This month, thousands of trekkers and climbers flock to Everest to try to their ice picks, crampons and telephoto lenses on the world’s largest pile of snow, ice and rock. Here, a few verbal snapshots from my journey to the Mother Mountain:

Treeline broke late this morning and spit us out into scrubby alpine tundra. We stopped for an early lunch in Shomare and I scrambled up the mountainside in search of a flat spot to stretch into some yoga and meditate. The Dudh Kosi (milk river) rolling below was the loudest sound in the air as I eased my muscles out of their stiff states and into fluidity. After stretching, I sat crass-legged on a rock, knees below the hips, back and neck in line, and I slid into the wind brushing my face, the water rushing below, the bold stature of Ama Dablam directly ahead, the endless ocean of snowy ridges stretching beyond the valley. I sat within, the whole world breathing and exhaling, all of its unified parts simply being, one. 

As we drew closer to Everest, the landscape became increasingly inhospitable. This from a village we reached two days before base camp:

Nuptse is growing as I write. Seriously, every time I look away and back again, the prominent peak appears even more enormous, unreal, as though it grows before my very eyes.

We are in Loboche, a dusty, lodge-dotted wasteland situated at 16,000 feet. The landscape is comprised of rocks, dirt, dead tundra grass, scree and, higher up, snow. Long rectangular stone lodges are the only buildings here and they are bustling with trekkers, scurrying around like Gor-Tex clad ants en route to Everest, Kala Pataar, Gokyo Lakes. Ponies and yaks, both here purely for the purpose of transporting gear and cargo, are the only animals present in the lunar surroundings.

The peaks, though, are mind-blowing. Six thousand and 7000 meter summits encase us from all angles. We are dwarves in their cold shadows. With each glance around, I see a new peak pop out of a ragged ridge line. The river is ice-crusted, an indication of temperatures to come? 

At the stone table where I sit outside, I overhear two Swedes, and Aussie and an American discussing the availability of Swedish meatballs in Thailand. A German man smokes a cigarette across the table from me. His climbing partner joins us and we all rest in the glaring sun, sharing this space at 16,000 feet. Despite our different backgrounds, we speak, in one sense, the same language: mountains.

Yak baring their burdens, 17,000 feet above sea level

Yak bearing their burdens, 17,000 feet above sea level