I climbed to 18,348 feet (5,600m), the highest you can go up in Nepal without special gear and the $25,000 Mount Everest permit fee.
I got up at 5:00 am and walked to Gorak Shep from Lobuche, then climbed to the top of Kala Pattar (“Black Rock”) as the first person that day to do so, touched the peak and said a blessing for all I love (and those I don’t love so much), then marvelled at Mount Everest not so far away.
I think the hardest part of the entire trip had nothing to do with the trails, the food, the people, the climb or the weather, although it was very cold way up there. It was one night in Lobuche, just a day trek before the Everest Base Camp. I had problems breathing at night because of the altitude. There is not much oxygen at that height; you breathe only 45% of the oxygen you would at sea level. The little room made of rocks I slept in had no windows and I felt like I was suffocating–like being underground with a massive rock on my chest preventing me from breathing. It was a sleepless night and I had bad thoughts about being very alone, with all the beauty of relationships, experiences, and just the Good Earth suddenly gone. The next morning I was so thankful for being alive and all kinds of little irritations–people who bug you for whatever reason–sort of became things I really loved and missed. We can never take things for granted, because, well, one day, they (or we) just won’t be there. So I enjoyed those things that annoy me– fully. Do you know what?– those people, things, and experiences are all we have. They are deserving of our full gratitude because, well, one day this will all be gone.
Here’s a meditative slideshow of photos I made of this day: