Still from my Nepal notes. An anecdote that didn’t make it to my final drafts.
Mountaineers are not very superstitious people. At least not in the traditional way that other athletes are, with their lucky socks, best shoes, fortuitous days, or pre-game rituals.
Henry, a longtime member of the UP Mountaineers, is telling me this, as we make the gentle, sloping ascent on a trail towards Chumoa, one of the first stopovers on a hike through Nepal’s Sagamartha National Park. It’s the traditional route that hundreds of hikers and trekkers take every year to reach the popular destinations that dot the Himalayas: Base Camp. Gokyu. Lotse. And of course, the great mighty Everest.
As it is, he goes on to say, in the realm of endless steps, gorges, cliffs, ledges, precipices and summits, to put your faith on an object would be pointless.
Why, I ask, and he explains further: shoes can wear and tear after a rigorous trek or two; gear can break along the trail or be left behind. The weather can take a turn for worse without warning. Preparation can be mastered to an art. But there will be no such thing as a “perfect climb.” There can be no lucky day, pair of socks, pre-climb ritual that can protect you from what nature is or what it wants to be.
A mountaineer is always at the mercy of what surrounds him; he is merely passing through.