A Breath of Fresh Air

by Chloe Rix (Australia)

A decision that pushed me to the edge Nepal


The bells chimed as my fingertips brushed the spindle at the base of the prayer wheels. Each rotation a prayer and blessing, a comfort for those travelling through the often treacherous trails carved into these mountains, the Himalayas. I remove my hood and let the frigid air wash over me, awakening my senses. Today we battle some of the hardest terrain of the trek, a 6 hour gruelling mission, a battle both mental and physical. It is rarely spoken about, but the edge of the crumbling Everest trail looks rather appealing at first. The pressure on your lungs increases as you gain elevation, sapping the oxygen levels by 30%. The trail is as wild as the charging yaks in the rolling hills and the Himalayan breakfast of rich milky chai and potatoes is rapidly consumed by necessity in the first moments of climbing. Giving up is a thought that often crosses the mind, until, you look up. The dramatic rock faces opposite the trail shoot up into the sky as if a God has drawn the earth directly up to create a wall. The Himalayan mountains are more spectacular than the golden temples of El dorado and this intense beauty is but one of the saviours for climbers on this journey. At an archway at the end of a village we pause a moment to rest our legs and lungs. A chain of yaks transporting gas pass slowly by, the wildly colourful blankets and bells upon their backs a direct representation of the character of the Tibetan and Nepali people inhabiting this land. As I scan my surroundings, my eyes catch sight of a pair of pale hands in prayer, painted on the walls. Below, a local Sherpa rests his body in silence. In the mountains the entire economy relies on local sherpa's, yaks and donkeys to transport food and supplies into the higher altitude villagers. Children begin as young as 8 following in their parents footsteps, a life far more demanding than I could have ever imagined at that age. The physical strain inflicted on their bodies from carrying these tremendous loads can be viewed in the faces of many who pass us by. However, no matter the hardship, the incredibly joyous and kind attitude and characteristics of these people shines through even on the darkest of days. Little by little, slowly, slowly, says Prem, our dear friend and guide. The sherpa's appear in my mind as we encroach the summit; their lives a prime example of raw human strength. And as the evening sun hits the east face of Everest leaving the other in shadow and our day comes to an end, I begin to understand.