They say the journey is more important than the destination. If this is true, then walking the path towards something that is truly inspiring for you must be the ultimate journey. Acquiring the necessary skills, gaining experience, learning and growing as a human being as you take each step towards your chosen destination. Whether its pursuing your dream job, starting a passion project, building your dream home or indeed, climbing a beautiful mountain; it will be these journeys which weave the great tapestry of life.
Five years ago I was introduced to the world of Alpine climbing. I was unquestionably hooked and like most people infatuated with a new passion I poured over books and internet sites eager to gain more knowledge of this new world. Whether I knew it or not, I was also searching for something. Something that would inspire me to develop my skills and grow both as a climber and a human being.
When I first saw an image of Alpamayo I knew I had found my inspiration. Not only was the peak majestically beautiful, but the French Direct route on its Southwest face presented a technically challenging path to the summit at moderate altitude. More than four hundred meters of sustained ice climbing at almost six thousand meters above sea level.
I simply did not wish to pay a guide to climb Alpamayo. I wanted to have the skills necessary to climb it independently, safely and in good style. Over the next five years I would save enough to travel to the Alps of New Zealand and Europe as often as possible. Each trip I would gain more experience, developing the skills which would bring me one step closer to my dream.
Towards the end of 2017 I finally felt ready to give it a go. I organised the Vertical Year project around this objective and on the 22nd of June 2018, I found myself at the base of the peak I had so often dreamed of.
As I sat there in Col Camp I was filled with excitement and anticipation. I lay on the snow for a couple of hours watching a pair of Ecuadorian climbers imagining what it would feel like to be approaching the summit, the literal and metaphorical zenith of my journey.
Would my nerves get the better of me, would I be overcome with fear or would the moment not meet the expectations I had built up in my head? It didn’t matter as the journey to this point had been long and rich; and I knew I was a better person for having experienced it.
Climbing the route, I felt in sync with the mountain. My climbing partner Andrew and I were moving efficiently and I was enjoying every moment. It was a perfect bluebird day. Not a cloud in the sky and not a breath of wind. As I belayed Andrew I took time to soak in the amazing views surrounding me. I absorbed the beauty of the mountain, from the gravity defying snow features all around me, the gorgeous alpine ice to which I clung and the clean mountain air filling my lungs.
The final pitch involved climbing a very narrow ice flute towards a short section of three-dimensional ice, followed by a vertical chimney of snow formed between the summit cornice and one immediately below it. The climbing demanded my full attention and as I engaged with these physical features it felt natural and pleasurable.
Surmounting these final difficulties three meters shy of the summit I knew I was about to realise my dream. I let out a whoop of joy which Andrew mistook for me having already reached the summit. It is difficult to put into words my feelings at that moment. Shear joy, complete fulfillment and immense pride comes close I suppose, though at the same time feel insufficient. Perhaps such feelings are not meant to be expressed by mere words.
Such strong feelings don’t come from fleeting moments such as finally achieving your chosen objective. They are strengthened slowly over time, with every step of the journey; from inception to realisation.
Not every part of the journey will be enjoyable and no doubt the journey will take a different course to what you originally envision.
Never stop searching for what inspires you. When you find it, pursue it with zealous passion and enjoy the journey.
Josh Worley - July 2018.