Monday, August 04, 2008

... in life ... at 4808 m

In October last year, I watched Dr. Randy Pausch's "Last Lecture" video after reading about him featured in the Wall Street Journal. My favorite line from this lecture was:

"It's not about how to achieve your dreams. It's about how to live your life. If you live your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dream will come to you."

After his fight with cancer for about a year, Dr. Pausch is now resting in peace. He lived on for about double the amount of time that his doctor had originally expected from him.
... ... ...

So how do I live my life? You can see my entire pictures from this Switzerland and Mt. Blanc climbing trip in my Flickr album

"Fun? If your idea of fun is eating undercooked crap food (water boils at 85C at such altitude), sharing a double mattress with two other (awfully stinky) guys, trying to sleep while your heart is beating at almost 200 bpm, then waking up at 2 am, fighting up hungry Italians just to get your fair share of breakfast, then go out and face the cold wind by 3:30 am ... went through a layer of cloud then found yourself above the clouds and above all other peaks in Europe on a beautiful morning with an amazing sunrise ... YES, THAT WAS FUN!!!": Me

Mt. Blanc does not rank among the extreme mountains to climb, nevertheless, there's always something mythical about it. The White Mountain. La Dame Blanche. The White Lady. The world's most storied mountain. The top of Europe.

4808 meters above sea level.

Sunday, July 27th 2008: St-Gervais-Les-Bains (850 m) - Nid d'Aigle (2372 m) - Refuge du Goûter (3817 m)

After a week of warm up sessions in the Swiss mountains, on Saturday, July 27th 2008, we moved our base camp from Saas Fee to St-Gervais-Les-Bains, where the Tramway du Mont Blanc starts its journey as part of Mt. Blanc's Voie Normale, or also known as Voie du Goûter.

We took the first tram up on Sunday, a 7:20 AM train (delayed to 7:40 AM), arriving at Nid d'Aigle by about 9 AM. The mountain tram took the bulk of the climb, but we still had about 1500m climb to the Refuge du Goûter, so we got there at about 2 PM.

An interesting bit -- while we were heading to the "relative" comfort of the mountain hut in Refuge du Goûter, some people decided to brave the snow storm on bivouac tents on the snow fields up the Tête Rousse plateau and just at the foothill of Dôme du Goûter.

"There is a very fine line between bravery and stupidity."

Dinner at 6 PM was supposedly quite crappy due to the lack of cooking temperature feasible at such altitude, but I was so tired and hungry that all the food tasted very delicious even on my still-swollen lips.

Monday, July 28th, 2008: Refuge du Goûter (3817 m) - Mt. Blanc (4808 m) - Col du Midi (3532 m) - Aiguille du Midi (3842 m)

"Route-finding should be easy: there will be 30 people in front of you and 200 people behind you": Adrian

"But what if the 30 people are following the 1 person who happens to be taking the wrong turn?": Me

After fighting a bunch of hungry Italians for my fair share of breakfast, and after finishing half of Adrian's leftover breakfast that earned me a strange look from our table mates ...

"What? Look at that mountain. Look at him, then look at me. I am half the size of my mate here, which means I have to make roughly twice the number of steps he has to make. I deserve to eat twice as much as what he eats!"

... by around 3:30 AM, we were heading off to the top. And as you can see from my watch ... we made it there in good time.

Life, at 4808.75 m.
The altimeter on my watch reads 4810 m ... the snow level plus the height of my arms.

Since it was still quite early ... we decided to take the scenic route back, Voie de Trois Monts. This route of the three mountains take a bit of a longer walk across to the other side of the Mt. Blanc Massif. It's so-called three mountains because the three mountains involved: Mt. Blanc, Mt. Maudit, and Mt. Blanc du Tacul. It also did involve a bit more technical skills, especially under the heat of afternoon sun ... as we had to descend a wall of melting snow, traverse along walls of melting ice, and a few of wide-open rimayes. Nevertheless, after ... the ... last ... three ... hundred ... meters .. climb ... from Col du Midi up to Aiguille du Midi, we made it back safely to the end point of Aiguille du Midi téléphérique--almost to a hero's welcome. Dozens of tourists stood around the guard rails of the observation deck of the Aiguille du Midi almost like waiting for our return ... pointing at us and taking our pictures. A Dutch kid pointed at us and said "Look, mom, mountain man!" And just to be obnoxious, I pointed back at them, and told my friend, "Hey, look, Adrian ... tourists!! What do they want?"

"Oh, I'll tell you what's most fun. At the top of Aiguille du Midi téléphérique, a Dutch tourist asked me: 'So, are you guys gonna hike back down now?'

I said, '*Back* down? We didn't come from down. We came from *up* there ...' pointing at Mt. Blanc."

And, at the end of the day, it was one, heck, amazing, memorable, great, journey.

Sunset over Mt. Blanc as seen from Chamonix

Carmen: "Wow! How did you get there??? ;-)"

Me: "Oh, easy. Google's venture arm has invented this device called magic clouds that you could just call out of the skies and you jump on it and it will take you anywhere you want. I was lucky to be selected as one of the beta testers for this really really cool device. You see the yellow things on my shoes ... they latch right on the magic clouds. The rope around my shoulder is its version of safety belt ... you know, to prevent people from falling down during sometimes bumpy flights."

Adrian: "Magic clouds my arse. "

At the end of the day, looking at Mt. Blanc from a restaurant in Chamonix, Adrian asked me: "Would you not rather have grown up in Chamonix?"


I am what I am. An Indonesian by birth, name, and food culture. American by upbringing, dreams, and aspirations. Chinese by heritage, work ethics, and compassion. Franco-Flemish by pragmatism, appreciation of life, and beer passion. Small town boy at heart with a global perspective in the mind.

Confused by identity and values but a big believer in the culture of tolerance at the end.

Why would I want to trade that with anything?

"If you live your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dream will come to you.": Dr. Randy Pausch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If the grass is greener, then probably rains more. Either that or someone's been out with the paint can!