Colin shivered in his sleeping bag. Not because of the extreme cold here in Camp IV on Mount Everest, but of fear.
They had officially reached the Death Zone of this murderous mountain. Six weeks it had taken them to get to Camp IV, but to Colin it felt like it had cost him years of his life.
And all because of a dare.
A stupid dare.
It wasn’t like he had never climbed a mountain before. He had. That always was in warmer temperatures and never as extreme as Everest.
One night — they all had too much to drink — Colin and his buddies bragged about their climbing adventures. The more they drank, the bigger their stories, until they dared each other to climb Everest.
What had started out as a joke became a thing none of them dared — he harrumphed over that word — to pull out first.
What if it all ended here?
What if they died here on this mountain?
He shivered again and tried to push the thoughts to the back of his mind. He needed to sleep. In just a few hours, they had to start their attempt to reach the summit.
Colin couldn’t sleep.
His mind wandered back to their preparation. Not the climbing preparation, but reading about Nepal.
He would much rather have been in one of their national parks right now, trying to spot elephants and rhinos, or even a Bengal tiger. Or being in Kathmandu, the capital, to experience the well-known friendliness of the Nepalese people. Visiting an old temple or palace looked a lot more appealing now than continuing with this collective stupidity.
Colin awoke with a start when a friend unzipped his tent. Grateful he had at least slept some, his heart sank in his shoes, knowing what lay ahead.
They all dragged their feet when getting ready, making them run an hour behind on schedule, when they finally started the climb. Colin also sensed reluctance in his mates, but none of them suggested stopping with their expedition. Maybe they felt the same as he did: they had come this far; they could just as well finish it now.
Three weeks later, Colin stood next to the grave, looking down at the coffin holding the body of his friend.
The weather window was perfect that day they climbed to the summit. Relief had run through Colin standing there at the top, not because they had made it, but because they could finally go home. Yes, of course they still had to get back to Camp IV, and they were still in the Death Zone, but relief was palpable between them.
Disaster only struck the morning after when one of their group — the most experienced climber between them — was found dead.
Colin limped back to the waiting wheelchair, sagging back into it with help. That fateful morning, he was too afraid to check his hands and feet. It had been tingly for days, but that morning he couldn’t feel them.
A chopper came to fly out the corpse of his friend. By then, Colin knew he wouldn’t be able to get down the mountain by himself. They flew him to a hospital in Kathmandu, where he woke up hours later, minus a foot and four fingers.
He would never climb a mountain again, but maybe one day he would return to Nepal to finally experience the things he had dreamed of in his tent there in the Death Zone.
© Rebel’s Notes
This post first appeared on my Medium profile, where you can read more of my work that is exclusive to Medium. You can read three stories for free on Medium each month, but for just $5 a month (less if you sign up for a year) you can read everything on Medium, and support me, and other writers you like.
Wicked Wednesday stops at the end of the year. Currently, there’s a challenge to complete 25 prompts by 31 December. Following the clever example of others, here you see the prompts I have already completed. My goal is to write for every one of the Wicked Wednesday Bingo Prompts. Join in!
This story answers to the prompt: nature’s beauty
My stories for the prompts are:
- Harmony In Flowers (language of flowers)
- Listening To Her Inner Voice (intimacy and self-esteem)
- Annual Meeting On Summer Solstice (summer solstice)
- The Healing Power Of A Penis Masturbator (phases of life)
- To Love Is A Choice (to love is a choice)
- Live The Life You Want (scary stuff)
- Dinner With Caren (career success)
- Snippets of Kindness (magical power)
- The Future Express (morals)
- The African Sunrise & Heartbeat (music memoir)
- The Last Moments Of A Decaying Life (redemption)
- Therapy Needed; Camping It Is (addiction)
- Voice Of Victory (loving yourself)
- The story above (nature’s beauty)