Andrew Brash returned this week from Nepal after successfully climbing to the summit of Mount Everest. This was Brash's second attempt up the mountain. His first found him within 200 metres of the peak when his team stopped to help a fellow mountaineer who was left for dead. Two years later, Brash, a University of Calgary alumni, returned to Everest to finish what he had started.
Though Brash claimed that finding motivation to scale the mountain "wasn't hard," he did admit that the second time around proved more trying than the first.
"My first trip there, it was all very new and exciting to be at the mountain," Brash said. "I was happy. But the second time it felt more like work."
He added having a young daughter, an addition to the family since his first climb in 2006, made it harder for him to maintain his enthusiasm. He faced difficulty in leaving his home to pursue what he described as a "self-indulgent" adventure that would be his last for some time to come.
Although the decision to actualize a long-time personal goal left Brash with some internal uncertainties, he cited the political actions of China and Nepal as providing the greatest adversity he faced on his journey. With the Chinese preparing for the impending summer Olympic Games, Brash noted that the government's actions hardly reflected the Olympic spirit.
"Everest this year became a political pawn," he said with some frustration. "The Chinese weren't allowing anybody on the mountain. They ended up commandeering it for themselves, even though the mountain is shared by two countries. They basically coerced the Nepali government to not allow any climbers past camp two on the Nepali side. [The Chinese] were flying their airplanes over the mountain and had Chinese officials in Kathmandu. [They] flexed their muscles this year all the in name of the Olympic spirit, but [it was] hardly spirited at all."
As if climbing Everest wasn't hard enough, Brash continued by listing other restrictions placed on the team.
"We weren't allowed to use satellite phones," he said. "We weren't allowed to shoot video for a while, we weren't allowed to take pictures. The political restrictions were big this year."
With so many personal and political issues interfering with his journey, Brash found the physical and psychological dangers of the climb less intimidating. Armed with the experience of his first expedition, he had the advantage of knowing what to expect of the scale up the mountain once his second chance finally came. This and other extensive mountaineering experience aided in mentally preparing him for the ascent.
"I'm used to the idea of going on a climbing expedition," said Brash, who has been climbing for more than 20 years. "Before the expedition, it's just a matter of getting ready and going."
However, he was all too aware of the potential dangers the mountain could bring. Certain parts of the climb are more dangerous than others and it is important for climbers to remain focused. Brash's last attempt resulted in the rescue of Lincoln Hall, an Australian climber who was left by his team in the "death zone." Hall was frostbitten and severely disoriented due to altitude sickness. Brash returned a hero to Calgarians.
Still, despite his understanding of the risks involved, Brash admitted he was confident that he would accomplish his goal before the climb.
"You're always pleased when it works out, but it wasn't a complete surprise because I'd come close before," said Brash. "I ended up staying healthy on this trip, so I felt unless something really goes wrong here, I have a very good chance."
Now that Brash has successfully scaled the tallest mountain in the world, he is once again ready to focus on his family.
"My personal goals are always going to be there, but now, with a family, it's shifting," he said, adding that he was gearing up to return as a ninth grade teacher and a father. "[I'm] enjoying the feeling of having accomplished the goal, especially since it didn't turn out to be that easy."