The concept of a comfort zone has been drilled into my head since I started day camp as a four year old. “Your comfort zone is like a rubber band, you want to stretch it in all kinds of different ways, but you also don’t want it to snap.” I’ve heard that line countless times. Adventure, however you choose to define the word, is about pushing your boundaries but also being conscious of your limits. Annapurna left me asking, “when is enough enough?”
I think there are two sets of limits that exist when thinking about a comfort zone; mental and physical. Can you realistically complete the task on a basic physical level? Versus, can you hand the emotional stress associated with the goal at hand? I have no doubt that Herzog and his team were within the boundaries of their emotional strength but I couldn’t help but question whether they went too far in pushing their physical abilities. I also felt like there were a number of instances when they unfairly pushed the coolies who were carrying the gear far outside of their comfort zones.
I began to ask these questions as the risk level of the trip began to increase. I couldn’t help but feel like Herzog especially became so fixated on accomplishing their goal of reaching the summit of Annapurna that they were willing to disregard some of their physical realities. They mentioned the increased risk associated with the impending Monsoon, continuing on even when it seemed unlikely that they would be able to complete the expedition before June 5. Herzog struck me as the most reckless when he saw the other members of his crew decide that they were not well enough to continue to the top. He felt sure that, even though they were suffering from altitude sickness, his crew should continue to the summit. There were numerous similar occasions where he pointed to the fear and lack of confidence the coolies had on certain technical aspects of the ascent but in his own obsession with completing his goal did not recognize that these individuals might have had very real limitations, both emotional and physical.
I think it’s a question that might not even be answerable. Do some of his decisions seem reckless because they would fall outside of my comfort zone? Or is there a point where enough is enough, regardless of the person?