The Lukla Airport ( also known Tenzing-Hillary Airport, is a domestic airport and altiport in the town of Lukla, in Khumbu Pasanglhamu, Solukhumbu District, Koshi Province of Nepal).It sits on a cliff with a two-mile drop. Some call it the most dangerous airport in the world. All that the pilots(and you) have to do is zip through a tight valley and land on the 0.3-mile runway without going over the edge, Mission Impossible style.
But this is where you land if the intent is to get to EBC(Everest Base Camp) and Climb Mount Everest. Those three words are enough to take the wind out of anyone’s sails and scare even the best of us. And if you’ve ever looked into what it really takes to make the climb, it’s no wonder it’s so often used as a metaphor in the fashion that it is.
From the airport, you trek for ten days to get to base camp as you start acclimatizing- you know, so the lack of oxygen doesn’t take you out. You toughen yourself by doing ” up and backs ” to and from base camp, increasing your levels of altitude in increments, so your body can take oxygen. Mind you, thin air is no joke.
The trip takes an average of 8 weeks in a finite window during monsoon season , during which the jet stream and 100mph winds don’t blow you off the mountain. There’s also the spiritual aspect of the climb. In the Himalayas, local Buddhists believe that the mountains are inhabited and controlled by mountain spirits. Most follow an unwritten climbing code, paying respect to these spirits. So you meet with a lama– a holy person whose role is to draw upon a higher power and ask for the mountain to grant you safe passage. Traditionally, the lama places a necklace on you for protection while on Everest.
Once you start the climb, you will face other obstacles. Oh, what was that? Icefall? This is a fancy name for a glacial crevasse– which itself is a fancy name for a big hole in the cliff you are climbing. As the weather shifts, part of the ice river melt and re-freeze, creating gaps- or crevasses- of around one to three feet wide, leaving a gaping hole where you are supposed to walk.
To sum up, you freeze your bum off, the altitude cuts off your oxygen supply, and you face death defying ice-crevasses. I promise, Mother Nature has the most dazzling plot twists(something that celebrated Hollywood screenplay writer Alan Sorkin would be proud of!!).
So, do you venture out on a jaunt like this solo? Hell no! You get a Sherpa, someone who has grown up in these conditions and genetically capable of thriving in these conditions and doing a job few else can. You also get an Icefall doctor– a special Sherpa who sets up ladders across ice-crevasses at the beginning of each Everest season.
The concept of the Sherpa applies both to attempting to summit the highest point of the world and to all areas of our life. When you pursue your dreams, you need support from other people, you need a Sherpa in all areas of life.
So, my rant is that why would anyone in their right mind( or even in their wrong mind), would entertain the idea of climbing the literal or figurative Everest without a Sherpa, a guide, a lama, coach, icefall doctor, or mentor or preferably all six, like a backup band. The role is the same: to provide guidance through life’s opportunities and tough spots. Why? Because you risk death. Literal death, or the death of your dream!
So, Who’s your Sherpa?