Approximately ten kilometers south of the mountain chain that forms the Nepal/Tibet border, in the Gorkha Himal, stands the world’s eighth highest mountain: Manaslu. Weighing in at 8163 meters, Manaslu is one of fourteen mountains that rise more than eight thousand meters above sea level. To mountaineers the number eight thousand is important in the same way that twenty six point two has special significance among runners.
I went to Manaslu in the spring of 2002 with five American and three Nepali climbers. The Nepalese climbers were on the clock, in other words we paid them to help us reach the summit; these three men were invaluable to our success and I will have much more to say about them in the pages to come. Among the American climbers was my very good friend Brian Sato. Brian and I have climbed together for over twenty years and the friendship that we shared – one in which two men completely trust one another – is a theme woven into the fabric of this story.
All writing, even non-fiction, is conjecture. I am not a journalist and have no particular affinity towards books that simply tell how, when and where such and such an event occurred. I personally have always been more interested in the why. This is a story based entirely on recall, which is not to say that I’m making things up, but memory is fickle, and what I remember as a seminal event may have passed by my companions unnoticed and vice versa.
As our society becomes increasingly immunized the adventurer becomes more of an anomaly. What one hundred years ago was the danger of everyday life has, today, morphed into an unacceptable risk. The price of an unexplored life is mediocrity; you don’t know your capabilities until you’re forced to find them.
So that’s the upshot, this is a story about friendship, challenge and discovery: the three ingredients of a wonderful life.