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Tuesday, 01 January 2013

Nepal: Getting High in the Himalayas - Page 2

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Breathing heavily, I took a look behind us and saw that we’d covered less than one hundred vertical meters. My lungs felt like they were in a vice, the pressure was unrelenting and I could hardly breathe. Tears threatened to spill down my face. Blinking hard I forced them back, I could only manage one or two words at a time but I forced myself on. A wave of coughing forced me to my knees, and I began to get sick.  I finally struggled to my feet and continued up the path.  For two hours I struggled up the icy paths, stumbling often but falling less. My knee was bloody and my gloves were soaked. 


Ben and I didn’t talk much, but he kept saying "slow down", "you're going to kill yourself", and "can you breathe?"


We passed a group of Israelis trudging back down the path, admitting defeat. Ben grasped at my elbow and steered me over a patch of ice. I could no longer focus on where I was going and, instead of picking the most logical path, bulldozed forward over ice, sharp rocks and through deep snow drifts. 

Somewhere in my mind I was aware that I showed every sign of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and that I had to get off the mountain. I ignored my body's attempts to turn me around and shuffled onward with tiny steps. I was weak and could no longer keep my eyes open, and knew I was severely dehydrated, but the water in my Nalgene was frozen solid. I slipped and again fell to my knees, retching.       


Another two hours passed; somehow I was still climbing, yet we still hadn’t reached the top. The sun was out now; and shaded the mountain tops pink, red and gold. I fumbled for my sunglasses, the snow glare was blindingly bright. Screaming winds tore at me and stung my sunburnt face. My lips, cracked and bloody, craved moisture and even though I knew I shouldn't I sucked upon a handful of snow.


We passed a herd of shaggy yaks sheltering behind a rocky outcrop and finally reached a narrow, extremely icy trail which snaked upwards another two hundred meters. At this point, I knew we were less than an hour from reaching the top. 


My hands were frozen and stung as I shook them to keep the blood flowing. I was about fifty vertical meters up the trail when it happened. Suddenly, inexplicably, my mind went completely blank and   I couldn't see anything. though I continued shuffling forward with grim determination. I was vaguely aware that there was a sheer drop about one foot to my right but was oddly unconcerned; suddenly my right foot slipped out from beneath me and my eyes snapped open...I was falling. 


Instinctively, I smashed my hand into the path and just barely managed to catch my body weight. The drop loomed below me and for a couple of crucial seconds all of my weight was on one exhausted arm.   


(Page 2 of 3)
Last modified on Thursday, 28 February 2013

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