I arise from a sleep, cold, wet and tired, as expected. It is 6am, -3°C As I rise from my tent and out of my dew-covered sleeping bag, I am faced by a hundred or so other Himalayan adventurers all going through their morning routines. I myself have been on the trail for 9 days and feeling the symptoms now, I couldn’t imagine what these other trekkers are going through. The thought of their pain won’t leave my head, I have so many questions about this.
Today should be my final day, well so I hope. I walk up to one of the fellow trekkers and start some small talk, along the lines of the weather and how he has progressed, his name was Michael, and he told me he has enjoyed this voyage up Mount Everest and is confident he will get across the line today on what should be the last day for all of us here at this camp. Prior to coming to Nepal, I did some research on the experiences of past climbers, a common note between all these writing pieces were how they said the afternoon on their final day was the most life changing experience of their life. So here I am eager to finish one of the hardest climbs of my life. Michael and I continue chatting while we have our powdered oats and honey ration pack. We have discussed how exited we are about reaching the summit this afternoon and we decide we want to be the first of the people here at the camp to reach the top. We head off on our way, the other trekkers faces have a weird shocked and confused look on their faces.
After a bitter hour of trekking in the coldest and harshest climate I have ever been, in we imagine we have at least a 45-minute lead over the next trekker, we are really starting to feel it now, with at least 5 more hours of trekking and almost a kilometre more to climb vertically. Michael wants to rest, we have a break and hydrate for about 2 minutes or so, it’s hard to keep track of time under immense pressure at such a high altitude. Another hour passes and many rest breaks to go with it, I feel for Michael and console him through this as he is immensely feeling the pressure under the altitude. We continue this pattern, but we are still confident we have a lead over everyone else as although we are having many breaks, we are motivating each other to pick up the pace towards the summit because we know the reward will be worth it. Another 2 hours past and we have an estimated arrival time to the summit in approximately 45 minutes.
Michael is gone, not literally but physically and mentally. He keeps saying “this is it”, I keep pushing him, I know if I leave him behind, he won’t finish this. We arrive at a rest stop off the edge of a cliff, I tell him to sit and rest while admiring the view while I went to the portable toilets. I don’t normally assume the worst but this time I am, leaving Michael on the edge of a cliff unwatched in this circumstance is never what I should do, we are all thinking the same thing and the same worst possible outcome, suicide.
Just as I am about to walk out of the toilet, I hear a bang on the door, and I open up the door and see another distressed hiker who must’ve caught up to us. He has a massive look of fear and shock on his face and I instantly assume this is because of the cold. I greet him and the first thing he says in a stuttered voice is, “I..I..I just saw it happen just then who is he?” I am confused and ask what he means, he says “Y..Y.. Your friend, over there, he just jumped.”
I drop everything and run back, screaming and assuming the worst. I get to the edge of the cliff and see his trekking pack standing up alone looking over the snowy Himalayan region. I don’t know how to feel, I look over the edge and just see a cloud of white shiny snow. I look around for help, nobody in sight I lost the other trekker who pulled me out of the toilet but most importantly I’ve lost Michael, for good.
I assume I am the only one around. With no other point of contact I must turn around and head all the way back to alert someone. But no, I can’t do that after all of this I know exactly what Michael wants and exactly what I want, that is to finish. I continue on by myself, without Michael. With an estimated half hour left in my journey I have enough self-belief in myself to finish this off. I’m pushing through it despite the voices and the movie playing in my mind of Michael. I am traumatised once I finish this something is going to have to be done surrounding my mental state.
Lost in my thoughts I suddenly find myself on the final stretch, one hundred metres to go, steep uphill.
“Here I am… this is all I have ever wanted, to reach the summit of Everest, this is what Michael would’ve wanted,” I push myself up the final rock and bring myself onto my feet standing tall, on top of the world, at the highest point on the globe.
I look over the edge and into the bleached white terrain and scream out “I did it… I did it.” All of a sudden I hear a whistle behind me and a familiar voice saying, “Hey, sorry for running ahead mate, just wanted to finish first.”