There are two tragedies in life, to paraphrase the famous line from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. One is to fail to gain your heart’s desire. The other…is to gain it.
Mountaineer Cory Richards, pictured above in this famous selfie, almost experienced both on the same day.
In a poignant testimonialin National Geographic last year, Richards speaks of the thrill of being invited by two legendary climbers, Simone Moro and Denis Urubko, to climb the daunting Himalayan peak of Gasherbrum II. The honour of being asked to partner with them in a winter attempt was huge, but Richards also hoped that this great accomplishment, once gained, would put his whole life together.
“Climbing…saved me,” he writes, out of a rough adolescence. “I dropped out of high school, got into alcohol and drugs, and lived on the street for a while.” But climbing gave him a challenging purpose. He cleaned up, shaped up, and climbed up—higher than most ever do.
To ascend Gasherbrum II with these two iconic mountaineers would, he hoped, be the final piece to his personal puzzle. “I felt that if I could just make it to that summit, then I would be permanently ‘fixed.’” (How many of us have a similar great goal we honestly believe will complete and crown our lives?)
The day came for the final, mad push to the peak, and they made it. But on the descent, an avalanche swept down upon them. Amazingly, all three survived. The famous photo was taken about an hour after Richards managed to dig himself out.
So he gained his heart’s desire on his way up. And he almost lost it on the way down.
Great story, isn’t it? But Richards has more to say.
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