NO MAGIC HELICOPTER
An Aging Amazon’s Climb of Everest
From the chapter, “Why Do Climbers Climb?”
I was an unlikely Everest climber. A woman in her early 60s, I took medication for anxiety, depression, irritable bowel, and hypothyroidism. I was afraid of heights. Why would someone like me consider climbing Everest, the highest mountain in the world?
From the chapter, “Lower Lake Land”
In the Khumbu Icefall we scrambled through a chaotic jumble of giant blocks of ice, some as big as houses. Weird ice formations loomed over us like monsters. We did not pause near anything overhanging, because of the danger of falling ice. At last, we crossed a short ladder bridge over a crevasse. If I let my gaze travel down into the seemingly bottomless crevasse, I felt a mixture of fear and awe – fear of falling and awe at the beautiful turquoise depths. I forced myself to focus on where to place my feet on the ladder. I was pleased to have crossed a real ladder bridge, but I was exhausted. I wondered how I would climb through the entire Icefall, never mind higher on the mountain.
From the chapter, “Breath of the Mountain Goddess”
At 8 p.m. it was time to go for the summit. I crawled out of the tent, pushing my pack in front of me. It was clear, cold, and dead calm. I squinted in the dark at the thermometer on my pack. It read minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, warm by Everest standards. I looked up at the night sky. At 26,000 feet elevation the Milky Way was bigger and brighter than I had ever seen it. The bejeweled sky looked unfamiliar, as though I were viewing it from another galaxy. As I climbed, I occasionally paused and looked up. A full moon rose, backlighting the wispy spindrift now blowing off the ridge above the Balcony. It looked like the ghostly breath of the Mountain Goddess. That moment I understood with every fiber of my being why some people believe Everest is sacred.