Thursday, September 4, 2014

Everest - A Short Story

The climb looked steep, but it was the last I needed to make it to the roof of the world.  That my vision had gone blurry and I could barely breathe was beside the point.

My team tried to leave me behind at the base camp.  "Too risky," they whined.  "You need to rest," they chided.  I'm sorry, but I hadn't come around the world and spent nearly a month on this mountain just to stop 1000 feet from the summit.

I left when it was dark, the sun still an hour from the horizon.  The white glacier before me provided enough reflected light for me to see, at least until I reached the more vertical ascents, and the sun would be up by then.

Digging my spiked climbing shoes into the ice, and plunking my pickax into the ground, I pulled my wobbly legs from step to agonizing step.  Frost filled my lungs as I took a breath, and every time I exhaled I found myself engulfed in a young fogbank.

Still, I continued my trek.

Lots of people would be proud when I summited.  Even more would be astounded.  Yes me, the guy who once panicked because he got stuck on top of a tree fort, would now reach the peak of the highest mountain on Earth.  It would be glorious.

The mucus I expelled would only add to the legend, and my aching bone would be a testament to my determination.  I trudged forward, knowing that the summit team was only 90 minutes ahead of me.  They'd sure be surprised when I came up behind them.  Some might even be mad at the risk I took, but where was reward without risk?

The steps began to require greater and greater effort.  Coupled to this, my breathing became more difficult.  Each crunch of the snow and ice made me feel like I was running a marathon as I took in gulps of air, only to find that the act of breathing itself was a challenge.

Still, I continued my trek.

The sun had just broken the horizon when my leg refused to move.  This was ridiculous since I knew the last sheet of vertical ice still lay ahead.  With an extreme effort, I pulled it free from the mountain, but when I planted it, the air that filled my lungs now burned.

I don't remember going to a knee, but I felt the cold seep through my pants and onto my skin.  Strange...I'd have thought it would've been colder, but my skin had gone so numb that it barely made an impact.

What did make an impact was the wind.  Stiff and unrelenting, it bowled me over, and I barely had enough time to put my hand out in front of me to catch myself.  Trying to get back to my feet, I found the exertion unbearable.

I'll just rest for a second, I thought.

But that second turned into ten, and then 60.  The air in my lungs was so cold that I couldn't even take full breaths.  Even if I could, the cold I had was producing enough mucus that they wouldn't have been full breaths anyway.

That's funny...I could've sworn that the sun was coming up, but it seemed instead to be getting darker.  Stars burst into colorful patterns as I strained my neck to see.  Urging my legs to move, I found my body unwilling to respond.

Not good, I thought.  Not good at all.

Yet another strange sensation to find myself getting warm.  It wasn't a deep warmth, but rather a surface warmth that tickled my skin.  I felt my breathing slow, yet I couldn't notice any distress from it.  In fact, breathing seemed secondary now.  All that remained was to find warmth in this ice.  This ice would be my blanket, the mountain my bed...

...and my body a monument to yet another who passed near the roof of the world.

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