That night was
terrible, alone on Tesi Lapcha with the wind trying to tear our tent off the
mountain. Gary went to sleep lying on his sleeping bag. I began thawing water
for tea. We were seriously dehydrated and short on energy. After a long time
there was enough water for two cups of tea, which we heaped with sugar and
lemon. I woke Gary up, and we washed down some raisins, nuts and chocolate.
Morning was clear
and cold, and the murderous wind had died down. We broke camp, cooked a
miserable breakfast—one of the stoves threatened to blow up—and packed, waiting
for our Sherpas. They came late, and very tired after their climb up from the
valley. When they heard of David's death they showed little emotion. Later one
of them offered us a little of his dried cheese, an unusual thing for a Sherpa
We left Tesi
Lapcha anxious for the first time to get to safer ground and to an easier life.
David's death had taken all the sport out of the trip. Gary and I felt little
thrill as we looked down on the massive Rolwaling Glacier. It looked big and
cold and dangerous. All we wanted to do was get across it and get home.
It took us four
weeks to do so. We encountered danger several times, but in retrospect all of
it pales beside the memory of David's death. My hands and feet gave me trouble.
I lost all feeling in them that terrible night, and when it did come back my
feet were very tender and walking was painful. We were both weaker than we
thought and the final days of the expedition were a nightmare.
Now it is over.
It was a rare experience in the mechanized, comfortable 20th century to feel
each day that you had to depend on your skill and wits. For many days we had
tested ourselves and won. It was something never to forget.
But from the
beginning the expedition was so much the product of three friends working
together—planning, hoping and finally doing—that when David died it ceased
being the old expedition. It was no longer the adventure of a lifetime for
three college kids from the West Coast, but a grim struggle for existence. The
great memories and the things we learned are tarnished by what happened on Tesi
Lapcha. Time has given us some perspective, but a good man is with us no
longer, and no amount of time will ever change that.