I am writing this in the Istanbul airport on my smartphone, still waiting 15 more hours to fly to Chicago, where I will spend another 15 hours waiting to get to Bozeman. I am, as some would put it, a little delayed in my return to Montana after missing the first two weeks of the semester. Over break, I went on a climbing trip to Nepal, where I happened to not climb any ice flows at all. And I’m totally fine with that.
The amount of planning that went into this trip took months, with details planned out half a year in advance. My partner, a college student as well, recognized we had a finite amount of time to get all that was necessary to get done completed before missing out on too much of the spring semester. Our gear was bought, as were our tickets, and everything was completely accounted for, out to the last detail. The final weeks before the trip were hectic. Papers were to be written, final days of classes to be completed; it led to multiple all-nighters, some back to back.
It is without much surprise that the frantic trip planning, along with a poor diet of bread and hot sauce (so I had money for the trip), led to me getting sick. When my partner arrived in Kathmandu a few days after me, I was weak, exhausted and fighting a full-on cold — perfect for ice climbing at 14,000 feet while living in uninsulated shacks. Not long after I got sick, my partner caught a stomach bug and then got altitude sickness. We tried to fight it out for a few days, shivering in sleeping bags and puking. Defeated, we headed to warmer, sunnier parts of Nepal.
With how much time, effort and money were put into this trip, it might come as a surprise that I’m not upset about our complete, utter failure. Sure, it would have been fun to climb long ice climbs for a month, but that’s not what it is all about. Being with my climbing partner, exploring and exposing him to a culture and lifestyle I have learned to love and enjoy so much, is more important than the actual climbs.
It is not always the areas we go to, but the people that we go there with, that make everything worth it. Had we climbed, it would have been the cherry on top, the guacamole on the burrito. Yet, as memories fade, ice climbs, rock pitches, powder lines, they fade together. The experiences we have with the people we go with is what truly matters. The ice will always be there for another (perhaps better planned) attempt. These will eventually be replaced by other climbs and adventures. The stories made, however, are priceless.