Two years ago I was driving to a meeting, and as such sitting in traffic. Without satellite radio in my car and with my tired iPod playlist, my radio was tuned to NPR.
Michelle Martin‘s voice come on, letting me know that it was time for Tell Me More (one of my top NPR programs). Today’s first story was that of a Washington State (I think) journalist who had become intrigued by Edmund Hillary’s Everest climb, and set out to learn more. The journalist came across a story about a man from Michigan- I don’t remember his name (sadly the length of time since this story has allowed NPR to remove the listing from their website). He was a family man, typical of “his time,” the journalist said. He worked in a factory, provided for his wife and two children, owned a small house on a crowded block, and went about his life day in and day out. But one day he decided he wanted to climb Mt. Everest. Somehow, me made his way to Kathmandu (no small feat in and of itself) and eventually to Mount Everest. He didn’t make it far, apparently he was killed by a falling serac around the Khumbu ice fall. The story, though, was about how this journalist decided to go to the mountain and search for the body of this fallen would-be climber. And wouldn’t ya know it, he found the body. He found a pair of glasses that were identified as having belonged to the climber. In addition, he found a satchel with letters written to his family back home. It was the return of these letters that the family appreciated the most.
What struck me as odd about the story is that the contents of the letters were never revealed. In the story, the family told the journalist what the letters were about in a general sense, but didn’t hand them over. Not surprisingly the letters spoke of the man’s love for his family, but of his desire to accomplish this feat.
Ultimately, this is not the best story to use as inspiration for wanting to climb. After all, the climber died and left his family without a husband and a father. But the part that I identified with was how an ordinary person, with no real skills for nor experience with climbing, decided to tackle the challenge. Yes, he lost his life doing it. But that’s part of the challenge, I guess.
This was the second of the three things that brought me to where I am now. The first was the Plane Flight in South Asia, the second was the above story. The third (my first actual climbing experience) is next up.