“Look, that’s the mighty Everest just in front. It seems a mere arms length away!”- shouted one of my companions, as I turned my eyes to the right to witness the most spectacular sight that has ever beckoned me. It was the ‘crowning moment’ of Mt. Everest, with the sudden burst of rays of the setting sun reflecting on the highest peak in the world- one of the most treasured views for trekkers everywhere.
This story dates back to 2003, when I was still in my high school. It was a time when my most precious possession was a Kodak KB10 camera borrowed from my uncle, the time when I was in my teens and eagerly awaiting to attain adulthood (Yes! I looked forward to growing older then).
As a part of my school’s golden jubilee celebration, a team of 7 students, accompanied by our teachers and guides, embarked on a journey to conquer the Kala Pathar peak, one of the bases from where the last climb to the mighty Mt. Everest starts. It was our biggest hike till that date, and, in fact, we happened to be on the records for being the youngest people to undertake this journey at that time. As we started wondering what lies before us, we received the first surprise the day before we left for the expedition: a letter of encouragement from none other than The Edmund Hillary. Even today, after 15 long years, each and every word in that letter is safely etched in my memory.
We prepared ourselves for months with the hope of enduring the hardship of the expedition and to fulfill our dream of witnessing the mighty Everest. And what we saw was more than we could ever imagine.
After an adventurous journey across the border between India and Nepal, we reached Kathmandu, from where we boarded the Sita Air Dornier aircraft to Lukla. It was my first plane ride in life, and I was definitely not helped by the fact that we were about to land in one of the most dangerous airports in the world. We began our trek from Lukla (2840 m) and stayed overnight at Phakding (2610 m). The next day, was the toughest of the lot, where we trekked for almost the entire day to reach Namche Bazaar(3440 m). It was a small Himalayan town, with all the amenities one would need to lead a simple life in the hills. Directly in the middle of the Sagarmatha (the Nepalese name of Mt. Everest) National Park, it offers breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and boasts of one of the highest bakeries in the world, where we happened to celebrate my birthday on the way back.
We got our very first glimpse of Mt. Everest within moments of leaving the town the next day and within a few hours of trekking, we were above the tree level. The barrenness struck our eyes as suddenly as the emergence of the Everest in front of us. From Namche Bazar, we arrived at the beautiful Himalayan village of Tengboche (3867 m), boasting of a grand Monastery surrounded by mighty peaks. It was beauty at its beastly best, and enough for us to forget the toils of the day and engage in a game of Volleyball with the resident monks.
The next day’s trek took us to a place called Lobuche (4910 m), where the only stay available was a mountain shack at the foothill of a mountain and on the bank of the Doodhkoshi river. The next day was the day for which we had planned so much and waited eagerly for months. Around a hour and a half trek from Lobuche took us to Gorakshep (5140 m), the last available accommodation point before Kalapathar. We took ample rest, and started our ascent towards Kalapathar, with the hope that the weather would favor us, and we would be able to witness Everest in its most beautiful avatar.
A few minutes after we started from our lodge in Gorakshep, all of a sudden we got the closest-possible glimpse of Everest, still awaiting the rays of the setting sun. It was a perfect timing when, almost after an hour and a half, we reached the peak, and the sun rays were in full glow, covering the Himalayan peaks with a blanket of golden color. There we were, witnessing our dreams taking shape in front of our eyes, and in what a grand way.
My destiny has now bought me not only to a different country, but to a different continent altogether. I have been lucky to set my foot on the Alps mountains ranges and visit different across Europe. However, in hindsight, the inner younger self in me still longs to go back to those days when I was in the Himalayas, to that first plane ride, to the countless people I met during those 15 days of my journey. In my mind, I am still a traveler wandering from the Himalayas to the Alps, and back.
P.S.: All the pictures here are scanned from the hard copy prints I have. Hence, please excuse the quality of the picture.