My name now officially appears on the Manaslu expedition webpage. With just one day left till the start of the expedition, I am beginning to seriously worry and to question my decision to try my hand at climbing an 8000+ metre peak. The only reassurance I find in the whirlpool of doubts now surging in me is the knowledge that it’s too late to turn back. I am reminded of my first skydive several years ago: the training is over and I know that, falling through the sky, I will be left with whatever little I remember – it should be enough; the small airplane rises higher and higher, and the throbbing in my chest becomes unbearable: I find pleasure in feeling fear overflow me, certain as I am that in just a few minutes I will be stepping right over it and into cold morning air; it is my turn to jump and I do not hesitate for one instant; it is only when I’m already hanging off the strings of my parachute that I begin to doubt, and question, and fear again.
My mountaineering training is over, too: as I climb, I will employ whatever few skills I have; I will have at my disposal as much strength as I have managed to accumulate in my broken mess of a body over the past couple of months, and no more; I will most probably be the weakest climber on the team, and will have to deal with it with the help of the remnants of my confidence. Am I ready? No. Yet, in all probability, I will never be better prepared than I am now – or want to do it more than I do now.
The expedition will take 35-55 days to complete. It will bring together 11 climbers from the UK, US, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Colombia and Russia, who will be assisted by 8 climbing Sherpas and 6 cooks. The team will climb without supplementary oxygen – oxygen will only be used for medical purposes.
I have now got together all the necessary gear, of which I particularly adore the Marmot 8000 Metre down suit, the La Sportiva Olympus Mons mountaineering boots and the -40 degree Mountain Hardwear down sleeping bag. Just looking at those pieces of personal equipment reminds me how cold and tough the conditions are going to be up there. In total, over five tons of gear will travel to Manaslu base camp with the team to help us deal with those conditions. The team will have access to telephone and internet on the mountain but I have decided not to ‘stay connected’ unless it’s absolutely necessary: I want to focus entirely on the wonderful books I am taking with me, the people I will be surrounded by and, of course, The Mountain. I will, however, keep a journal and, once back in Kathmandu, I plan to publish some of the content in this blog.
Good luck and my best wishes to all of you who have been following my adventures in writing and mountaineering. I hope to be back here soon with more poems and stories for my readers.