I just wrapped up my training and now I am focused on packing, resting, and eating. With a little bit more than 3 weeks left before I head out, I want to make sure I remain healthy. So far...so good. Here are a few updates and things that occupied me over the past few weeks.
1. Packing. Organizing and packing climbing gear can be a real pain - especially when said gear occupies my office and most of my house. I lay out everything and make sure every piece is in good working order. That part is easy. The hard part is making sure I have all that I need and, perhaps more importantly, leave behind things that are superfluous. Last year I decided to err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion; this year, I know what I need or at least I have a better idea.
2. Sweating out last-second details. Ordering last second things and sweating out the arrival seems to be a common theme for all climbs - at least for me. As I started packing, I realized that I had a few pieces of gear that were a little "long in the tooth" and needed to be replaced. Also, I steadily replaced most of my aging and heavy gear over the past year so I had to vet that gear before packing it. The ordering of last-second gear seems to add a level of stress to my life that I rarely enjoy.
3. Work stress. The past few weeks were rather trying. I worked out, ate a ton, and kept healthy but life stress seems to build as I prepare to shove off for a 6-8 week expedition. Fortunately, I had a major gear sort before going to Argentina so I had most of my gear spread out and treated properly this time - especially compared to my mad-dash December packing escapade. Compounding that stress was the constant piling on of work stress. It seems everyone wants something from me right before I leave. This year, I gave a firm deadline for the end of March and intend to enforce it. In 5 more days, I will be done with any hard and fast deadlines. Papers are off. Grant proposals are either sketched out or submitted. Students have their sights set on specific goals. We are all set!
4. Great losses. I am hesitant to post much about this event because it just seems to violate one of my internal rules but I debated with myself and decided that it was worth mentioning. My dear friend and colleague Raja Parasuraman passed away Monday morning. I was devastated. He was one of the true scientists remaining in social and behavioral sciences. I counted him as a friend even more than a colleague. He was the first to welcome me to GMU (my current university), the first to offer me words of wisdom, and the first to support me in my Everest expedition last year. Raja was always supportive. He and I shared many drinks and many laughs. It hurts so much to say that I will never see him again but I move forward with the idea that I was blessed to know him. Raja will always be part of my life. Thanks for the friendship Raja.
On Monday when I heard the news about Raja, I was up in Baltimore with my dad for a screening of Ken Burn's latest documentary entitled Cancer: The emperor of all maladies (a documentary based upon Sid Mukherjee's book of the same title). The documentary contained many patients and doctors from Johns Hopkins - one of the groups I support on my climbs. I sat in the screening and had a rough time as I reflected on Raja's life and the lives of those patients, friends and family who struggled with cancer. It was just too real to shake off. Regardless, I am back and shook off the emotions I so rarely feel. Do yourself a favor, watch the PBS 3-part (2-hrs each episode) starting this Monday at 9pm EDT.