My Everest Story
May the 22nd is decided as the Summit Day.
Dating it back to us, we calculate May the 18th as the day we leave Base Camp. I immediately begin my preparations. I do not wish for any more lost burners or flying tents; I do not wish for any mishaps or carelessness. I work to calm myself and prepare my mind to expect and accept. Mindful action is the only way I can make it to the summit.
May the 18th comes around, and we head out. The stormy night we had is ingrained in our minds as we deftly navigate the risky Khumbu Icefall. Deciding to not stay at Camp 1, it being situated right atop a glacier, we head straight to Camp 2 where there is safety of sturdy rocks. Unanimously we decide to rest at Camp 2 for one night, the night of May the 19th, before climbing further.
In the ghostly hours of the morning of May the 20th, we set out for Camp 3. Our pace is steady and minds are clear. Camp 3 is above 7,000m, so we are supposed to use oxygen further up. Camp 3 is unkind to us when we arrive. I notice the force of the wind here is so strong, it is difficult to step out without crampons. In addition to it being impossibly windy here, the temperature is dipping 45 degrees below zero. I take out my down-suit and wear it. On May the 20th, we stay at Camp 3. Our Summit Day is set to May the 22nd, so we decide to push for Camp 4 on May the 21st.
The next day as morning comes, we strap our oxygen on and head for the final camp before summit. We are entering the Death Zone. The atmosphere here is thin; there is negligible oxygen to sustain any life; temperature almost never rises above zero; the weather is windy and terrain difficult. If my body isn’t acclimatized to this by now, I could die here. Frostbite is a real thing…we are now in a zone where if we stop moving even for a minute, frostbite is sure to get us and we would lose our limbs.
As we ascend a steep section along the climb from Camp 3 to 4, I notice that the climbers ahead of me are juggling with some kind of a hurdle. Senses alert, I keep clinging to the rope that helps me pull myself up the steep; I climb on. As I reach the point of the jam, I see what the hold-up was about…there is a dead body knotted on the rope I’m using. At this point, I’m supposed to hold on to the dead body, remove my anchor from the downward side of the rope and re-hook it on the upward side, on the other side of the dead body. There is a strange numbness in my mind. Dead bodies are supposed to be scary…but I’m not afraid. Of all the things I feel in that moment, the strongest, most intense feeling I have is to get the job done and reach the summit. So what if I haven’t ever seen a corpse before? What am I here for if I can’t even handle this? Many of my fellow climbers are turning back, refusing to disturb the dead – am I one of them? This is Everest, dead bodies are a part of reaching for the summit. Having made up my mind, I decide to push forward. With practiced motions, I perform the ‘unhook, re-hook’ action and soldier on.
I finally have Camp 4 in my sight now, without any further incidents. When we reach, my team and I decide to rest here for a bit. It is May the 21st today, and tomorrow is the Summit Day. It takes approximately 13 to 14 hours to accomplish the summit from Camp 4, and then some to come back to the camp. Things being so, I start immediately to unpack unnecessary weight from my backpack. We are to climb for the summit tonight.