Ghostwriter: Kayti Christian
I left Brussels on a Tuesday. After two red-eye flights, a ten-hour layover in Athens, and 24 hours spent in Cairo, Egypt, I finally arrived in Nepal.
A family friend who owns a trekking company met me at the airport. He got me set up in a hotel and introduced me to my sherpa, Om, who would be me guide for the Everest Base Camp Trek.
The following morning, Om and I were at the airport ready for step one of the trek, a thirty-minute flight from Kathmandu to Lukla.No big deal, except that Lukla Airport is the most dangerous airport in the world. I began having second thoughts about the trip.
As our small plane took off, Om, who told me he was not a religious man, began crossing himself like a Catholic.“Oh man,” I thought, “this is not good.”We zipped through the clouds and between mountains before beginning our descent. For the life of me, I couldn't spot the runway. Then, suddenly, the ground came up out of nowhere. The plane smacked down, hard, and we decelerated uphill.We had literally just landed on a cliff side; on a runway a quarter-mile long. After catching my breath, Om and I exited the plane, along with eight other passengers. Luggage was thrown into a pile outside the tiny terminal, so we sorted through to find our bags before making our way to the trailhead.
It was 7 am when we began the trek.
Today was an easy day of trekking. We only hiked four hours before arriving at the first teahouse. We will spend the night here.
I’ve been reflecting on the things I’d seen today: Buddhist temples everywhere, children walking miles just to go to school, and young boys carrying 200-pound loads up the mountains. They carry everything from bags of rice to kitchen tables. Mostly though, they carry supplies to rebuild homes destroyed by the recent earthquake.
Of all the things that have stood out to me though, there’s one thing I can’t shake. The fog.
I knew that by coming during monsoon season, I was at risk for seeing very little. Because of our timeline for Asia, this is just how it worked out.
The fog is thick, heavy, and low.It’s the ceiling just out of my reach that I so badly want to tear through. I keep praying it will dissolve.
The trekking today was great. We crossed beautiful suspension bridges and rushing rivers. My body is feeling great. My 25-pound pack feels light, my boots are comfortable, and everything feels strong. Om and I get along well even though the language barrier keeps our conversations simple. The fog continues.
Last night I had a dream the fog was gone! But when I got out of bed and ripped the curtains open, the fog was thicker than ever. Rain was pounding down. I walked from my room to the dining area and Om, who was sitting alone, gave me a look. No trekking today.
When I woke up this morning, I refused to be discouraged.I threw open the curtains with anticipation, and, guess what? I saw something! It wasn’t the Himalayas, but from my window I could see the little town that surrounded our teahouse. With a population of about 1,500 people, there were many small houses and buildings in the distance. I put on some music to dance!
“I see more than clouds,” I yelled!
Om and I ate breakfast and then headed out. By lunchtime, the clouds began to part and we could see the sky.
We began jumping around and hollering like little boys!“Sky! Sky! Sky!” we sang.The skies can part and the fog can disappear! There is hope.
This morning came and I was still riding the high of seeing the sky. We had yet to see any mountains, but I still had hope.
Around lunchtime, the hope continued to grow because we had another breakthrough! This time, I could actually see the top of a mountain!I could only see the very tip, but it was a snowy peak and that was good enough for me.
And then, within minutes, it disappeared. I’m ecstatic, though! Yesterday I saw a town and the sky, and today I saw the top of a mountain.If I was hiking during peak season, I would have seen countless Himalayan giants by now, including Everest.But today I celebrate having seen the sky and a snow-capped peak, even if only for a few seconds.
Today came and I couldn’t help but think, “Two days ago I saw sky, yesterday I saw a peak, so today must be the day!”When I looked outside though, the weather was awful. Om and I headed out anyway.
The trek was brutal today and, by the time we reached the teahouse, my clothes were soaked from sweat.
At 16,000 feet, it’s freezing up here. Even after changing into dry clothes, I can’t warm up.As I walk the quiet teahouse hallways, I can see my breath.The only source of heat is a fireplace, but the wood has to be saved for peak season when the teahouse is full - I am the only guest here tonight.
I spent the night staring at the ceiling and my breath before falling asleep.It was freezing.
This morning started with what I think was a dream. In the dream, I could hear footsteps coming down the long plywood hallway. It was Om and he was coming to tell me the fog was gone.I smiled as I slept.
But when I woke up, I was actually hearing footsteps and Om was really knocking on my door.
“Hello?” I whispered. It was just after dawn.
Om was yelling, “Get up! YOU SEE EVVVVERRRYTHING!”
I quickly threw on my clothes and ran outside.My heart was racing and, like a child on Christmas morning, I couldn’t take everything in fast enough.
There were mountains everywhere, set up against a clear, blue backdrop. It was the brightest sky I’ve ever seen.
I began running around to snap pictures as if the mountains were going to flee as quick as they came. Why am I running? I laughed to myself, but adrenaline had the best of me.
My body was quickly met with 16,000 feet though and I eventually had to stop for air. My lungs were on fire.
Our good fortune continued throughout our trek today. The mountains looked like skyscrapers all around us and dwarfed anything I’m used to in Colorado. As we neared our last teahouse, the ascent grew steeper. At almost 45 degrees, my walking poles were the only thing keeping me from tumbling down the path. Every step was demanding and my lungs continued to burn.It took forever, but we finally reached the top and I could make out the teahouse below.That was our stop for the day.
With glaciers and mountains all around, we arrived at the teahouse and set our bags down. I was exhausted and ready for a shower and some sleep. Then, out of nowhere, Om yelled the word I’ve been waiting to hear since our trek began.
“Everest!” he shouted. My heart skipped a beat.
And there it was. The clouds parted just enough and you could see the top of Everest peeking up behind the other mountains. After flying 7,700 miles across the globe and ascending 10,000 feet over 40 miles, Everest stood shamelessly and powerfully in full sight.
I spent the rest of the day sitting on the edge of the Khumbu glacier and staring at Everest. The fog stayed away and I had a six-dollar coke to celebrate.
Today was our last day of ascent and the day we would trek to base camp. We woke up to clear skies and began our hike at dawn. We were only one hour away.
Our trek today looked like something from another world. As we walked the sun began to rise and play off the mountain faces, creating dark shadows. Unlike other days, the fog covered the ground instead of the sky. The peaks of the mountains, while covered in snow, emitted a spooky mist, as if they were volcanoes waiting to erupt. Everything was quiet and eery.
We reached 18,000 feet and then Om stopped.
“We’re stopping here,” he said.
Confused, I told him I wanted to go to Base Camp; it was only five minutes further.
“It’s too dangerous,” he explained. “The earthquake destroyed the path.”
So, this was the end and as far as I would go. I could see the base camp down the hill and I quietly said a prayer for the lives lost during the earthquake. Everything was still.
And then, without warning, the fog rolled in. The mood changed as Om and I hollered angrily at the fog. He did a fog dance to make it go away and I waved my hiking poles around. We shouted at the fog to leave. Om lit all his wood matches and waved them around as a warning.
“Get out of here! Go away fog!” we yelled.
But it was here to stay. And, almost symbolically, it ended my trek to the top. Om and I packed up and headed back to the teahouse. We ate breakfast and then began our decent.
On the way down, it was a race against the fog. Luckily, we were always a few steps ahead. Everything I missed on the way up, I experienced during the descent: crystal blue skies, gorgeous mountains, and picturesque villages. I got to see it all.
My time in Nepal was everything I hoped and more. Common sense and advice told me not to go during monsoon season and, at times, I thought the trip might be a bust. But to no surprise, God showed up and revealed His creation, just in time for me to experience it. While I was so excited to get to Thailand and see Kayti, I wouldn’t have traded those days in Nepal for the world.