Your lips are turning blue,” said the Kiwi pilot, shouting over the roaring chopper. “That’s the first sign of altitude sickness.”

The helicopter roared. If the blades are turned off, the helicopter won’t start again in the thin, dry air. Mountaineers struggle and sacrifice for this view – popping blood thinners and trekking eight days to acclimatize – some never getting this far. But there is a short cut.

“Seven minutes max,” he warned.

Precious seconds ticked by – each one a unique, fleeting moment. I had only taken off from Kathmandu a little over an hour ago; yet, there I stood, staring at the Khumbu Icefall at 18,000 feet.

I was confident that I could last 15 or 20 minutes, but the human body owes the Himalayas a toll. Fast or slow, everyone pays.

7 mins reading time
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