revaluating mount everest
wherever I came, I felt watched over wakefully by the guardian mountain of ama (“mother”) dablam who stands at the entrance to this sacred space.
through enchanted valleys created millions of years ago by wild milky-blue glacial river…to sacred heights with infinite blue-skied views, prayer flags on windy outlooks, holy symbols painted on rock, anicent shrines of mountain spirits, venerable gompas… walking under the transparent clarity of the high-altitude sky, along sunny slopes generously nourrishing me with a warmth to store for the cold nights to come.
I took the bend up the sunny valley of chukung, to arrive & acclimatize for a few days. a sunrise hike to the powerful outlook of chukung ri, nested within a ring of the highest mountains of the world, at the foot of the mighty vertical 3000 m southface of mt. lhotse.
further up-valley the fearsome glacial imja lake, a place I felt not meant to be for the tiny living being I am, amidst majestic 8000+ mountains and the mighty glaciers pouring down from them in a way it takes my breath away.
my route crossed two of these great glacial flows – what a humbling sensation to find myself in the midst of this powerful mass of ice, rock, water & energy, moving slowly but perceviably down the valley. the path leading randomly between shifting ice blocks, water holes, rolling masses of gravel, moraines dropping hundreds of meters, the dynamics gradually eating their edges away.
enjoying a tranquil solitary early morning uphill hike in majestic landscape on the way to kongma-la, the surprise awaiting me just before the pass: a lake of utter calm & depth – inviting me to sit, still, and simply take in what it is it wishes to tell me. a moment when time & space stands still, holds its breath so the human being listening can take it in and let it arrive deep down – there is a richness of age-old wisdom sitting in these mountain spaces. offering to us human beings to listen, realize, draw from & comprehend.
the crossing of the pass anounced to me a shift of energies, turning to a new chapter. from the loving warm slopes of chukung valley where it felt to me like being held in the comfort & safety of a mother’s embrace – to the cool, sharp, concentrated male energy of the khumbu valley, where performance & achievement counts in pursuit of high aims. the valley in which I would join the never-ceasing in- & outflux of trekkers of all ages, cultures & attitudes, on the world’s most popular hiker’s route: the highway to everest base camp.
I would have liked to avoid this part, this dreaded pocket of the masses driven by the inner urge to see the basecamp of the highest mountain in the world – for many this would be the hardest physical challenge they take on themselves in their lives. I would have liked to – as many sensitive trekkers meanwhile choose to do – instead divert my route directly towards the next pass. but a part of me needed to see, experience, wanted to know what this is all about: peak season on the trekking route to everest.
it was the most challenging experience on my body and soul. not the physical challenge (I still hold the speed record up to 5500 m asl. kalapatar ;-D), but the challenge of sharing such basic infrastructure with so many people, in a place no human being is naturally meant to be. too high the air already here, too limited the natural resources available, too heavy the pressure of what we leave behind when we go back down. it was a hard fight for a single free room with a window I could open for the little oxygen I would get, it was crowed dinning halls warmly heated by a yak-dung fire, sharing space with people I would not choose to do so in other circumstances, it was headaches, nausea, and a wonderfully cooked dal bhat with fresh veggies brought up on the back of a porter or yak from all the way down the valley – which eventually, sadly, landed in the drain due to my nausea at the overpowering lack of air & space I felt in this crowded space.
I was relieved to get up at 4:30 am to join the caterpillar of headlights crawling their way up to mt. kalapatar for the famous sunrise. I took an alternative path I had noticed the day before – and on this solitary route enjoyed the calm, quiet, magic beauty of the dawning light, with its mysterious, incomprehensible mélange of pastel colors, the first dip of sunlight on the mountain tips, the gradual awakening of this high valley. chomolungma in her solid, massive, eternal state of simply being, holding the powerful centerpoint of this space. not enduring, judging,… simply being witness. to the craziness & delusion of these hundreds of beings coming in and out of her space every day, for years, for decades – some only to see her, many to conquer her, some to leave their lives somewhere in the cold wind on her highest heights.
as the sun finally pierced its first rays over the back of nuptse face, welcoming me with a hint of warmth in the freezing cold, I reflected on this craze – while a few hundred meters to my left, on the official peak, hundreds of fellow-sunrisers were busy taking their adventure-posed-souvenir-pictures, exchanging with each other where they came from and where they go, which countries they had already been to, who they might know in common and how they were longing for a hot shower and a crunchy pizza, talking about anything else but this moment they had come so far to experience.
mt. everest – who ever came up with this dry, colonial name for a mountain who holds with such magnificent, breath-taking solidity the center of the earth? chomolungma, she is called in the local tibeto-sherpa language: great mother goddess.
sitting there opposite her and feeling the energy coming from that solid mass of rock, with its decorative red geological layer blazing through the top few hundred meters of her face, I felt this knowing and understood why. it is about a divine & powerful place, where eternal mountain spirits & highest elevations meet. the center of the earth, a power not to be expressed in words. it is a potent space of clarity & inspiration, held by the stillness, the calm, the magic in the air.
I deeply honor performance and I know of own experience the ambition of reaching heights & challenging goals. but it hurts to see this ignorance in a place so obviously & tangibly imbued with energy. the perceived trampling around unconsciously, loudly, awkwardly on its sacred space, oblivious to its power & significance. all for the sake of personal adventure, phyiscal achievement and for ticking off a box on the “must-see-in-this-lifetime” list of world targets.
I met wonderful people on my way, sharing my concerns and understanding my troubled feelings. on my way down from the last pass of my journey, I came to the generous valley of thame, where houses have obviously not only been built to accomodate tourists but truly as a base for living, farming and taking part in this sacred heritage. I reached an old monastery settled in a magic forest of ancient rhododendron trees. sensing the mountain spirits among the trees and high on the rocky outcrops, they told me of the ageless nature of this power. a power which endures all human endeavours, their struggles for the good, their reaching of high goals, whatever these may be and from whichever motivation they spring. it felt as if these spirits are asking me to come back – to bring my friends & like-minded to this unique himalayan space. and together with them to multiply this sense of awareness, appreciation and awe.
taking a last look on the mountains before I headed down into the colorful abundance of the lower valley I felt this: these mountains appreciate being valued.