Wind Horses in the Mountains
Wind Horses in The Mountains
The prayers ascended with every turn
Of the Mani Khos Kor, wheels spinning
Mantras in to the winds joined by the rippling
Orisons dispensed by the constant
Fluttering of the flags - darchog and lung ta
Flagstaff and wind horse galloping towards
The shrouded summits, cloud-embraced for now.
We crossed ravines and gorges,
Suspended above the pulsating river roar.
Bridges of cable and steel, unlike our nerves.
Swinging in time with the yak trains,
Nary a care from the placid beasts
Burdened with bags and boxes.
They've walked this way before.
And porters passed in rapid file,
Piled high with goods for the Khumbu.
No trek for them, just the express lane to
Namche Bazaar and beyond.
The weight pulling against forehead straps,
Cargos bigger than themselves.
But gravity and altitude and cold and encumbrance
Would not slow them down.
'Bistari bistari ' We are not porters, or Sherpas, or
Mountaineers. Slowly, slowly....the trekkers mantra.
Every metre gained in our 2,865m vertical ascent sucks
Precious oxygen from our lungs. We shiver as
Our heartbeats gallop with the wind horse flags as we rest by mani stones.
The sun's warmth deceives. Winter in the Khumbu. The trail to Everest is quiet,
Scattered with closed bakeries and occasional trekkers.
Stop. Wait. Rest. Eat. Drink in the view.
The first sight of Everest, distant, yet shining
In clear January air, almost within reach.
But we have days to walk and altitude to gain.
And cold to face. Tent cocooned, wrapped in the comfort
Of a 4 season sleeping bag. Minus 38C overnight.
Dreading morning call.
A smiling Sherpa face at the tent flap.
A welcome cuppa of freshly brewed 'bed tea.'
Dressing in bitter frost, a wet wipe wash, a dash to the latrine -
Buttocks exposed, the swiftest of ablutions.
Another day closer, the sapping cold and the
Invisibility of altitude. Bistari bistari - No one is moving quickly now,
Each step brings laboured breath.
Regular rests afford literal breathtaking views.
A panorama, an amphitheatre of Himalayan giants.
6,000, 7000, 8000m - grey streaked and black topped.
Rock painted in every hue of white and desolation.
I turn around. How did I end up here? There seems to be
No escape, mountains and valleys, streams and glaciers
In every direction. Nothing exists here, except peace, solitude.
But cresting the next lung-burning climb a village appears.
Khumjung, Tyangboche, Dingboche, Pheriche, names
That tumble from the tongue like rock and ice falls.
Suddenly the quiet of boots on well trodden paths
Is broken by mischievous young boys who welcome us along the trails.
Pink wind-scored cheeks and robust smiles,
Accompanied by pye-dogs, yapping and barking our arrival.
Gathered around the hearth for lodge suppers.
Each trekker weighing up being first in the queue for garlic noodle soup
and tea, with losing their place by the fire.
Eating in silence, wolfing down every calorie.
Chats and singing into the evening. Putting off the inevitable.
Another night under frozen canvas.
The altitude aches heads, with muscle weary legs, the body willing sleep that is cold-reluctant.
Dark climb over frozen rocks. Not yet dawn.
Temperature perishing, head torches illuminating
harsh streams of breath instantly crystallized.
Climb, climb, rest. Repeat. 100m that feels like 100 miles.
The cold air rasping throats and coating exchanges in hacking Khumbu coughs. Nearly there. The wind horses are calling.
We can hear them already awake in the unforgiving night wind.
Dawn breaks, a purpling sky hangs over the Everest Range.
Ama Dablam stands proud, like a Nepalese Paramount Pictures logo.
The Khumbu Glacier flows inexorably beneath us, soon to be home to those who, come spring, desire to ascend far beyond our lofty perch.
But what is 5,545m on Kala Pathar compared to Everest's 8,850m?
For most of us, this is enough.
Our Everest, our summit.
The sun breaks over the horizon, casting shadows the length of the Khumbu. We've come far. And have far to return. Civilisation feels distant, surreal.
At this moment, this is civilisation.
Among the mountains, this is all that exists.
We pose with summit-smiles and weathered faces. The wind horses and flagstaffs scatter Om Mani Padme Hum towards Everest's peak, that welcomed us shyly, still wrapped in cloud.
And now sends us away satiated, with happy steps and full hearts.
Bistari bistari all the way. Let the wind horses do their galloping.
In 2012 I trekked with the disability charity, Scope, to 5,545m - the summit of Kala Pathar and stood opposite Mt. Everest in Nepal.