Episode 008: The Friendship Highway

Everything changes before Everest. It took a while, but we’ve made it up the side of the Tibetan Plateau. It’s striking how different the terrain is up here. After all of this driving uphill in our fleet of Land Cruisers, we’re suddenly at the bottom of some very flat valleys. Well, this is Tibet, and the bottom of these valleys are still higher than most mountaintops back in the USA and Europe! We’re surrounded by mountains, but the road is actually quite smooth and the more comfortable ride makes napping possible. At least between pee-breaks. We’ve begun to really drink water–as much as possible and it goes right through all of us. It’s a good sign. It means we’re staying hydrated.

At one point in the day’s drive, Ben, Major and I are all fast asleep when suddenly we all wake up. Within seconds we drive around a bend and Ben yelps out, “Holy Shit!” There, in the distance, shimmering in the heat waves reflecting off of the desert, is Everest. No doubt about it, it’s Everest. We’re still a few days away from arriving into Base Camp, but this spectacular view changes the feel of the entire expedition. This is no longer a far-off dream. We’re here, and Everest is RIGHT THERE! The mountain is just right there! Amazing. I can’t wait to find out what’s around the next bend.

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 19:17

Dispatch 8, April 11, 2003: On the Road, Tibet
When we left Zhang Mu this morning we bid goodbye to the comforting shades of tropical vegetation. We set out on a six hour drive corkscrewing upward through the Friendship Valley and onto the wide open Tibetan plateau. Then it happened!
For the first time today, I finally saw Everest with my own eyes. It was an amazing and mystical situation. During this trip, Jon, Major, and I have been spending a lot of nights awake both working and adjusting to the twelve hour time difference. Riding in vans and government restrictions on filming incited prime conditions for a nap. Although we had just traversed a 15,800’ mountain pass and we knew Everest was approaching, we fell asleep. Almost simultaneously, one hour later all three of us awoke for no reason. Less than a minute passed and we rounded a corner.
Four and a half years of my life have passed, many days were spent in doubt, in fear, in anguish as new obstacles arose in my quest to make it to where I did today. Seeing this monarch, this stately pyramid poised majestically against a cobalt afternoon sky, seeing it for the first time, after having awakened. I won’t tell you what I said in those first few seconds but the first part was sacred and the second part only enunciated the unrestrained feeling I felt laying my eyes on something that for so long was only in my mind.
It was Everest, I know it’s been done before, I know it’s been climbed by almost every feasible line scouted, I know it’s story has been told every which way, but I am here. I am here with these two eyes and this mind to make of it what I will, it is my turn to discover the true meaning of this experience, it is my turn to finally come face to face with the mountain of my dreams!

Ben Clark