Thursday, July 10, 2014

Base Camp

by Jeanette O'Hagan

     The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.
     Habbukuk 3: 19 (NIV)

In 1996 Bear Grylls broke his back in a parachuting accident, severely crushing several vertebrae. Fortunately, his spine was not severed. In the long months following the accident a photo of Everest and an old crazy dream to conquer its summit motivated his recovery.
‘So much of my focus during my recovery centred on Everest. It gave me something to aim for, but no one in my family really took it seriously.’ Bear Grylls 2011
Almost two years later, at the age of 23, Bear became the youngest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest (at that time).
‘At 7.22am on May 26, 1998, with tears still pouring down my frozen cheeks, the summit of Everest opened her arms and welcomed me in. My pulse raced and in a haze I found myself suddenly standing on top of the world.’ Bear Grylls 2011

That journey didn’t happen with a snap of a benevolent Genie’s fingers. It took determination, guts, preparation, training, providence and time. Time in hospital, 3 months bedridden at home, 8 months of 10 hours a day rehabilitation, a tester expedition to Mount Ama Dablam (6858m) in 1997 before he even started the Everest Expedition. Once on the mountain, it took  another 3 ½ months – some weeks to acclimatise to the mountain, 6 weeks to reach the final base camp, more preparation and setbacks - before finally Bear and his companions began their gruelling 10 ½ hour climb to the summit.  All the while knowing that on average 1 in 6 climbers died in the attempt.

Just so you know – I’m not planning on climbing Mount Everest (8848 m) anytime soon. But sometimes I think that there are marked similarities between climbing the world’s highest peak – and being a writer. I don’t know what the attrition rate of aspiring authors is – but I do know that the dream doesn’t materialise overnight. It takes determination, guts, preparation, training, providence and time. Sound familiar?

And part of what makes the climb possible is the base camps.
  • The base camp is a place of preparation – where one marshals one’s resources, enhance one’s skills and plans the next step of the ascent;
  • The base camp is a place of acclimatisation, of adapting to the new conditions so that what seemed hard becomes natural;
  • It’s also a place to recuperate and recover after setbacks, injuries or failed attempts;
  • Even getting to the base camp is an achievement;
  • There is more than one base camp before reaching one’s goal;
  • Base camp is also a place to reflect and sometimes to re-imagine one’s goals. There are, after all, other times, other seasons, maybe even other goals.
Because of the need to adapt to the low oxygen environment, Bear and his companions spent as much time descending as ascending, each time going up ‘just a little bit higher.’   
 ‘They actually say you climb Everest seven or eight times over just because of this process of ascending and descending.’ Bear Grylls 2010a

Receiving rejections and criticisms, often scathing, are part of what it means to be a writer. Sometimes these negatives are deserved, sometimes they are not. It takes time to hone one’s skills, to make connections, to find those elusive opportunities or to make them. And there are many summits along the way – the day we decided to sit down and write, the day we finished our first draft, the day we sent it (properly edited) to a publisher, and then submitted it to the next one. For me the summit is publication – but the summits don’t stop there – with marketing, networking, writing and publishing more books, becoming established, keeping the ideas flowing, gaining an audience and so on.

‘It was about knowing and believing that dreams are worth taking a risk for. Dreams come at a cost. And the rewards don't always go to the strongest or the bravest or the fittest or the cleverest. The rewards go very simply to those who can understand it means: never, ever quit.’ Bear Grylls 2010b

If we are following the call of our Lord, we know we do not climb alone. And it may also be that while we are fixated with the summit, God has other plans in mind. As Paula Vince reminds us, Mount Everest is just another hard to see bump from space. She says, ‘I now like to think that from a lofty enough heavenly perspective, all the good we do just becomes part of the earth's fabric.’ (Vince 2014) What’s important is the journey, not the climb – knowing that our Master blesses us and through us, He blesses others, through each small obedient action we take along the way.

 Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her  children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad fantasy fiction series.  She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.

You can find her on her Facebook page or webistes Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .


Mount Everest (Public Domain CCO) sourced from Pixabay
The Himalyas (Public Domain CCO) sourced from Pixabay 


Bear Grylls 2011 ‘Bear Grylls: How Climbing Everest Was a Perfect Cure for a Broken Bake’ in Daily Mail,
Bear Grylls 2010a ‘Bear Grylls Describes Deaths of His Climbing Mates on Everest’ in Webex,
Bear Grylls 2010b ‘Bear Grylls Survives the ‘Death Zone’ and reaches the summit at last’ in Webex,
Bear Grylls 2012 Mud, Sweat and Tears William Morrow

Paula Vince, 2014, ‘We May Have Mount Everest Syndrome’ in It Just Occurred To Me,


  1. Hi Jenny - Thanks for that. What a great analogy. I'm writing my first novel and even finishing the first draft is Mt Everest at the moment, let alone finding a publisher. I love that quote you've given from Bear Grylls: "‘It was about knowing and believing that dreams are worth taking a risk for. Dreams come at a cost. And the rewards don't always go to the strongest or the bravest or the fittest or the cleverest. The rewards go very simply to those who can understand it means: never, ever quit.’ Bear Grylls 2010b" That's a great way of looking at it. I'm making little steps along the way and if I keep going, I'll get there. Thanks for the inspiration. xx

    1. Thanks Nola. It's a great quote isn't it and I think so appropriate for the writing journey. Little steps along the way and keeping on going sounds like a great game plan :) May God prosper and bountifully bless your endeavours :)

  2. Thanks, Jeanette, for your encouraging post. I second Nola's choice of quote from Bear Grylls! Yes, you need inspiration and the call of God to write but there sure is a lot of perseverance involved as well.

    1. Ain't that the truth Jo-Anne. Much like the Christian life as a whole - we couldn't do it without Him yet we are called to persevere and not to give up hope. Sometimes, we can barely move or we are blindsided by a blizzard or the ground breaks up beneath us; at others we are thrilled by how far we've come, by the camaraderie or the view - whatever the ups and downs, if we hold on to our Guide and draw on His power and strength - one day we will arrive to the end of our journey & the beginning of another glorious adventure.

  3. A very wonderful, in-depth post, Jeanette. I'm going to reprint this as an encouraging reminder.

    I also thought I'd like to adapt the thoughts into our five minute radio program, Vantage Point. If that's okay by you. (Giving credit where due.)

    1. Thanks Rita. Thrilled this has been encouraging. I am more than happy for you to adapt this for Vantage Point. Thanks for giving credit :) Go for it.

  4. Hi Jenny,
    Thanks for that great analogy. Writing a novel surely is like climbing Everest in many ways, probably including altitude sickness. As you mentioned, I'm fascinated by it. I know of a few people who have actually made the attempt, which I mentioned on my blog a few months ago.

  5. Hi Paula - A yes, your nephew's Karate Sensei :) I enjoyed reading your blog on the subject last year and loved your conclusion :) So when when I started pondering about base camps and the writing journey after a recent knock-back a few weeks ago, I checked it out again. And yes, altitude sickness - it's what makes the climb such a long process and so deadly - and base camps, to go back to, to adapt, to reassess and recuperate, so necessary.

  6. Jeanette, wonderful post. Also great to know that Bear is a committed Christian.

    Quitting can be an attractive option at times, can't it? I know as I write the sequel to AG there have been many times I've said I can't do this, the story just isn't coming out, and then the Lord gets reminding me to sit back down in my seat and just write.

    1. Hi Ian - Yes it is good to know Bear's faith - and I also love his devotion to his wife and boys. I enjoyed reading his autobiography Mud, Sweat and Tears & his promos for the Alpha course. He does some pretty crazy stuff though in Man vs Wild!
      The writing doesn't always come easily - but I'm looking forward to the sequel of Angelguard so I'm glad the Lord is encouraging and inspiring you to keep on writing :)

  7. That was very encouraging Jenny. What a terrific story. I also loved the quote you began your post with - it's one I've pondered on the past 2 years. As you said - a writer's life is like climbing a mountain and persevering through the tough times. Thank you for a word in season.

  8. Thanks Anusha. Yes, I love that verse - and also love Hannah Hurnard's book 'Feet in High Places', an allegory based on that scripture. May God bless and guide you in your climb :)