These three words are probably more used than any other combination of three words (‘I love you’ included) whilst at altitude. Destined as it may sound, I just went through the first few chapters of the wonderful book by Jon Krakauer. It was by no means my plans to save the act of reading that book to the moment I would be closest to Mt Everest. That would have been bit too dramatic – even by my standards. I only started reading the book because it was there.
I started walking from Lobuche early morning hoping to make it to the Everest Base Camp and be back in time. I knew it was a long day – it was bit too much of a work for my arguably fit and lean body. And at the end of the day, it turned out some work for my mind as well.
Of the thousands of people who trek to Everest Base Camp, many must wonder why people climb mountains at all. And many others must wonder what it would be like to be at the top of that tall, dark and not particularly handsome (in architectural sense) mountain that translates as “forehead in the sky” in local language. No matter in how much detail one would envision his/her moment at the highest point in earth, I agree with Jon than one would not summon the care to relish the moment as much. Partly because of the hypoxic mind incapable of processing feelings in the oxygen deprived air at 8848m and more so because for every moment you would spend at the top, there would be someone in queue behind spending that very moment waiting for the time of his/her life.
Do excuse me if I sound like I am giving a “grapes are sour” explanation to why climbing Everest might not be in my immediate bucket list (although it is there in one of my fantasies). I was only saying that when some say that all you need to climb Everest is a heap of money and the willingness to spend couple months of life away from the urban luxuries of food, drinks, fast cars, fashion and everything, it might not be a totally pointless criticism after all.
My point is not to disregard the efforts put by all those who have climbed Everest till date. I have utmost respect that they were determined enough to put in all they got on the line. They took a risk – which may have been high or low to different people and some of it may have been determined by luck. It does not need a mountaineer to say that you are offering your life every time you try to climb the mountain. As I passed many memorials that had names of climbers who failed, I wondered how many of the people had actually thought they might not return to their loved ones. Sometimes I think climbing mountains is like driving a racing car – there is a truckload of charm and thrill, but also a chance that something could go wrong to the experienced of drivers.
Facing Mt Everest from the Base Camp (the top is not visible from there), I wonder if there is a way mountain or nature decides who it is letting to the top. Many amateurs have scaled it while many experienced mountaineers have perished on their attempt. In fact some of their bodies are still there somewhere- frozen and preserved, if I could say that.
Indeed man as a mountaineer is a small insect crawling right underneath the nose of the mountain which is peacefully asleep. Only sometimes the mountain gets irritated and the insect gets blown in a sneeze.
So, back from my hike to Everest Base camp and Kalapathhar, I am sitting at my hotel staring at the “Himalayan Trilogy” poster of a smiling Rob Hall on the wall. As I keep wondering why we climb mountains, I am left to realize there might not be a better answer I could quote than what George Mallory said,
“Because it is there.”