Who am I racing against in my challenge? What drives me a year on to get on a 24 hour red eye, with a resin cast, and hit the same dusty path towards South America’s highest peak? Why repeat this at all when I’ve climbed just a fraction of achingly beautiful piles back home in Chamonix.
Is it GRIT&ROCK’s cause? A challenge of the world record? Obstinance?
As I mull over these questions during an interminable flight down under, it dawns on me that this particular journey is not about beating the other person’s record.
Apart from being strongly motivated by the cause, I am ultimately driven by competing against myself, the girl who was here a year ago making tentative steps in high altitude climbing. I am curious as how I will perform. I think of this climb as a gauge of my personal change,
‘a competitive personal evolution, where the finishing lines are not defined, where few watch or care at the results, the victories so small to be noticed by anyone but you.’
… yet those subtle changes may become meaningful goalposts of our metamorphosis.
Last year walking to the summit from Cholera, an aptly named Aconcagua’a High Camp, where the legend says a love triangle provoked a bloody ice axe action, I struggled with thin air taking two puffs for every step… What kept me going was a thought of my 5-year old son who would have told his class with great pride about his mum climbing a grand old mountain. How could I have possibly let him down by turning back when it was safe to carry on and the only challenge was a mental one? What would I have taught him by giving into that momentary weakness?
Would l struggle with the summit push this time around? Or have I accumulated a reserve of mental resilience on the back of a stupid amount of high altitude climbing I did over the past year?
Would I experience sheer exaltation on the summit much like last year when Wes Bunch, a tough talking guide from Jackson Hole, stopped a few meters away from the top and got me to lead the final steps… Or would I feel numb having seen the summit cross before? What would be the moments of this journey that would move me to tears?
One thing I know for sure is that there will be such moments during many silent hours of walking up, that rocks and thin air will provoke the dialogue that sets your mind in tune with your self.
Journeys consist of physical properties – ridges, cliffs, ice falls, thunders, fowl weather – but even more so your mental state of that moment. We can never climb the same mountain twice.
I spent January incubating GRIT&ROCK, while physically being a prisoner of my broken wrist. I felt low not be able to get my daily altitude fix and was thrown into an uncomfortable zone of having to do things I have never done before: plan a campaign, build a website from scratch, work out digital strategy and seed partnerships that could help translate my passion into a meaningful transformation. I spent many hours debating with others as to what would it take to motivate teenage girls to get out on the hill and get to love to do what I got love to do but only some 20 years on. It was both energising and draining, yet very fulfilling.
Same rocks aside, this will be a different journey with another challenge as I have changed and the questions that keep me awake today are different.
Stay tuned for a blogcast of a Girl with a Cast. I will be assisted by digitally savvy 15- year old Zaki Said.