ESSAY: Ohio to Everest Andy Politz - Basecamp Thu, April 05, 2001 7:45AM
My early interest in climbing, coupled with growing up in Columbus, Ohio, played out in rock climbing in local quarries, gorges and on buildings. Through the winter, I'd sit out cold nights in bivouacs and climb frozen waterfalls. I was able to compress my studies through high school and spend a month in New Hampshire each winter- mixed rock and ice climbing and the occasional mountaineering venture in the Presidential Range. Each step towards my vision of that high mountain camp was a small, simple, logical move towards the life I wanted to be living.
I began guiding at Mount Rainier in 1979. Anyone working there is quick to see there are hundreds of years of cumulative climbing experience functioning within Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. It's a fine place to further one's mountain education, as long as guiding is partnered with stretching your personal limits. With fine partners, I was able to climb the Wickersham Wall on Denali and the South Face of Mount Saint Elias over a few years.
My first trip to the Himalaya was assisting with Eric Simonson's guided climb of 21,133' Hiunchuli, in 1983. I gained a fine insight into the stresses of high altitude guiding, which Eric was able to balance exquisitely. The opportunity for my first Everest expedition came on my first day of guiding. I was involved with an evacuation that led to an invitation to a West Ridge Expedition in 1985. Luck and opportunity will not be accessible unless you place yourself in the arena of your dreams. Other attempts on Everest followed: the West Ridge again in 1986, the Kangshung Face in 1988, a successful climb in 1991, guiding on the South Col in 1993 and the Mallory & Irvine Research Expedition in 1999. This is my seventh expedition to the mountain. I am coming back this year to partly finish what we started in 1999. Far more haunting, has been two other realizations.
First, I believe the evidence we found with the remains of George Mallory indicates they achieved the summit in 1924. Second, the world's fascination with this story indicates, to me, a far deeper realization than whether or not they were the first to reach the summit, 29 years before it was a reasonable thing to do. Within our fascinations is almost always a lesson we're trying to discover. What I'm striving for is to grasp the mythical lesson within the story and illustrate it with an image from the camera they carried on their summit day.