It is early in the morning on the 22nd of March. The air is cold, and so am I. The large dining room at Dorjee’s lodge in Phakding smells of juniper and milk tea. Across the room from Dorjee and I are seated five lamas from Pema Choling Monastery. Upon our request, they have graciously agreed to come down from the gompa, perched high up on a hill above Phakding, to conduct a prayer ceremony for the Altitude Junkies’ 2012 Everest expedition. The puja, which will last all day, starts with the mantra from the Heart Sutra: Tayatha Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha. Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond… No words could be more appropriate, given where we are going.
As I have said in one of my previous posts, this time last year I could not imagine myself preparing to climb Everest. I loved my mountains, yes, but I couldn’t believe I would dare to step out of the comfort zone of my averageness and attempt something as big, as tough and as beautiful as a pilgrimage to Chomolungma. I think, I am a better mountaineer now than I was a year ago – although, I still don’t look like one. It is also comforting that I no longer place as much importance on my shortcomings as a climber or the lack of bulging arm muscles as I used to. My reasons for wishing to climb Everest have changed as well. It used to be about proving something to myself; it no longer is just about me. If I stand on the summit of Chomolungma, I feel, it won’t be solely to tickle my ego and become, perhaps, the first blond author of bad poetry to write her name into the Himalayan Database :). If I do reach the top of the world, it will be for the little monks of Pema Choling Monastery, – orphaned and otherwise disadvantaged boys – who reminded me that there was a big world outside myself, and that I could do something good for it. Ever since I first met the kids before leaving for Cholatse in February, I have been trying to support them as much as I could afford to. Yet, what little I have been able to donate is not nearly enough to make a real difference. Thus, I promised myself to make any mountaineering/ice-swimming challenge I may take up after the Everest expedition a charity project to provide for the improvement of the boys’ living conditions, healthcare and education. It is to the little monks of Phakding and their selfless teachers that I dedicate this upcoming climb on Chomolungma. I dedicate it also to my friends in Kathmandu and elsewhere in the world, who have always believed in me more that I have. Above all, however, I dedicate it to my mother, whose unfailing courage is the source of my own.
Nevertheless, I will need more than courage and well-wishes of my friends and family, and more than mental and physical strength to succeed on Everest – I will need luck, my changeable luck, to be on my side this time. I am someone, who often requires a second chance, but Everest is not known for its generosity. So many things can go wrong, that it will take something not unlike a miracle for them not to. A lot depends on the mountain itself, and no matter how much energy I may put into the climb, Chomolungma can still destroy my wildest dream with one gust of wind. If I fail to summit, it will be very painful but not at all unexpected; if I succeed, I will be the greatest gift from the world that I could hope for. I have only one real strength: I love what I am doing, and how and why I am doing it; yet, I don’t know that that’s enough.
The moment of departure is fast approaching. Almost all the members of the expedition have already arrived in Kathmandu, and the team will be leaving for China early in the morning on the 10th of April. I will endeavor to keep my readers updated on the progress of the expedition as regularly as I can. You can also follow the climb here:
Keep your fingers crossed for my team mates, our Sherpas and me ;)!