I was only 15 minutes from the summit. That’s what those two other guys we had passed had told me. In the faint distance, between a swirling hurricane of ice, the wind knocking me off my feet, and my ice axe disappearing into an abyss of endless powder, was the summit ridge. But I knew our location was the end of the line. In my head, I was terrified. I couldn’t see how far I was from careening off the edge of the trail, but I was putting all my might forward to persevere. That’s when our climb leader made the call:
We’re turning around.
I felt the judgmental eyes of my teammates, the ones who had been going strong, and here I am. The rookie. The one that ended our climb. That was story of my first attempt on Rainier in May of 2012. It was my first brush with what is an unfortunate, but necessary consequence of our work.
Failure is what no-one likes to talk about. The stories people love are about the successes, not the “almost made it”. While we live to fight another day, those lost moments, those last steps, and those small factors that can make or break an objective will drive an adventurer mad with passion and wanting. We have to fail in order to move forward. While I love talking about majestic windswept summits, smiles from the top, and celebratory moments, I’m going to explore the other side. The stories that have to be heard. The failures.