Coming off two summits of Lobuche East at 6119meters, and now sitting below the tree line near Tengboche Monastery, your body thrives. You enjoy long and deep sleeps. Your body craves and easily absorbs nutrients; four to five meals per day becomes the new normal. The beers taste that much better.
You definitely feel somewhat superhuman.
And from where I sit, in the comfort of the Himalayan sunshine near the oxygen-rich Tengboche, I can look up at our next challenge, Ama Dablam; higher, colder and more difficult than Lobuche East. It makes you realise how difficult altitude is.
Climbing at altitude is definitely a journey of delayed gratification. For those who are patient, it rewards you with an incredible journey full of physical challenges and spectacular views, regardless of whether you reach the summit.
For those who don’t respect the conditions and the terrain, altitude will beat you up. You will sleep poorly, you’ll struggle to eat, your thoughts can become erratic, and you will become a shadow of your former self. No one can beat altitude. No one is stronger than the mountain.
Despite the obvious apprehension ahead of Ama Dablam, I feel I have a healthy respect for the mountains, which makes me excited for the challenge.
The Hillary family have an interesting history with Ama Dablam.
My grandfather led the first ascent in 1961, with Mike Gill, the current chairman of the HTNZ, the first person to stand at the top.
My Dad attempted one of the more audacious climbs of the 1980’s by going straight up the incredible west face. Unfortunately, an avalanche ended their attempt, claiming the life of one climber and leaving the surviving three in a desperate state. Mervyn English, brother of former NZ Prime Minister, Bill English, was the hero in getting the three person team off the mountain.
Now, my brother and I will become the third generation of Hillarys to climb on Ama Dablam. I am excited for the opportunity, and I expect to learn a lot, both about myself and climbing. I do want to make it to the summit with my brother, but I’ll hold no grudge if I don’t. No one is stronger than the mountain.
Photography by Alexander Hillary