I’m home! God bless drinkable waters and the plentiful air at sea level! Life at 18,500 feet sure aint easy, but wow is it beautiful. I’ve been home for 24-hours now and I still can’t believe that I stood at the base of Mount Everest and looked up to see the highest point in the world. What a way to turn 30.
I didn’t get sick, my brain did not swell from the altitude and I was not robbed by armed bandits. But man, was it harder than I thought it was going to be. 12 days of straight hiking, sometimes for 10 hours a day, is a real kick in the pants. It feels like you are slowly running a marathon uphill with a backpack on. In reality, you are walking really slow because you’re gasping for breath, but it feels like you’re sprinting while your quads are crying and your knees remind you that you’re not 15 anymore.
But then you look up and you see the most beautiful mountains on planet earth and the pain slowly fades away. And we had much more than mountains to see. We met incredible people who invited us into their homes, let us pray in their monasteries, and fed us for next to nothing.
The sherpa families who live in the hills near Everest exist in a region with no roads, no cars, very little electricity and a lot of beauty. Many make their living as porters or guides for treks, as our guide Kansi did. Kansi has climbed to 27,230 feet and lost his older brother in an avalanche on Mount Everest. He promised his mother he would never climb it from the Nepal side, as that is how his brother died, but told us that if he had another chance to go up, he would as it pays well and he has to support his family.
Without Kansi, I don’t know if I would have made it to 18,500 feet. It certainly would have taken me a week longer and I probably would have cried every five minutes. But Kansi told us all about the region when we hiked and taught us that when you’re up there, marching from sun up to sundown is just a way of life. Porters do the same routes with 220 pounds on their backs.
Would I do it again? I don’t know. But I’m thrilled I did it once. It tested and pushed my every limit, and I hope I came out better for it in the end.