Letting go of a challenging chapter, I ground myself. Embodying the mountains that surround me, unwavered by storms or winds of change, I climb on.

Rather than digging into the mystery of the nausea and vomiting, I dug deep to resist the tempting feelings of failure, shame and doubt. Clearly depleted, I teetered between a craving to isolate in the furthest corner of the Tea House and engage in chatter and ciya around the kitchen fire.

Overflowing cups of Nepali tea and overflowing emotions within, I worked to simply observe the conversation and my feelings that stirred. Along the descent, I had rescued myself from an avalanche of false, fleeing feelings of failure yet revealing my experience risked further judgment, ridicule and rejection by this clan of climbers. Though I had grown from the Ama Dablam expedition, explaining that I was accepting of the outcome was a tough mountain to navigate among cookery and glowing coals. Returning without the coveted summit, a certificate representing success revered and celebrated, I found myself detaching from conversation while reattaching to failure.

The owner of my sentiments, the battle of worthiness mine alone; no one else huddled around the fire could control how I feel. Resisting the fiery temptation towards shame, though I appeared the same person I was three days earlier, deep within I had grown. I sit through the emotions and the evening meal. Heading to bed, I aim to embody the mountains that fill the view out the frosty window; resilient through darkness, storms and the harshest of seasons.

A solid sleep, rehydration and a washcloth, my headlamp lit the script as my pencil tactfully separated a failure from being a failure before the light of day. With awareness, compassion and a thermos of tatopani, I journal. No changing, shifting or fixing, authenticity fills the pages. Holding on to the past does not fix anything. Replaying the scene repeatedly will not change it and wishing a chapter happened differently will not make it so. Journaling is a tool that lends itself to acceptance and letting go. 

I still myself, write and work to incarnate the strength of Khumbu’s mountains. As they stand tall, unwavered by winds or change, I connect. Not letting myself be derailed by stormy feelings, I quiet my mind and body, letting go of the grip I held to shame, as the house wakes and the sun begins to rise.

Every single sunrise offers a new opportunity to begin again. Taking time to reconnect and restore, as the hands on the clock filled the day so too did my energy.  Washing clothes and any doubt away, my 6 000 m packing list came back out and sorting began. The month’s blueprint had climbing Lobuche etched as a close out to the climbing season in the Himalayas. I would take another day to ensure both body and mind were ready to put some structure to the sketch. 

A date with the sunrise, every step alone with my thoughts was echoed by inner cheers as hike up to Tobuche View Point. In celebration of impermanence, I looked across the valley to Ama Dablam with gratitude and pride: strong, resilient like a mountain. 

Anchored in the present, energy stores were full and my emotional barometer steady as we set off from Pangboche towards Thokla Pass en route to the village of Lobuche. Passing countless memorials for climbers atop the pass, each stupa personifies the power of impermanence. With strength in each stride and a strong sense of self, like the colourful flags hung to carry prayers in the wind, I feel a positive vibration emitting acceptance. 

Lobuche had an energetic vibe playing off large groups of trekkers who had just experienced Everest Base Camp. The combination of conditions and climbers resulted in the village bursting at the seams yet I felt a strong sense of calm. Crowds commonly stretch my comfort however, among the chaos, felt unfazed like the peaks casting shadows as the sun began to set. 

Before the light of dawn, my inner fire was lit as I journaled beside  the Tea House fire. I was stoked for a new day, another opportunity for life lessons, to test inner strength, to struggle and to shine. Still body and mind was the only challenge for the first half of the day as  the short, steep hike up to Lobuche High Camp would not take more than a few hours. I had time to watch yaks, porters, happy hikers and my thoughts in the Himalayan sun. 

Leaving trace scents of Tea House fires, we set off towards High Camp shortly after yet another dose of dal.  Out of the village and into the silence of the thin mountain air I had let go of the harrowing chapter behind. Steady within, I balanced the weight of my pack full of down, ropes, carabiners and crampons over the rocky terrain beneath my feet as they led me to 5 400 m. 

An alpine start meant coffee as the clock struck midnight. With headlamps lit and inner fire burning we set off through rocky glacier moraine into the night aiming to beat the midday winds off the mountain. When the rock turned to ice, we stopped to add a layer for traction under feet. Crampon Point carried potential for a layer of doubt yet steep snow gullies and clipping onto fixed lines left no room for temptation nor anywhere for the mind to drift.

Between crevasses and carabiners, fixed ropes and false summits, the giants came out to join us as the darkness faded. Inner stoke glowed brighter than the sun when we met her at the summit. While Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Cholatse, and Pumor stood proud, it was Ama Dablam that held my eye. She stood out as though waiting for me. I sent a summit smile in her direction, ensuring her I would be back.

The technical sections on the ascent are just as technical on the way down yet present more risk as the body depletes while the nature of the snow and shadows, rocks and ridges plays havoc with my depth perception. With figure 8s for friction essential on the descent there was little resistance to the steady challenge that my limited eyesight adds to getting safely off the mountain. At times when ropes appeared daunting, anchors unfit or crevices caught my eye, a confident voice within feed off the 6 145 m fuel. Though far ahead of the midday wind, that confidence took a slight blow when, between hat and helmet, jacket and buff, my long braided ponytail managed to find its way between rope and the descender on my right side where I have no vision. A shouting voice below and accelerated heart rate within, I was in no serious danger yet could have lost more than a chunk of hair had I decided to take my inner critic along down the mountain. I chose to leave it behind and take only the lesson with me. 

Crampons unbuckled and packed away, boots on boulders led the route back to High Camp. Layers changed, gear sorted, and body refuelled, as we started down to Pangboche movement turned inward while my feet frolicked freely in my trail shoes. Knowing that the same crew of climbers would be sipping tea, chatting summits and certificates around the fire, my head would be held higher than a week earlier. Not because of pride on the peak, rather proud of presence and letting go. 

I will not allow a summit, a brain injury, a number, label or diagnosis define me. I am not what happened to me. I am who I choose to become. When I choose to rise up after life’s trail rocks me down, when I choose to let go of the past and that which I cannot control, I am free. Free to shine my light and ignite it in others. In mountains, in a higher place of awareness, with small steps, I let go of what was and embrace what is. 



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  1. Jenn Hoover says:

    Hi Jill

    Greetings from TBay!

    Glad to hear that you are doing well and at peace within.

    I especially love the last paragraph of your post. Very true.

    You have “moved mountains” in your journey. Your strength and determination does not go unnoticed.

    Stay well. Take good care.

  2. Thomas Stevens says:

    Amazing journey — amazing writing. Both so lyrical they leave me longing to visit and revisit. I start my day on a high Colorado ranch richer for knowing Jill and being able to share her adventures.