Monday, April 4, 2011

Climb Every Mountain

Not Me on Mt. Everest
In the late 1990s, after reading Jon Krakauer's account of the 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest in which a record number of climbers died in a single climbing season, I became obsessed with Chomolungma.  I read every other new book written on the topic, studied photos of climbing routes and became expert at Everest-speak, throwing around words like "crevasse," "Khumbu Icefall," "Advanced Base Camp" and "crampons" like so many snowballs with a hard ice center.

In retrospect, coming off a central NJ winter during which I barely crossed the threshold of my home because it seemed to snow every other day and the wind threatened to muss my hair, my obsession with Everest may seem strange to you. Well, it seems strange to me too.  After all, I don't care for the cold, snow or ice, peeing off the side of a ledge 25,000 feet up, yak meat, the threat of avalanches, or cerebral edema (that's swelling of the brain at high altitude).  And, oh yeah, my lips get chapped when the humidity gets too low.  (Like a papercut, that's the absolute worst).  Me?  I would never be tempted to climb Mt. Everest simply because "it's there" as George Mallory so famously pronounced.

The only way I can explain my obsession is through my admiration for the indomitable human spirit - that small, still voice that whispers "You can do it!" when one is discouraged, tired, hungry or screaming "MAMA!" while dangling from a fixed rope at 27,000 feet, watching ones oxygen mask fall into Tibet. (The last time I heard that voice I was almost at the bottom of a pint of Cherry Garcia, and I didn't need that much urging).

Fortunately for me, the Cafe Everest Diner is only two miles from my home on terra firma. You might reasonably ask me why, living in chain restaurant paradise as I do here in the unnamed city I call home, with Chile's, TGIFs, and Ruby Tuesdays almost around the corner, I would choose to eat at the Cafe Everest Diner - where they don't even serve yak steak.

Why indeed?  Because it's there.


  1. LOVE it! I've developed an obsession with non-fiction books about disasters (plagues, floods, hurricanes), I think for the same reason you explain above. Stuff happens in this world, but human beings manage to survive. An I find it comforting to read about how they do it.

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  3. Really? In the books I read, everyone dies. But only after luring kind-hearted rescue teams to their own inevitable deaths.

  4. What a wonderful post. I loved it. How about photos of Cafe Everest Diner?

  5. Sometimes writing is about the things you do -- sometimes it's about the things you're interested in, but don't *want* to do!