We are waiting now. Waiting for weather. Waiting for ropes to be fixed. Waiting to be strong. For me, it's a fine line. I'm getting fidgety. And by all accounts, fidgety Sam is the most irritating of creatures. Too short a wait and we won't be ready. Too long and I would have driven the rest of the team to distraction, or worse still be in the clinic in Namche with a completely non-climbing related blunt trauma injury.
What we will attempt in the next week or so will combine all of what we have been striving for, for this month and a half. Acclimatisation. Climbing. Recovering. Eating. Laughing. Moaning. Getting cold. Getting hot. There will be minor moments of pride as small obstacles are overcome, and despair as the cold and energy-sapping tasks ahead loom in our mind's eye. We all hope that there will be the ultimate exaltation, relief and triumph as we get back into Base Camp having achieved what we set out to do. But this is by no means a foregone conclusion, and we will need a huge amount of luck, and no doubt much pain, to get to this state of affairs.
Regardless, reflecting on this all it has been a wonderful experience, and we have been surrounded by some of the very best of people. Experienced, calm, entertaining and supportive. It has been an expedition in every sense of the word.
Perhaps at this point, we should take stock of why Pete and I are taking this on. This has been hard. Gruelling on the body – certainly – but more, it has tormented the mind. The weight of self-expectation, the fear of failure, and, (in my case) the fear of heights.
Losing track of the outside world is easy. One becomes incredibly insular. What remains at the forefront of the mind though, primarily through messages of support from the guys back home, are the Rangers.
This is why we are here. This is why it's important for us to go through physical pain, the cold and the mental strain. We are here in solidarity with the men and women across the world who are putting their lives on the line for the simplest and most fundamental of causes – wilderness. Good men and women fighting greed, corruption and human wantonness. Men and women struggling, hurting and dying so that creatures no less important than ourselves may exist.
It doesn't take much. What you might spend on a coffee will buy a couple of pairs of socks for a ranger. As a man with cold toes now, it's a gift that at the time will seem almost beyond value. A few hundred dollars can mean that for a year a ranger can go about their work knowing that their families are secure with life and health insurance. As someone who for the last month or so has been hanging off the end of a rope, away from my wife and daughters, I cannot begin to describe the comfort this brings.
For the past four years, Pete and I have committed all our savings, free time and (in Pete's case hanging out with me) sanity, to try and make a small difference to the world's rangers by pushing ourselves physically to raise awareness and funds.
I wouldn't ask any of you to join Pete or me on these expeditions. (The whistling alone would render most decent people insane.) But if you've enjoyed any of these blogs, or followed this lunatic adventure, we would be ever so grateful if you would support the men and women who risk their lives to protect what can't protect itself – our wilderness.