Almost There.

Posted: May 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Almost there.  I stop, hunch over, and breathe deeply.  The dry air agitates the bronchioles and leaves a searing sensation in my lungs.  The coughing starts and slowly builds into a fit.  Soon the spasms trigger my gag reflex and I start dry heaving.  Luckily I haven’t had anything to eat or drink in hours so all I can produce is a bit of spit.  My eyes are blurry and filled with tears from the episode but I can make out Kris with his camera carefully trained on me capturing everything.

“So, how do you feel?”

“I actually feel really good.”

After the recent events most people would consider this a blatant lie, an attempt to maintain my hardened mountain man appearance.  Maybe so, but in all honesty I do feel great.  At 7,400 meters coughing fits and the occasional dry heaving spell are to be expected.  My legs and head, however, feel good.  Progress is slow, but steady.  I look out from the Yellow Band and the entire Western CWM and much of the Lhotse Face falls away beneath me.   The scale is hard to comprehend.

It’s been four years since I have taken in this view, and quite honestly it is a sight I never expected to see again.  In 2007 I traded my services guiding climbers on the lower mountain in exchange for a chance to climb and ski Lhotse.  It was a “pie in the sky” dream, but the opportunity was there so I decided to go for it, no matter how small my chances of success.  As a very wise man once said, “You have to show up if you want to go skiing.”  I was showing up, but beyond that I wasn’t too hopeful.

I was given my chance.  While the rest of my team was summitting Everest I quietly set off alone on my own conquest.  As I climbed I periodically checked the progress of the long line of headlamps, which resembled traffic on an early morning commute to the summit of the worlds highest mountain.   At 8,300 meters my oxygen system failed.  Through the dark I could make out what I thought was the top of the couloir less than 200 meters above me.  Alone and with zero margin for error there was little I could do but take my skis off my pack and start down.  The descent was a slow, painstaking process: one turn at a time.

Many people ask me if my I was disappointed by my misfortune.  Some people would consider it a failure.  In all honesty, it is one of the ski descents I am most proud of.  A lot of hard work and a lot of luck allowed me to reach the heights I did.  A little bad luck kept me from the summit.

Once again I step into my skis for an acclimatization ski on the Lhotse Face.  The next time Kris and I make our way to this elevation it will be on our summit push.  It’s not often that you are given the opportunity to achieve your dreams and it’s even rarer that you’re given a second chance.

It’s safe to say I feel damn good.

  1. Kaz says:

    Keep at it Jamie…super psyched for ya!

  2. Andy Olavarria says:

    Gut wrenching account. Good luck with the summit push. Will be waiting to hear the good results and sending energy vibes from McCall.

  3. Lindsey McConnell-Soong says:

    Go team, GO! We’re rooting from Idaho! Sending love and prayers!

  4. Chris Rubens says:

    Good luck guys, all the best!

  5. Mad Dog says:

    Good to stay current on your happenings, fellas! Just got off a chat with Spencer L. You’ll be pleased to know that his one goal in life is to look you (James) in the eye and call you a pussy… and actually be tougher/fitter than you at the time. Sounds like he’ll have to wait a while yet!

    Psyched to know someone’s out there shredding the gnar while others are livin’ the dream at coal refineries!

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