Telluride Inside...and Out: Ben Clark In The Himalayas, Dispatch 8

Editor's note: For eight years, Telluride local/mountaineer Ben Clark and a few friends/professional colleagues have made Spring treks to the majestic mountains of the Himalayas. Follow his adventures on Telluride Inside… and Out, including links to his regular podcasts. If you have missed any of Ben's posts, just type "Ben Clark" into Lijit Search to find them all.

Benbioshotlr-254x300 "Dispatch 8: 20'600' and man it's awesome up here!

You have to be crazy to explore high altitude. Not conventionally crazy, like constantly repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. You have to be comfortable with getting a result that is punishing and optimistically believing the opposite will happen next time. Crazy thing is…it does, every time. That's why flatlanders label it extreme. I guess it defines risk as well.

Jon and I traveled light and high to 20,600' yesterday on our objective, 23,390' Baruntse, it was hard on us. We climbed half our expected five-day route in a little over 24 hours, just three days after arriving in base camp. As much as we enjoyed the scenery and the awkward sensation of oxygenless stupor, we also descended fully to base camp in time for supper. FAST. Today we rest in anticipation of a summit strike in a couple of days. Weather is moving in as the sky is swarming moisture in from the Northwest, a testy condition I have sat through before in a less comfortable position testing my patience.

Climbing in the high Himalaya is demanding and offers a rite of passage for one's mind. No, I'm not about to launch into a self-aggrandizing piece here, I mean to define the statement above in an authentic sense to portray why all aspects of these adventures are important. The rite of passage is very spiritual, very intrinsic and personal. For me, it is maintaining focus while the distraction of enormous scale and mountain upon mountain flutter through clouds and reveal a rare and sanctimonious environment. For Jon, it is putting one foot in front of the other until you push through and feel good. (Yes, that  happens when the blood gets going.) For videographer Chris Dalton, who is stationed in base camp, it is the overwhelming sense of isolation and beauty, a priceless vision of Mother Earth. There are hints of life that when the curtains of the esoteric are lifted from this message, fill us with a joy that is unique to this environment. That is why we are here.

And Jon and I get to go back up and experience it again! On skis! The initial burn of acclimatization is over, we have respectfully and responsibly approached this peak. We climbed high, understand our route and have marked the crevasses (holes in the glacier) for a safe and fun ski descent. A first for this mountain and this route filled with fun slopes for the ice climber and skier alike.

For more on why this year's ascent and Jon's breakthrough hold so much weight on our experience, please visit www.skithehimalayas.com/podcasts/ and view episode 12. It is long, it is raw and it offers insight into the perseverance and will that drives my respect for Jon as a person and a climbing partner. You'll also witness why failing so big can sometimes lead to such rewarding knowledge unavailable through constant success in the comforts of our ability.

Live the dream,

Ben Clark"

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