LITERALLY: THIS IS THE TALK THAT INSPIRED THE 2019 SANDY IRVINE SEARCH EXPEDITION, which led to the film LOST ON EVEREST by National Geographic and Mark Synnott's book THE THIRD POLE: MYSTERY, OBSESSION, AND DEATH ON MOUNT EVEREST.
This presentation is one of only two sold out events EVER at the Leura Hill Eastman Performing Arts Center at Fryeburg Academy in Fryeburg, Maine.
The presentation was captured on camera by a student at the back of the auditorium, using a microphone mounted to the top of the camera. It's presented here for informational and educational purposes.
"Pollard’s dynamic presentations are geared to inspire a deeper understanding of self and elicit the motivations which drive us to tackle seemingly insurmountable goals. Motivation, performance, teamwork, goal setting and overcoming obstacles are all interwoven metaphorically into his talk." This event was in support of sports medicine programs and services at Memorial Hospital, North Conway, NH.
PLEASE LEARN MORE ABOUT THOM DHARMA POLLARD HERE:
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This is the happiness quotient. Have you heard of a course in happiness? In this short colorful guide filled with beautiful adventure photography? The easy to read guide suggests that we stop chasing happiness in our path toward unlocking the mysteries to life's big questions. It offers a few guideposts to contemplate, and to put to use in your daily life. Go to patreon.com slash the happiness quotient, where you'll find a free pdf download of a course in happiness.The Wood Brothers:
All of my wisdom came from all the toughest days I never learned a thing bein' happy all of my sufferin came i didnt appreciate it I never learned a thing bein happyThom Pollard:
Welcome to the happiness quotient. This is Thom Pollard. Winter appears to have finally relented and spring is truly on its way in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Only a few minutes drive from my house I stop at this railroad trellis and short hike down a path along a river reveals this lovely sandy beach with stones along parts of it. This time of year always gets me going April to me means Everest season. This episode is dedicated to the climbers and trekkers and Sherpa and the many workers cooks porters who are as we speak headed toward Everest base camp in the Khumbu valley of Nepal. April is the season where all move toward the gorgeous and all powerful mountain, chama llama, Mother Goddess of mountains, as it's known in Tibet, or saggar Martha in Nepal. Today, I'm going to share with you a presentation I did in Freiburg, Maine, in 2017, called lessons learned in the pursuit of Everest. The talk, as it would turn out, was attended by a good friend of mine, Mark, Senate. And little did I know that the talk inspired the birth of the 2019 Sandy Urban Search expedition. In another week, Mark, Senate, his book, The third pole, mystery, obsession, and death on Mount Everest will be released. So I'm sharing with you that talk that mark Sennett attended and told me that this really was the genesis of all that took place in the last three years of his life and definitely mine as well in the, in the aftermath of an incredible expedition to Mount Everest. Here is my talk, lessons learned in pursuit of Everest. Please enjoy. appreciate everybody being here. It's an honor to have people show up to hear me tell stories, which is something that I'd love to do. Because my friends will attest to my favorite subject. And that's as instead of me as myself and I try to throw it to other people who are far more inspiring than I am. Without further ado, I'm not sure how we got there. I know Liam Smith was supposed to be here. I don't know. She's made it more extended. Hopefully those guys were able to get in without getting bounced at the door. I see that hearing and hear another person from sports medicine. Glad to have you here. Thank you. But, but you know, I've, I've had the privilege of going on many adventures around the world. And it It started kind of, in a very humble way. I was a person who had no dreams to travel, no trains decline. I really just wanted to be a filmmaker and a reporter. I was a reporter for channel 22 and NBC affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts. And I didn't think anything of going to the mountains. In fact, I went on a camping trip with my brother and sister one time and I complained Instead of putting in olive oil to coat the chicken, my sister put like dishwashing liquid. And I was so angry, I just it was awful. It was just it was an audition. And I'm sure you remember that I was pretty upset. And so but but it would turn out that my brother pursued this. And he brought me ice climbing up in North Conway back in probably 86 or 87. And it was as if the minute my crampons touched the ice, that there was this, this complete change in me, something hit me that was so deep and profound, that I realized at that time that I had to completely change my life, in order to continue going after those things, finding that feeling. And it was like a spiritual thing. I was so obsessed with it, that I literally transformed my career just to integrate whatever filmmaking experience I had with mountain climbing. And it started in small ways doing films on computer lift, and great climbers like this Scottish guy, Jerry Hanford, and it was like a stud in the 80s, one 500 teams and putting up new routes and, and, you know, so for me, it just continued to go, I looked for other people who were better than me, who could teach me things that I didn't. So I went to France, and I climbed extensively with this Welsh guy, his name is Terry Taylor. And he took me to these crazy places. In the end, he told me that I shouldn't be able to trust my feet, my abilities, and we went to do all sorts of stupid things together, never wrote up on clients, like the friend ghosts are a waste of money and, and did all sorts of neat things. That working out back it literally gives me chills, that I did something so foolish and close to death. But I was confident I was cocky, I didn't have enough experience to know any better. And, you know, so we went up. And we did that to two seasons in a row, six weeks each time, I just climbed up throughout Germany in the French Alps, and, and ate everything out that I possibly could. And then that was it. I felt like I kind of had some foundations, something that I could bring to the world. And at that time, I also met Rick Wilcox, who many of you know, he's the guy, the local Everest guy. In 1991, he became the first New Hampshire least local guy to climb Mount Everest. And while this is the north side of Mount Everest reclined in from the south, Rick hire me to produce a documentary forum called in which we call thin air. And it was at that time that I discovered Mount Everest, it became like a holy grail for me, like if I get really good, if I become like Frick, and like those climbers that I admire so much, maybe someday, I'll be able to go up there and be one of them. I just wanted to continue pushing it. And so it became literally like a spiritual quest for me, you know. And so, at the same time, I was meditating five hours a day, like to pursue whatever path toward enlightenment that might bring me to, and when I found the mountains, it was like this perfect kind of divergent path, if you will, they bounced together and then they bounced apart, but it was all linked. And, and in Nepal, they call it the Himalaya, the mountain shaman is the abode of snow. And it was believed for many 1000s of years that at the summit, that the gods lived in the summit's and that if any man should be so daring and so brave as you're trying to climb into the summit, that he or she would be killed instantly in a gobbled up by the gods and just thrown back to Earth. But that, for me was even a greater reason to go after it. Like I could climb up, I could become enlightened, I can go up to the top of that peak, and live, maybe I can go up there and survive and bring it back down. So onward and upward. I continue to go. And my first opportunity to do something about that newfound knowledge. My experience on mountains throughout France, was to go to Mount McKinley as an assistant guy for inter mountain international mountain climbing school. I went to wickedly it was in the early 90s with Mark show and and as the assistant guide. It's a dubious distinction on the guide. I didn't get paid anything but all my expenses got paid. And really what you're doing is you're cooking for four or five or six clients about six or seven hours a day. So you have the portal of your tent, and you have two stoves going literally seven or eight hours a day. And then you get to say, Oh my God, that's a really, really amazing stuff. And then they're constantly bitching about the stuffing Ladies and gentlemen again. Yeah, well, yes, I guess we are, I'm not going to head down to grants and buy. desire. So. So Mark and I, we were on our route what's called the West rib. It's a slightly technical route. It's not really that hard. We fix roads out there. But there's like a 2000 foot very steep face that you have to ascend to make it toward the summit. And all the clients except for this one guy, firefighter from the Bronx, was they just got freaked out by the steepness of the pavement. You know, so we were sending the iPhone left and right that this guy just hung in there, and we went up and we finally got near to a place where we were in that desirous area where we knew we were going to start going for the summit in a day or two. So I can't find the about 14 and a half 1000 feet, we look up and there's this Mayor scale over the summit. And if you have drive by Mount Washington often enough and you see something like that, you know that the property storms coming in? And like any smart people, what did we do when we knew a storm was coming in? We went up so let's go we can we can handle any storm. So we did go into the side of the mountain, we're up there with our road and we're ready to go. Or whatever Mount McKinley is gonna throw us and witching hour just an absolutely or roshe storm comes in. And about four or five hours into the storm Mark looks at videos, I don't think the tent is gonna make it literally, like, possibly be yours. No, I'm serious. But tensely starting to shred and rip. So, as the filming guy, I had to do the hard job. I'll stay in the tent while you guys go dig a snow cave. And so they literally crawled outside of the tent and started digging the sun. Okay, that took about four hours. And they built this tiny little shelter. This is me sending hot drinks out today whose moustache is completely iced up. It was literally epic, this, the winds are probably 100 120 miles an hour. And if you if you split up, they would threaten to blow you over. And as it turned out, we climb into the belly of the mountain. And it was cold. And I have these old climbing boots side and my feet were really cold. But I kept thinking, this is it. I'm gonna lose my toes. Are they lucky? If I just lose my toes? I mean, I think we're going to die here. And but of course I get my camera. It's like, well, I'm gonna die. And they wouldn't want to get some good pictures of this. So I can click a picture. And up tonight, Mark's, like what the hell are you doing? We got to get this down. This is really cool. Looking at die, smile. So I kept filming and took selfies selfies existed in the early 90s. Kids just wanted to let you know. And so I was, I was kind of scared, I will be honest, I was kind of freaking out in a day with the client. having the time of his life, I had to pee so bad. He just said if you move your elbow, even one inch, I will either explode or go in my bag. And so there was no moving, we literally could not move. And as it would turn out, as I had said, I've been meditating like hours and hours a day, and leading up to this expedition. So Mark was right in front of me in his head. He wrestled his head on my knee. And there was no rudder just crunched on top of each other. And so what would happen, you put his head on my knee. And I was so painful. I just had to kind of move the knee a little bit because I was like, but every time I move the knee can go into these violent shaking convulsions and it's so cold and that we just shaved like, violently I was like, Oh my God, he's gonna, like die here in front of me being so cold. So it happened a couple of times, I kept moving my knee and I was saying to you, it's really ticking me. So, so but I made the decision after it happened a couple of times seeing how cold he was, I was like, no matter what, I'm not going to move my name. He's going to put his head on my knee and I do not care how much pain I feel I'm not going to do he is going to fall asleep and rest and not be too cold. Just breathe, breathe, breathe. And it was almost as if, in this instance of the absolute pain that I thought I can no longer bear. It's like my body became molecules and just when I floated world bliss, as if I was just watching from outside of my body. This is three guys in the belly of the mountain women Since we can't afford for from shape, and that was it, we were there for like 24 hours thinking this could be our favorite gold and finally hit the wind debated. And that's when we jumped out. And there was these rescue crews coming up looking for all for the other team, including us on the mountain. And Mark and I've lost one crampon we had to do this long descent down to 14,000 feet, this big flat area. So we had one cramp on one ice that made a point like do not accept any help from the rescue guys. Nothing. Don't even tuck them in even a wrapper. Don't accept any food, water. Don't let them carry your backpack. No rescues. We're doing this all on our own 100% nobody's gonna report about this and accidents and mountaineering. Meet up we got to rescue. And so we did it. Ever you guys are like right next to us. Like you want help? No. Literally, like, they were just like, come on. Do it. No, no, we got all the way down to camp no rescue. And it was pretty cool. So we went back up the next day to gather our stuff. And there's our tent, destroyed, ripped to shreds. Still there, that's where I was inside staying warm while they dug the snow. Okay. And, you know, we, we realize that in that moment, at least I did personally, like, I can do this. Pretty good at this stuff like suffering. You know, as I wish I was a surfer or something. I should have picked up a guitar earlier and gone to a wine or something but, but no wine or so. But that was it. It was it was it was like an epiphany there was like, I'm good that I think I can do this but or whatever, whatever brush with death. And I just thought that I could I can have someone take me under their wing. You know, I can learn from the real masters. Like maybe, you know, maybe it can become something not just something comfortable, you know. So we went down to the one natural place where you would end up after a dresser with every fact reflected for a while. And home I went and made a tiny little mini documentary that I called storm over Denali. And it was a 25 minute film. And I sent it all over the United States producers from National Geographic Discovery Channel. You name it any television producer that had any interest in seeing adventure filmmaking, I sent VHS cassettes all over weeks and weeks to implicate and write letters to Chicago typewriter. And, you know, that was it, I said about it. But in that time, I also sent one of those tapes to this guy, Radford Washburn, who's known as the modern day, founder of Boston Museum of Science. So he became my mentor almost accidentally, he called me up in the middle of the storm over Denali, to visit Brad Washburn is the greatest villain ever seen, come to my house. God, Brad Washington's I get in my car like the next day drive to see him. And just because of this free thing of timing and everything, he's looking for a guy to take under his wing, and I'm looking for that guy to do it. And he became a trusted friend and mentor for many, many years. But the opposite of me, a pragmatist, the science is a guide and never had anybody ever get to get remotely heard on 13. First, a sense throughout Alaska, in maps McKinley mapped out for his map, the Grand Canyon, Swan Lake, a map even I mean, this guy doesn't know. And this is an actual relief map of Mount Everest that's in the Boston Museum of Science. And he took me down he said, let me show you this and why he took his shoes off and walked all over that thing. He talked about the South Pole. And when you go pestalozzi, you take a turn by load, say and you go up the South Pole. And coincidentally, I never knew it at that time. But I realized how much I love now numbers. But this is the I want you to remember that shape right there. And Brad is pointing to something that's called the south coast of Mount Everest, 26,000 feet in elevation as an exact replica of the mountain. He told me all about how to climate where people left cancer, where the garbage was and where bodies where it was like, really compelling stuff. So Brad continued to share this stuff with me. We traveled to Alaska, and two weeks that are filming all around, McKinley doing aerial surveys, and what a grouchy but great guy. He's just like the biggest grump who ever lived. And when I go to his house, he gave me a big hug and his wife would say you will be proud Your kids like? Well, I don't know, maybe, maybe because he knows I can go away. But in that after going under the wing of Brad, I was ready to take my experience now. And some of that knowledge instilled into me under the big scale. So 1996, I traveled to Pakistan with a small group of New Hampshire guys with low cost one. This is a group of just a small part 178 quarters of artist on borders, walking under the shadow of broadpeak. crowd, incredible mountain through the K to glacier up toward a mountain called gasherbrum to 12 highest mountain in the world, one of the 8000 meter peaks. And our goal was as a small team to go up and fix all our own roads and ascend up this route here all the way out, set up a high camp here and then tag to summit. And we went and it was one of the hardest things that you could ever imagine, we thought we need to find a route to just above the ice wall here took us weeks to navigate through the bosses and you know, upward and upward we went. And you can just see how steep and there's no other tents or no other teams there. And we didn't I still didn't know any better. I didn't know what to be afraid. I didn't even know what it was like to truly be afraid. It was almost like I was able to compartmentalize any fears that I had had on my campaign. And so right about the time we got into our high camp, I was with Maureen McKinney and Brad white and Lori and I hashed the plan that we would go summit the day before everybody else. And then we get the summit. Everybody have the wait for everybody else make tea when you guys came down. And that night a radio call from a lower cap rate book God's day does not. Please do not go for the summit. Like we got it. We're right there. Just don't keep the team together, keep the team together. Dang does. It took an hour radio. Battery's dying. Please do not even after radio call Maury and I fall asleep at night. And we opted not to do it didn't go as it would turn out that next day when the other team came up. A massive storm came in and made the one on McKinley look like a little you know, like firecracker. And then we were stuck up at 24 25,000 feet on the side of gasherbrum to witness ominous to set ahead of us about a foot or two of snow falling every six hours or every few hours. So we had to go down slowly. What would we have done on state we have made at the high campus we have dropped our harnesses and we climbed primarily without harnesses and rose scent became kind of grueling and any one false step and it's over. So what I want to show you real quickly is in that descent, we had one guy down in camp, one guy with guns said that you're going to see him talk in a second. During our descent, we were all pretty sure that this was like we're definitely going to die. No question in my mind. Of course, I've got the camera, hey, we're gonna die and smile from the camera. Don't be negative, you know, you want to keep things positive and upbeat. For the people that are my favorite. I was surprised by this one it was was legit. But anyway, you'll see how serious it was. And he wants to run this but it's got to solve it as well.Joe Lentini (ON VIDEO):
When I didn't hear from the team at 10 I was extremely concerned. I heard a really large avalanche come down to this at 1030. I didn't think too much of that until noon. When again, I didn't hear anything on the radio lying down in camp one. At that point, I started scanning glacier looking for bodies. At that point I was formulating in my mind. How am I going to tell everyone back home that these guys didn't make it that some of the team. At least was dead.Brad White (ON VIDEO):
everybody has a little crispness in their voice, a little edge of everybody's voice and nobody wants to admit, God I'm scard. like nobody wants to admit everybody Do you think yourself, do you think of yourself, but you think about how close you are to everybody else sitting there who says it could happen like that? Yeah, just you just have to do that. It was very hard to deal with because your emotions run, just why your emotions run from one end of the spectrum to the other, on the down cloud and the visions in my head popping into my head. I have to fight to get to this I have to fight to survive, I will stop this drive exactly, I will survive. I will do this, I will crawl down on my hands and knees if I have to. Because I will see my children. I will live my life. I will do this. And I was so emotionally driven by that.Thom Pollard:
So it took us two days to get down. And that's what the turnout. About two weeks later, a group of guys from Spain went up and had the same conditions happened and they chose to stay up on the mountain and like wait out the storm. And they never heard from those guys again. They just disappeared. So apparently we made the right decision to descend. That was really, really grueling and we lost. I mean, I've been just that normal way of I came home they skated like absolutely no bloody way they've starved. I've literally restocked ourselves on that trip. And but what apparently came out of that trip is I have learned to an extent, I guess maybe one of the lessons was, maybe it was more of a team player than I thought I was. You know, I wanted to runagate my way to the top tag system and be like, john roskilly, or something the great American alpinist, who just kind of did his own, you know, got me in for himself doing that. But there I was like planning team leading the team down, taking the lead and navigating our way to losses. And as we determine our about that time, it seems that producers from Nova from a PBS documentary program called Nova recognize my work, and I got a call. About that time, they bought some of the footage that I had produced with red on his 1991 Everest expedition to play right after the disaster that had taken place in Nepal on Mount Everest in 1996, popularized by Jon Krakauer, his book into thin air. And then more recently, the film that came out a major motion picture called Everest. And so it was a few years later, in January 1999, I got my first shot at Mount Everest. And we're looking at Everest right now from the north, from Tibet. So we're actually looking south from what's called the wrong book, glacier. And you can see that the fast north face with very little snow on it. And the good thing about there being very little snow is that we were going there to try to solve one of the world's greatest mysteries that of exploration one of the great, certainly not nearing mysteries, but all exploring. It was to find out if George Mallory and partner Sandy orphan had in fact in the purse to summit mount efforts back in 1924. And back in 24, here they are as the last known photograph of Mallory in earthen at 23,000 feet on the North Pole. And you can see Mallory on the left with his travels on an earthen with very primitive type of oxygen. Because this was a new thing back in the 20s. Mallory depended upon return two times previously, this is his third expedition in four years. And aboard they went and on June 8 of 1924, one of the climbers would unsuccessfully drive for a summit a couple of days before, you looked up and saw two bodies walking toward above 20,000 feet on the ridge, heading toward the summit. And a few minutes later, after observing mountains and clouds came in their bodies vanished in the clouds. And virtually that was the last time anybody ever saw our interview. They disappeared and then for 75 years, this is a mystery route. Mallory became not only a great knowledge of Mount Everest, great Shakespearean scholar, this but he became mystical fated almost like a god like he died out there but because nobody ever found him. Maybe he resided there. There were all sorts of incredible stories about him. And it was our job our goal to go and try to discover where he had fallen based on several clues. So this team of climbers, four of whom had previously already summited Mount Everest. Pretty powerful team. It was like I applied to some strong guys before, but it was like I just hit the Olympics. This was world class stuff. And I actually had no idea. I mean, I was praying as all hell. And these guys were top notch studs of the enth degree. And I just pretend that I knew what I was doing. Green didn't bear that I just didn't ever let on that. I kind of thought maybe I was over my head. So one of the other guys in the team is this guy here named grandpa ointment, and his great uncle was on the Mallory expedition in 2014. It was Howard Somerville. And when Mallory and Irvine were heading up to their high camp, they passed out Somerville and Mallory said, I forgot my camera. And so Somerville gave Mallory his camera. So take this to the sun and take some pictures and you know, bring the camera back copies. And so, previously summited Mount Everest, said he was back to try to go get his family's camera back, which is pretty cool. And what unfortunately happened with Graham about the day before this is he had a minor stroke. So he had to go home. So he had, he was very, very sick in this picture. And he was unable to climb with us. But what we're going to do is we climb up this mountain, and our goal was to launch a search at about 26 and a half 1000 feet up to about 27,000 feet on this north face. And if you look here, this is these three months. These are called the first step, the second step, the third step. So the second step is the main technical obstacle on Mount Everest. And then a lot of people surmise that if anything stopped mowing in urban, it was the second step that's about 30 to 40 feet, or maybe even 60 feet of relatively technical climbing, including dihedral crack at about five nine in difficulty. And based on those 1924 standards, it's just no way that anybody could ever conceive of getting out that at 20,200 feet. So a few years later, an ice axe was found in this vicinity. So we staged our search generally in that area, and headed up toward the mountain from Base Camp 17,000 feet up through the great wall that leads to the north cold, where the last photograph known photograph of Mallory and this is right at the top here. This is just the furniture running behind it. You can see these little guys right there climbing. Absolutely fantastic place to be really, really cool. It's the best climbing on the expedition. And then on the morning of May 1 1999. About five o'clock in the morning, the sun is rising the full moon setting in the distance, Jake Norton fixes his oxygen mask and it was ready for the search. So he's 30 below zero 30 mile an hour gusts and affordably headed for where we thought maybe we could find an operator and or one or the other, maybe both, but we're really after the camera. Right? So which is true, so we fanned out across the face. And with us we carried a metal detector, we're looking for any metal objects that might have fallen near them. Lo and behold, Conrad Anker comes across something out of the ordinary. And if you look closely at this, this is this is the floor arm of George Mallory exactly where he has been for 75 years, undiscovered, untouched. And suddenly the icon The Great God of mountaineering has been found. So we set about looking through his body area and where he was looking, hoping to find the camera. And it was great moral dilemma for me. And I sat there near Mallory and saying what right do I have to even touch this site, sacred site? What do I What do I how do I get here and just suddenly get to search his pockets for a camera or something. And then we remembered that Mallory had traveled around the world doing talks sharing his knowledge of Mount Everest, like his desire to learn about altitude and how to handle altitude. And the cold was it was the most important thing in his life. And so I realized that I was helping Again, to bring that story home. So we excavated as carefully as we could. And you can see the summit not far away, there's the second step that I told you about. And we looked, and looked in here, Sandy. And then after we couldn't find anything we covered and what happened was he was fully clothed. And because of 75 years of, of all the, you know, the sunlight, if you will, kind of just deteriorating his clothes, the clothes literally just, like, just just became particulate, they just flew away. And so as you can see, you know, there's nothing on right here, but we couldn't find anything. So we took that time to cover him as best as we could. And we took some artifacts home. And it was in that moment that I realized, after looking into the face of this guy, that, that maybe, you know, maybe there wasn't enlightenment, up on the top of this mountain, maybe maybe it was just a place that fools to die, was really depressing to see him and literally look into his face, knowing that he had three children at home, or now in their 70s and 80s, with no memories of their dad. And now here I am with a 15 month old son. And when I got home, my son had forgotten who I was because I was gone for so long. And so, in, in that thought alone, we come home with these incredible photographs that everybody in the world wanted was on the cover of The New York Times, Newsweek, and Time magazine had a bidding war, for the photograph taken by Dave Hahn, first photograph, did not show him but in that bidding war, desire for people to possess what we have these images, there was this incredible backlash, if you will, and the dissension in the team was so shocking and upsetting to me to see and achieving in the lies that took place, and it would probably make a great book, but I made many enemies. And at the same time, my photographs, we sent all our photographs back to the United States, we're still shooting on film back then. And a week after we sent all the film that there was a report from one of the producers at NOVA Hey, Tom, your film is not with all the other film at the center of the photo agency in New York City called gamma he is on my phone somehow mysteriously disappeared at 36 rolls of film. And so as we found out, there was there was something afoot underneath behind the scenes that there was a plan to have my film taken away and hidden, so all the other people's film would be used, but my film would not go into the pool, if you will, of financial benefit from the sale of these images. So no further executive producer, no call the United States Marshal and they went to the house and one of the expedition organizers knocked on the door. And so it had to do with the film that Thom Pollard had no idea what you're talking about. We're going to come to you and stuff to you right now. If you don't give us the film, and lo and behold, the film magically appeared. And so my show was brought home. And interestingly, that created this opportunity for me to work directly with National Geographic. Well, what happened was in that it's okay in many respects, but I was so naive. So just willing to put all my trust and belief in this team. People came home devastated, disappointed, absolutely blown away. Like so against everything that this stood for that not only did I reject the idea of that team, but Everest at that time became the opposite of what that enlightenment you know, holy grail was, I turned my back from emphasize I've never gone back again, I've literally cried myself to sleep over this amazed that people could be so unkind and, and she and why while looking right at your face. So I literally did turn my back and went to the natural opposite. And I joined today read ship expedition in 2003. sponsored in part I filmed by National Geographic, and what we did was we built with the help of IMO da Indians in Bolivia, who have carried through many generations hundreds, if not 1000s of years, how to build relationships that can sail vast distances. across the ocean. So our goal was to build a 65 foot long Totoro reach is total our rates were cut two and a half million rains from the shores of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru, and they were made into a 15 metre long choice. So some sausages that made the whole of this boat. We went into the woods and we chopped down eucalyptus trees and made our match. We sold sales. We met we had natural hemp groves, no nails, nothing. We made a ship literally, that might have been built 500 or 1000 years ago. And our goal was to find out was it possible pre inking or pre Columbian mariners to set sail from the South American continent and region, Eastern Polynesia, primarily Easter Island. So that's the captain Phil back there on the right, the absolute craziest guy I've ever known. He's on his third drive right now, by the way. So the goal was to reach ease drive 3000 miles away. Part One, he wanted to sail all the way to Australia 1000 nautical miles a six month voyage. And instead of this being a simple 14 day voyage to Easter Island, we had a nearly disastrous launch, the boat was launched, you can see the railroad tracks that we built literally right down in the water. She thinks this is really funny. Meanwhile, the boat that took us a year to build weighs 12 tons. And as a seven crew member ready to set sail is being destroyed in the ways of the Union. And it was bashed mercilessly against the beach. And finally a small little vessel came in and a guy was Ron McCurdy ran out with swim out with a broken they towed the boat away. And off we went toward Easter Island. And what happened on that expedition in those 40 days, as they stretched to 72. In the doldrums, we ran out of food ran out of just about every every provision you can want, including candy, which was really at a premium. And on that expedition, I realized that I was truly lost, no doubt, really have lost lost soul. And I can remember sitting on the ceiling deck. At about three o'clock in the morning, I was in charge of securing the ship from a two to 4am ship looked overhead and I saw the International Space Station go overhead. It was right after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. And so there was astronauts who were stuck up in that International Space Station. And I just looked up and I just thought, I know how those guys feel right now. We're 2000 miles out in the middle of the ocean, I'm getting satellite phone calls from the mom of my kids telling me, I've done just about everything in five easy steps to destroy a fairly decent marriage. And there's no way to get on one level it would probably be for me four weeks or whenever the wind starts blowing, we were going the opposite direction, which was not a good thing. But in that I realized in my solitude and my desire to achieve something I was even more lost. I couldn't find my way. And finally, as it would turn out after still not wanting to be any part of Mount Everest, as it would turn out in 2014. I got a call from a private and independent producer from Los Angeles who asked if I would be interested in filming a documentary about a 68 year old guy who wanted to be the first great grandfather to summit Mount Everest or something. But it was very, very well funded. And it was hard to turn down, you know, 75 full day rain days in a row guaranteed whether the expedition happens or not. So I took the challenge, fairly open, not really caring but thinking this could be my shot. Maybe don't get that that was after all. So we traveled in that we're on the south side of Everest, where we did the gnabry expedition and 99 was from Tibet. Now we're in the fall see the Khumbu glacier sweeping in and this is the Khumbu Icefall and notorious ice on the left shoulder that resin and here in the background is at the top of the highest point in the world. So our root in order to go with this, this guy's name is James Geiger set up our base camp down here at 17 five, cut up through the icefall and this is in essence the route taken by Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing in 1953. So, James With practice, we're learning how to climb on ladders with spam and cut losses in the ice ball. A lot of training this guy for 68 was an absolute mophie shake your hand and bring it down to your knees. When it came time to go climb up high, he struggled mightily. And you know, we work very, very hard. And, you know, got a lot of scenes. This is Ken Harvey, a buddy of mine, this is actually filming the Everest film, the major motion picture, we share Basecamp with those guys. He's part of our team to kind of do a shot and never made the film unfortunately. One morning, morning of April 18. How the conference came was I mean to Basecamp early It was like seven o'clock in the morning, which was very early for Basecamp got out of our tents completely annoying. What the heck is going on? like nobody flies minutes early, you know, must have some dad. Yeah, so scrambling everywhere. And as we turn out at about 630 that morning, a gigantic chunk of ice. This area on my shoulder dislodged when they surmise that this chunk of ice and probably the size of a six storey building, and then tumbled down the face. And it exploded into the icefall and so this is, this is about wearing this watch. And it hit this funnel here. And when it exploded into here, there were literally about 100 mostly Sherpa, climbing and working in the ice ball bringing, bringing blows up through here. And then an instance 16 were killed on that morning. And so we watched throughout the day, still not knowing how many of the parish, watch this helicopters were long line the bodies out and deposit them in this one area near our tests. And it was it was overwhelming to watch. And we knew that this was the app that we wouldn't be going up any further. They ultimately ended up finding 13 of the bodies. And three are still out there. And James Jim Geiger, the protagonist of the film, so I'm not going to I'm not going to walk over where people are married. And so we respected his wishes, but also the government involvement that completely closed. All expeditions had to leave. So we packed up, went back home. And in that few days back in Katmandu, the producers, and I came up with the idea that we could go back and visit some of the families of the men who had been killed that day. Which was probably the hardest day. We went to three houses in this particular day. And so you can see a mom, and a two week old baby will never know her dad is out of focus in the foreground here. And a wife and mitashi are Sherpa friend translated, as the mother told about not only losing her son, but her brother, her uncles and all the men, in his Sherpa family with lost their lives in service, working to try to help like guys like me make money doing a film, kind of just after this course, who ego and it was overwhelming. And so we left there, and I just I said that's it. There's never ever effort going back. I've seen too many people die too much. I was 100% done. And we went home. And this film is never seen the light of day. It's absolutely captivating and tragic all in one. But I really believed myself when I said I'm not going to go back. I really thought I knew what I was talking about. I was lost. And now at least I at least have the strength to make the decision not to do it. Well, wouldn't shut out two years ago by somebody gives me a call. We've got a budget. We're going to pay you to go back to my members again. Okay. So it's amazing. The heart just picks right back up and I thought, Well, you know what, let's go. I jumped back in. It took a little bit of debate for me. I thought long and hard about it. But what I do, it's one of my best attributes. It's what I did. So much in my life. And I thought all right, hold on one more time. This one was intriguing because our goal on this expedition was to go up to about 27 and a half 1000 feet to look for a camp last occupied by Sir Edmund, HILLARY IN tensing. And the reason that camp had never been visited since 1953. It's because they descended left in the year, nobody will ever go back here ever. Nobody will ever climb this mountain again. Why would they? We did it done, close the route. So they left. And about seven years later, the Americans went up there. And when they did, they changed the rules, and went a different direction. As it turned out, I got to meet sort of and Hillary. And talk to him at the Explorers Club dinner, he explained in great detail, not about somebody not about being one of the most famous explorers in the world, but about giving back about helping people about building schools, he devoted his life to schools and hospitals. And it left a strong image on me, I was like, I thought maybe I had an opportunity to go back to Nepal and do something positive with this film. And what this film was meant is meant to do is to make a traveling exhibit that will go around the world where people can pay an admission and walk into a base camp. And there'll be life size gaps. And there'll be real sure that helping like like building, you know, cooking, and greeting you as you enter base camp. That film is under production right now. And But anyway, we get back to base camp. And a very, very beautiful place, as I remember very vividly the avalanche the ice and all that came in down here. They switched the route, they made the route kind of go to the side, you know, a little bit of time to the climb up towards the camp to act in Basecamp. Ready to go. Our puja ceremony started on early weeks of April where monks came in from a nearby monastery and they and they saying they pray for the auspicious day upon which we're allowed to start the expedition and go up the mountain. And people were very nervous because in the following year in 2015, as many of you may, if you follow mapmyrun News, there was an earthquake, about the same day one year later, from the match. And in that earthquake, 18 people were killed in base camp and above. And so two years in a row. There were no summit of Mount efforts. And here we were on that third year. A lot of people stayed away very was kind of a life year. So we were that nervous. Just every day you wake up. Anything happened. You feel the earth shades or avalanches every day is careful with your stuff. And I felt, here we go. Let's just do this confidence. I knew it was going to work with this team of incredibly powerful Sherpa assemble. Paul, Georgia on the left. And here's our strong team. Many of these guys have been up to the top of the mountain several times themselves. So look through the Khumbu Icefall and you can see these gigantic blocks of ice, right, so like a week later, the wall on the right didn't exist. The ice wall in essence is is literally a river of ice moving about two feet a day from about 19,000 philosophy to about 17,000 feet. And so the Sherpa there's a team a church called the ice ball doctors and they literally build a roof through the ice ball setting up sometimes six ladders tied together to have to climb up and then clip into another rope move along. And they're probably 12 or 13 of these ladders, you have to go over sometimes more. And then if a strap would fall and crush the ladders and baseball doctors would come out and set it back up again. With the route backups all climbers could move up the mountain. absolutely spectacular place as you're moving through but you can here in step on the on the glacier and while you're in the ice while you're here in the distance, you hear a ceramic fall. Everybody would tense up and you started walking faster. And then somebody would say, you know if you want faster in the icefall, you might move faster through it. But what if you move faster to get to a rock that's just about to fall? If you go slower and falls and then you're not there yet? So it's kind of like the like the city just Yeah, what do you do? Very interesting thing to think about when you're there. It's like a mouse in the maze. You know, looking for the Said cheese, which way we go which way we go. So it's a, you're in a quandary. And you move. I personally like moving quickly. So I'm not quite sure but one of the guys in that earlier picture we literally john, coming down, running, but you can see this, these, these are all just slowly falling downhill. And when this thing, this thing, you can see that these are layers one year of snow another year, another year of snow, building up pushing this ice downhill two feet a day, crashing and crumbling. Pretty cool place to be thinking, you know, we could die. But we're not gonna because we know what we're doing. We know how to get through there. And you know, so we did above camp to camp one above the ice ball, which is now at about 19,000 feet, you can see the ice ball kind of flattens out and an area of the Western, which is a washboard CW mm, which means like a valley between two ridges, if you will. So we move up through this through these ever expanding gigantic, gaping crew bosses up toward this, which is called the load save face. And so our goal is to get up here and the space, in essence, take a left turn into the South Pole, that's 26,000 feet. So we're hoping to do get up there. And see it's no easy task during the day, it might be 110 degrees, you sweat, you pass out from the Eat Drink gallons of water, but at least it would feel that way. And then the minute someone that was like 20 below zero, down suit on he hit New 40 below bag and freezing. And then the second the sun came up, you're sweating. opposites incredible opposite. So it just takes that desire to be able to hang in there through all the suffering and all the income uncomfortable feelings that you have. And the doubts will make it faster, just a beautiful place. So you can see lock is the guy and ladder right here, how we set these up with the fix the roads. And these were these were kind of hammered down with snow steaks, and you grab one on each hand, and you'd lean forward. So we create forward pressure. And you know, to get your crampons as you can see these guys on it have to fit between the rungs of the ladder. And you hope that you can kind of get through there without the rungs getting stuck with your crampons and get through there and then a guy would be on the other side and pull the rope tight. Pretty cool place that's a fairly deep provox I don't know how deep that one is. But certainly we want to drop into that one. So cat two, we're about 21 and a half 1000 feet here, truly a gross place not on the edge. You know kind of an advanced base camp, we have a full time cook here who's cooking for us every day, popcorn for dinner, like to get for appetizers honestly popcorn and make all these great meals with some of the best food way better than I cooked on Mount McKinley. 20 some odd years before no complaining just really good food. And you can see there's other expeditions, you know, Camp nearby. You know, this is our staging area to go higher up toward the load save phase. So you can see this lotay phase even though it goes off the screen, about 3000 feet, it probably there's my pointer there that far, but it's see there's our camp free there's about 23 and a half 1000 feet. And this is the route that we're taking. They're very, very steep, like bulletproof ice if you shot a gun into it, and the bullet would ricochet away. Absolutely Stark and overwhelmingly steep and really, really scary, but beautiful. So it's got all these contrasts all the all the makings of what you want when you're going to the big mountains this is this is it we're in the abode of Gods now. Now we're going to read the gods. So a lot but here we is bringing in one of our many oxygen canisters on summit day. and beyond. camped along in camp three which is on that wall, it's a face so when you go out if you have to use the facilities in the middle of the night and put your harness on or risk not using your lights and clip into a fixed road, find where you are supposed to go behind the tab. But one that slip if you have your movies on or, or your you know, you then you slip you go down. There's at least 2000 feet from here. So you have to be very careful going into the bathroom. Next time you're on a show while you're in the background. Six nice mountain in the world the gorgeous view pumori they call this Mount Everest. hyster Beautiful, beautiful place to be ugly and uncomfortable camp where you just want to get out of there and move upwards. So behind us this is tempo Sherpa is looking kind of behind him. And there's the summit of Everest with the telltale scorching winds up there. This is the South Pole. The learning goal is to get up past that ascend over this called the Geneva spur and drop down in the South Pole. Now, here's that triangular face that Bradford Washburn told me about the way that when I when I got there, I was like, yeah, now I'm standing where Brad was sitting, the giant guy who was on that Everest relief model. Now I'm in it. And I can remember everything he told me about climbing up the triangular face towards the balcony, near the South summit toward the Hillary step and beyond. And now we're in our perfect place to go look for the camp of Mount of Hillary, and Tennessee. And so we get up early on the morning of the 21st. Midnight and start hiking up and upwards we go. And as the sun starts to play out, absolutely spectacular view of modelu highest mountain in the world. And that load saved here, the fourth highest mountain in the world. Now we're up above those mountains, we're ready to ascend and kind of traverse around the peak, or what every intensity had left. Back in 1953. So as we set out, these are fixed roads out there. tenba Sherpa went out first. And Paul just kept saying, I don't like this. I don't like this. I don't like it at all. Just here we are. Let's go. Go. Now I don't like it. It's not good. This is not the way it should be. He goes I have a bad feeling really, really bad feeling. So I call just let's keep going because everybody stopped. Here we are the whole expedition. Everything is on this day. And Paul just goes expedition over? Well, let me get a shot first, and then think about it. And maybe you'll change your mind. We've got to go find a camp, right? It was not going to like it, somebody is going to die. We turned around. And so what made that decision on that moment, just to cancel the expedition to descend back down the South Pole and thinking this is just great. So here I am, you know, some hours from the summit. Just about to go to the top at least. And so I thought I had this opportunity. And he canceled and so we all descended back down. Very, very disappointed, no success in finding anything all the way back down to our camp and see the tents down here at 26,000. And we get down there. And we climb into the 10th regressed and made some tea. We're having snack at one of those. We got to this topic tonight at eight o'clock. So he whispers we go into this town and everybody else packs their stuff goes down and we're like, Hey guys, we're gonna stick around for about 24 hours. Okay, other plans. So eight o'clock on May 21. Block, Sherpa and I and two other Sherpa who went a little bit after us left for the summit of Mount Everest with the idea of a take us maybe 12 hours to get there. So we can get there. Maybe eight in the morning, maybe at six. But certainly daylight climbed into the night. Now we're heading up over 20,000 feet here you can see the lines are fixed. But there's some fresh snow, stars in the sky, this little rock kind of area where you had to climb straight up, right just in South summit. And as I'm climbing up, I kept thinking to myself, this is absolutely absurd. After giving up on my dream after just totally releasing any desire to accomplish anything at all to do this mountain, completely not even caring about it. All of a sudden here I was taking the final steps to the summit of the world under a full moon. Beautiful, brilliant full moon and even though the smell was kind of collecting and gathering, but we were just above the clouds. And there's a picture of literally looking over the tip of the top you can see the moon is lighting everything below. absolutely spectacular. We spent about 30 minutes up there. No emotion, no heartless laughter nothing can see loadsa here, there's the final steps come up 30 below zero probably 25 mile an hour winds. And I said a lot but I said hey, out of respect. I want to ask you to quit Yes, yes. I said I have a I have a small file that's filled with some ashes, some of my mother, my father and my brother. And I get it. Do you mind if I dispersed these ashes on the summon is very frowned upon and that at least culturally, like you're not supposed to just do that. Of course. So I get into my backpack and I am to the little container and not really thinking that I was about to have a Big Lebowski moment. ashes up in the air and people's right here. Right in our mouths. Anyway, it's just, we just huddled in laughter it was just the most it was finally we were done. We didn't done it made it summited I just rose to the ashes, I was free of the burdens of everything, undoubtedly when. But not until we took a very important photograph, that I knew staff would be very eager to receive the New Hampshire state police, which two months later, I think it was I returned that flag to the colonel of the New Hampshire state police, and where I believe it's hanging out, or it's a will one day, but but as I came down from Everest, I had the opportunity to reflect on something that I had never really been expected. And I gave up on those dreams. I saw too many people died and want to be there anymore. But it came to me anyway. And so in coming down, it was almost like literally coming down from this journey, not just Mount Everest, but this 25 or a year journey where I was trying to integrate this previous life of mine with whatever new knowledge I accumulated, whatever Bradford Washburn is still different whatever spirit and Hillary had instilled in me, and I had this plan now that men really nothing other than I did, but it just seemed like, leaving it behind was the way. And I remembered in that time that my dad was this guy who just never thought I had a dumb idea. He was just this really cool guy. He says like, it, it's in your heart, go for just like stand out and do it, if you want to do do it and not be stupid to everybody else. But go for it. Never thought your ideas were dumb. He just he just supported it, you know, and thank God, I have my dad because we know all the stupid things I did that brushes with death all the people that I've hurt along the way and pursuing it, like singularly. And it was like my dad to fight about that. And then I was able to kind of release him from the top. But I also realized that and letting go of my dreams and these goals and holding too tightly to things kind of pushed them away from me. You know, I really wanted them so badly for so long. And that my gift was in summoning but I understood a lot that before reaching the top I enlightenment wasn't that it was found in all the failures, all the sadnesses all the things that had happened to me along the way, that the destination wasn't the top of Mount Everest. The destination was in all the crap that you go through and trying to go to the places you want to go. And so I guess I stayed to school kids, you know, you're, you're already there. You've achieved everything you needed to achieve. You're going after the summit. This is it. This is your destination. AUDIENCE CLAPS and MUSIC UP Next week on the happiness quotient and incredible conversation with my friend and colleague and climbing partner Mark Synnott, whose book The Third Pole mystery, obsession and death on Mount Everest, will be released on April 13 2021. We had a great conversation not only about the book, but the deep under the surface story of our search to try to solve the mystery of Mallory and earth and that will be episode number 76. Look for it here on the happiness quotient. Thank you to the woods brothers and their management for the use of their song happiness Jones for our theme song here on The HQThe Wood Brothers:
all a my answers came, drivin' myself insaneThom Pollard:
if you'd like a free downloadable PDF of the happiness quotients a course in happiness visit [email protected] slash the happiness quotient for more information about me to inquire about personal coaching or public speaking in person or virtually visit eyes open productions.com right me anytime at Tom dot Dharma dot [email protected] there's a saying in sterquilinus invinitur, in filth it is found that which we most want to find, can be discovered where we least want to look and the deeper and darker the well. the brighter the light we will discover. Don't curse the dark cloud. The rain inside may very well turn your garden green. Thank you for visiting the happiness quotient. I will see you all real soon.The Wood Brothers:
all of those ords I wrote in the storm tha rocked my boat all of that w s stuck in my throat when I as happy all of those songs I was singin while my boat as sinkin next Happy Happy. Happy Happy. Happy, Happy. Happy. Happy Happy. Happy