Sunday, 9 November 2014

Green Boots and the Ghosts of Everest

Once again I find myself tapped behind glass at work, and find myself having to look upwards and outwards with the eyes behind my eyes; I'm imagining and daydreaming again.

I've been thinking a lot about "Green Boots". Green Boots lives high in a cave, on the North-East Ridge of Mount Everest, and has done so since 1996. He greets every Everest climber heading for the summit by the North-East Ridge direct or North Col routes, recognisable to all at the staggering altitude of 8500 metres. A landmark of legend.

The Northern Aspect of Everest, the North East ridge leading from the left of the summit. Picture from wikimedia commons, credited to Carsten Nebel
"Live" of course is a misleading term. "Green Boots" is thought to be an Indian climber called Tselwang Paljor, who died after summiting the Mountain on an Indian-Tibetan Police Expedition. No-one is totally certain about this, and his body at that altitude is unrecoverable. He lies forever in his little cave, his clothes perfectly preserved, as bright and shiny as the day they were bought.

Including his bright green boots, that give him his name.

Over 200 people have died on the various Everest routes since the 1920s, and most of those bodies will still lie where they died, be it of a fall, avalanche or sheer cold. On some parts of the mountain, the lie of the land and prevailing winds has created small "cemeteries" - George Mallory, the most famous body found on the mountain, apparently lies in one of these. Other well known bodies, like those of Joe Tasker and Mick Burke, have never been found.

I can imagine that their families were devastated at having no remains to bury, but I wonder how the men and women themselves would have felt. Do their spirits roam the cols and snow fields in an endless unrest, or do they take in the unbelievable vistas, and think themselves privileged to have been able to visit such an incredible part of the world, and feel no sadness about remaining a part of it?

I can only envy them, and the people who survived the climb. For they have seen things a landlocked lubber such as myself, riddled with vertigo and prone to agonising pain in his hands in only a moderate Northern breeze, can't even dream of.

All text copyright Cream Crackered Nature 09.11.14 - picture credited.

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