Prior to the release of my book, I will be publishing on this blog snippets of writing copied directly from the final pages, and a small gallery of photographs from Everest. If you like the writing and want to read more, please preorder my book here. Preorder sales help to increase exposure and get the book onto bestseller lists. Thanks and I hope you enjoy this selection from Chapter 4.
4. OLD FRIEND
If I had to guess, I’d say it’s 7:00 a.m., but I can’t be sure because I left my Timex at home, seven thousand miles and a fifteen-hour plane ride away, along with my phone and keys and the twelfth-grade English assignments I’m supposed to be doing. It’s chilly here at twelve thousand feet. The sun would probably be shedding light by now if it weren’t for the giant peak that’s blocking it. Which peak is that? Thamserku? Kangtega? I know it’s not Everest. The Big E’s directly in front of us, way off in the hazy distance, to the left of Ama Dablam and Lhotse, and partially hidden behind Nuptse. Morning in Solukhumbu reeks of juniper and mud and cakes of dried yak dung burning in nearby stoves. There’s a ramshackle army base fifty yards behind us, complete with rusty barbed wire and armed guards in woodland camo, but we’re not on their property and they’re not paying attention to us. Mom’s snapping photos with her two-foot-long lens. Dad’s chatting with a trekker. Gombu’s tracing his thick finger along the glowing horizon, naming each peak for Joss.
“Thamserku,” he says when he gets to the silhouetted spire. I thought so.
“And, of course, Chomolungma,” says Gombu. Chomolungma is the Tibetan name for Everest. Dad always says it means “Goddess Mother of the Earth,” which is better than being named for a dead white guy, I guess. Still, Everest has a fittingly grandiose ring to it.
According to family legend, when Dad saw Mount Everest for the first time from the window of a Royal Nepalese Airlines DC-3, he stared at it for a long time with the odd thought that he wanted to become its friend. At thirty-four, he was one of the preeminent mountaineers in the United States and he hadn’t been very surprised when Norman Dyhrenfurth, the leader of the expedition, asked him to join the team. He left behind his family and a promising job at REI for a chance to test himself in the Himalaya. I imagine a mild odor of sweat floated through the stuffy passenger cabin as Dad and his teammates strained their necks for a glimpse out the window. They were en route to Kathmandu to embark on a three-month expedition to the summit. A Nepali flight attendant served juice and soda, but the men were preoccupied with the image in the window. The mountain was a triangle of licorice-black rock cutting into a pale sky. A plume of windblown snow trailed from the massif like the train of a gossamer gown. To Dad, it wasn’t an enemy to be fought and destroyed. It was a friend to be respected.
Dad was crazy. Mount Everest looks about as friendly as a hurricane. Golden light is now dripping from the top. Mom gasps, a shutter goes click, click, click, and Dad says, “There she blows.” Everest capturing dawn, that’s why we awoke at this ridiculous hour and trudged up the hillside behind the guesthouse, our breath like steam. That’s why we came all this way in the first place.
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