19: Just in Time

19: Just in Time

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Just in Time

May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.

~Harley King

I woke up at 2 a.m. on April 25, 2015, in the High Camp of Lobuche East Mountain in Nepal. I had to use the bathroom so I got out of the tent, did my business and got back into the sleeping bag. About an hour later we were woken up to prepare for our climb to the summit.

On my way toward the summit I had an uneasy feeling, thinking I should not continue. The climb was an acclimatization climb, a preparation for climbing Mt. Everest. Two years prior I had been physically ill from working too much. I therefore had a discussion with myself: Where did this uneasy feeling come from? Was I afraid the climb would exhaust me so I would not have the energy to climb Everest afterwards? Was my stomach causing problems? I really could not find the answer.

I told one of my team members that I was thinking of turning around, and she told me to do what I felt was best for me. Normally I’m eager to summit a new mountain, but the uneasy feeling continued. I started to climb slower and slower, letting the rest of the team go ahead. I told my climbing Sherpa that I was wondering if I should turn around. He asked if I was sure and I said I wasn’t, so we continued to climb. A little while later I again said to him, “I’m thinking to turn around,” He again asked if I was sure. I was not, so we continued. This happened three times.

My team members had reached the summit and I was very close. Then I suddenly knew. I had to turn around.

I told my Sherpa, “I’m turning around.” This time I meant it.

He said, “You cannot turn around now. We are almost at the summit.”

I turned around anyway and started my descent. He did not say much, but I knew he was not happy that I turned around so close to the summit. I did not care; I just knew this was the right thing to do. The team members noticed I had turned around and also started on their way down.

We reached our High Camp, had some soup, packed our gear and stood there for a few seconds, watching our Sherpas pack our tents. We agreed to slowly start our descent; the Sherpas would quickly catch up with us when they finished packing up the camp.

From the High Camp and down, it’s steep and full of rocks and sand. We walked slowly to avoid any accidents. Halfway down the Sherpas caught up with us, and just as we got down to the first place where it starts to flatten out, still with lots of big rocks, we felt the earth start to move — first just a little, then more and more. It was like time stopped. As the ground started to shake one of the Sherpas said, “Earthquake.” I now understood what it was. The ground was moving so much we had to stand with our legs spread just to be able to stand. It was unbelievable.

We could hear rocks falling behind us. There was so much fog that we couldn’t see them, but we knew they were coming our way. I looked for a second into the eyes of one of the Sherpas. We didn’t have to say anything. We both knew: RUN!

Adrenaline kicked in and we were running like crazy, with backpacks and all. Throwing ourselves into safety behind a huge rock. Looking back at where we were standing when the earthquake started there were now big rocks. I still can’t believe how lucky we were. If we’d been just a minute further up the hill I’m not sure how this would have gone.

Later that afternoon we heard that the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.9 on the Richter scale. It had caused tremendous devastation and damage around the country. The earthquake also had kicked off an avalanche that hit Everest Base Camp, only ten kilometers from us, killing twenty and injuring seventy.

Some of our team members were in Everest Base Camp when this happened. When we talked to them we found out they all had been sitting in our kitchen tent having a cup of tea as it happened. Our camp was originally supposed to have been closer to where the avalanche came from, but due to a disagreement it had been moved a little farther away. This caused our camp to be “behind” a little hill that more or less functioned as a jump for the avalanche — it practically jumped over our team and hit and damaged our tents that were more distant. Just meters from them people were dying.

We had originally been scheduled to be at Everest Base Camp by then, but we were a few days behind, because months before a local priest — a Lama — had told us to start our expedition a few days later than we had planned. That’s why we were still doing our altitude acclimatization climb on Lobuche before heading over to Everest.

I must say that we really had some strong helpers on our side that day.

~Siv Harstad

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