Why Climb Mount Everest?

During my Everest preparations, one of my friends said: "Everest?!  I wonder what drives you?  This got me thinking.  The answer is complicated, but may be one that is shared with others attempting similar challenges.

Love drives me, love of adventure, love of nature, love of big mountains and the love for the climbing community that has now become an integral part of my life.  A chance to spend a few weeks in the annual pop-up Mecca of Everest Base Camp is a unique opportunity, and the privilege to try to attempt this sacred mountain is one many climbers dream of and cherish. I counted that through my various climbing adventures over the last 4 years, I know personally 15 different people who will be attempting to summit Everest this Spring or will be working in Base Camp to support climbers. Some are climbers I met on previous trips, some have been my guides on Rainier, Antarctica, and Mexico Volcanoes.  A few others I met through volunteering for the American Alpine Club.  I am so excited to be joining them in a few weeks to share and support them in our common dream of getting to the top of the World.

But it's not that simple, what drives me also is fear, fear of failing - and not just in a summit attempt, but in a bigger sense of the word, as a person. It is the fear of not being good enough to climb the tallest mountain, of not having enough skills, experience, fitness, or mental toughness.  The fear of failing to be a valued team member, to be strong enough at high altitude and in extreme winds and cold to come to the help of others on my team in the event of any trouble. It is the same feeling I had showing up my first day at Harvard Law School, what if someone in admissions made a mistake and it turns out I do not actually belong here?  By the end of my first semester at HLS, I got comfortable that not only did I belong just fine, but that I was able to thrive in Harvard’s rigorous intellectual environment.  Will I find the same answer after a few weeks at Base Camp and a couple of rotations to Camps 1 and 2 on Everest or will this new experience be entirely more humbling?  We shall see....

What drives me also is an inner sense of motivation, an urge to work hard, to push myself, to overcome challenges and a certain restlessness from sitting still for too long or lacking a purpose.  These personality traits that I developed throughout my life have now become so intertwined with who I am, that I do not cope well when I don't appease them.  Learning English when I moved to the US from Ukraine at the age of 13; working hard to get into a good law school; succeeding at Harvard; and then spending 7 years of 80-hour work weeks with endless all-nighters and perpetually canceled personal plans as I learned the ropes of high-profile mergers and acquisitions – it is no surprise, that I learned determination and perseverance.  But as I think about it now, I didn’t just learn those qualities through life experiences, but over the years, I actually became dependent on them for my mental happiness.

When I discovered Mountaineering in 2007, it was an instant attraction. The challenging, goal-oriented nature of it, is exactly what motivates me, what give me purpose and a sense of happiness.  It has become both the addictive drug and the treatment for mental and physical malaise that I feel when I don't have a challenging goal in my life.  I enjoy and depend on having a motivating reason to get out of bed in the morning, and what better reason than the coveted mountaineers' dream of getting to the top of the tallest mountain in the World!

Will this be the ultimate challenge that will allow me to free myself from the dependence on setting goals once and for all, or will the experience of climbing Everest just reinforce these personality traits?  Guessing it's the latter, but so excited to find out in just a few weeks...