An act of salvation, only the hardest way up.
As we start there is a inkling doubt of the nature of risk we all have undertaken, there are something's which can not be changed, but for everything else we could have taken the easier way out. None of us did and this is where it has landed us.
At a dismal height of 23 000 feet, with ice and snow all around us. Nothing to see us die if we were to. Indeed it is a difficult thought which we all have actively embraced.
To become a part of something great, without the greatest loss in place – seems inappropriate somehow by nature’s standards. This is what we must give to accept glory of the all mighty. Who lands the mountain at our face, so we may accept to climb it. The deadly K2. of the Karakoram range.
I could not imagine a time, when I would not be climbing. Everyone in my family back in Switzerland thought I was crazy; no safeties no nothing. Bare knuckle climbing, but now to think of it those were the alps – deadly yet not high altitude, the air was still there for us to breathe, for us to survive. This was god’s joke – to reach his layer we had to let go of the one thing we needed most to survive. Oxygen.
I know many would ridicule the notion of trying the north face of this holy terror. Many have died trying and many refuse to come once seeing the immensity in proportion – oh yes it may be exciting to try to climb it – the very notion. But here making the push for the summit with my other two numb and brain dead colleagues. I wonder who is the one who was smarter, us or the ones looking for our graves in a year’s time at the base.
The weather is worsening, its becoming colder by the minute. I wonder if the push up would lead us to heaven or back to ground. My other colleagues dear and dying like myself with no oxygen to breathe. Oh why did we not carry supplemental tins? Why did we want to do this without any idea.
K2 has become the deadly specter – watching us losing our senses and waiting for us to collapse. Maybe it does this to everyone who comes near. That’s why its so far away from civilization – marooned like an island up in the sky.
The fog is getting denser, the air is stifling and cold and the sun has drowned itself behind the mighty ogre. There is nothing which can go worse. Then it starts snowing. Gently at first but I can see that this is not going to go away, not anytime soon.
It has been over 2 days we are buried in the immensity of white gold. Under layers of blankets – its still dipping below –40 degrees centigrade. No where for men to be. One of my friends has started speaking inanities, the kinds which happen before the brain dies with lack of water and oxygen. We remain extremely wary of each other – he too may be saying the same about me, there are no kind ways to be in your wit and at the same time having a companion in this dreadful ice island is more than my life could give back to anyone. I remain quiet, introspective and almost hopeful my death will arrive today – quick and painless perhaps, but what can I speak about that already the ancient gods of this mountain have not spoken on my behalf.
The weather worsens and I start praying for perhaps the first time in my life. The prayer is to be kind as the weather passes and that it may lead us to the summit. Only once.
No one has climbed this face before us, and no one ever even imagined some one would – the worst face. The North Face. Leaving behind us the entire range of dreams from collective subconscious of our kinds. Why are we here, and what god’s await us on the summit. It is a mystery for us to solve.
The morning seems to stop snowing and we think that its about time to get out and go down.
But that is not how we do it. We decide to go down and move up at the same time. The mountain has got the hold of us, and we need to make it up or out of this zone.
The toughest climbs are the ones which make your soul exit the body while being alive. This was one of them, perhaps it was the almighty’s will that I survived. My colleagues and brothers in arms were not so lucky.
The first one popped at the ice ridge leading to the tiny walkway which had to be traversed to summit. The ice ridge collapsing quickly beneath him left him no chance to recompose himself or his bearings. The end for him was as quick and painless as one could imagine. Already numb from the sub zero temperatures assaulting our bones and left over of skin, the steep fall and instant marauder would have been quite easy I imagined.
My other colleague and I still traversing up with the wind summoning up the devil from the dark corners of hell, We could be blown away in an instant – all death and no glory. My eyes were getting ice blindness way quicker than I have got. Then I saw the last horrific thing which I needed to see, a steep rising wave of snow in front of us – an avalanche from the depths of hell itself.
I cowered and hid as much as I could, so that my neck and bones don’t break. My other brother in arm was not so lucky. The avalanche swooped down and took him with the tide. Right down to the bottom of the karakoram range.
It was a morbid feeling for the time I could imagine, not much maybe in the way we all see time in times of indifference, but that was not the case that day – the storm, aching bones and withered morale – the death of ones near and dear in a land which is so far away from any sort of life if not human civilization. I felt as the loneliest man in the history of the world. It was not an easy feeling to reconcile, to move on further was destiny and fate and suicide certainly. There was nothing to lose anymore for the mountain had taken all those weapons which I had procured to counter her vast majesty and deathly grandeur.
The sherpas at base camp may have already left as we are over 3 weeks in excess of our intended date of arrival on ground. K2 was never as powerful as it was now. Myself vs. this grand majesty of ice cold hell. To perish here would be to give her and myself an easy exit plan. And what if I was to make it all the way down now, there was certain death without the help of another human for over 100 miles. I was dead this way or that. Only the choice how to die was mine.
I collected what I could from the dead comrades surroundings. Some rope and crampons and I carried forward. The hallowed top was there, staring and mocking me in some strange way and I was finding it impossible to go any further, and then few drops of blood from my nose onto the white bed of snow. I toppled over unconscious.
The next day or two (I really do not have any idea how many days and nights may have passed) was so blurry yet surreal that I cannot describe them better than what I have mentioned now. At night when I woke up or repeatedly woke up for days on end – I saw a vast array of lights on the horizon of the summit. With ice cold winds and fog enveloping me, I could not fathom how I was alive or was this some form of after life limbo. There was semblance of reality left but I could not understand whether this was how after life was supposed to be. The lights came upon and then retreated just as quickly. And I passed out, this happened couple of days in a row I believe and the snow kept me in some form of hibernation. There was no decay or frostbite. There was no movement of time except for when I saw these strange lights up high on the Himalayan skies, away from the sight of most of humanity on this earth, and then the last night which was perhaps the coldest night of them all, the lights opened up and they spoke to me. In a language or visualization only I could perhaps relate to.
This was 28,000 feet high up in the sky, the ladder just fell away and I was left to see what was reality. Heaven and all that jazz was a place in the sky. Where the gods met ancient man. Where they transmitted powerful life changing information through telepathy and power of touch.
This was quite something I must say to be spoken to a life long hard living atheist like myself. The lights changed colors and then they entered my third eye by focusing on it. This was profound and I was lifted like never before. I was made well and replenished without further need. I was made whole like Christ post his crucifixion.
These were giant beings which were from a planet at the end of the universe. Yes that was a long distance off, and yet they were here with the power of their intention and they reassured me that it was just as easy for any of us to do the same including climbing this mountain – and that’s exactly what they had seen through my third eye. ( I wonder what my fallen brethren had in their minds in their final moments)
It seemed too fishy to me, this kind of morbid philosophy – perhaps the chemicals in my head were giving way, and this was my final moment – to die some form of alien enthusiast on a desolate piece of rock in the highest point of earth away from any form of family or kinship and anyone to recognize my death. But my body was made good, my breathing made light and whole. And my senses were renewed – there was an internal fire in the making, which kept burning since. This was the warmth I was so longing for…
These beings did not speak about themselves, there was no ego involved, no sense of supremacy or hate. There was acceptance of who I was, and why I was there. I understood that they too were here for a very long time, looking at men trying to knock down their silent home. Shooting them down perhaps?
I could not understand but I felt the summit beneath my feet, the mighty K2 benign and now understanding that I was one of them, leaving me to be with her one first and final time. The beings showed the lights and then uplifted me to their mobile home, where they lived through me the ancient life of this ancient mountain. They had been here all the while. All the time. This was beautiful, the rise of these ancient mountains as home for this ancient race, where they hid shyly yet mingling with folks like me who had the intention for finding solace – like the feeling they so wished on our planet. Yes this was our planet and they had their own once upon a time, now desolate they come to our planet to live and be nostalgic about their loss.
Was this about me? No indeed it was not. It wasn’t about them either – it was and is only about the beautiful mountain K2. The mountain showing the path of the warrior to human and alien alike. The alien in a word dropped me to my base camp and in the next couple of days I wandered back to some form of civilization.
No one would ever believe my story, and hence I keep it to myself for I too at times find it impossible to believe. But none of it has gone beyond my perception or understanding. The knowledge, ancient sacred supple knowledge passed on about the nature of universe stayed amongst my grey cells for a very long time.
An experience amongst the loneliness of eternity. There is nothing here in store for the faint of heart. Only for the ones looking for the hardest up.
Peace and Joy