It's a physical as well as a mental challenge. Everyday for three weeks walking for miles on end on the roof of the world. The higher you come, the less oxygen there is. Warnings about possible high altitude sickness above the 3000-meter line are coming at you even before you've started the whole thing. But for those who dare to take the risks, the reward is priceless.

The summit is for the rich

Everest. The name alone tickles the imagination and plays with desire. Images appear of icy winds and white summits, and of a lonely mountain that rises above in a gargantuan landscape consisting other lonely mountains. Everest. The highest mountain in the world still is, and probably always will be, an inspiration for climbers. Sir Edmund Hillary was the first who succeeded in reaching the summit in 1953. After which numerous people followed his footprints. To do the same thing nowadays, you need some cash: 50.000 American dollars to make an attempt to conquer the summit. The backpacker who doesn't have that kind of money laying beneath his mattress, can make the expedition to Everest Base Camp (5200 meter) without filing immediate bankruptcy.

                                                                                                                                           Sunrise above Mt. Everest

Near-death experience

'Holy shit!', you will shout when you see the mountain coming right at you. 'The pilot has become insane!' There is no time for an ejaculatory prayer, only random scenes of your life will flash through your mind. Softly you cling to the person sitting next to you. Why of all pilots does this one specifically have a suicidal tendency? You start to comtemplate life as well as death, and you get the feeling you're floating. Perhaps a mystical experience? No idea, but it doesn't matter anymore. Just a few seconds left. And although the drops of sweat pave a way on your forehead and you made peace with death, you feel that the wheels of the airplane in fact do hit the ground. It seems to appear out of nowhere.

'It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.

While the plane is reducing its speed, you also understand why they describe the landing strip of Lukla as the most dangerous in the world: it's only 500 meters long and begins (or ends) at a very deep canyon. After you've said namaste to the stewardess, stepped out of the plane and breathe in the thin air of Lukla, you feel the echoes of this experience. Death gives you lust for life.

 

'The slope of Everest is littered with corpses'

Death as inspiration. That's exactly what climbers of extreme heights indispensibly acknowledge. Because why in earth would a normal and sensible human being undertake such an expedition whereby pain and physical hardsip form the guidelines and the chance to die is real? The slope of Mount Everest is after all, as sometimes so theatrically expressed, littered with corpses. (It even has an unofficial funeral). This may hold true for expeditions to the summit, but even the relatively safe trail to Everest Base Camp may not be underestimated. What is this fundamental urge to climb the highest mountain in the world? It seems that not despite the hazards, but precisely because of them, the climb gets its attractive power. It's a magnet for the loonies and idiots, one might say. However, these eccentrics also know the secret. The secret of watching life from a higher place. The secret of movement: that spending a life mostly behind a desk is nothing more than an illusion and a vegetative existence. That life can be lived fully when after a day of climbing, you arrive at a place where the sun looks closer than you could ever imagine, and where the silence between the mountain summits gives you a true feeling of freedom. A celebration of the Simple Life. It is they who regard the conformists of society as the real fools. And they are probably right.

Om mani padme hum

The first days could potentially give some people withdrawal symptoms. It's a withdrawal from a world where constant distraction has become the norm. No television, no telephone and no internet connection (they do exist on the mountain, but it's very expensive). Back to basics. Continuously looking at your smartphone to check 9GAG or scroll through Facebook has to be thrown out of the proverbial window. The noise of cars won't be there anymore; solely the sound of your own footsteps and the tones of absolute silence you will hear. Thinking in problems that is the normal mode of thoughts in your busy life, has to be shaken off when reaching the tree line. The only deadline is making it to the next lodge before the sun goes down. On the way the mountains will stare at you and will stare back and you will laugh at the grandeur of nature. In the temples on the route, the buddhists will meditate and encircled by the smell of incense they will say their mantras: Om mani padme hum…om mani padme hum…om mani padme hum… You will glance at them with admiration, but only in retrospectwill you realize that the entire hike has been the ultimate meditation. And when you've reached the point that is known as Everest Base Camp, you will fully comprehend the meaning of Edmund Hillary's declaration: 'it is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves'.

 

Everest

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