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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

Today’s Forecast: Bluebird Skies and Unmatched Prowess + 99% Chance of Unforgettable Memories

Instructor disclaimer: Drama and hyperbole added for effect. No students were harmed in the making of this yak, or in real-life 🙂

Altitude was in the low 4000 meters, but morale had stayed behind at sea level. Today’s morning frost was not melted by the usual exuding warmth of Him B. Groans and early stage symptoms of altitude sickness ran rampant throughout the camp, but nevertheless the brilliant morning rose throughout the valley, penetrating and distracting our somber moods like candles in a birthday cake. Stubbornly, the heat of the sun smoked us out of our now humid and stinky tents, and predicted the inevitable: we were about to have a whole lot of fun.

With bluebird skies and chapped lips turned facing the rising sun, Him B trudged courageously towards higher altitude and thinner air. Though its troops were reduced by the early malicious grips of altitude sickness, water bottles had been filled, piyush-ed, a little more piyush-ed (because you never know and we’d rather be safe than risk GI), sunscreen had been generously applied, and the group had left without a single look back. The wounded would have to be tended to later; right now it was time to face the day and make Dragons history.

Now the first quarter of the trek went by quickly and efficiently, as it always does with Him B. The climb so far has been “Nepali flat” (up),  but eventually and inevitably, it led to a more technical and  direct uphill. I’m reluctant to admit, several more of us were caught in the deadly trap of altitude sickness, and we, the survivors, had to watch them go. We stood emotionless, tears close at call, but none showed any weakness. Goodbyes for our fallen comrades were swallowed bitterly, but courage needed to be shown now more then ever.

We persevered…

I was hit by a snowball…

I retaliated…

I squirmed a little. The icy water had just reached my back…

We persevered…

We rose up the mountain, as gracefully as fish out of water…

12:30 in the afternoon. The sun is still up, naturally….

The group has finally arrived to its first of many challenges: lunch. To eat or not to eat? That is the question. Understand this: Him B was already at a fine altitude, somewhere between 4500 meters and 8848 meters. But as is always the case in the Himalayas, there is always a higher peak, or pass, or platform to get to, and the will of the group was tested. But infallibly, hunger and natural needs were put aside and replaced by thoughts of greatness and wonder. Nak cheese, like our fallen comrades, would have to wait, and the journey continued upwards.

10 meters, 100 meters, 200 meters, 500 meters, 1000 meters, 4000 meters. At least that’s what it felt like.

Finally we reached the pass at just shy of 5000 meters. But that wasn’t enough for Him B. No, not nearly enough. The grassy boulder patch that separated the pass from its neighboring mountains was just overshadowed by an annoying hill that rose barely above the path. At this point, and I may be exaggerating, Him B was a poor sight indeed. Sandro, God knows why (we know why), was, as I remember it, face-down immobile, and the rest were struggling to maintain their godly demeanor. As a wise man/woman once said, courage is only shown when one faces his/her fears. Luckily for us, we weren’t afraid, just tired. Needless to say, we strode rapidly (took 15-20 minutes) over those last 100 meters to the top, and there we were, at the top of Everest, the first Dragons group to ever climb the behemoth. Amazing! Almost unbelievable, almost. But Him B is known for accomplishing just that. So I’ll let the reader decide whether or not we did.