After 7 expeditions to Everest, and dozens more to the Himalaya and elsewhere, I'd think it would get easier. But it never does.
It's not the packing, the planning, the preparation. In many ways, it's not even the climbing and the cold and the risk that's hard. Those are all simple facts I've learned to deal with over a lifetime of climbing.
It's the saying goodbye that's hard, that breaks the heart, tortures the mind, disrupts sleep and triggers unknown wellsprings of guilt.
As has happened countless times before, I'm now in my seat, ready to fly halfway around the world, and there's a big part of me that would hop off this plane in a second for one more hug, one last kiss, one final touch of those I love the most. But, I know that's not an option - neither logistical nor logical.
These mountains are not a hobby for me; they're my life, my passion, my career. Deep down, beneath the fragile veneer of emotion, I know my kids understand that, as well as my amazing and supportive wife... And I know it is what I need to do.
Doesn't make it any easier though.
Thank you, Wende, Lila, Ryrie, and Pema for being my rocks always, full of more love and support than I could ever deserve.
I love you, and will see you soon.