March 18, 1996 6:00pm
I undo my shoes and barely take off my socks. I walk melancholy to my room as I see the many posters of all the Seven Summits of the World. I look at Kilimanjaro, Mt. Rainer, and the beauty itself Everest. I twist the knob and open the door to my now covered room of mountains. I look to my right and see my climbing gear as I long for that moment to climb a mountain. I just climbed Mt. Rainer a few months ago and now wanting more than ever to climb Mt. Everest. She is my divine spirit and Goddess. I dream every night of her now to step foot on the untamable beast. Just then the doorbell rang and the sound of slipping paper travels throughout the stone quiet bungalow. I run out of my bedroom passing all of the mountains and scurry for the paper that was now on my rug. As I open it, it was from the bank. They have accepted the loan! I laugh in joy. This is my ticket to be free and climb my dream. Flashing pictures swirl through mind in waves. These were pictures of my only safe haven, Everest. I dash back to my room and snatch my laptop from out of my bag. I open it up carefully as I go to my e-mail account. Words start flashing up on the white blank document. Before I knew it the e-mail was already sent to Adventure Consultants, a commercial expedition group.
March 26, 1996 10:00am
I shiver with nervousness as I step out of the plane and into Kathmandu Airport. I’m a nervous wreck after Adventure Consultants accepted me into the expedition. I walk out into the terminal when I see the flashing name of my expedition group. I start speed walking as I jitter with excitement. I finally reach there and meet with the leader of this climb to check in. His name is Craig Barrows. He is from Northern Scotland. As I sign in I drop the pen by accident. I bend down to get when I saw that my hands were shaking badly. I fumble for the pen and sloppily sign my signature. We carry our 50-pound bags to a bus and throw them in. Now we were ready for the ride to get to the mountain.
April 24, 1996
I open my eyes and start choking. I sit up and start breathing in gasps. At 17,600 feet, it’s pretty hard to breath but since I’ve been acclimatizing so I haven’t been gasping for air in a while. I get out of my tent and take a deep breath. I snap on my crampons and start my climb with the group from Base Camp into the Khumbu Icefall. I prepare for my final ascent to go to the top. I accelerate above my group by 2 hours. From the white I see neon colors as to the sign that I am entering Camp 1. I trudge to my campgrounds and set up my tent. I detach my crampons and drag myself into the tent. Feelings start rushing through my head. Maybe I shouldn’t do this because I feel so awful. There is so much hard work to be put into this. I don’t know what I signed up for. I just don’t feel right on an untamable monster with these jackets on. It didn’t feel right. There was no turning back now.
April 30, 1996
After the grueling hike up the Lhotse Face and Western Cwm, my legs were on fire and my lungs were wrinkly balloons.
“Jack Gillen,” Craig calling me over. I crawl out of my tent and an icy cold wind bit right through my three-layered body.
“It’s freezing!” I say through chattered teeth. I slap on my biggest coat and went over to Craig’s tent. I creep into his enclosure only to find him holding a piece of paper and pen.
“I see it has been hard for you climbing the Lhotse Face even though you were a good hour ahead of us,” Craig started.
“I have been struggling but not enough to get me off this mountain and not make it to the summit,” I say shockingly that he questioned my perseverance.
“Ok good just wanted to know,” as he checked off something from his paper. I step out of the tent and proceed to my tent at Camp 4, the highest camp that is closest to the peak. I hop into my tent and strapped on the oxygen mask to my face. Craig insisted that we sleep with oxygen. I close my eyes and dive into a deep slumber.
May 10, 1996 2:00pm
My bones are clattering at how cold it is and the nervousness of actually going to the summit of Everest. I have passed the South Col with ease and finished the technically demanding Hillary Step. I am at the south summit only a few hundred yards away from what I have been dreaming my whole life, to conquer the beast. A good 20 minutes and I’m at the last few feet of achieving something that I never would’ve done. I touch the summit at 2:00 pm. I raise my ice pick in the air in victory and slam to the ground. I take a photo of my parents and put it down in the ice-packed snow. Tears fall to the ice packed ground and a feeling of triumph travels through me.
A voice pierces through the wall of wind rushing towards me.
“You gotta get yourselves down. There is a storm headed your way!” a base camp meteorologist says over the radio. I turn my head against the wind to look at the tiny dots that resemble base camp’s tents. A mist of storm is heading rapidly toward us.
“You heard him. Get off the damn mountain and fast!” Craig demands over the radio, “No time to fool around on the summit.” I start going at a fast pace descending to the south summit and down to the Hillary step. I step on sturdy rocks and hold on to my lifeline, the rope. I stare down to my right to see a 2600-foot drop and a deadly storm crawling forward at an incredible speed.
“Jack Gillen! I need your help with a client. He doesn’t look so good. We gotta get him down!” Craig orders. I swing myself around and go up the Hillary Step again for a third time pulling my aching body. I haul myself up to the south summit and take a quick break. I take a cough and my stomach tightens with pain as if someone shoved a knife in me. I start walking ignoring the pain when I see to neon coats inch closer and closer to my position.
“We gotta get him off quickly! The storm is almost here! We have to get to Camp 4.” Craig hollers. I yell back in agreement. I put the client on my right shoulder and start carrying him down the windswept south summit. We get to the Hillary Step and I go down first. Craig’s client who is half conscious is being dropped down the Step. I wait for him. As soon as he starts descending a wind pins me up against the stone cold wall of the South Col. My face is bitten by the wind almost freezing it off with its burning touch. A piece of snow hits me on my forehead knocking me out.
May 10, 1996 11:49pm
My eyelashes are caked with snow as I am in a snow enclosure. I spit at the ground to see where I am. My saliva trickles down the flakes popping out of cold stone. I take out my ice pick and break out of the snow shell that the storm provided me. My head throbs with pain from the lack of oxygen. I put my mask back on disregarding what the tank meter said. I breathe my last drops of oxygen saying by to any hope of surviving. I rest my tired and aching body down and wait for that sliver of hope.