Today's Reading

"So, what do you do with your ramblings?"

"Sometimes I listen to them, but mostly I file them away. I have thousands of hours of me babbling on. I guess, like a lot of climbers, I want to leave something behind in case I fall off a mountain, not that anyone would be interested."

False modesty. He knew as well as I did that a lot of people would be interested. "I'm interested," I said, playing along.

"I figured you would be. The recordings are stored on my laptop in Chiang Mai. When I get back home, I'll send them to you."

"I'd like that. And when you learn to read, I'll send you my journals."

Josh grinned. "Deal."

I tried to give the digital recorder back, but he shook his head. "Nah, you keep it. We'll call it a down payment on our sacred pact. And speaking of sacred things, where's Zopa?"

"He took off." I pointed at the green tangle at the bottom of the talus.

"Did you ask him where he was going?"

"Yeah. What do you think his answer was?"

"He shrugged."

"More or less. He said he'd find us."

"I'm sure he will," Josh said. "I wonder why he brought us here."

I reminded him that we weren't able to return the way we had ascended because of the avalanche and the weather.

"Doesn't matter," Josh said. "Every step Zopa takes has a purpose. Something is up. I guarantee it."

"What might be up is yours and Zopa's arrest by the Chinese government. We're in Tibet."

Tibet was Tibet in name only. The Chinese had taken over the country in 1951 in what they called a "peaceful liberation." The Tibetans have a different take on what happened, calling it "the Chinese invasion of Tibet." The bottom line is that Tibet is now, for all intents and purposes, China, a country where both Josh and Zopa are wanted criminals for violating permit requirements on the northern side of Everest. They helped Zopa's grandson, Sun-jo, summit Everest, making him the youngest person, and a "free" Tibetan, to top the mountain. The record has since been broken, but not before Sun-jo received several lucrative endorsement deals from climbing gear companies, making it possible for him and his two sisters to continue their education.

The permit violations were minor offenses. Josh and Zopa's major offense, technically not illegal, was embarrassing the Chinese government. They were forbidden to set foot inside Chinese territory.

"No worries," Josh said. "We'll be gone before they know we're here. As far as anyone knows I'm in seclusion at my house in Chiang Mai recuperating after my seven summits climb."

Josh lived in northern Thailand in a big house with a private climbing gym in the backyard. I'd never been to his house, but I'd been hoping to go there on this trip. Looking down at the jungle, and the long trek before us, that didn't look too likely now.

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