Defying Altitude and Adversity
Before climbing any mountain, there are a few things I keep in mind to stay confident and secure: preparing mentally and physically and being present with the mountain. My mind, body, and soul are aligned with whatever nature brings. Manaslu mountain was a special one. Before starting, I was driven by my expectations of Manaslu, believing it would be easy compared to my previous experiences in climbing. Was it because I’ve experienced more challenging mountains? That was my initial thought. But after Manaslu, I’ve grown to believe that there are always special and specific circumstances that make every climb different from the others.
My expectations of Manaslu were quickly interrupted as soon as I began having altitude sickness and anxiety. It was early days, and I found myself lying in my sleeping bag, with a heart rate of 120, a pounding headache, and exhaustion taking over my whole body. I began to wonder if these symptoms were an indication of something bigger, something regarding my ability to reach my goals and make it to the top. Instead, the only thing going up was my anxiety. But I wasn't going to let it control me and my feelings, so I reached out for help.
My friends were trustworthy and had enough knowledge of such circumstances. At that moment, all I wanted was to make the right decision that would push my body to adapt to the altitude. After listening to some advice, I eventually began taking the medicine (Diamox) which led me to climb higher. Adapting to the heights I was climbing required a change in my mind and body, but even so, the medicine did not give me enough confidence to keep going.
The night of the summit was difficult and long. It took 16 hours to go up from the third camp and down to the main camp. With the night being so long, I reached a point where I couldn’t even tell whether I was walking on a slope or flat ground. I felt lost in the feeling and couldn't tell why. It could be the oxygen I was breathing from the bottle, but it could be the deep darkness surrounding us. I eventually thought to myself: it’s a mountain, everything is a slope, so I’m definitely going up.
I knew then that I was close, so my joy and excitement led to quicker steps. I saw people heading down, and I knew it was only a matter of time until I made it. When we arrived, the Sherpa asked me to wait because the summit can only accommodate one or two people, and the crowding there will be very dangerous. Waiting while standing, the cold suddenly became painful – especially during dawn. I was moving around in the same spot until it was my turn.
The Challenging Ascent
Nearing the Summit
This is when I changed my strategy: by being around a circle full of positive people who bring good energy. I've done this before, and it worked wonders. Being around a big group of people with a shared goal can sometimes bring negatives as well, but I've learned to stay away from that. Walking alone with my Sherpa helper, I try to maintain that energy so I don't lose focus and have control of my feelings. I learn about myself with every step I go and feel myself getting stronger. Something I've always told myself: strength and weakness are fleeting emotions, and I can keep going regardless of what I experience.
The conversations I had with myself were endless, so much so that I felt closer to the summit already. My presence and alignment with that place made it better. I’d wake up every day, step out of my tent, and look up at Manaslu with determination to climb it. Never underestimate the power of daily affirmations.
It feels like with every step, my feet dive into the snow and I lift them up to move forward. The headlights were fooling me into thinking the top was near although it was not. It feels like we’d been climbing endless slopes, and the darkness lasted for about 10 hours. When the light finally began to shine into the world, it almost felt like a reward; a prize for finally getting to the top.
The ledge on the summit spot was dangerous. I was leaning on the side of my mountain in the snow because the other side had a path that barely fit my huge climbing shoes. I proudly took out my flag and began raising it, fully indulging at that moment and asking for videos and photos. We all filmed similar clips, and joy was shared among all of us. I began going down so someone else could climb the summit, and we were back in fast steps.
The only ones left were those going down with us, those who were still going up, and those who were exhausted and lying down. Unfortunately, one who was dying was lying there too. My Sherpa asked me not to look and to pass by quickly when we saw him, and to this day, I still do not know the truth of what happened to him.
The feeling of success made me forget all the hours that exhausted my whole body, as well as the pain, stress, and fatigue. We stopped to collect our things from the third camp and ate food full of energy. We went down to the second camp and another stop in the first. I arrived at the main camp, limping in pain and unable to even stand. I couldn't eat, I just wanted to sleep.
In the morning, I left immediately. This is a habit of mine; I don’t dwell after finishing a mission. I reached the summit and got my bright photo with Oman’s flag raised for the first time at Manaslu. This experience made me happy, a new way of getting to know myself even more!