What is man compared to rocks and mountains? My experience had been hiking a lot in the European alps and crossing glaciers in Iceland but had never actually climbed a mountain; only crossed mountain passes and saddles. Now, I was trekking in Nepal, and I decided to push beyond my normal boundaries. The Langtang Trek called my name, with it‘s crowning glory a climb up to the summit of Tserko-ri. This is a trekking peak of some 5033 meters. This climb would take me higher than Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps. Trekking peaks does not require technical climbing (use of axes, crampons, ropes etc.) Together with two sherpas from the Solokhumbu region: Nabaraj, my lead sherpa (sirdar) and Kajiman, my porter we based ourselves in the tiny Himalayan settlement of Kyanjin Gumba at an altitude of 3830 meters to acclimatize.
We started at 8:00 am, late, as the winds pick-up at this hour. I wore snow boots, down jacket, windproof pants, gloves, bonnet and tied a handekerchief around my mouth to protect me from the cold wind blasts. It was late November, not yet snowing, but the earth froze at night and thawed at midday. Snow already accumulated at the summit of Tserko-Ri.
We walked towards the mountain base two kilometers away and already my breathing was labored with the effects of thin air. Breathing was heavy and the pace was slow despite the two trekking poles. We followed an easy trail, then had to cross a fast flowing river, in a sea of stones and boulders originating from the melting glaciers of the high Himalayas. The Autumn landscape was spectacular, blazing reds contrasting with the grey rocks and snowy peaks.
Reaching the base, I had already contemplated quitting. I had been sick with influenza for a month; my doctor had advised no trekking, no training and already stomach pains from eating foreign food. Was this to be a deathwish for me? Yet, the temptation of breaking my altitude record was too great to resist plus the summit offered a reward: the prayer flags.
On we climbed up the relentless, steep, razorback zig-zag trail. The view was fantastic, breathtaking and then the landscape changed to bare and wild. I had to make many stops and my hungry stomach hurt. Somehow, I reached the 2nd stage of the climb. My sherpas were so fast and comfortable yet very patient with me. We were above the clouds with only the glistening, white peaks of the mountains and the deepest blue sky I had ever seen. No words can describe the view of the gods smiling.
At 4600 meters my legs quit and I crouched on the earth, thinking. The stomach pain, the difficulty in breathing, the headache, and the hunger were enormous, but the thought of hanging prayer flags at the summit, gave me new determination. Then we reached the snow line and the sea of rocks and boulders just below the summit. I fell to the ground….
But my sherpas, supported me, literally carried me all the way to the summit. their sherpa strength was enormous as they moved around deep crevasses, hidden deceptively by deep snow. I trusted them with my life as their expertise in these ordeal is second to none.
Reaching the summit, I broke down and wept then hugged my sherpas. I actually reached the summit and all the credit goes to my
sherpas. Only the high peaks of the Himalayas surrounded me. I hung my prayer flags and dedicated to a very good friend. The view was so glorious and it felt so ethereal that tears just flowed from my eyes, because my heart pulled me through. It seemed that I reached the pinnacle of my trekking career, after all the height of the mighty Himalayas begin where all other mountain end.
Now I understood why the Himalayas are deities in Tibetan Buddhism and Hindu religions. They give an immense power that touches the deepest part of the soul. They are a force, a power to create weather to fertile the Indian subcontinent. I was humbled at the experience of being in the middle of the greatest mountain range in the world.
I AM so small, so insignificant. What am I compared to rocks and mountains?