It's In Those Times
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Thirteen-year-old Jordan Romero. He’s my idol. And if you don’t know his story, hold on to your pickaxe. I just finished reading an article on him in the September issue of Backpacker magazine. I somewhat recall seeing his story on a TV news magazine a while back, but there’s something more personal about reading his journey.
At nine years old, Jordan was inspired by a mural of the Seven Summits that had been painted by some fifth graders at his elementary school, and he announced to his father that he wanted to climb each of them. So far, he’s conquered five.
Without going into all of the details of the article, the writer documented Jordan’s journey to Mendoza, Argentina from the special permitting process to his ascent to the peak of 22,841 foot Aconcagua summit. There is a portion of the article I want to share with you, my sparkfriends, as it really resonated with me in relation to our individual journeys.
At this point in the trek, they are over 18,000 feet elevation. “As they plod on, Paul and Karen feed Jordan with the rhythmic regularity of an IV drip: a Werther’s candy here, string cheese, water. But after several hours, Karen notices that Jordan is slowing down and breathing hard. She calls to him, and he looks back with tears streaming down his face.
‘The trio stops abruptly. Paul sits cross-legged in the snow and draws Jordan into his lap. Jordan erupts into a flood of emotion. He’s no longer sure why he wants to climb Aconcagua; he’s sad about his grandma, who died the previous summer; he’s tired. Everything on his mind bubbles to the surface-he’s bonking. Paul holds him and hugs him and tells him it’s okay, cry, use the memory of your grandma to help you. After 10 minutes of sobbing, Jordan takes a drink, eats some M&Ms, and says he’s ready to move on. They lean into the storm for another hour and a half, finally dragging themselves, exhausted, into high camp…’
‘…Jordan’s alarm sounds at 4 a.m., but no one has slept in the battering winds. Outside, a gale blows 60 mph and the temperature is –40F below. Another six inches of show have fallen…’
‘…They ascend in near-whiteout conditions, the wind blowing unabated. Occasionally, Jordan has to anchor himself with his ax to stay upright in a sudden gust, and Karen periodically grabs the back of his jacket to keep the 99-pound boy from blowing away.
After six hours, the team sets the next saddle as its goal and a possible turnaround point…while they rest, spots of blue appear in the gray sky and they decide to continue.
Two hours later, at the edge of a huge bowl, they finally see the summit. More blue spreads through the sky and boosts morale. The peak is still an hour away, but Jordan perks up. He walks with his shoulders back. All the scary scenes from the mountaineering documentaries have slipped away. “We’re going to make it,” he says. They’re not yet at the summit, but Jordan starts planning ahead. “When we do the next one, I want to come down and have a giant plate of spaghetti.”
‘…They continue on, 10 steps at a time…As Jordan’s head pops over the summit ridge at 3:15 pm, he gets a standing ovation, hugs and high-fives from an international crowd. Later, on 7summits.com, a Canadian climber would write about his ascent that day, “I was working really hard not to get passed by an 11-year-old.”
Does his journey sound familiar? It sure does to me. There are definitely times when I ask (myself) why I want to continue with this process; there are times when I want to curl up in a ball with a bowl of ice cream and a bag of chips; there are times I just feel like breaking down.
It is those times, I must sit cross-legged and pull myself in and hold ME close. It is those times I must cry and let it all out. It is those times I need a hug from my sweetie. It is those times I need a little more support from my spark-axe to hold me up.
Then I see that little patch of blue sky. And my fears and struggles begin to fade away and I know I am going to make it. I can see that summit. And while I am not quite there, I begin to think about my ‘next’ goal and a sensible-sized plate of whole-wheat turkey spaghetti.