Saturday, April 28, 2018

EBC - The Summit

Now the only thing stopping us from driving to the summit was lunch.

Nobody had to say it as we all understood, this had been a long week. Motivation was easy. Every day was more beautiful than the day before. Sure we were surrounded by the Himalayas.  There were also the smiling sun burnt faces of the Nepalese villages cheering us on. The sun energized you, the wind pushed you and you found your rhythms listening to your breath and the crunching of the trail coming from your boots.

The seeming long uphill hikes hurt but we did not falter. Stop to breathe yes, falter no.  Reflecting at the memorials of the mountaineers who attempted and died trying to climb Everest reaffirmed that we were only tourist on this mountain. They died trying to to reach the ultimate summit. The least we could do was to honor them and bust a gut to get to the base camp. The same base camp that was our end goal was for Scott Fisher, Rob Hall, Anatoli Bourakeev and so many others, the beginning of their climb.

From our lunch spot we could see the Khumba Ice Fields and Khumba Glacier in the distance. Sherpas were heading out to fix lines through the glacier, seen thanks to a pair of strong binoculars. That gave the moment a dose of reality.

Our finish line was now only 3 short hiking hours away. Small specs of orange and yellow bundled together would soon grow and show themselves as Base Camp. These tents were off limits to us as this is trekking season. Those in the base camp were preparing for their attack on the Everest Summit.

All the altitude sickness, coughing, swollen digits, stomach issues and tired bodies disappeared once we stood up after lunch and knowingly looked at each other. It was time. Everest Base Camp and the monument symbolizing our achievement was clearly within our grasp. 
The trek started uphill but most of us woud have run the 30 minutes in full sprint if not for the sounds of Shankar to “go slow, the mountain is not going to leave you”.  The voice of reason keeping us safe. At the top of the first climb we reached a level plateau. Here we could walk for a while bringing the colors of base camp closer. One of the girls in our group started to cry. She reassured us it was not because of pain but because we were so close. Raw emotion.

Down into a small valley with a huge glacial cut to our right, we scuttled across the scree filled trail. The massive Himalayan to our right knowingly guiding us. The sun was still strong and the snow glistened on the soaring 8000 metre peaks, close enough to reach out and touch. The peak of Everest would becoming visible for a while. It’s wind swept cap push snow in all directions reminding us that it warm and sunny at base came does not mean warm and sunny on the summit. Just as it appeared  it was gone as we moved forward. Protected from our gaze from its brother and sister peaks reminding us to keep focused on our own goals.

Up from the small valley through a winding trail came the team. We were close. Maybe 30 minutes. In the near distance people became visible at the monument. Other teams having reached their goal. We kept moving forward. Across the ridge and suddenly a right downward turn, 10 minutes away. Nobody spoke, nobody took pictures, nobody did anything but walk, focused only on the huge white flag strewn memorial in front of us. 

The final 20 metres was a gentle slope up. A symbolic upward push. Suddenly there we stood at Base Camp, at the Memorial, at our personal summit. There were other groups or people around us but they all disappeared, melting into the back ground of our reality.  We all paused and looked around dumbfounded in disbelief that were had made it. Suddenly tears. Everyone hugging and swaying and crying. Raw Emotion. I found Caitlyn in the huddled mass. We looked at each other and as on cue, “we planned it and now we did it”. We hugged a short time and averted our eyes because we both knew if it was any longer we would have burst into uncontrollable tears.  I will not speak of individuals in the group and what they were experiencing .  Some were crying, others found a quiet place to reflect while other just stood around in awe of what we achieved.

It was our turn for photos and we did just that. A huge smile on everyone’s face, arms around each other in brotherhood/sisterhood, happiness, elation and pure joy. Raw Emotion

We had 30 extra minutes so most people wandered off alone or in small groups to view the basecamp and the Knumbu Glacier/Icefield.  Others found quiet places around the camp and took in the views and I suppose had personal reflections. I did both and then heard Caitlyn yell for me. We had other pictures to take.  There was a message to our former workmates, there was a Canadian flag that we were determined to sign our names to plus we deserved photos of the two of us, away from the group. What started as a random email back in September of 2017 turned into the two of us hugging and smiling while posing for a photo at the flagged draped monument at Everest Base Camp.

I will not try and compare this trek with anything I have done before. This trek to the base camp  challenged me like nothing had before.  I am considered “strong” on the trail and the hike itself was manageable both for the distance, the ups and downs and the altitude. Where I was personally challenged, and I did not realize it until I stood at base camp and started to cry, was how challenged emotionally I had become.  The mornings were cold, the days were long, your legs, feet and body were sore and you did not realize it. We had not showered for 10 day and personal hygiene because “ah whatever”.  The coffee was terrible, the food average but plentiful and the altitude was in charge.
All I could do was wake up, put one foot in front of the other taking everything in.  

What started as an idea between friends exploded into reality at 5538 metres.  All great achievements begin with an idea … then going for it.

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