MOUNTAIN LIFE - Blue Mountains | Fall 2018

54 ML BLUE FALL 2018 W ith my sleeping bag cinched around my face—only my frozen nose exposed—I wake feeling nauseous with a skull-crushing headache. At 4,050 metres in Jangothang, base camp of Bhutan’s third highest peak, Jomolhari (7,236 metres), altitude sickness isn’t out of the question. In the remote northeastern corner of Bhutan, the eight-day trek includes two 4,800-metre passes. Sick or not, I still have to hike my way out over another mountain. “ Miss …” whispers the eldest of my Bhutanese entourage who can’t speak English. I unzip the flap and push off the new snow. “ For you .” A hot water bottle and a mug of ginger tea. After a warming shot of tea, I nestle back into the bag; the hot bottle on my chest feels like a hug. I haven’t used one since my childhood, and remembering when my mother gave it to me hits hard. My mother died a year ago. The realization that no other person will ever comfort me the same way only makes me lonelier. The Bhutanese think it’s therapeutic to think about death five times a day; it’s a natural part of the life cycle. But back in Toronto, I often only felt her at the end of yoga, when my mind wasn’t stuffed with work and life. I could hardly conceive of her being gone, let alone contemplating my own mortality. Avoidance was best. I know this was foolish. So, I travelled to Bhutan to think about her, and death, the Buddhist way. TRAVEL The Greatest Gift An almost-summit of Bhutan’s Jomolhari, and a grieving process elevated words :: Melanie Chambers photos :: Scott A. Woodward