I was visiting Nepal for the second time and searching for new treks to do. I’d previously done the Everest Base Camp trek but was looking for something off the beaten path. I scoured websites, and had decided on one, until I saw something called a “trekking peak.” It wasn’t quite mountaineering, but it would be harder than the average trek. Few people had done it, and even fewer had summited. I searched the depths of the internet and came up with little information. This, was the trek for me.
In late April, I set out for a 16-day journey in the Himalayas. I’d walk everywhere I went, staying in local tea houses at night. I’d have a guide and a porter, but otherwise I was alone. No one else had signed up to join my expedition.
A blizzard blew in. We were on our way to high camp, a small establishment of tents set up by locals on the side of a cliff. At 5,800m it would be the highest I’ve ever been, but the blizzard was threatening that. Oxygen is in short supply above 5,000m. They call it “thin air.” It’s hard to breathe. To think. Everything takes effort.
Usually, I distract myself with the unparalleled views. But, the views were gone. In front of me was a blanket of white snow that blended into the white clouds. There was no definition between the two. Just white. White for miles in every direction. I could hear a voice in the distance, but the person never appeared. Like a ghost lost in the Himalayas. I looked down at the path. Or lack thereof. One single set of footprints led the way.
I lifted my foot and placed it in the next footprint, then stopped to catch my breath. One single step left me exhausted. I lifted my other foot and repeated the process. I couldn’t afford to think about giving up, so I moved forward slowly. One step followed by one strained breath. In a minute, I moved 5 feet. Maybe less.
The wind pushed against my face, and my stomach tightened with the urge to throw up, but my body was too tired to actually purge anything. I needed to get in the right mind set, so I repeated mantras over and over again. “You’re strong. You’re not a quitter. You can do this. You’re not weak. You’re brave.” Each sentence coincided with a single step forward. One at a time, over the course of 6 hours, until I could see something faint in the distance.
The clouds lifted, just slightly, revealing the curve of the mountain. At the top, not far in the distance were prayer flags. They marked high camp. Another half hour push to the tents, and the storm blew in harder. After a restless night, the sun rose, reflecting off the brilliant white snow. What lay in front of me felt like the entire Himalayan range. So many mountains that even Everest was indistinguishable. The silence was deafening. The beauty startling. It was a moment I’ll never forget.