Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Power of Being Alive

The only thing I could think of was to move one feet after the other. I had a hard time breathing and the headache pounding me like a hammer did not help. This was a message from my brain telling me I should be in lower ground, not at 6,000 mts (18,000 feet) on top of Huayna Potosi near La Paz in Bolivia.

It was 3 in the morning, at midnight I had woken up and put on 3 pairs of socks, 3 pants, 2 fleeces, 1 jacket and 2 hats to begin the final ascent to the summit at 6,088 mts (20,000 ft). I tried to think of my family and friends to forget the excruciating effort I was making. I brought to my mind the image of a hammock awaiting for me in the tropics in a couple of months at home. Then I stopped thinking altogether. I concentrated on walking. 

After a couple of hours of climbing I asked myself: why in the world are you here? I answered myself immediately: because you wanted to. Yes, I wanted to challenge myself by climbing one the highest mountain in Bolivia. I went back to walking without thinking and as I crushed the fresh snow I looked up and I saw the white summit with dark rocky patches bathed in the most beautiful moon light you can imagine. The sight was overwhelming, I smiled. 

As I got closer to the summit I realized every muscle, joint and bone in my body was working together in an amazing demonstration of teamwork to take me up there. I thanked my Abba Father for giving me this experience and I kept going. My guide told me we had enough time to reach the summit before sunrise. At that moment the thought of not making the summit came as a gentle reminder of my limitations. I remembered a good friend telling me before the trip: be careful, don´t over do it. As I reached 6,000 mts (18,000 feet) I felt nauseous. It was painful to breath. Each step demanded a monumental effort. I realized with sadness that I was not going to make it to the top. I asked Don Mario: how long for the sunrise? 20 or 30 minutes. The headache, the thin air and the cold were tough but the toughest thing was the realization that I could not keep going. I told my guide that we would wait for the sunrise there, 100 meters from the summit. He said OK. I tried to encourage myself by thinking that the view would not be much different from the top. I used my ice ax as a stool. I sat and I waited focusing on the unbelievable view appearing before my eyes as the sun rose. 

The minute I sat the bitter cold replaced the exhaustion. To keep busy and keep moving I asked Don Mario to take some pictures of me, even though it was still dark. 10 minutes later a glimpse of the new day was visible over a fresh mountain of snow ahead of us. I took out my banner as the sky turned light blue and with great joy took my picture with it. I was not at the summit, but it was MY summit. 

The glorious view, which was not visible in the dark a moment before, made me forget the past 5 hours of pain. I took in the a moment by breathing deeply in awe of so much beauty.  i took a few pictures and after 30 minutes we began the descent. Humility filled my heart. Yes, I wish I had made the summit, but I was proud I had given it my best effort. That´s life, isn't it? You set a goal and you do your best to reach it, sometimes you achieve it, sometimes you don´t, but you can and you should be proud of your effort. 

When life gets tough you put one feet after the other and you keep going, until you reach your own summit. You appreciate the view from your summit and you humbly realize that you are only human. You are proud of your summit. 

That´s the power of being alive. 
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