It happened 28 years ago today. Stacy Allison, of Portland, Oregon, became the first American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which at 29,035 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth. Allison, a member of the Northwest American Everest Expedition, climbed the Himalayan peak using the southeast ridge route. In May 1953, climber and explorer Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal made the first successful climb to the peak.
Ten years later, James Whittaker, of Redmond, Washington, became the first American to top the peak, reaching Everest’s summit with his Sherpa climbing partner Nawang Gombu. In 1975, Japanese mountaineer Junko Tabei became the first woman to conquer the mountain. Three years later, Reinhold Messner of Italy and Peter Habeler of Austria achieved what had been previously thought impossible: climbing to the Everest summit without oxygen.
Allison did what so many others have failed to do, as two dozen climbers died in attempts to reach the peak of Everest in the last century.
While the death of the failed climbers is a tragedy, it teaches us a valuable lesson. We know the names Allison and Hillary because of what they accomplished. We don’t know the names of those who died trying to reach the mountain’s peak. But we do know this – we all die. The question is whether you will die, satisfied with all you have done. Or will you die while still pursuing another mountain?
I’d rather die while failing to achieve my dreams than to live in the malaise of the valley.