I was heading due west, from the kingdom of Bhutan in the Indian subcontinent to the capital of India, New Delhi. Having made sure I had an “F” window seat on the plane, away from the wing, camera at the ready, I prayed for clear skies (and a clear window pane) and kept my eyes peeled. From the moment we took off till we begin to descend two-and-a-half hours later, the Great Himalayan range unfolded in front of my eyes.
From the Eastern Himalaya with its lofty peak of Kanchenjunga to the Western Himalaya, the whole range stayed in view, soaring high above a thin veneer of clouds. About a quarter of the way into the trip, there she was. Chomolongma (as the Tibetans call it) or Sagarmatha (the forehead of the skies, as the Nepalis call it) — Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth, at 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) above sea level.
What was stunning that day was that all the glaciers and icefalls were visible, the peaks to the north and the south were visible, the summit was clear, and there was just enough cloud cover to keep me peering. I was flying fresh from meeting the son of the first sherpa who summited Everest. He had us in rapt attention as he related stories of his father Tenzing Norgay, who had accompanied Sir Edmund Hilary on the way up in 1953.
As the peak passed slowly in front of me, my mind wandered to all the stories I’d heard of people saving up to attempt this Herculean task. Of successful and aborted attempts, the ultimate sacrifices were made, with unspeakable triumphs against odds.
The awe in me for the mountain range dissolved into a humility in the face of Nature’s supreme power.