|Full Battle Gear.|
From the moment a Climber decides to attempt Everest, he is required to make certain payments to keep his wager alive. First comes the money. Depending on the Guide Company and various other options, this might be $50,000 to $100,000, all paid in advance with no hope of refund under any circumstances. The bet is on. He next makes numerous physical payments in the form of training for hours each day, six days a week. There are payments involving the purchase of expensive equipment, lost wages and forgone vacation time, evacuation insurance and costly vaccines. There are psychological payments, taking the form mental fatigue, the doubts of third parties, and the painful two month absence from loved ones. None of these are negotiable.
But the final payment a Climber must lay on the table is his life. To think one could leave the South Col without doing so would be delusional. If he wishes to wager he can stand on top of the world, a Climber must go all in, betting his todays and tomorrows. This is an easy notion to view in the abstract as one prepares for a climb many months away, but the weight becomes awesome as the last few minutes pass prior to leaving the tent. I watched Ty closely during those minutes.
The wind was blowing harder than the forecast had suggested. If it persisted there would be no making the summit and lives would likely be lost. But we were going. Ty was leaving at 7pm with the first group of Classic Climbers. It was 6:50pm and his Sherpa, Lakpa, had stuck his head into our tent several times already, trying to keep Ty moving along. I could see the nerves winding up through the expression on Ty's face. His eyes were wide, brows raised. There was a sense of resignation. He was making that final payment.
"We can do this," I told him. "24 hours from now we will be down at camp 2 with an Everest Summit under our belts. We are strong enough. We have the skills and the support. We just need to keep a clear head and execute," I said.
Ty nodded in agreement, but his mind was clearly elsewhere. I could almost see him staring at the mountain of chips he had just slid out onto the table. We hugged, then he slipped out the tent door into the darkness. I thought about the call I had made many months ago, the call where I invited Ty to be a part of this climb. Did I regret it? Would I feel better right then had I not invited Ty into this situation? No. Ty was suppose to be here, probably for the same mysterious reasons I was.
The next hour passed quickly and soon I too was making the Grand Wager. I was nervous, but felt at peace with the decision. From the moment Everest had first called me, as I rappelled down the face of Carstensz Pyramid, it had always accompanied a feeling of warmth and positive energy. I was prepared, had a game plan, and had tested both with success through the course of the rotations. I looked one last time at the photos in my pocket; My wife, Lin, sons Chase and Trevor, my Mother, and a recently deceased friend. I examined a small plastic bag with my brother's ashes in it, then returned it to the pocket. Pulling the oxygen mask over my face, I stepped out into the night.