Do Parents Everest?

Photo via The

Photo via The

The mountaineer Ed Viesturs is noted for his conservative approach in the mountains. His most famous quote “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory” tells you everything you need to know about why this man is still alive and climbing at 55.

Viesturs is a remarkable guy. He is the only American to have climbed the fourteen mountains which reach 8,000 meters. He is only the fifth person to have done so without using supplemental oxygen. He has summited 8,000 meter peaks twenty-one times. Only two other men, both Sherpa, have done more high-altitude summits.

How tough is Ed? Can you trudge through waist deep snow, pitched upwards at 40 degrees? Can you trudge for three straight days, each sixteen hours long? Can you trudge on four hours of altitude impaired sleep each night? Oh, and do it whilst sucking air through a straw with your nostrils taped shut? He’s tougher than that, actually.

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.

To non-climbers, it would seem that getting to the top is the hard part. After all, you’re going UP. Fighting gravity with every step, the purpose of climbing mountains is get to the top. But you’d be wrong. Research has shown that coming down is far more deadly. You’re even more exhausted. Your body is breaking down with every hour spent above 8,000 meters. Hypoxia has seriously impaired your judgement. Altitude saps your appetite and your body begins to consume itself. On the way up, you can always change your mind and head back down in relative safety. Once on the peak, however, you’ve got only one option-coming all the way back down in a seriously debilitated condition.

It’s a lot like the decision to become a parent. Having the child is optional. But once you’ve climbed that mountain, the decision to be a parent better be mandatory.

Please, consider the following: those first few years of parentage are not that different than the descent from the world’s deadliest mountains: K2 or Annapurna or Nanga Parbat. (Everest clocks in at #7 on the death-meter.)

Your sleep is disrupted. Deep within every newborn is a sensor that wakes the child in screams the moment you enter REM sleep.

You become increasingly exhausted. Your 10-K time may have been 34:20, but that was B-B (Before Baby). Now, you seriously contemplate the installation of a geezer lift chair on your stairway.

Your body breaks down with every hour of parenthood. You were the king of Crossfit, the savage of the Spartan race, the knight of Nautilus, and the pope of Pilates. Now, your work-out consists of hoisting bags of dirty diapers into the garbage bin.

You eat poorly. Once upon a time, each dinner consisted of two vegetables, a low glycemic index carbohydrate, and a grass-fed, free-range, wild-caught protein. Now, P-B (Post-Baby) you’ll settle for several spoonfuls of Nutella, a handful of Ritz crackers, a scoop of jam, and whatever the baby tosses against a) the wall, and b) you.

Your judgment becomes impaired. Where once you washed and Purell-ed your hands after every trip to the lavatory, you now change a diaper with a Slim-Jim between your teeth and regard the five second rule as a guideline for the aged, infirm, and those with impaired immune systems.

Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory

Parenthhood = Mountaineering. Who knew? Maybe Viesturs. He’s got three kids.

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The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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