Follow Up on Everest Girl

Evan Williams, Reporter

Back to school, and you know what that means, right? If you guessed seeing all of your friends again and enjoying the plethora of intriguing classes Burroughs offers, then you’re wrong. Back to school means one thing and one thing only: it’s time to hear all of your friends humblebrag about their lavish summer vacations in Prague, rigorous college prep programs at Brown or their select distance runner camps at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton. To save you all the trouble of nodding politely during one of these unbearable conversations, I decided to follow up with one of the folks we interviewed last June about their summer plans with a single question: Did you succeed?

On the chopping block: our rising senior bold enough not only to scale Everest, but also to ski down the Khumbu Icefall Route. Side note: where do we find these people? Anyway, to the questions.
Sitting down in the home of our unnamed international woman of mystery, I threw out the first question, “Did you succeed in your most ambitious of quests?” before nearly knocking over a lamp that surely cost more than my car. The student took a moment, gathered her thoughts, opened her mouth to speak, then gestured instead to a photo on the wall. “There’s your answer,” she said, the slight glimmer of a tear edging into her eye. I turned to find a beautifully framed picture suspended in midair showing our explorer standing, pickaxe in hand, at the top of an awe-inspiring peak.

“Amazing, just truly inspiring,” I answered. “So then, you made it to the top, I presume,” I followed. The tear in her eye no longer edged; it flowed, streaming down her cheek, and splashing onto the Persian rug beneath our feet. “No, I didn’t. We took that picture at Pike’s Peak in Colorado,” she confessed.

Confused, I prodded. “You mean you didn’t even go to Nepal and decide to give up at Base Camp?” “No”–a curt response that tells all–shame, disappointment, inadequacy. “Apparently you can’t just climb Everest without any training or experience,” she added. “So, what’d you do instead?” I asked. “Well, we went to our house on Lake Tahoe for a while, then we drove back, and on the way I decided that I could fool people into thinking I made it to the top if we had a convincing picture. So, we drove to the top; I put on all of my climbing gear—it was non-refundable—and we got that gem,” she says, pointing to the photo on the wall again. “It took a little bit of photoshopping to make it look real, but I found a bootleg download, so that wasn’t an issue.”

Astounded at the magnitude of under-accomplishment from our shining wannabe overachiever, I had a single question left. “So, just to be clear,” I started, “Not only did you not even attempt to scale Everest, you illegally downloaded software to tinker with a fraudulent picture to fool your actually accomplished peers. One final question: Did you even do your summer reading?” That was the moment when the glimmer of a tear which turned to the streaming of a tear, turned to a waterfall of tears as she violently whispered, “I haven’t even started.”

Sometimes the pressure is just too much. Sometimes we just have to nod politely while our friends talk about their adventures that may or may not have happened. However your summer went, just remember one thing: No matter how unproductive you feel it was, it can’t have been “fake a picture to make your friends think you climbed Everest even though you haven’t even started your summer reading yet” bad.