Chomolungma 2017

What’s going on and why doesn’t it stop? That’s what concerns me. How can Ueli Steck be dead? Not right. I remember Ueli. I patted him on the head when he was two years old. Today, what you don’t do is pat an infant on the head.  You can’t get near a kid to do that and it’s because of their mothers.  You’ll be killed.

Summit Snowfield

But you’re not supposed to get wasted on a so-called mountain.  And then just this week, just this month, three or five or whatever it is more aspiring humans beside Ueli wasted on old Chomo.  All I remember is it’s one mile through the Khumbu, three miles to the Lhotse face, and a mile or so up to the “South Col” as it’s affectionately called.  Then it gets worse. Get in line.  It looked absurd to me and I climbed down.  Time.

I can’t believe it’s already 30 years since Kanchenjunga.  I’m an old man now, relatively speaking.  Unless I’ve lost my mind I was up there with Scott and Veikka and a select group of other clowns.  You can’t make stuff up.  You either handle it or you don’t.  I was a tourist.

The old saw is you never step up on the absolute top-out on Kanch.  The Gods’ll kill ya. Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. Actually, I doubt it.  More than that is just too much to ask.  I trained hard but that will not stop the delirium at the top. Something I learned.

You’re in your own little world.  Maybe that’s the attraction.  Own little world.  Skill yes, but stamina.  Stamina.  And luck.  Treasure-house of the five lucks.  Having some luck, of course, is one of the five lucks.  Having a sense of humour is one of the five lucks.

Having love is one of the five lucks.  Living in two worlds is one of the five lucks.  Having a good eye is one of the five lucks and in my deranged world as I recall it’s the reason I made it down, as a complete amateur, off old Kanchenjunga.  Once is enough.

You can’t pursue things to the death.  What kind of life is that?  I guess it depends on your own, personal pathology.  That sounds good.

Veikka’s cool.  He’s still around.  Wanda Rutkiewicz.  What I remember most of all is that patch of pink.  A patch of pink way off down there in this crazy white world on an incredible day.  Wanda’s climbing suit was pink.  She’s still up there but at least people know where she is.  Cool.  Your reach exceeds your grasp.  Doesn’t matter.

They’re coming up from the Tibet side again.  The PRC is in step and the North Face is open.  You can talk about the North Face and you can wear the North Face but how many people have ever been on the North Face?

Everest North Face

I remember these comic descriptions of the north face.  It’s too funny.  “First Step” “Second Step”.  Absurd. “Kangshung Face”.  The “Pinnacles”.  “I’m afraid I’ve got some tragic news.”

It was Steck who came across American Alex Lowe on Shishapangma about a year ago. Stuff like this  from the “savage arena” always makes for interesting reading.  Lowe was wasted in an avalanche in 1999.  I wouldn’t say he was perfectly preserved. More like in not bad shape for being dead that long.  Frozen stiff.  There’s just nothing else to do but lay there until somebody finds you and in many cases nobody ever finds you.

It’s not callousness.  It’s just fact.

I managed to pick up this material at “Dollarama” for two bucks and thought I’d throw it up and see what sticks.  Have a beautiful wknd.


Author: Steven Brown


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