One of the main topics that we've discussed so far this semester is the idea of 'the summit' and whether we can view it as the ultimate goal or whether it is merely a stepping stone in a greater achievement of the whole expedition and a safe descent. Krakauer's first paragraph immediately tells us his opinions of the summit. He states, "I'd been fantasizing about this moment, and the release of emotion that would accompany it, for many months. But now that I was finally here, actually standing on the summit of Mount Everest, I just couldn't summon the energy to care." (5) We saw this type of desire for an emotional reaction with Herzog's account of the summit on Annapurna. Both Herzog and Krakauer spent months preparing for their expeditions and numerous grueling weeks battling altitude sickness, hunger and freezing cold. When they finally reach the summit, they are so worn out that they can't even bring themselves to celebrate. Yes, Herzog waved a French flag and Krakauer took some pictures for posterity's sake, but as Krakauer states, he had been planning his epic celebration for months leading up to his summit attempt and I assume it involved more than "staring absently down at the vastness of Tibet." (5)
I think that this is the best analysis that we have for just how grueling and grinding these expeditions are. For many of the people who reach the summit, they are fulfilling a lifelong dream. Many have paid vast sums of money, given up months of their lives and put themselves in serious harm to reach this pinnacle. Yet once they get there, they can't bring themselves to acknowledge the immensity of their accomplishment. I would like to think that if I ever make it to the summit of an 8,000 meter peak that I will be able to think about more than just the descent that lies ahead of me, but hearing these reactions from such accomplished mountaineers makes me realize that the amount of energy, both physical and mental, required to get to the summit makes it nearly impossible to think about anything else.