It is true. The beginning is always easy, and fun. There are so many new things to discover on your way up initially, and you always have time to stop and smell the roses. The weather on the lower slopes of the mountain is always cool and nice, and sometimes it is even warm and scented with flowers in bloom. There are so many different sights to see, things to learn. The food is plentiful; there is abundance of good company and laughter, learning and sharing. The slopes are gentle, kind to your legs and lungs. The grass is green. There is always chatter of friends, love, laughter, meeting new groups along the way, exchanging photographs, ideas and sharing a drink.

When you get to the higher levels of the mountain, the atmosphere begins to change. You find that you have to work more to make your way up. The gradient becomes steeper; the path becomes more rocky. You learn to take good care of all your resources: your food and water, your medicines, your other stuff; but most importantly you begin to pay more attention to how you prepare and treat your body every time you begin to move up the mountain again. Preparation; care; all this becomes more important. Somehow, the number of other climbers have also lessened by now.

There are other changes, too. You donít chatter so much with your friends and the other climbers. You realize that you need to start conserving energy for the important things; the objective is to reach to top. Your priority slowly becomes clearer; first look after yourself and your resources; then look around.

The weather has changed too, on the mid-to-higher levels of the mountain. It has become colder. At nights you are alone, and you need to retain focus on the objective. It is difficult, but you must learn to focus. You begin to appreciate the correct way to do little things, like breathing; or how to position your feet; how to swing the pick with most effective motion, to get it to strike deep into the ice. You watch others; the team leader; and you learn. You observe what happens to an injured member of the team; how he is immediately removed and sent back to camp and hospital, no place up there for argument or debate; every decision is critical and quick, and final. You learn to take more care of yourself and your movements; you donít want to be the next casualty.

But you also learn to work as part of a team. Every member has to rely on the professional approach, and the competency of the other members of the team; otherwise they will never make it. There is a clear chain of duty and allocation of specific tasks. If you donít perform, you put others at risk, and compromise the entire mission.

Once you clear the mid-to-upper levels, the summit is now in view. You are now prepared to tackle the final stage of your ascent to the top. In fact, the team has chosen you to go for it! You have proven yourself, and have performed consistently so far, and always kept a clear, level head, made correct, logical and clinical decisions and maintained the objective in your mindís eye at all times.

To get to the top, there is no room for sentiment.

So, you choose the day and the time window for the final push to the summit, depending on the weather report, other conditions, and the preparedness of yourself and your team. And when the time finally arrives, you push off.

On the other side of the mountain, another team is already ahead of you by just a little bit!

If you miss this time window, there is no other for a week. You will have to abort, and try again in a year or two! There is no other choice!

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