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Everest Base Camp Trek - Eyewitness Account, Breathing is Fundamental

Beyond Tengboche are the desolate lands above tree line, this is home of the glaciers, mountain peaks, ice falls, rock faces and glacial moraines. The amount of snow on the ground increases substantially and the wind picks up, but we are blessed by bright sunny days. On the way we pass stone chortens that are monuments to many who have perished on Everest. This includes Scott Fischer and Rob Hall from the ill fated 1996 climbing season as well as Babu Chiri Sherpa who holds the record for most ascents of Mt. Everest(10). After 7 days we finally reach the group of rock huts known as Lobuche. We hunker down and prepare for our summit bid on Kala Patar.

The next day is truly a day of days. We leave just before sunrise. Overnight virtually everything not kept in our sleeping bags has frozen solid. This includes water bottles, treasured Snickers bars, and even our boots. It's hard to start an epic day when you are already very cold, but just before sunrise we depart a little nervous, but overall in good spirits. We gained elevation as we hiked up and down over glacial moraines and eventually made our way to the base of Kala Patar at a place called Gorak Shep or "Graveyard of the Crows." Although already worn down by cold and altitude we pressed on with our ascent. Slowly the steepening grade sapped our strength and will. The air is thin at 18,000 ft. Less than half the amount of oxygen as available compared to sea level. Our breathing becomes more labored with every step. In the end it is force of will. You either want to get to the summit bad enough to endure or you don't. That day was triumph of will. We all made it to the very top of Kala Patar.

From the summit the view is absolutely spectacular. You can really get a good look at windswept summit of Mt. Everest. The closer peak of Nupste looks more dominating even though it is several thousand feet shorter than Everest. Everest is named for Sir George Everest who was the surveyor general of British India in the 1800's. However, her local names are much more dramatic, even though their exact meanings are sometimes debated. Sagarmartha is the Nepali name. It's translated as Head of the Sky. The Sherpa & Tibetan name is Chomolungma which is often translated as Mother Goddess of the Universe although I have read more authoritatively that it means Goddess Lady of the Wind.

The story continues...