Goddamn, I’m hot,
he told her.
I’m ready to just strip down to my socks.
I’m sweating like a pig.
This concerned her
because they were above Camp IV
and were in the Death Zone on Everest.
It was July, a good morning for climbing,
but the temperature was still -2.
(That’s -19 in Celsius.)
She knew that one of the symptoms of severe hypothermia
is feeling hot flashes, and an already confused climber
will start taking off his clothes
before losing consciousness.
They were alone at the moment.
Other teams had started much earlier
and were higher up, close to the summit.
He had decided they didn’t need to go with
one of those professional climbing companies.
Didn’t need Sherpas.
Didn’t need supplemental oxygen.
It was so hard to breathe up there.
She would inhale raggedly but was oxygen-starved
and then cough until her ribs ached.
She forced him to drink some soup from a thermos.
He was sitting down now.
It wouldn’t be long.
She would have to leave him if she wanted to survive,
but that was impossible.
Who would want to die alone on this terrible frozen rock?
She wished he had been nicer to her overall.
No one would move their bodies.
They would be together forever up here.
Tenzing Sherpa found her first,
assumed she was dead
(like the man)
until he saw her stir.
You’re not supposed to help people in the Death Zone.
It’s every man or woman for themselves.
The Sherpa owed her nothing.
But Tenzing flung her over his shoulder like another heavy pack
and carried her down to the camp.