I've had this blog entry written in my head for days. It was going to be a three-worder, in large font: I DID IT. It kept me going on the grueling week on the way to our final destination, Mt. Everest Base Camp.
But the universe had other plans.
On April 18, the day when we were to make our final climb to Mt. Everest Base Camp, a huge snowstorm swept through the area. We couldn't go up, couldn't go down. The snow was waist-deep. One group that did venture out in the snow had to retrace their steps back to the lodge after only a few hundred meters, becoming disoriented from the almost total lack of visibility. We waited it out for another 24 hours in the lodge, but with the snow showing no letup, reluctantly decided to head back down the mountain.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. Base Camp was going to be the final reward for a week of climbing that took everything I had. Now, it feels like unfinished business. In the end, it wasn't the things that I worried about that kept me from reaching the top. It wasn't the Maoist rebels, or the curfew, or the altitude sickness, or my age or physical fitness (or lack thereof). It was a simple snowstorm.
On the other hand, these two weeks have given me enough spectacular images to last me several life times. The Himalayas have now officially replaced New Zealand (in my book) as the most spectacular place on earth. So I don't have too much to complain about.
On the way back down the mountain, word filtered back that four trekkers who did venture out into the storm had to be airlifted out after sustaining injuries on the slippery pass. Worse, the next day, three sherpas who were already at Base Camp, perished in an accident in the storm.
I check my email as soon as I return to Kathmandu, and learn about yet another twist of fate: on that day that was to be the pinnacle of the trek, my father died.
Right now I am on overload. So many experiences to process, starting with a Kathmandu under siege. Compassion and sadness. Astonishing beauty. Loss. Grueling exertion. Unfinished business.
Flying back to Chennai tomorrow. Looking forward to the comfort of the familiar.