This I’ll admit, you are a wonder.
Blind to my kind, won’t know my name.
And I would give up my world to meet you.
Just can’t come up, don’t know the way.

– Andy Stochansky, Everest 

Some years after summiting Mt. Everest, I had the idea of putting together a children’s book using pictures or drawings to show what it’s really like; from the trek in to base camp, to the icefall, and on to the summit.   As with many projects it stayed on the back burner for a long time; kind of not giving it another thought until Christmas of 2019, (the “before-times”).   I’m not sure exactly what happened over that holiday period, but this creation, that ended up as The Mother Mountain, literally poured out of my heart and head and through my fingers in a way that felt like someone else was at the controls.  We all know those true creative bursts of energy when you’re lucky enough to capture and eventually mold into something that you can be proud of and want to share with others (which I am!)

I never pictured the book as a somewhat fictionalized story of two youngsters, who as best friends made a dare to climb Everest.  I certainly didn’t plan to write 125+ stanzas of rhyme to tell the tale – but it must have manifested itself that way.  What you read now is about 85% as it was created over a period of blurry days – a few months before “blursday” became a real word in the Covid-19 year. The last 15% of editing, re-writes, tweaks, polishing (and more polishing) took months; and I credit my editing partners at Tellwell Publishing; for agonizing along with me over the hopefully perfect word or phrase.

Once this process was nearing completion, it was time to think about and create just the right illustrations that would accompany the book.  My vision was fairly unrealistic; for an artist in Canada who had never been to the Himalayas to recreate scenes from real-life pictures or from my own memory of the moment or situation.  This ideation process took the longest as each and every full-color illustration; starting from black and white sketches, had to be faithful to the real-life events or mountain scenes, since so many people are familiar with these as well from movies or shows.

When the illustrations started coming in, I was honestly blown away.  We were trying to provide visual imagery for children in a way that was factual, and dramatic, but also not so scary as to make it a cautionary tale instead of a bedtime story.   While there are a number of children’s books on Everest, the pictures tend to be simplistic or not all-encompassing from start to finish – or not tell a story that the young readers will care about through the pictures.  To that end, Stefanie, (also from Tellwell), far exceeded my own anticipations, and for the fortunate few of us to have ascended and descended that sacred mountain, I’m so hoping that they see scenes they may also have encountered.

I also very much wanted to incorporate facts and figures and keep as accurate as possible to both the revered mountain, but also to the events of our own Everest expedition.  What is different is that my Climbing Buddy (Paula) and I met decades later than (the fictional) Max and Molly did – though we did make the same “dare” – to climb the Seven Summits together, including Everest.  When we met at a Glacier Mountaineering Course on Mt. Baker; neither of us had any real mountain experience; but we did have the same dare-dream.  In training for Everest, we summitted three of the Seven Summits, (Mt. Elbrus, Mt. Aconcagua, and Mt. Denali), plus training climbs on Mt. Rainier; and Mt. Whitney in winter.

There is one other unfortunate difference between true-life and how The Mother Mountain ends.  On our summit night, in the midst of the Into Thin Air storm, Paula got ill above 28,000’ and was unable to summit.  However, on her third expedition attempt, she was finally able to summit in 2016.  In that way, though not intended, I think I wrote the story in the manner that I wish it had ended; with both of us summiting with our hands held high with our Sherpas and quietly celebrating in the relative comfort of our tent.

If our own girls and boys can grow up believing in themselves, the importance of collaboration for a common cause,  with a lot of determination and a little luck, they can also achieve anything they dream of; and help make the world a better place for the next generation.

Your Fellow Traveler,


December 31, 2020

Andy Stochansky, Everest, © Chrysalis Music, House Of Andy, Chrysalis Songs