Return from Everest- The Climbers Depression

It’s been a while since I made an entry here. The biggest challenge is I have to sit at a computer to make a blog post, as the website management tool is not user friendly on a phone, and Squarespace has not developed an app for Android phones, only Apple phones.

I made the summit of Everest at 0847 on May 16. I will publish a lengthy account of the final 10 days on the mountain in a different blog post. For now, suffice to say I feel that I will never say the word cannot any more. It fell to its death from the summit of Everest. Put simply, after making the summit, and under the circumstances and with such a tragic year on the mountain, I have achieved a new level of self confidence and belief in my intuition and instincts.

The return from any climb and coming back down to earth, literally and figuratively, is very difficult. A climber must adjust back to normal day to day stresses, which simply do not compare to the stresses of the mountain. The brain gives you all the dopamine and seratonin (the good good juice) to address the increased threats to your life, when you’re on the mountain, and operating at that level of fight or flight for any period of time takes adjustment.

The return from Everest is the most challenging to deal with, to date, because of the sheer length of time I spent on the mountain. If you wake up every day and there is a threat, and you increase the threat simply by moving around, and you do that for 7 weeks, your brain chemistry is fried and needs a factory reset. Only unlike with your smartphone, there is no easy solution or button for the reset. Rather, you have to be prepared for the inevitable depression, and talk with family and friends, and possibly professionals, to help you walk back into reality.

The Climbers Depression is common to many climbers. I have now developed a relationship with Alan Arnette, an extraordinary climber, who blogged on the very subject. He knows, as so many of my climbing partners, just how taxing climbing can be, and the return from it. It is similar to being involved in a catastrophe, or a major traumatic experience. As with those occasions, it takes mental fortitude to overcome the challenge faced.

I once read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, about the incredible story of Louis Zamperini, and survival, resilience, and redemption. What I found the most remarkable about the true story was Louis’ recovery from his own significant depression, following such torture and challenge. The human brain has such capacity to do amazing and powerful things. You need to tap into it to force it to change itself. The depression will fade, and the brain is that much stronger as a result.

I dropped off social media (Facebook and Instagram) for a while to give myself time to rest from participating in such a large social existence, and to work on various projects, including authoring a book, working on a speaker series, and planning the final mountain. I have enjoyed the time, and will continue to enjoy it for a total of 2 months. I am catching up on many books that I never finished, or that I purchased but have not read. In addition to really connecting with my closest friends.

Anthony McClaren