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Everyone's Everest

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posted on Jul, 18 2009 @ 11:38 PM
Prologue: Everyone’s Everest

Bright afternoon sun glinted off an expanse of pristine white snow that had recently fallen on the sloping mountain face. Each perfect flake seemed to cunningly reflect the bright light back into his squinted eyes as he took in the inhospitable world around him, regardless of the heavily tinted goggles he wore. His heavy boots crunched through the snow pack with every labored step as the bone-chilling wind snaked its way under his fur lined hood. Frost collected on the outside of the thick gray flap that protected his face as he gasped and wheezed his way inexorably upward.

Steven Carter of Colorado stopped a moment to catch his breath and suck a cool gulp of water from the tube under his protective face guard. He glanced over his shoulder before starting out again. The rest of the team was still there, close at hand in their brightly colored climbing gear.

Just behind him was their Sherpa guide, whom they were fortunate to have with them. Steven felt a pang of jealousy at how easily the native Tibetan was breathing and how graceful each measured step was, despite the fact that the man wasn’t much younger than Steven himself. Steven, at age 51, was easily the weakest link of their climbing team of six, despite being in what he felt was the greatest shape of his life.

Grumbling to himself, Steven started plodding along again. It wouldn’t be much longer now.

They had left Camp Four earlier that morning when the weather seemed like it might cooperate. So far the final climb was going smoothly. With each step, he was taking himself closer and closer to his dream. He wondered briefly what it would feel like, finally achieving what he had longed for and trained for his whole life.

Grinning, Steven glanced up the slope and his determination renewed.
For a fleeting moment he caught a glimpse of color and his breath caught in his throat. His pace doubled as the adrenaline hit his system. Within several strides his eyes confirmed what his dreams had shown him for decades.

Less than two hundred feet away he could see the brightly colored prayer flags that marked the summit of Mt. Everest.
Attached to thin poles driven into the snow at the summit, the arrays of small flags starkly contrasted with the blue sky behind them and the brilliant white beneath them.

For Steven, the last few hundred steps took on a surreal quality. When his mind finally caught up with him, he realized he was no longer moving, and that the snow he stood upon was no longer sloped.

In shock, he turned in a slow circle. His teammates were not as close as they had been. In the back of his mind, he realized he must have powered up that last ascent faster than he had thought. Still, they would soon be upon him.

Continuing his circle, Steven noted that nothing on Everest’s summit was taller than he was. For one moment in time, he, Steven Carter, was the tallest man in the world. Inside his orange tinted goggles, the 51 year old man felt a warm tear run down his wind-burned cheek.

Beneath his frosty face guard he grinned like a schoolboy.

bruptly, his smile dropped from his face and his eyes popped wide with surprise. He thought he had seen the impossible. With a raptor’s intensity, he focused on the spot just beyond the prayer flags. His legs were shaky as he stumbled to his left, in an attempt to see around their flapping colors.
In an instant, he stood frozen. Not with the pervasive cold that was the norm for this altitude, but with dawning realization that something was terribly wrong with what he was seeing.

Before him, sitting in the snow with his back toward Steven was a man. This man looked to be in his mid-twenties. He was wearing faded blue jeans and a white hooded sweatshirt that was worn with use. The man sat with his elbows resting on his knees, seemingly looking out across the horizon.

Despite the freezing gusts of wind, the man’s sandy blonde hair lay flat and thick upon his head. His white sweatshirt lay still.
Steven could only gape as his mind tried to fathom how this man could have made it to the Everest summit dressed like that, let alone why the wind didn’t seem to touch the man even as it pulled at his own hood and bright yellow parka.

With a start, the man glanced over his shoulder and locked eyes with Steven, who stood rooted to the spot. The man’s eyes were a dull green and for a moment they darted around, intensely scanning the area before returning to Steven.

Gently, the man placed one very ungloved hand to the snow and pushed himself up. His full height seemed to dwarf Steven’s six feet by several inches at least, until Steven realized that the man’s white and black running shoes had sank not even an inch into the snow pack.

There were a hundred questions that came to Steven’s mind at that moment, but he stood rooted to the spot in wonder and shock.

Casually, the blonde haired man who had seemingly climbed Everest in blue jeans, running shoes, and a hooded sweatshirt, zipped up the sweatshirt and put his hands in its front pockets. He did this not with the urgency of someone who desperately wants to warm cold fingers, but with the ease of someone who doesn’t know what else to do with his hands.

With a slight smile on his face, the man nodded toward the boundless horizon around them and said in flawless English, “Take a minute to enjoy the view before you climb back down.”

His voice carried just above the wind, loud enough so that Steven could barely hear it. There was a hint of good natured sarcasm that was discernable over the chilling gale.

These words snapped Steven out of his stupor and he whirled around to see his team climbing the last few steps and finally become level with him.

Suddenly, his traitorous voice returned to him.

“Get up here now! You’re never going to believe this!” Steven shouted so that the rest of his team could hear him. Sensing his urgency even through the multiple layers of gear, they hurried over and looked where he was pointing.

When Steven looked back at the spot where the man had been, it was vacant, void of anything but snow and sky and prayer flags. His team turned to him, asking puzzled questions about what he had seen, but Steven shrugged them off and moved to where the man had been sitting.

[Edit to add breaks. ATS doesn't like indentations apparently.

[edit on 18-7-2009 by SeekerOfAUTMN]

posted on Jul, 18 2009 @ 11:42 PM

There, impressed in the snow was a perfectly curved indentation that was covered several square feet and was no deeper than three or four inches at the deepest. It was like a shallow bowl of snow, and even as he watched Steven could see the wind working to fill in the hole and erase any sign of its existence. Impatiently, Steven gestured to his climbing mates and continued to peer down at the only evidence of his sanity.

As they gathered around him, he noticed another smaller indentation near the first. This one was much smaller and deeper, but still perfectly rounded at the bottom. It only took his mind a moment to realize that this was where the man had pushed himself up from his sitting position with a hand.

He stood from his stooped position and glanced around, looking for any sign of the mysterious figure that would forever shroud his life’s crowning achievement in mystery. There was no sign of the man. No track and no trail, just an imprint in the snow.

As he turned back he pulled his weatherproof camera from its secure pocket in his parka and snapped a quick series of shots of the impressions before they faded.

For the rest of his life, Steven Carter would tell his story to any that would listen back at his home in Boulder Colorado. None but the young and imaginative believed it to be anything more than altitude induced delusion. Most would shrug off his pictures of the imprint without as much as a second thought.

They had not been there, he reasoned, so they could not understand that what he had seen had been as real as the frost that had formed on his mustache. Even to his deathbed, Steven Carter believed something extraordinary had happened to him atop Mt. Everest.

The reality was not so glamorous, accidents seldom are. The man that had sat atop Mt. Everest admiring the view and dwelling on the oncoming end of his long life had never expected to be interrupted.

Die the strange man did, less than a year after meeting Steven Carter at the top of the world. And so our story begins with the end of a life that was both glorious and tragic beyond what most can fathom.

posted on Jul, 18 2009 @ 11:45 PM
Anyway, just something I've been working on lately. This is just the prologue, so please excuse the abrupt ending. There is more of it, but I'm still trying to hammer out the details.

Comments welcome.

Proofreaders check my grammar if you would and let me know if I missed something. If I've written something, I tend to skim over errors.

Thanks in advance.

posted on Jul, 19 2009 @ 12:19 AM
Great premise.

You might want to beef it up some with a little research. The final ascent usually starts in the wee hours and they are so tired and done in with altitude sickness that it's amazing people can do it at all. Get some of those gritty details in and the appearance of a guy in street clothes will have more impact.

He also should have eye protection. Just 15 minutes on the summit without protection leads to snow blindness. How could the guy just hang out up there with no glasses?

Your protagonist might mention that he questioned his own eyes. Maybe thought it was a hallucination brought on by altitude sickness or exhaustion.

A few authentic details will help carry that intro.

Great start.

I'll be following the thread.
Good luck.

[edit on 19-7-2009 by badgerprints]

[edit on 19-7-2009 by badgerprints]

posted on Jul, 19 2009 @ 11:22 AM
reply to post by badgerprints

Excellent points. This is exactly why I posted this here. I honestly don't know much about climbing besides what I've read about Everest, and I've missed some details no doubt.

Much appreciated Badger, exactly what I'm looking for.

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