Wednesday May 25 2011 Article by "Pat Falvey" Irish Independent
We don't do it to die, we do it to live. Since the evolution of man, people have set out to explore and to conquer mountains.
People love standing on the highest point in their county or country.
And once you take up the sport of adventure climbing, Mount Everest is earmarked for you as the highest point in the world. It is within our human psyche to challenge ourselves and be the best that we can.When you come to Everest, you can stand on a place that's no bigger than your kitchen, at the height that jet-liners cruise. The satisfaction of that feeling is hard to put in words: you're crossing one of the most powerful places on Earth.
At one time the mountain would have been at the deepest seabed, and the fossils of sea creatures are encrusted on the rock. To be in such a powerful place through the nature of aeons gives you that extra bit of satisfaction. High-altitude mountains are the nearest that you can be to heaven. From a spiritual point of view, Everest itself is known as 'Chomolungma' -- Goddess Mother of the Earth. When mountaineers cross there, they feel like they're with the goddess herself.But you have to be very strong in the power of the mind.
Most people who go on these endeavours will know that there are risks involved, that the challenges are varied and many.They are physical, psychological and spiritual, but for a short period in the history of mankind you will be standing on the highest place on Earth.
People ask "Is it hard?" Firstly, when it comes to the aspect of altitude it is very, very dangerous. Everybody who steps into the inner sanctum of her womb knows this. Secondly, you could argue it's a selfish endeavour. In the early days when I started, one in every 10 people who would climb to the summit would die, and we were asked if we were mad. But by the time you are 50, one in 10 people that you know will be dead. So when you look at someone following their dream, having looked at the statistics of life, anyone at 50 has beaten the odds of Everest. You could also not follow your dream and get knocked down by a bus or get some illness that could take you. Mountaineers don't do this for the risk of dying, they do it for the risk of living. I don't think anybody who attempts to do this feels they are doing it to die, even though they know the calculated risks involved.
It is a very selfish pursuit. I now have 14 of my own friends who are encrusted on to the rock above 8,000 metres on the high altitude mountains of this world. Sometimes we feel like it is going to war. But I feel really sorry at times for the people staying at home. When you're in the battlefield you are out there fighting the war, whereas those that are at home are worried about you. The people at home usually give their full support because they know what it means to the people who are doing this. In reality we must accept as climbers it is a very selfish pursuit, but in nearly all cases we have the support of our family because they know this is what we love doing. John Delaney had a dream. He fulfilled it with a conviction and a passion. Sadly, for whatever reason, his body gave up. Maybe it was his time to go where he has gone.
The death zone on Everest is an imaginary line at about 8,000 metres. Once you go into this area, the heart, lungs and body have to expand, so you have to give acclimatisation time for it to expand to its right level. The death zone is a place where a lot of people are affected with pulmonary edema and cerebral edema -- a flooding of the lungs or a swelling of the brain due to the altitude and the deprivation of oxygen. You're up in the jet stream. You have avalanches, rock falls and landslides.
The death zone is known to mountaineers as a place where you go and if anything goes wrong with you, your body does not recover. John loved mountains, he loved the challenge and he was a very competent climber. In 2006 he started his high altitude climbing on South America's highest point. I had the privilege of working with him to climb the 7,000m peak on Aconcagua in South America.
He loved his family very much. John lost his life in fulfilling his passion and what he loved doing. We must support Orla and her three kids now and indeed his mother. He has left a lot of people behind who loved him very, very much.
Pat Falvey is a world-renowned Irish adventurer, corporate speaker and team trainer. He has climbed Everest four times, reaching the summit twice
- Pat Falvey