These numbers both intrigue and excite me.
Maybe it’s how I won first prize in last Saturday’s 4-D draw?
Maybe it’s the license plate number on my car?
Maybe it’s the last 4 digits of Angelina Jolie’s phone number?
No, unfortunately, it’s none of the above. While this number will mean nothing to many, for some, it is a symbol of hope, possibility, dreams and aspirations.
What is 8848, you ask?
Simply put, it’s the height of the tallest mountain in the world.
My latest obsession.
Yes, the highest point you can be in the world while still standing on it is 8848 metres above sea level, at the summit of a not-so-little mountain we call Mount Everest. 8848 metres, or 29,002 feet, is the cruising altitude of a jet airplane. Yes, it’s that bloody high. Don’t look that high, does it?
Mount Everest. Sagarmatha. Chomolungma. The Top of the World.
For those who know me, you’ll know what I look like, right? Let’s face it – me climb Everest? I’d have more chance surviving a poisoned bullet to the head. But then again, a man’s gotta have a dream right?
Ever since I was 17 and my friend Daphne passed me a brochure for a trek to Everest Base Camp, I’ve had that damn mountain on my mind. Back then, I was too poor to afford even hiking shoes, much less a trip to Nepal so I never went. Flash forward 16 years later and Leslie Tan finally makes his first pilgrimage to the land of the Himalayas – home to 8 of the world’s 10 highest mountains.
Even though weather conditions were mostly overcast when I was there, to be in the same vicinity as the world’s highest peak was awesome enough. I knew I had to come back again someday and get closer to it. Maybe a trek to base camp, maybe … more?
But what is it about the mountain that attracts so many to try and conquer it year after year?
Climbing Everest is most certainly life-threatening. From Acute Mountain Sickness to cerebral edemas to limb consuming frostbite, you have to ask yourself: what sick f**k would want to expose themselves to what might be certain death or permanent disability, climbing up a mountain to stand on a space less than 3 metres wide?
The sick f**k who has a dream, of course..
In all our lives, there is a Mount Everest. It need not be the summit of a mountain 8848 metres into thin air; it can be anything at all. Mastering the piano, riding a bike, dunking a basketball, curing cancer. These are all goals and aspirations that many people have. And they’re totally justified.
But as a writer, I always tend to look deeper into the justifications and motivations behind a person’s actions. People don’t just act on impluse and for fun – most actions are well-thought out manouevers. So why climb Everest if for most, it’ll mean certain suicide?
Because it’s there? (lame, lame, lame)
My conclusion is that people climb mountains not because they want to see the view from the top of the world but because they want to see if they can do it. The strength of the human spirit lies in it’s constant need to push itself to the limit; making your way to the top of the world, a place where the oxygen is less than half its usual level and therefore unfit for humans to be in IS that limit. The view from the top is a bonus – the real prize is knowing that you can do it and have done it. Courage does not come before a brave act but rather, after it – that’s the way it works.
I think that’s why people climb mountains – because they want to gain the courage to do it – make sense?
Recently, the first all-women team from Singapore made it to the summit after a long hard journey to the top (from what it seems, the fund raising was harder than the mountain climbing.) These women trained long and hard and had the guts and determination to suck it up all the way to the highest point in the world. Looking at their triumphant photos, I’d say it was well worth the effort put in; my heartiest congratulations goes out to them.
Now, will I ever climb Everest like them? I’m betting not in this lifetime. I don’t think I have the fitness, nor the mental fortitude (yet), to pull off such a feat. But of course, if the opportunity does arise, I’d be tempted to say yes, to the ire of my wife who loves me dearly and does not want to see her husband tread lightly into “the death zone”.
But then again, who am I kidding?
You got nothing to worry about, baby.
I’d probably have better luck just heading down to the nearest 4-D shop and laying $10 big and $10 small on 8848.
Because for now, it’ll just be a number.
But someday …