On the way to Everest I met two remarkable brothers. We were all part of an international group of climbers destined for the big Himalayan mountains and trekkers whose goal was to make it to Everest Base Camp. The trek itself is not to be underestimated. It is no small matter to get to Base Camp and most who tackle it train beforehand to withstand the physical burden of an upward climb in thin air.
The eldest brother, in his early 60s, was at an age compatible with Everest trekking, if you are fit. If you are overweight, out of shape and usually frequent five star hotels, it might be fair to ask whether your destination was Everett, WA and somehow you got on the wrong plane. Younger brother, at 57, had been a mountaineer in his 30s but since had a stressful and busy career managing a company. As life is prone to do, it had left him with a CPAP machine for sleep apnea, a significant waist circumference and an arthritic back. Never before outside the USA, younger brother was travelling on his first passport, and so, the first logical place to go must be Everest. For them, seeing Everest was a trip of a lifetime and a chance to bond following the death of their mother, but at our first meeting, I had my doubts whether they would ever reach their goal.
As is often the case, looks deceive and it is the heart and will that counts, qualities the brothers had in spades. Each day we would set off as a group and every day the group would decompose into a fast group, a slow group and the brothers. Every day the brothers arrived late, exhausted but euphoric, surprising themselves and us with their physical accomplishment. Higher and higher we went and when it seemed impossible they could go on, they showed up. Their enjoyment and wonder at the surrounding vistas was infectious and younger brother’s first view of Everest encapsulated the combined joy of a child at Disneyland on his birthday. I was moved by the realization that for him, the trek was as much spiritual journey as it was a physical one.
Somehow, the brothers made it to Everest basecamp. For one, the nights required supplemental oxygen and after two days at the foot of the highest mountain in the world, they decided to return by helicopter, as making it to this point, they had given everything that they had to give. What had been a warm up for some had been a peak experience for them and it was time to go home. I was sad to see them go. What they had given of themselves to get there, and what they had given us in inspiration, was everything that they had and in doing so, had gained my admiration.
Climbing in the Himalaya was exhausting and it will be a while before I return, but not so for the brothers. They recently emailed to say that they will to do it all again in 2015!