Fear... the right and
necessary counterweights to that courage which urges men
skyward, and protects them from self-destruction.
- Heinrich Harrer
To conquer without risk is to triumph without
- el Cid
Living with the
immediacy of death helps you sort out your priorities in
life. It helps you to live a less trivial life.
- Sogyal Rinpoche
The Khumbu Icefall, April 14,
2002, 10:00 AM
The fear was intense. A massive
avalanche had just swept past our team, roaring downhill like a
freight train. We were in the middle of the Khumbu Icefall, a
giant, flowing river of ice on the Southeast Ridge route of
Everest. It is a horrifically dynamic place, with seracs and
crevasses tumbling over one another as the entire glacier
lurches downhill at an average of 3 feet per day.
Certainly not the best place to
spend a lot of quality time, but there is no way around it...I
had to climb onward.
And as if the avalanche was not
enough to humble us and remind of what we were up against on
this massive peak, then we came to the ladders...lots of
ladders...spanning gaping crevasses, icy caverns 200 feet deep
and 100 feet wide....In a word: FEAR.
As I took a tentative step onto
the first ladder, the whole thing bounced and swayed beneath my
feet. My breath caught in my throat as I gazed into the dark
abyss below. If I fell off the ladder, I was done, finished,
kaput. Not an encouraging thought...
But, I had walked over ladders
before. Just before the trip I practiced on some in Colorado so
that I would be ready to shoot images on this expedition. Those
ladders were no different than the one beneath my feet...well,
except for that crevasse. I came to a quick realization: It
wasn't the ladder that was freezing me, scaring me, but the
crevasse. I was wholly focused on the hole beneath my feet, on
the space between the rungs rather than on the rungs
themselves. I was focusing on the consequences of a potential
failure, and could not even see the job at hand, the job I knew
I could do. Once I realized that, and harnessed the focusing
power of fear to focus me on success rather than on failure, I
moved across the ladder with little difficulty, and actually
quite a bit of fun!
Fear is an amazing emotion. Under
its power, everything superfluous fades to the background. We no
longer worry about that phone call we need to make, the shopping
list, those new shoes. We become totally, 100% focused, honed in
on the situation at hand. Unfortunately, however, our natural
response to fear is to focus not on the job in front of us, but
on the consequences if we fail at that job.
What will happen if I fall
off the ladder?
Will that rope hold my
Can my team get me back
Why didn't I do more on the
balance beam in gym class?!
We can, however, harness that
focusing power of fear and direct it to the positive, to
success, rather than failure. Using fear to our advantage, we
can break the job at hand down into small, manageable
chunks...Take one step. Breathe one breath. One step. One
breath. By using the incredible focusing power of fear to hone
our energy and attention on the job in front of us, we let the
fear of failure fade into the background. We are completely
fixated upon success, upon taking that next step...the step we
know we are capable of.
So, the next time you are faced
with fear in your life, take a deep breath. Harness the fear.
Let it's power focus you, see that the job is do-able, that you
can indeed accomplish it.
A pioneer of the mountains,
especially the Canadian Rockies, Hans Gmoser was an amazing man
with an incredible list of accomplishments to his name. From
pioneering ascents of Mt. Blackburn, Mt. Logan, and the mighty
Wickersham Wall on Mt. McKinley, Hans was a man of the
He also developed the concept of
heli-skiing, and opened the Bugaboo Lodge in 1968 and founded
Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH). Hans was active throughout his
life, climbing, skiing, cycling, and contributing through his
energy and spirit to the mountain life.
I had the good fortune to travel
with Hans and his wife, Margaret, in the south Atlantic and to
South Georgia Island in 2004. Hans' youthful enthusiasm for the
outdoors, climbing, and adventuring was infectious, and one of
the highlights of the trip for me was listening to Hans stories
of the mountains. I was honored to have been able to share some
time with a great man, and can say with certainty that while he
will be dearly missed, his contributions and spirit live on.
If you would like to help keep
Hans' spirit and passion alive, please make a contribution in
his name to the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides:
Canmore, AB T1W 2V1
To read more about Hans' life and
his accomplishments, please visit the following:
In the mountains, I often find
myself faced with a stunning scene that just cannot be captured
in one frame. It is too wide, there is too much there. Using a
wide angle lens would work, but wouldn't capture the scene in
the same way. And, one frame would leave out too much. What to
do? Shoot a panorama.
First, bring along your panorama
camera, set it on a tripod...no, wait, not many of us have
a panorama camera. Well, here's another solution:
Use a tripod or, if you don't have
one, set your camera on a rock or other immovable surface. Make
sure your lens is not so wide that it will have aberrations at
the sides, as this will distort the images. Now, shoot 2 or more
frames of your soon to be panorama, making sure to overlap each
frame by at least 15-25%. Keep the camera's angle steady, again
using your tripod or sturdy surface. Oh, and don't leave the
camera on auto-exposure! Set the exposure manually so that the
lighting on each frame will be the same.
Now, take your shots to your
computer, load up Adobe Photoshop CS or above, and go to
File>Automate>Photomerge... Select the files you just shot,
select OK, and Photoshop will try to align the photos for you.
If it cannot, have no fear - there is a user-friendly interface
that will let you do what Photoshop could not. Try using the
"Advanced Blending" and "Perspective" settings to see if they
Once you have arranged your images
as you want them, click OK to open your panorama in Photoshop
and make the final adjustments!
IMG Gurla Mandhata Expedition 2006
In less than 2 weeks, I will
depart for Nepal to lead the 2006 IMG Gurla Mandhata Expedition.
A massive peak in west Tibet, Gurla Mandhata is rarely seen, let
alone climbed. In fact, it has had only 12 ascents since its
first attempt in 1905!
I will be leading the expedition
International Mountain Guides, and will have a great team of
climbers with me: Kirk Allen, Cynthia Dodson, David Golden, and
Stuart Sloat. Assisting me on the trip will be a spectacular
group of Nepalis, most of whom are close friends from past
expeditions: Panuru Sherpa (sirdar), Pemba Sherpa (cook), Karma
Rita Sherpa (climbing Sherpa), Mingma Chhiring Sherpa (climbing
Sherpa), and Bal Bahadur Gharti (assistant cook).
This will be an amazing
expedition, starting in remote Simikot in Humla district, West
Nepal, and trekking north along the Karnali River into Tibet.
From there, we'll continue north to holy Mt. Kailash, where we
will do a kora, or circumambulation, of the holiest peak
in the Himalaya. Next stop will be the ruins of the Guge
Kingdom, remote, beautiful, and rarely visited. Finally, with
good blessings and (hopefully!) good karma, we'll begin the
climb of Gurla Mandhata.
We'll have an ongoing cybercast of
the expedition on my new blog (see below) at
mountainworld.typepad.com as well as another site. Stay
tuned for that information.
The MountainWorld Blog
Well, I've finally done it...I
stepped into the blogosphere. It is a strange world, and I'm not
sure I understand it all, but it is fun!
MountainWorld Blog went live a few weeks ago and contains
posts on topics I feel are interesting, relevant, or just plain
amusing. I've also posted a selection of my favorite photos with
details on how, when, where, and why they were shot. I'll
continue to add postings regularly, so check back often! And,
leave comments if you like, dislike, or have any thoughts on a
Next week, I am excited to
travel to Charlotte, NC, to deliver the opening address for
the first assembly of the year at
Charlotte Latin School. It is always a pleasure for me
to speak to school audiences, and this one will be great!
This autumn, I will lead a
group of climbers up Gurla Mandhata (AKA Naimona'nyi, 7728
meters), a remote peak in West Tibet. This will be an
incredible journey, complete with a circumambulation of
sacred Mount Kailash. I will send dispatches and images
from the mountain to my
I am proud to be working with the
following companies and organizations, and thanks them for their
support on current and future projects and expeditions:
Jake Norton is a
professional speaker, photographer, climber, and guide from
Colorado. He delivers high-impact, multi-media motivational
presentations to audiences worldwide, inspiring them to set
lofty goals in life and giving them the tools to reach them.
this newsletter to other people who might find it helpful.
Have a question
about Jake Norton or MountainWorld Productions? Please contact
American Mountaineering Center
710 Tenth Street
Golden, CO 80401