When did I know that Cholatse was saying ‘no’, that we weren’t going to climb it? It wasn’t during the long, beautiful puja [Buddhist prayer ceremony] held for us at the Phakding Monastery. Nor was it when, after five days of waiting, one member of my climbing team was still at Kathmandu airport, unable to fly to Lukla and join us due to bad weather. It wasn’t even when the hurricane, the strongest in years, was dancing outside my window in Namche Bazaar in vortexes of dust, and hail, and snow. I knew on the sixth day of our team’s separation, on the morning after the hurricane.
The sky was heavy, leaden; it was a moment’s quiet before the storm would return; the phones were silent, the rooms in the lodge were dark, and there was nobody outside. As I lay, shivering, in my sleeping bag, I suddenly felt… happy. Dorje was safe and warm in Phakding, Pasang was at home in Kathmandu, Chongba was with me in Namche, and Jangbu, our cook, was waiting in Lukla. All safe. That storm, that mountain and I, we hadn’t hurt anybody yet but we would have if we’d had our way. If things had gone according to our climbing schedule, the storm would have caught us on Cholatse, and then… then, I don’t know.
I wrote in my previous post that if I were a mountain, I would be Cholatse. Perhaps, it’s the reason why it was so hard and yet utterly necessary to say ‘no’ to the climb. The more I looked at its ridges from base camp, the more I wanted that mountain. I had to find something else to want so that I could turn my back on Cholatse and myself, and walk away. Fortunately, I did… More about that and the expedition in the upcoming posts.