I am physically and emotionally exhausted from this week. A mad-man in Moncton, armed with ammo and weapons killed three RCMP officers and injured two others. Not something you expect so close to home. Yesterday was 100in1dayHalifax, and it was a success. But it was hard to keep smiling at the public when my heart breaks for mothers of children who will not remember their fathers.
I spent all day today doing yard work and planting the pepper plants we planted a few weeks ago. The weather is nice and warm now, but a few days last week there was still a chill in the air, tempting me to put on my winter coat at times. I didn’t know much about the North Face when I bought my winter coat last year. Well, actually I didn’t buy it, my mother in law bought it for me for Christmas. Well, actually she didn’t buy it either, she bought me a lovely red, fur lined little job (Week 17). Back to the store it went, and in exchange I came home with a North-face, furless version .
Fast forward nine months, and I’m reading a new and exciting book I picked up at the library – Above All Things, a work about the wife of doomed Everest climber George Mallory. He and his climbing partner, Sandy Irvine, disappeared on the mountain 90 years ago this week.
And so began my 3 month fascination with the mountain. I found the Mallory and Irvine mystery so intriguing I felt compelled to read everything I could get my hands on. I have always been interested in “lost” explorers, such as Amelia Earhart and the Apollo 1 tragedy, but not to this near-obsession level. Maybe it was the sense of living adventure vicariously through these historical figures. Maybe it was the atmosphere created by our blizzardy winter, I could imagine myself on the mountain. Or maybe it was the scientist in me looking for the answer.
Whatever the spark, in a few months I devoured upwards of 15 books and DVDs on the subject, everything from autobiographies, biographies and memoirs to scientific papers to photography and atlas–type books, to docudramas, even re-reading Into thin air which I had read several years ago.
One of the things I learned through all of this – besides the fact that Everest is a very dangerous place to be – was that the company The North Face (which made my coat) got its name from the north side or face of the mountain. I am probably the only outdoor enthusiast who didn’t know this. But in fairness there are not a lot of mountains where I live, so I never had cause to think about it.
I also learned that the mountain is gradually accumulating tons of waste. Aside from the human waste (a.k.a. excrement) from climbers, there are also used oxygen canisters, bits of packaging that gets blown around and lost . . .and of course, the climbers who never make it down, and whose families can’t afford to get them off the mountain for repatriation. All this has led to the mountain becoming the “world’s largest dump”.
What is being done to rectify this situation? First of all, climbers must bring their garbage (including their own waste) back down the mountain when they descend. There are also yearly expeditions specifically to do trash pick-ups.
This got me thinking about waste in general. To reduce my own waste, I have stopped using Q-tips and stopped buying individually packaged foods for lunches and snacks (another aspect of my lifestyle that changed after becoming a Mom – easy to grab, non-perishable foods!) Instead, with a little planning and preparation, I’ve been packing whole grain crackers or apple slices.
The final book in my “research” was a memoir by Jennifer Lowe-Anker, Forget-me Knot, and essentially brought me full-circle. Not unlike Ruth Mallory, Jennifer knew “what it was like to be the wife of a climber who doesn’t come home”.
I really enjoyed this read, and identified with Jennifer’s story. I’m not sure why I felt I identified with her so much. Maybe it was her love of nature and the way she described how she and her husband met and fell in love. Or maybe it was my constant worry of having a small child and being the wife of a man involved in extreme sports. Not that marathoning is remotely extreme relative to mountain climbing, but marathon runners have been known to expire pursuing their passion. This very thought was on my mind as my husband trained for his marathon this spring. After three years of visits to the medical tent post-race, I decided it was time to insist that he see a doctor during his training, before race day. And he did, and they found nothing to prevent him from running. But I still worried.
Prior to the race, he trained carrying a cell phone, and we scrutinized the course map, setting designated meeting points throughout the run.
And in the end, he finished healthy and happy, with a personal best. What a relief.