Not for the first time I sit before her in awe. Her aurora is singular; she is beautiful beyond compare and a spiritual wonder, I look upon her and bite my lip.
Half Tibetan half Nepali her name is Chomolungma, Goddess Mother of the Earth; more widely known as Everest.
There is an incomparable atmosphere here in the Himalaya, two religions revere it as home to the gods, and I see no grounds on which to challenge that. I always feel emotional here where peaks that would elsewhere on earth be revered as the mightiest on their continent are but nameless hills.
I am now at Rongbuk Monastery on the Tibetan side of the Himalayas in the valley that leads to Everest Base Camp.
Yesterday as we reached the top of Pang La pass grown men in my group were moved to shed a tear by the dramatic sight of the huge white wall standing before them, the centre point of which is, unmistakably, Everest.
The ride here to the foot of the mountain, has been challenging, but as with all great challenges the rewards have been wonderful. Most of the people with me have never been to altitude, and only now can they begin to understand what it means. The abstract briefing I gave in Kathmandu about cycling with only half the oxygen generally enjoyed now takes on a life of its own, it is real and it is tough.
But what really astonishes me whenever I sit at five thousand metres looking up a further four vertical kilometres at Everest’s wind worn summit is how ever the likes of Mallory, Odell, Finch, Irvine and the rest of the early pioneers of Himalayan climbing ever had the audacity to believe they could climb into such an unknown and inhospitable environment. To stand at base camp huffing and puffing is for most enough. To climb Everest nowadays is a huge feat, despite the rubbish published in the daily papers in England; but to have tackled her then, dressed in tweed, home knitted scarfs, hobnail boots and a leather flying hat with no idea of the effect that high altitude has on living beings was courage beyond reproach. These men epitomised a saying that I often have to remind myself of, ‘do not let your fears stand in the way of your dreams’.