By Sam Elias
It’s 6:02 pm at Everest base camp, 6:18 am in Boulder, CO where I left 5 weeks ago tomorrow. We’re about to eat dinner here. Today around noon, I lay resting in a yellow room - my tent - like a starfish, no shirt, ¾ length long underwear. My wristwatch read 91 degrees Fahrenheit, and the air was heavy, but thin to my adapting lungs. I must consciously inhale and exhale deeper. It’s uncomfortable but I’ve nearly grown accustomed to it. We’re residing at over 17,000 feet (5254m). It stank in there; only 3 showers in all these weeks, and not many fresh clothes.
My mind drifted. Around me, the landscape rises up with massive relief. My tent is oriented such that behind me there is Pumo Ri (7165m), and to its left in a semi-circle – Lingtren (6749m) and Khumbhutse (6665m). Then, out my front door is Everest (8850m), Lhotse (8501m), and Nuptse (7861m). Each except Nuptse is on the borderline of China (Tibet) and Nepal. Everest base camp is the cul-de-sac of the Khumbu valley and glacier. There is nowhere to go from here but up.
Down valley you can see the tops of smaller peaks – Tawoche (6367m) and Cholatse (6335m). This is a radical place - harsh and raw and extreme. It’s amazing to be here, but I feel out of place. Around me, the land speaks – rock fall, landslides, avalanches, serac collapses.
Every afternoon the wind picks up, the clouds come, and it gets cold quickly. It all adds to my sense of awe and anxiety as a visitor. This afternoon was no different. My bodily sensations brought my mind back from its wandering – I was cold. My watch read 29 degrees, and it was pounding snow. Things can change so quickly here. It is a magical place, but it commands attention. We are lucky to be here…
Time to eat.