Solu Kumbhu, Nepal
June 15th 2000
I am sitting here at the top of the ridge just before descending down to Thukla. Behind me is the long gentle valley that leads to Lobuje and beyond that, the trail to Everest. This small saddle is a collective memorial to all those who have gone this way but have not returned.
Some are elaborate monuments with inscriptions, some are nameless ones, and some are just simple rock cairns. I have been walking around reading the inscriptions. There is one dedicated to Scott Fischer. It reads:
Father of Andy and Katie Rose
He believed in the mountains.
As I sit here, I imagine the group as they walked toward Everest. Agog with anticipation, they must have walked past the same spot I am sitting on, seen the same views, breathed the same thin air. Being here on the same trail somehow makes Into Thin Air more real than pages of a book. And I remember anew the horror of that tragedy. Horrifyingly real as it was when I read it, it seems even more so now. And that was just one of them. How many more tragedies were there that I do not know of?
There are other monuments too, some grand, some not as grand. Some even have notes attached to them. One little cairn has several paper flags attached to it, with messages scribbled on it in different languages. One of the flags, in English reads:
Hey, Good luck on your trek. Don’t freeze. I’ll meet you at the Everest Steak House for some bloody good dinner.
It is signed “Tim (Jean)”. Whomever that was written to, didn’t come back and didn’t get to eat dinner at the Steak house. I remember the Everest Steak house. From the room in Tibet Guest House where I had stayed for a couple of days in Kathmandu, I could see it across the road. Small personal reminders that are gut-wrenching. They make me weep. Yet, I wonder why. Each one of these people died doing what they loved best; what they truly believed in. What more can one ask of life?
If I believed in prayer, I would pray for each person here. Perhaps I will – in my own way.