5 years ago I was a naive little 27 year old who thought he had what it took to climb Everest. Spoiler alert: I didn't. I tried my best, but boy did that experience humble me. I remember back then I had just come off my 2011 USA Memory Championship win, the first one for me, and I felt unstoppable. Thinking back, what I would kill to have that blind confidence again. But even so, here I am 5 years later and I've been beaten up a good number of times since then. All for the better though.
The last few days we stayed in Dingboche, in somewhat of a cell service dead zone (yeah yeah, I know Alan Arnette got some blogs out but he is a mastermind at finding 3G where there is none), acclimatizing with some day hikes and drinking way too many cups of Khukery Rum for Phil's birthday (he's 46), where Barbara got him a beautiful cake that beautifully read: "Happy Birthday Barbara". Good times all around. Then we got up early this morning and trekked a relatively short day up to Lobuche, the last sort of civilized outpost before base camp.
I had forgotten completely about this part of the trek from 2011 but as soon as we climbed over Dingboche it all came racing back. This was the exact moment I remembered thinking how lucky I was to be climbing Everest back in 2011, and I was feeling it again walking back through the same route. Let me try to explain it to you:
First of all, Dingboche is a village. The houses are made of plywood and tin roofs. The "Main Street" is just a dusty carved pathway lined with rocks stacked on either side to mimic walls separating the local's potato growing plots (the potatoes in this village are DA BOMB btw, I'm not even joking). Anyways, the village is tucked away on the back side of this pretty big hill (I'd call it mountain if it wasn't for the other massive mountains around it), so to get out of it you need to slowly plod up said back side hill. Once you clear it you're suddenly slapped in the face with a clearing that exposes some of the most massive snow covered peaks you have ever seen in your entire life. And it's not just one, or two, or even three. They are ALL around you. And it just makes you feel yay small (imagine me squeezing my fingers together to show how infinitesimally small I'm trying to explain). Yet, there you are. Walking, one step after the other, taking you from one side of that clearing to the other which looks like a MASSIVE distance, but you manage to get there in just an hour of quiet trodding along. And then you face a massive hill, which you need to climb, but the air is so thin that you just have to accept taking one slow step at a time. And then you reach the top and are yet again faced with the most breathtaking views of multiple monstrous peaks, as well as, memorials for all the fallen legendary climbers of Everest.
And then you finally arrive at Lobuche another hour later, exhausted, covered in dirt, trying to find your breath. And you enter a tea house, joining the rest of your team to stuff your face with some delicious dhal bhat.
YES. That is what it's all about. It's hard to explain what that feels like. It's a you gotta be there to get it kinda thing. I seriously hope all of you who follow me try something like this before you die. Not even kidding.
In what might be the most exciting news of the day though, I ran into the Sherpa dog from 2011!!! He's still climbing! For those that don't remember he is this dog that apparently climbs up and down the valley with climbers and even up to Camp 2 on Everest (he jumps on his owners back when crossing the crevasse ladders). You can see him in my Everest 2011 Camp 1 to Camp 2 video on YouTube if you can find it. Anyways that made me happy. He let me rub his belly.
Now I'll probably get diarrhea.