Episode 012: A Major Problem

Altitude is the Wildcard. Today was a difficult one. Overnight Major has become too ill to stay at Everest. As the sherpas begin to organize all of the expedition’s food, Major lay in his sleeping bag in the Dome and lapses in and out of sleep. He can barely move and you can tell his thought processes are slow. I talked to him briefly this morning when we found out that our Land Cruiser is still here at BC and our driver will be happy to drive Major down to Kathmandu. Last night was very difficult for Major. I was lying in my tent trying to fall asleep with my headache when I heard some sort of chanting coming from outside. I listened closer and realized that it was Major. He was in his tent, right next to mine, and he was literally praying to God to help him. “This is NOT good” I said to myself and quickly moved into his tent to see what was up. Major was sitting curled up like a ball and was praying for safety. His lungs have been filling up with fluid and when he lied down to fall asleep he became very aware of a gurgling sound whenever he took a breath. Well, there wasn’t much I could do but sit with him and try to keep him company. One of the problems with feeling like crap up in these mountain environments is the feeling of loneliness that permeates your psyche. You may have several people around you, but you are far away from home and everything that is familiar to you. I thought Major would like a distraction so I quickly grabbed my laptop out of my tent and grabbed the DVD of Shrek that I had brought with me. I sat upright in Major’s tent with my legs crossed so that he could lean up against me and try to keep the gurgling to a minimum. I put my arms around him to try and keep us warm and began to play the movie. Within minutes I realized that Major had fallen asleep! I guess it was just good to know that he wasn’t alone. Major had really helped me out in Tingri when I got a little nutty about missing my wife. It felt good to know I was able to return the favor, if only a little. It’s good to have friends in the mountains!

A few minutes ago Major was whisked off to return back to Kathmandu. I hope Karma will be waiting for him and that we’ll be able to know what is going on. Maybe he’ll be fine after getting down to lower altitude. Godspeed, Major!

Jon Miller

Total Running Time: 19:53

Dispatch 11 April 14, 2003: Base Camp

Today was our first full day in front of the pyramid shaped North Face of 29,035’ Mount Everest. We packed and organized the gear and food that will be making it’s way via a yaktrain to 21,000’ in the next two days. There are over 350 other people from China, New Zealand, Russia, Romania, Tibet, Nepal, Europe, North America, and South America that are also preparing for their ascents.
It was a crystal clear morning today. Everest lit up the sky like a huge temple of bright white light as wisps of snow over a half mile long trailed from her summit like a fleeting horses mane. It is a reverent sight to stand in front of the world’s greatest magnitude of anything but Mount Everest isn’t just the world’s highest. To the Sherpa and Tibetan people that surround us she is Chomolungma, Mother Goddess of the Earth. It is so important to the people who know her summit that we must sleep with our feet pointed away from the mountain to avoid any disrespect. To sit in front of the mountain, to hear the jet stream that rips across the great North face, this is nature at it’s most powerful. This is where humans must be their most humble.

Ben Clark