Monday, 12 August 2013

The art of never giving up

There's a particular section of the Everest climb called The Khumbu Icefall. It's a very dangerous part of the mountain - the climb being very difficult and unavoidable to anyone wishing to reach the summit - and it is incredibly treacherous because it's actually a glacier that was torn up through natures elements over a significant length of time, resulting in huge crevices and blocks of ice, some the size of valleys and others taller than a twelve story building - all scattered along a few kilometers before the first resting place called Camp 1. Many people have died here, trying to pass through the dangerous path, which takes an average of 10 hours to cross. 

But that is just the beginning. See, because the Icefall is the very first obstacle one encounters when climbing Everest from Base Camp. Not that getting to Base Camp is all that easy, taking into account that it takes between 10 and 14 days, since there are no roads leading there. 

The first thing climbers do when they make the journey through Icefall to Camp 1 is rest there for three days. Because when climbing any mountain, it is imperative to acclimatize to the environment, air temperature and altitude. Climbing straight to the top will result in certain death. They have to move slowly, making calculated movements to avoid any accidents and taking care not to strain themselves and their limited resources. 

So they make that torrid journey to Camp 1, navigating that extremely volatile environment, and when they eventually reach it, they rest for three nights before heading back down to Base Camp... where they spend another three nights, before beginning all over again. Over the weeks, they eventually work their way up to Camp 2, stay there three nights before going back down to Base Camp... where they spend another three nights... before going up to Camp 3 to stay there for three nights, before coming down again to Base Camp and starting all over again...

This goes on for three full months. And every time, the climbers have to trek through the unforgiving terrain of Icefall, to get to their Camp, just to come back down again. It's a painfully slow, relentless process but necessary to ensure that the climber acclimatizes to the environment... and acclimatization can only occur over a long period of time. Hence moving slow and steady is essential, not only to succeed, but to survive. The harsh environment not only tests every climbers physical capabilities, but their mental and psychological faculties as well. It's as important to stay positive as it is not to overexert oneself. The entire operation is nothing short of gruesome. 

The Summit itself is a brief affair - not lasting for more than an hour. So all that work - 18 months of preparation, 3 months of climbing, for an hour on top of the mountain? It sounds utterly ridiculous. But ask any climber who has reached the top if they have any regrets or if they'd change anything, and every single one of them will say NO. To them, that one solitary hour is worth everything they had to endure over the better part of the previous two years. 

And of course... people only ever want to know what it was like at the top of the mountain. No one is concerned with the petty details of the climb, no matter how interesting it is. 

Such is life. Anything worth accomplishing requires going through an Icefall of some sort... navigating the difficult road and staying positive, no matter how many times we have to climb back down to Base Camp just to start all over again. Calculated moves, careful thinking, taking care of yourself on every level - physically, mentally, psychologically, spiritually - are all requisites to reaching your summit. And of course, people will only ever want to know what it was like to succeed - no one knows about the countless hours that go into accomplishing the goal - the blood, the sweat, the tears. No one is around for the gritty slog, day in and day out. 

Slow and steady wins the race. Progress only comes to the patient. And this message has really hit home during this past Ramadan. It could not be more relevant to me - the Queen of a tribe called Impatient. This Ramadan, I've been tested in ways that I've never been tested before. And I found it incredibly challenging most days - the hunger and thirst not having anything to do with it at all. It felt like my soul and spirit was being tested, pushed to its limits, forced to reevaluate and be open to change. It certainly wasn't easy but with the Grace of The Almighty, I feel like I've covered some ground and made some progress.

Sometimes I think that we are inclined to put too much emphasis on the outcome. We don't take a second to stop and appreciate the process - the journey - the very essence of what makes us, us. And it leaves us feeling hollow and empty. In a way, it robs us of all the depth and meaning in our accomplishments. Life is not a race. There really is an art to patience and persistence. And yes, it's always easier said then done. But in most cases, it has been done before. And those doers didn't have it any easier. And if they could do it, then so can we. And it always seems impossible, until it's done.

21 comments:

  1. Firsty, I will not be climbing Everest.
    Secondly, You are right. The journey is what it's all about and not the end result. It's what you learn along the way that makes you the character you are today.

    Obviously I have the greatest respect for what you have achieved Azra as I can't imagine how difficult it is. You can't beat patience and persistence in anything. I'm glad your journey has brought new perspective.

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    1. It's a brand new day Jules... and yes there's new perspective and new reasons to celebrate :) PS. I won't be climbing Everest either :P

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  2. I am not going to be winning any competitions for patience as well but thank you for the reminder that patience and perseverance will really win the day

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    1. It's a constant battle Rooth - and I guess that's the point. To tame the spirit :P

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  3. How are you dear Az? how was your Ramadán time?
    This is and special post Az! I always think we begin all days again and believe me is not easy to me!
    Did you talk with grumpy ? I mail the other day and was a Little sick again so maybe you can mail him dear!! besoss

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    1. Hi dear Gloria, Ramadan was good thanks. Yes I heard about our dear Grumpy and I've been very worried about him. I will pray for his recovery. XO

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  4. great post. I'm very impatient myself and just recently learned to enjoy the journey and to not take short-cuts or to throw fits if things don't go my way and/or fast enough...

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    1. I've been here before Petra - but now I'm trying to implement and internalise being patient :)

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  5. This post hit home. This Ramadaan was the same for me, very testy, but also one of the best Ramadaans I've experienced in a long time, algamdulillah.

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    1. Glad you've found something positive Nuraan. And may you grow from that :)

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  6. Roger all of that.

    Glad you've experienced some personal growth (can't ever have too much) and that your writing is back!

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    1. Roving Retorter - its good to be back thanks :)

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  7. Eid Mubarak to you and family, Azra!
    Sometimes I break down but the journey has to continue. Life rolls like that I guess.

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    1. Thanks Jaya! Yeah, life carries on :)

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  8. LOL! I'll have to use that last expression because D-Man was told me recently that he feels that with every step we take forward, we take another one back.

    I was just going over old posts and fixing them since they didn't all import onto the new domain quite right. Anyway, just reading through them made me realize the journey we've experienced along the way - and you're right - how easy it is to forget and how hollow we can sometimes feel because we forget. I'm glad I've journaled these experiences. Just another reminder to really live in the moment, because time goes quickly and there's no turning back.

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    1. Michelle, I guess you know better than most what its like :) I'm glad you're back in the blogosphere and hope this next chapter for you and D-Man is a successful and blissful one :)

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  9. D-Man *was telling* me. Woops, typo!

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  10. If I start to climb Everest, slap me silly and change my mind.

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  11. LL - I don't think you'd ever even get to basecamp... only because you can't take your 4 x 4 up there and we all know how much you love that car :D

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  12. Very nicely written, Azra. This is such a good piece of writing worthy to be read every depression of my life. Thank you! :)

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  13. Love your writing, love this. Beautiful. And I'm glad you had such wonderful reflection during Ramadan. Onward and upward!

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