I Climb Mt. Everest…Well, Not Quite (Everest Base Camp, Tibet)

I awoke early the next morning like a child on Christmas morning, curious to discover Everest and half-expecting to have some spiritual revelation once I saw the place where earth meets the heavens.  After 27 cups of yak butter tea, I was ready to go but my teammates were nowhere to be found.  I was certain I would find Mitori dead beneath her covers, her eyes wide-open and blue, and her mouth frozen agape with a trickle of blood flowing from her ear down her ghost-white cheek.  But Mitori was alive, but only just.  The others were unable to rise from bed and Ferguson was MIA.  I set off to Everest Base Camp on my own.

I put on my coat (and by coat, I mean all four of my shirts, both my shorts and my one pair of pants), opened tentflap, jumped into the frozen air and gazed upon…a big, gray cloud.  Mt. Everest was entirely covered in clouds.  I waited for hours, but it remained hidden from view, much to the chagrin of my fellow pilgrims.  But I was actually quite relieved.  I realized that I did not wish to see the peak of Everest, the top of the highest mountain in the world.

Everest is perhaps the world’s greatest arena for the loftiest dreams to battle the harshest realities.  Men discover that their dream of climbing the highest mountain entails temperatures that steal their fingers and toes, avalanches that capture their friends, and cliffs that rob them of every ounce of energy they have.  And once they summit the peak, they discover perhaps the harshest reality – that the world is only 8841 meters high, no higher.  Reality in its purest, most indisputable form, a limit to dreams the end of the road.  But I’m a dreamer and, like my head, I prefer to keep Mt. Everest in the clouds.  I’d rather keep on dreaming.

I followed the other pilgrims and wrote the names of family and friends on prayer flags and draped them atop a sacred hill, a Tibetan ritual that brings good fortune upon our loved ones.

Then we turned around and began the two day drive back to Lhasa, the anticlimactic journey that inevitably occurs after a long pilgrimage and a large let down.  When our group arrived in Lhasa we had a few beers, shook hands, and went our four ways across the globe.

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