Ama Dablam, the big decision

“We don’t want any adventures here, thank you!…nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” – The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien.

grey Ama Dablam, the big decisionI have been wanting to mention the expedition for five days but needed time to gather my thoughts and weigh up the pros and cons before worrying Jette.

Saturday night rolls around, I have been going backwards and forwards in my mind about this trip and really cannot make a decision.

Pros versus cons versus pros versus cons…grey Ama Dablam, the big decision

We are on a tram heading home after a lavish Korean dinner with some friends. I really did not mean to mention it so casually while surrounded by drunken people loudly discussing football. It kind of just slipped out.

“So, I got a message from Mal the other day…”

Immediately I have Jette’s full attention. I can almost see her ears pricking up. She knows what a message from Mal means.

“Which mountain?” She asks with a half chuckle.

“Nepal again,” I reply almost sheepishly, “Ama Dablam.”

“Okay, how high? What’s the deal?” Jette asks, now in full information gathering mode.

“Well, it’s around 6500 meters high, so lower than Manaslu but more of a climbing challenge.” I feel like a used car dealer but forge on, “the plan is to warm up on a few trekking peaks on the way in.”

grey Ama Dablam, the big decisionI’m honestly not sure if I can justify nicking off for 6 weeks, nor if I am up to the challenge.

“So what is the death rate?” Jette asks in a businesslike tone as if she were asking what’s for breakfast.

“No idea, ummm, much lower than Manaslu. I reckon,” Is my unconvincing reply.

Jette whips out her smart phone and starts tapping away.

“Right, so Manaslu is 2.77%, that sounds about right from memory, Everest is 1.52 and Ama Dablam, oh, only 0.43, that seems okay.”

“Yeah, seems weird googling death rates on a Melbourne Tram hey,” I chuckle, making light grey Ama Dablam, the big decisionof the situation.

“That’s for sure,” Jette replies with a wry smile. “So, main question, do you want to do it?”

“Dunno really. The timing is great, it is a mountain I have always wanted to climb and it could be a good carrot after finishing this management course.”

“True,” Jette nods. “Seems like a no brainer, go for it if you want.”

“Yeah, it does seem a no brainer, I’ll think it over for a few more days…” I lean over for a smooch, “Love you.”

grey Ama Dablam, the big decisionI honestly do love that girl. After all that I have put her through she still encourages and supports my need for adventure. Jette even said vows to that effect when we got married in March. “I promise to continue to accept and support your need to go off adventuring…within reason of course…” The ‘within reason’ excludes BASE jumping. Being a lawyer you would think that Jette would have worded that covenant far more carefully. We have a running joke about how I constantly try to find, and exploit, loopholes in our unofficial but very solemn agreement. Sometimes I wake up pinching myself at how lucky I am to have her in my life. Jette has to deal with a barrage of ideas being run by her that are as close to BASE jumping as could be. Ideas like, “So, Fab* and I are going to build a kite that can carry a person…I have this great idea involving a hot air balloon thing…Fab and I have this great idea for this bridge jump…” Currently Jette has (half) jokingly put a ban on Fab and I using the word ‘idea’ in any sentence…anyway back to the mountain story.

*Fabio or Fab is a great friend of mine and my main co-conspirator when it comes to stupid, but really fun ideas.  

grey Ama Dablam, the big decisionWhen climbers write about their exploits they regularly forget to mention the people at home. Last time on Manaslu while descending we didn’t update the blog for a few days as the route had changed so dramatically, due to beautiful sunshine we enjoyed on the ascent, that we were not really sure when or how we would get down to base camp. As my emergency contact Jette suffered terribly during this silence. Whenever her phone rang she thought it would be bad news. Jette’s situation was not helped by a work colleague who spent half an hour explaining in gory detail why the descent is the most dangerous part. By the time I called Jette from base camp (by the way her phone showed “Ben-emergency phone” and caused her to rush out of an important meeting in tears) it took me a few minutes with my grey Ama Dablam, the big decisionsunburnt tongue, altitude affected voice, crappy satellite reception and fatigued voice to convince her that I was really me and that I was completely safe and everything was okay. “I love you and will be home soon.”

Previously whilst acclimatising there were days when Mal and I were relaxing in the tent, eating Snickers bars, doing Suduko challenges and casually growing more red blood cells. I figured that it would be silly to send an email with no news but later learnt that Jette was imagining random rock falls and other calamities during these times of no contact. No news is not always good news.

Over the next few days I grapple with why I would want to freeze my ass off, scare myself silly, put my system through high altitude torture for weeks and cause my loved ones concern just to climb a silly mountain. Jette and I have settled in a grey Ama Dablam, the big decisioncomfortable home near the beach, all my high altitude gear has been shipped back from Nepal and packed away and I have been considerate enough to grow a decent belly for Jette to snuggle up to during movies. We have plans for the future which involve our own business, a house, maybe kids. A settled life. I am really happy with where I am and look towards our future with puppy-like glee. Why don’t I just go to a tropical island and have my hair done in those fetching little plaits?

Genetics. Maybe this is all a quirk of genetics. My father suffers a similar condition. He regularly nicks off into the Tasmanian bush to trek and explore only to return with cuts, bruises and more recently, a dislocated pointer finger. Dad is approaching 70 and continues to be a seemingly unstoppable force. Mum has always said that she would rather tolerate this than be married to a boring slob drinking away his life in front of the television. I am inclined to agree, but can only hope that Jette’s understanding continues as long as mum’s has for dad. Early indications are hopeful.

grey Ama Dablam, the big decisionFreeze frame. Research suggests that voyeurs record things not always for a sexual kick but because they fear the passage of time. Maybe there is something in this. Before I had done any climbs I used to read books about mountains – a lot – and formed the misguided opinion that people who climb do it solely for those few moments at the top. I have met a few people like that, but honestly they are completely missing the point. I certainly remember the feeling when we ran out of ‘up’ and turned around to see the whole world splayed out like some surrealist painting. More important I remember moments; when Soph and I made a stupid film dedicating the expedition to ‘The Foundation for Land Rights for Gay Dolphins’; when Mal and I played thin air guitar on the trek in; Norbu, the cook’s assistant’s boyish glee when I gave him my ice axe as a present; my first proper shower in 7 weeks…freeze frame, full definition, never to be forgotten moments. This is the big attraction for me. To step away from the ordinary and to bathe in the stunning clarity of those moments, the friendships and the memories.

grey Ama Dablam, the big decisionSo anyway, cutting to the chase. Am I going?

You know how couples often have children around two years apart? I reckon this is due, in large part, to the fact that two years is about how long it takes for a mother to forget the anguish of childbirth and for her to start looking back with happy, misty eyes at baby photos, small booties and tiny cribs. To forget the pain that baby’s big head caused. Guess how long it has been since Mal and I last swung on ropes together?

 

Recently I have been finding myself looking over Nepal photos with happy, misty grey Ama Dablam, the big decisioneyes so, to use a metaphor I’ll regret, I guess my vagina has healed. With the full support of my lovely wife (who may just be looking for a break from my ‘ideas’) I am off on another adventure in October.

I will keep you updated and plan to blog all the way in and up as long as we can arrange the technology.

For now it is time to hit the gym, this belly is not going to fix itself!

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