected outside the mess tent. We use barley for an offering. We do as we are told and circle around the shrine in a clock-wise rotation, saying our prayers and tossing the barley in the direction of the altar. I repeat the same mantra that I have spoken on many a mountain, “Health, Safety, Strength, Wisdom and Love.” Each word of my prayer reminds me of my priorities, keeping a check and balance for my decisions as I climb. No pledge comes before the next; each standing alone in its significance and meaning.
Lead From The Top
How to make your life, your team, and your leadership a grand adventure
Join Suzanne as she recounts her adventures and shares all she's learned about leading from the top of: Mount Everest, her coaching seat, and every facet of her life.