With the weight in my mind heavier than that of my pack, I teetered on the trail and in thought. Rescuing myself from fleeing feelings of failure, success became personal.


Melinda’s voice, intensely bright surgical lights, green blankets and a deep black, extremely hot car: puzzle pieces. It might have been Andy’s but he drove it like he stole it.

They told me that the Emergency Room doctor diagnosed a Black Eye. They helped me walk but I am not sure where.

There is a gap between being curled in the fetal position in das auto and being in a similar prone position on my unyielding Bavarian bed. Something more severe than the unceasing swelling,  something more drastic than a face of clashing colours and something more intense than the drum beating in my head: there was something more than a Black Eye. Whatever was supposed to be functioning to coordinate thoughts and actions was not. That was certain.

Moving across my face to the rhythm of every subtle shift of the clock, the blood painted an abstract. Splattering from the point of impact, deep shades of purple, maroons and blues added to the black. As darkness spanned across my face, it also set deep within.

My existence today suggests light must have been there, if only a flicker, throughout the darkness. The light would take years to stoke and it would appear different when it did.

The flicker of headlamps, twinkling of stars, my inner stoke was Himalayan high yet an intense body-mind connection was sending smoke signals. Denying that this could be happening, I forced fuel, a most random smorgasbord called Base Camp breakfast, and said nothing. I convinced myself calories might settle the floating feeling; if not, at least get me to Camp 1. Struggling to accept what my body was saying, I paced between the waves of nausea, triple checked the tent, my gear, my laces then paced some more. Equanimity was being rocked. Eager excitement mixed with a sprinkle of anxious anticipation and unusual sunrise routine: perhaps that was part of it, not usual. 

I had danced up and down Island Peak a handful of days earlier, playfully trotted throughout Khumbu trekking trails, caught up on rest, laundry and loads of dal. Acclimatization had gone textbook perfect. 

Following an elaborate yet simple puja and send off from Pangboche, the previous day filled with an easy trek up to Ama Dablam Base Camp. 4 576m welcomed us with traditional prayer flags and yaks grazing among a colorful community of tents. With high season coming to a close, the gateway to the “Mother’s Necklace” was peaceful, the views’ pristine. 

Since my eye first set sight on her a year earlier, Ama Dablam held me. A paragon, she embodied perfection. My cup had been full of inspiration flowing from her ever since yet this morning she was pushing me away as the sun climbed above her.

Silence on the outside was shadowed by thunderous noise within as the 3 of us set off. Perfect acclimatization, perfect mountain; I pondered the concept. We see it differently, we feel it differently yet in fact it does not exist. Perfection is an abstract essence that tends to lead to concrete criticism within.  I dissect deeper with each slow step. 

I vomited. He shouted. You were underdressed yesterday. Your legs are not strong enough. You ran too much last week. You ate too much last night1. Though clearly on his team, this was not Rocky throwing powerful punches. In between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space I had the power to choose my response. 

Like this gem in the Himalayas, language exerts hidden power. I absorbed his judgment in silence. Like leaving the Emergency Room with a Black Eye, I knew there was something more. With breakfast making a return showing, there was nothing left in my stomach yet the waves of nausea rocked continuously as did the echo of his voice. 

With a villain having entered the scene, teetering on the trail and in my thoughts, Camp 1 felt fictitious. When it defies any logical explanation, life presents opportunities to practice equanimity. I tread on striving for such in contemplation of the power of words. 

A conundrum of questions raced in the plod towards Yak Camp. Bistārai bistārai2 along a moraine ridge, the weight in my mind was far greater than that of my pack. When deeper in the ragged emotional landscape than the beauty that is Khumbu, a hint of yellow caught my eye, relief. Camp 1 appeared different than I imagined yet I did not have the capacity to climb into sorting such divergents.

Not an illusion, though not Camp 1, the golden glow was Yak Camp, only a rest stop. Slightly passed half the distance, the technical section was yet to come. Removing my pack and positioning myself as I had seeking comfort in Andy’s race-car, I suggested a fresh start with hope a solid night sleep back at Base Camp could stoke light making for a brighter chapter ahead. The language of silence is powerful. Unanswered, a cup of tea and a few biscuits and we silently set off  up the southwest ridge towards a vast talus field. Kalo dhunga vhayeko thaau3 a playground of granite boulders for some, my depth perception’s nemesis. Rocky had an easy target to close the climb.

As the sun set, fixed lines up a steep rock face made presence the only option for the final 200 meters to the stuttered slabs that house Camp One. Soon thereafter, emotions scrambled as did my feet getting in the tent. None being right or wrong, I tried to observe such sentiments moving like shooting stars; let them go. A disheveled disaster, I struggled into my down suit, kindness and compassion towards myself buried in my sleeping bag. Those values, like the night’s stars, out of reach. 

A fairy-tale ending, usually simplistic and perfect, was not how Day One was closing out. Restless and nauseous, I forced some noodles between rumblings of chatter to no one but myself. Like the deep, resonant doubt in the Black Eye diagnosis, something was not right. This time I was not alone but I was.

Memories can be charged with emotion. The night, the return of the noodles, stark reminders rooted in the nightmare of that Bavarian bed. When I relive a stumble or absorb into the ER arena, mindfulness calms and challenges distorted story lines. The scene was distorted.  The sound of climbers’ feet descending in the darkness echoed the pounding in my head. I craved their connection as I did the storyline to change. Wavering between the pain of the present moment, dark memories and the narrative surrounding them, falling asleep was an unanswerable equation. Like the tent grasped tightly to heavy stones, I held onto the possibility of waking to a perfect fairy-tale ending.  

Cultivating an alternative plan to accommodate my empty tank may have nurtured acceptance of the unexpected storyline. However, rubbish was being compacted, sleeping bags squashed and boots cranked while I remained entwined in down and in disbelief. Confusion without self-compassion, mixed with a cup of tea I could not digest, stirred waves in equanimity.

Whether it was cultured water, food poisoning or the flu my steep thoughts were not rooted in the source of the depletion. Rather than ascending to Camp 2, I descended through the dark boulders into dark thought as the sun scaled the clear blue sky. When the trail narrowed, along with my focus on failure, I caught myself stumbling in such rocky rumination. 

Being present is a transformative power. Reclaiming my emotions without judgement, I simply allow them to be instilling rays of calm just before a stop for tea. Whether they were speaking Sherpa, Swahli, Manadarin or Malay I did not tune in to decipher the vernacular rather dialed in to my breath and to the shift in perspective that was enriching me with wisdom and compassion. Language shapes how we see the world and myself within it. I had the power to change the inner dialogue, the language of the story my mind was fabricating. I had choices. Accept it as it is, focus on what could have been considered failure or connect to positives. Success is personal. If defined as appreciating life experiences, embracing what my body allows me to do and living in the now, then perhaps I was beginning to discover it.  Though the nausea carried on, the spark was starting to look different. 

From a deeper place of clarity that comes with mindfulness in the mountains, shifting perspective makes room for peace. The cooperative alignment between heart, mind and emotions allows light to infuse within. Success was not looking like I had imagined. There would be no summit suit, arms up and happy tears at 6 812 m this week. Rescuing myself from a mountain of false, fleeing feelings of failure, I was able to see success in a different form. A perfect opportunity to practice self-kindness and compassion: a perfect mountain to grow from.  


Thank you for making the time to read or listen.

I wonder if you connect to finding success in varying forms and the process it may have taken you to discover?  

As always I welcome connection, questions, and conversation about this post or life along my trail. And if the Mountains of My Mind bring light to you, please share. The world could always use more love and light. 

With gratitude🙏🏾, 



1Absolutely never ever tell someone with an eating disorder this; in fact anyone at all.

2slowly, slowly 

3a field of black boulders  

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