The Day I Summitted Everest
I have a knack for traipsing. This vacation alone, my daily hiking to shopping malls whether within the vicinity of my residence in Sampaloc or along the long stretch of EDSA when averaged in a week would have summed up to something like hiking the Philippines from Batanes group of islands to Jolo ten times over. O.k., I mean hiking around the Philippine Relief Map in Rizal Park.
This irresistible urge for my feet to hug the street, my lungs to drag in toxic air and doused myself in perspiration and warm heat of the ultraviolet-rich sun burning on your skin, had finally led me to the summit of Mt. Everest.
Last May 21, bitten by the Mt. Everest bug brought about by the previous week’s successful climb of our fellow kababayan, kapamilya, kapuso and what have you, I heeded my kumpareng Ronnie’s suggestion to watch the 1998 IMAX movie, “Everest”, premiering at SM Mall of Asia.
Like Dale Abenojar, (the other claimant to the first Filipino ever to climb Everest) without media nor corporate sponsorship and much hullaballoo, I likewise armed only with meager resources decided to see what lies above the summit of the world’s tallest mountain. My resources that sustained me all through out the adventure comprised of a cheap leather imitation wallet with about P300 bucks in it and a paper back edition of Jon Krakauer’s, “Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster” bought at Book Sale for P30. Brought about by necessity, with regret, I left my trusted cellular phone at home. It could have helped me log the time of the trek instead of asking everyone for time giving an impression based from the stare I got, like I was actually planning some heist or waiting for bomb to explode or something. The cell phone could have functioned also like those of a GPS which could have tracked my progress of the trek with my every text update to Alcindor Berdan, while he is straining his eyes (and probably being disturbed by my constant updates) in front of a PC making honest living. However, my board shorts could not hold in its single pocket any more weight than the almost weightless wallet with worthless sum and loose change and a pocketful of determination I held in my heart. Nope, no sleeves. Besides, my shorts, I realized too late, was a bit too large for me and stand the risk of insisting to be left behind when the trek prove itself to be more than a leisurely walk in the park.
Immediately after lunch at 12:30 in the afternoon, I took the only transportation available (namely Public Utility Jeepney since I can’t drive myself yet. Can you imagine that?) that was bound to the base camp Robinson Place Ermita, where I commenced my assault to Everest. The month of May usually provide climbers of Everest a brief window of fine weather to climb the summit. Today, the sky was a bit of overcast favoring me for my own trek. From Pedro Gil side of Robinson Place, there are four camps before reaching Everest, namely: Camp 1 Bay Walk area at Roxas Boulevard, Camp 2 World Trade Center, Camp 3 Macapagal Boulevard then turning right to Camp 4 the Seaside Boulevard where you can already smell Everest amidst the lapping of the sea along the break water. A year prior to the opening of SM Mall of Asia, I already reconnoitered the area by biking almost everyday. I have already acclimated myself with the terrain condition and clime. If worst comes to worst, there are strings of Starbucks that I can spent the time recovering from frustration of failing to summit with frosty and bites before heading back home.
I will skip the detail of the trek. That is intended for a much lengthier book, which will contain remarkable quotations including one from Fr.Reyes, the running priest.
The movie, Everest, was actually a 45-minute documentary on the 1996 climb of MacGillivray Freeman IMAX/IWERKS Expedition headed by film director David Breashears. Breashear was using the story arc of Jamling Norgay Sherpa desire to climb Everest for himself like what his father did before him. Jamling is the son of Edmund Hillary’s co-first-ever-to-summit Everest companion Tenzing Norgay on May 29, 1953. The expedition also featured a pretty Spanish climber Araceli Segarra who was the first Spanish woman to climb Everest (and whom I am forever smitten), Ed Viesturs, climber and film talent who was spending honeymoon separately with his wife Paula Barton Viesturs who served as the base camp manager.
What I found providential about watching the movie was its connection with the book I mentioned I was lugging along like Bible cum weights. Ed Viesturs, as it turned out was a close friend of the well-known New Zealander climber Rob Hall who died on top of the Mt. Everest in 1996. Jon Krakauer who climbed with Rob Hall’s team wrote about that tragedy, which now accompanied me like my compass. The movie, “Everest” was being filmed on that fateful period with Ed Viesturs as among those who last communicated with Hall before the latter’s perishing. That Hall (and actually another team) expedition lost 8 lives and survived for the later price of an amputated right hand by Dr. Seaborn Beck Weathers, who was left for dead before by sheer determination, half blindly stumble his way down the mountain until finally rescued. Reeling from that tragedy, IMAX expedition decided to proceed anyway with the climb.
The scenes were very remarkable and breathtaking. There was this one scene when you could actually feel you are dizzily rappelling upside down towards the sea and rocky bottom. The vista was so damn picturesque like the scene with Ed and Paula Viestur biking over the precipice of some mountain in Utah. I sure would like to believe I have already set foot at Utah, Nepal and on the summit of Everest itself. But just as Ed Viesturs. After all the months of preparations; weeks of acclimation; and days of climbing without supplemental oxygen; 5 minutes upon reaching the summit, he came down immediately, the movie too quickly reeled to its conclusion leaving you on top of the summit wanting to experience more of the climb. 45 minutes is too short to suck in Everest. Nevertheless, I greatly recommend the movie to be watched and savored. I would also suggest for you to make a v-line to your favorite Book Sale and seek Krakauer’s book.
After descending from Everest, (You enter IMAX theater at the ground level but you exit at the second level), I capped the adventure with the ceremonial tall hot Coffee of the Day at Starbucks Coffee and immersed myself with my paperback with enough loose change to bring me back home by PUJ a couple of hike away from SM.