This one is published a little late took me a bit to write it.
April 14th, 440am. The ringing starts, no one moves. It gets louder, still nothing. We’re both tucked into our warm sleeping bags, and no one wants to touch the alarm because it’s -6c in our room. Finally, Chelsea reaches over and turns it off. We leave in 20minutes, well, 19 now. Head lamps on, there is actually very little to do. We slept in the clothes we’d be wearing today, our water bottles are full, and we have snacks in our backpacks.
It’s barely light out, just enough to see. There’s a 150 meter dune of rocks we must cross to start up the hill. Kala Patthar is a trekking peak located across the Khumbu glacier from Everest and it’s neighboring peaks Lhotse and Nuptse. As we start up the mountain, we’re heading straight up hill. I’m freezing cold, my lungs are pumping, and my heart is pounding so hard I can hear it in my ears. There are 4 steps to this mountain, and we’re 20% of the way up the first.
10 minutes later, still on the first step my world starts to spin. My eyes are fuzzy, I’m going to throw up. Darkness is taking over. All I see is a black circle, closing like the shutter of a camera in slow motion. I shake it off. 3 deep breaths and a physical head shake, I’m back to reality. 17,000 feet and climbing. Left foot forward, breathe in, breathe out, right foot forward, repeat. I keep telling myself it’s a mental struggle, not a physical one. I’ve been here before, I can do it again. 5 steps later it starts, again. Dizziness, I’m going to vomit, I’m not getting enough oxygen, my body loses control and I jerk forward like I just fell asleep. I pull myself up on my trekking poles and manage to find a place to sit down. I was seconds away from going face down, half way up a mountain in the middle of the Himalayas. Things are not going well. I’m conscious, and that’s about it. A chill sets in through my body like never before. Thoughts, and pictures, of hypothermia run through my head. I ask someone to get Eoin. Seconds later he shows up, with Kami by his side. We go over the last 2minutes of my life, the future does not look good.
‘you’ve got two options’ he says after a brief discussion. ‘either take the oxygen, or go down’. HA!! 10 days of hiking through these mountains, I am not turning back. Kami breaks open his bag and pulls out the mask, throttles the regulator to full, and we wait. We wait there until my head stops spinning. It only takes a few minutes. I can’t say I was back to normal, but the worse was over. Eoin and I were way behind the group, but we didn’t care. He wanted me at the top as much as I wanted to be there. We moved at a pace that would have turtles second looking. 30minutes later the sun was starting to crest over Everest. The clouds were not clear, by any means, but we had a spectacular view. There’s a cloud blanketing the entire bottom of the valley, which we are now above, and there is a small fog still lingering around the summit of Everest. We are in the middle, and it’s crystal clear. I have the mask off my face for right now, getting some water and a snack, and Kami starts rhyming off the mountains in order from right to left across our view. There’s about 12 peaks, all above 20,000feet in this range, and I can only remember a few. Ama Dablam, Nuptse, Lhotse, Everest, Cho Oyu. After Kami finishes his statement with ‘Now that’s Hey good looking’. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment in my life.
I continued using oxygen until we were about 30minutes from the top, which was about another hour and a bit.
We made it. Eoin and I showed up to the top of the mountain a good 45minutes after everyone else, Chelsea included, but at least we made it.
Everest was not very clear that day as the weather changed every 5 minutes for the next half hour. We got our pictures and got the hell out of there.
The rest of the day was quite arduous. We left the tea house in Gorak Shep at 5am and got into Pheriche at 615pm. There was very little chatter around the dinner table that night, mostly just tired bodies filling their faces then sliding off for some much needed sleep.