The other day the expedition headed up Kala Pattar at 5550 metres, the nearest viewpoint to Everest. I joined our generous donors for the hike. The rest of the team have rather affectionately nicknamed them the 'Expendables', as they usually have to make themselves scarce while our Canadian Forces vets are being filmed and since that was the order of the day, our donors paved the way to the top.
Despite the altitude, everyone was on fine form, although I think some of the jokes were lost on our Sherpa guides. "You do know that pain is the body's way of getting rid of weakness, don't you?" someone laughed.
Meanwhile, Rocco Rossi began to serenade us with a very breathy version of "Ain't No Sunshine," and I was amazed that he found the wherewithal in such thin air. He has been an absolute machine on this expedition and his big smile will be much missed when he returns to Canada. Previous obligations won't allow him to join us on our climb.
At the summit of Kala Pattar, we looked across at the majesty of Everest's south face, its iconic features being battered by the jet stream and it didn't feel any less windy on the top of KP! It was really blowing, but no one seemed to mind cold teeth judging by everyone's beaming smiles.
As the donors descended from the top, the soldiers took their place, posing for the traditional summit photo. Flags were brought out and wrestled into place as they billowed in the gale-force winds. As this was happening, I chatted to one of our guides Lakhpa Tsheri, who is National Geographic's 2012 People's Choice Adventurer of the Year for his daring Ultimate Descent by paraglide from the top of Everest. I couldn't help but think that some of our soldiers were going to share a similar, if unintentional fate, as the wind threatened to whip each one of them off down the Khumbu - not by paraglider, but by flag!
Someone said the wisest of words: "There's something about climbing a mountain. Everybody brings something and everybody leaves something behind," and as the afternoon sun set, the glow off the mountains wasn't a patch on the glow coming from the faces of our team. Why?
Well, as the team headed back down to Gorek Shep, one of our kind donors had etched T.P.L in huge letters in the sand, a beautiful reminder of why the team are here.