With the upcoming release of my book, I will be publishing 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 order 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 11.
11. LANDING UPHILL
A flight attendant in a green-and-white Yeti Airlines uniform walks down the aisle in the passenger cabin of a Dornier 228, passing out cotton balls and watermelon-flavored hard candy before takeoff. The twenty seats in the aircraft are full. Dad’s sitting across the aisle to my left and Mom’s in front of me and Dave Hahn’s way in the back, as close to the exit door as he can possibly get. I spin my head to glance at him and he gives me a thumbs-up and a look that says, I’ll be the first one out the door when this thing crashes, but I want you to be right behind me. I twist the cotton balls into my ears and pop the candy in my mouth, and now the engines are revving up so I yank my seat belt tight.
Out the oval window to my right the tarmac of the Kathmandu airport bakes in the sun. Fuel trucks are parked against a chicken-wire fence and palm fronds undulate in the breeze. If I lean my head into the aisle, I can see into the cockpit too, all the controls and levers and gauges and flashing lights, and even out through the front windows to the gray runway that disappears in front of us in a wave of heat. The pilot and copilot are in full view. They’re Nepali and they’re wearing identical uniforms—starched white shirts unbuttoned at the collar, black leather jackets, aviator glasses with gold rims, black pilot’s hats with faded gold Yeti Airlines insignia, and black leather fingerless gloves. It’s like they stepped right out of Top Gun. I can’t hear over the rattling whine of the engines and the muffle of the cotton balls, but they seem to be chatting casually. Shouldn’t they be more focused on what they’re doing? For Christ’s sake, these two movie stars have my life in their hands.
The rattling whine grows louder and louder now and we gain speed and, shit, there’s no turning back. I watch the tarmac rush beneath us and wait for the feeling of weightlessness as the wheels leave the ground. There it is. My stomach sinks a little and my back drives into the seat and an errant spring digs in between my shoulder blades. The aircraft shudders, as if its wings are cutting through the thick haze of the city, and then we break into smooth, clean air.
I lean my forehead against the window and let my eyes play over the cityscape. The place unfolds as we pass over. A shoulder-width alleyway winds beneath an unfinished apartment building. A disheveled marketplace overflows with rugs and prayer wheels and tapestries. A pack of marauding dogs searches for edible garbage along the fringe of a dusty field. Piles of litter choke a meandering creek. A white cow turns its head at passing mopeds from its place in the middle of a traffic divider. Thousands of vehicles—motorcycles, mopeds, trucks, sedans, and vans—send up clouds of dust. Kathmandu is its own sort of adventure. It’s all getting smaller and smaller and the picture’s getting broader and I see temples and hotels and city blocks and entire districts. In Kathmandu, I’ve heard, there are ten times as many bricks as people. The whole city’s the color of brick, except for patches of bright-green trees and rainbows of clothing hanging on wires between buildings and the occasional blue of a rooftop swimming pool. We’re leaving behind the brick and litter and mopeds and bent rebar. We’re getting away from real problems as fast as we possibly can. Climbing mountains is such a selfish endeavor.
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