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Erik, sitting in the Kathmandu international airport, waiting for the flight out of Nepal that will eventually return him to Golden, Colo., is surrounded by his teammates and the expedition's 75 pieces of luggage. Success has made the group jubilant. This airport lounge has become the mountaineering equivalent of a winning Super Bowl locker room. As they sit amid their luggage, holding Carlsberg beers, they frequently raise a toast. "Shez! Shez!" shouts a climber. That's Nepali for drink! drink! "No epics," a climber chimes in, citing what really matters: no one died.
In between posing for photos and signing other passengers' boarding passes, Erik talks about how eager he is to get back home. He says summiting Everest was great, probably the greatest experience of his life. But then he thinks about a moment a few months ago, before Everest, when he was walking down the street in Colorado with daughter Emma in a front pack. They were on their way to buy some banana bread for his wife, and Emma was pulling on his hand, her little fingers curled around his index finger. That was a summit too, he says. There are summits everywhere. You just have to know where to look.