Deep-fried apple pie. The lady who made it on a pine wood fire will come looking me. I was hallucinating. Tiny arrows of icicles ricoched off everyone’s parkha and stung my cheeks. Rarefied air crusted the mind at 17000 Himalayan feet. We’d been walking, crunching white snow and ice from 3 am, trudging, dragging sullen weather for 12 dark hours, each breath, bitterly cold, reeking of exhaustion. The last bit of humanness, call it will, yanked us six remaining humans on this expedition to the pass, a narrow ledge where we’d normally thank the mountain gods and splay multicoloured prayer flags on stark white holy expanse and descend victorious. Not today.
We’d reached the wrong pass. Freezing, yelling winds ripped sanity. A sheer murder of a descent with no fathomable path glared back. Not a foothold. No way back. A blinding blizzard. And no rope. The 3 mountain sherpas, walked calmly to the edge, threw off tents, back packs, kitchen, water, sustenance, and hope, down a vertical cliffside, a drop of thousands of metres. In the mountains, that is suicide.
Our oxygen deprived mangled brain cells felt strangely content in their catatonic state. So this is what it feels like. The end.
But that last breath had a story to tell. We found one friable foot hold, held on, let go, skid, slid, got lucky, got each other… with no water or food for two days, one pitched tent scooped by the winds flying off into the next valley, frozen shoes refusing let in feet, and a primal GPS, we did make it. Eventually. And lived to reach another apple pie.
Mindfills on Ganja-La trek, Langtang valley, Nepal, 2011, for