Climbing Everest

This past weekend I rented Everest, a movie based on the 1996 true story about eight people who died while on their quest to reach the top of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. An unexpected storm made conditions for the climbers of this already dangerous journey, completely unbearable.

Professionally experienced Lead Guides for two of the expeditions, Rob Hall and Scott Fisher, were among the eight who lost their lives to exposure. Their bodies, along with the bodies of over 150 other people who have attempted to climb Mt. Everest, but succumbed to the elements, still lie, scattered, among the famous mountain.

It is not uncommon for climbers to pass corpses as they embark on the same journey that killed their fellow climbers.  According to HistoryVsHollywood.com, an unidentified corpse known as Green Boots, because his green boots and brightly colored climbing jacket are still tugged tightly onto his body as he lay frozen in the same spot he died, is commonly seen by other climbers.

Recovering dead bodies off the mountain is so dangerous for the conditions that it is considered to be a suicide mission.  According to Macleans.ca, a woman named Hannelore Schmatz died of exhaustion in 1979 near one of the camps, and for many years climbers could see Schmatz’s body from their route “sitting upright against her backpack, her eyes open and her brown hair blowing in the wind.”

In 1984, two people tried to retrieve Schmatz’s body, but fell off the mountain. Schmatz’s body remained where she died, frozen in time (like the others), until the late nineties when strong winter winds finally swept her remains over the edge.  (Macleans.ca)

There is an area of the mountain, just below the summit, known as Rainbow Valley “due to the number of corpses still there clad in their colorful climbing jackets.” (Gizmodo.com) The highest point of Mt. Everest is 29,029 feet. The section between camp IV (26,000 ft) and the summit is considered the Death Zone because it is the place where most climbers lose their life.

At 26,000 feet the human body can no longer function on its own and it slowly begins to break down.  The air is near oxygen-free.  A person will not survive more than two days without extra oxygen.  “Mental and physical states are affected, leading climbers to experience hallucination, deteriorations of bodily functions, loss of consciousness, the feeling of slowly being choked, and finally, death.” (Gizmodo.com)

There are a few weeks in May that are considered to be the best time to climb Everest because conditions are the most tolerable. Instead of having to endure normal temps of -31 degrees Fahrenheit, the temps can reach -4 degrees Fahrenheit during this temporary time.  The winds near the top of Mt. Everest can be stronger than a Category 5 hurricane. A record wind speed of 175mph was recorded in 2004 at the summit.  “Mt. Everest is so high that the summit actually protrudes into the stratosphere, where jet streams create 100+ winds during most months and temperatures can plummet as low as -76 degrees Fahrenheit. The winds alone can easily send climbers hurtling off the mountain to their deaths.” (PopularMechanics.com)

Only a climber can tell you why he or she acknowledges the risks in climbing the highest mountain in the world, and accepts those risks as they slip on their boots and bundle into their climbing jackets. One could guess maybe these people have nothing to lose, nothing to live for. But Rob Hall had everything to lose, and everything to live for. His wife was pregnant when he led his expedition up to the top of the mountain.

The movie captures a tender and tragic moment when Hall speaks to his wife (via satellite phone connection patched through to his radio) as he is trapped near the top of the summit, after having just spent the night in the blizzard on an overhang. He was so high up, the air was near oxygen-free, and all oxygen tanks were empty. Rob Hall was aware of his doomed fate when he spoke to his pregnant wife for the last time. “…After naming their unborn baby ‘Sarah,’ he told his wife Jan, ‘I love you. Sleep well, my sweetheart. Please don’t worry too much.’ That was the last time anyone heard from Hall.” (TIME.com)

There is a chance that if not for the unexpected brutal storm in the 1996 expeditions, no one would have lost their lives. There’s risk in climbing any mountain, even the smallest one, because there are elements that can not be controlled, such as weather, a sudden avalanche, body response.

When I first read about the corpses lying all across the mountain, I asked myself how a person can continue to ascend a mountain scattered with dead bodies along their route. Dead bodies clothed in similar dress as their own gear, and lying in the same position they died as if no time had passed, without turning back, scared to death they would meet the same fate.

And then I imagined driving down a road I’ve driven a thousand times before, but now littered with the corpses of every person who perished in accidents along that highway, and suddenly that innocuous and familiar road becomes an ominous warning of what could happen to me.

Do I turn back? Try to find another route, clear of corpses, where nothing bad has ever happened?

Does such a path even exist?

In life, do we keep going despite the horrific events and tragedies that already have happened along the same path we’re headed?

Or do we use them as warning signs and find another way?

What would you do?

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I don’t own the copyright to this picture. If it violates any copyright I will take it down.

Can a Married Woman Overcome Her Desire for Another Woman?

My new lesbian novella, Loving Again, has released today. I’m so excited to be a part of Affinity eBook Press.

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Dana Perkins lost her longtime partner in a tragic accident. Although she still struggles with the loss, her profound loneliness is evidence that it is time to move on. She knows her deceased lover, Casey, wouldn’t want her living this way. Dana begins her slow process of letting go, removing reminders of Casey from her house, and dating again.

The women she meets leave Dana uninspired and missing her deceased partner even more. Just as she is about to resign herself to the belief that she will never love again, Dana meets Emily Daniels, a married woman who is deeply conflicted over her attraction to women. Soon, the two women form a friendship that leads to deeper emotions. They discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither woman could have ever imagined. Is that one moment in time enough to let both women follow their hearts, or will they let their past continue to rule their future?

Excerpt:

Dana Perkins leaned against the side of the trolley and watched as landmarks of the city’s skyline passed by. Her brown eyes traced the contours of the well-appointed, fancy high-rise condos over-looking Lake Michigan, and the sophisticated architecture lining the city’s downtown streets. Tall, crystalline, and convex—the view was stunning.

She closed her eyes as the cool breeze brushed against her face. She inched closer to her lover and kissed her bare shoulder, tasting the salty sweat on Casey’s skin. Dana drew in the raw scent of her partner’s body, the smell of an entire day spent taking in the sights of a big city.

“You’re not ready to call it a day, are you?” Casey asked.

Dana groaned

“I guess you are.”

“Baby, what else do you want to do?” Dana stifled a yawn. “We have all day tomorrow. Oh, and we also live an hour from the city. We’re not tourists, honey.”

“But we only see everything when we act like tourists. That’s why I got us a hotel for the weekend. No more saying ‘next time’. We’re seeing it all now. ”

“But baby, I’m soooo tired.”

“Okay,” Casey said. “You win.” She slung an arm loosely around Dana’s neck and kissed her gently on the lips. “We’ll go back to the hotel.”

As the trolley slowed to a stop, the women walked through the open aisle. The thin fabric of Dana’s khakis stuck to the back of her sweaty leg. Dana realized—too late, as she normally did—that she should have listened to her girlfriend and worn shorts.

Casey skipped down the small steps, onto the sidewalk. Her light blue sundress swayed as she moved. She took Dana’s hand and pulled her lightly down the stairs.

“Come on you tired, old lady. Are your legs gonna make it back to the hotel? Or do you need a motorized scooter?”

Dana smoothed a hand over Casey’s long, blond ponytail. “I can make going to the room early very agreeable…”

Casey eyed her. “And how would you do that?”

“Trust me. You’ll like where this is going….so stop complaining.” Dana reached for Casey, and heard a child’s voice yelling behind her.

“Hot dog! Hot dog!” a little boy’s voice cried out.

But Dana kept her thoughts on Casey. She fantasized being back at the hotel, sliding the thin straps of Casey’s dress down her shoulders, and running her hands over the inside of her bare thighs, when suddenly, Casey whirled from under Dana’s fingers.

Dana turned around. Her eyes fought with the sun as she struggled to follow her partner’s sudden actions. Dana heard the boy yell again, and watched as the child chased after a hot dog vendor that was crossing a busy intersection.

Casey was running full-speed after the boy, heading straight into oncoming traffic.

Dana didn’t know which came first—the smell of burning rubber, the sound of screeching tires ,or the man in the cab yelling for Casey to get out of the way. Everything seemed to happen in the same moment, but somehow Dana’s unsteady legs made it to the edge of the street where Casey’s body lay near a curb.

Dana yelled for help and dropped to her knees. She pulled Casey into her lap, while faintly registering voices—some offering help, and some shouting “Call 911!” She cradled the woman she loved in her shaking arms.

Trapped by the crowd of people huddled over her, stealing the air, Dana struggled to breathe. Then the sudden blare of sirens shattered through the chaos, yet her eyes never left Casey’s face, her beautiful face.

“Wake up, baby. Please wake up,” she cried softly.

The young bride held her dress in one hand, while the other pressed tightly through the arm of the man she’d just married. A few short hours ago she was Emily Bradford, but now, the woman made her way down the steep church steps as Emily Daniels. Emily smiled readily as a cascade of lights flashed before her eyes. Guests lingered at the edge of the steps with cameras in hand and she took it all in. The gorgeous sky hung like a perfect portrait in the background of a nearly cloudless day.

Michael Daniels took Emily by the hand and kissed her while cameras snapped eagerly to capture the tender moment. From a distance, the faint sound of sirens rang out. Emily squinted against the glare of the sun as she searched the street. The blaring noise was headed in their direction. The bride watched as two ambulances, a fire truck, and multiple police cars sped by.

The beauty of their day was temporarily interrupted by someone else’s tragedy.

Emily closed her eyes and made the sign of the cross, something her mother had taught her to do as a small child whenever an emergency vehicle drove by. When it all passed and the streets were once again serene, her new husband gave her hand a squeeze.

“Are you ready?” He smiled.

Leaning her body against his strong shoulder, she kissed her groom the way brides did in movies, creating their very own “happily-ever-after” moment.

“I’m going to love you for the rest of my life,” she said, her voice trembling slightly.

About the Author:

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Alicia Joseph grew up in Westchester, Illinois. Her first novella, Her Name, was published by Musa Publishing in 2014. Her Name is a sweet romantic story about a woman who believes the beautiful woman she dreams about is the real love of her life.

Loving Again is her second published novella. It is a story about two women who fall in love and then soon discover that one moment in their past had brought them together in a way neither woman could have ever imagined.

Alicia is currently working on a new novel called A Penny on the Tracks, a coming of age story about love and  friendship. Alicia has many works-in-progress that she hopes to finish soon.

When she is not writing, the author enjoys volunteering with animals, rooting for her favorite sports teams, reading, and playing “awesome aunt” to her nine nieces and nephews.

Please visit her blog at www.aliciajoseph.com

She can also be found on her Alicia Joseph Author Facebook Page  and on Twitter @JosephJody76

Buy Links: 

http://affinityebooks.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=12_69

http://www.amazon.com/Loving-Again-Alicia-Joseph-ebook/dp/B01807ZOX2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1447599721&sr=8-2&keywords=Alicia+Joseph

Thank you!

“Helen” — A Woman I didn’t know, but I Wrote A Blog About You.

An eighty-five year-old woman has died. Maybe those words don’t scream tragedy because she was eighty-five. The assumption may be that she had lived a long life, and age finally got the better of her. But this old woman didn’t die in a lonely nursing home. Nor did she lay sickly in a hospital bed until family decided it was time to end her suffering.

No.

This eighty-five year-old woman died while trying to beat a train. Killed, as she scurried across train tracks…with a train fast approaching. Surveillance video captured the incident, and I can’t fathom watching what occurs on that tape. I’d wish for supernatural powers that could teleport me to that moment so I could whisk the old woman away, seconds before her imminent death.

But I can’t. Nobody can.

I think about her life, her eighty-five years, and all the historical events she lived through. The paper identified her real name, but I’ll call her “Helen”.

Helen would have been born in 1930, the year after the stock-market crash that devastated the country and sent it into a deep recession, occurred. With little or no protection from the federal government, the 1930’s became known for the Great Depression. *Over fifteen million Americans (one-quarter of workers) were unemployed. *Nine thousand uninsured banks closed, and took over 2.5 billion dollars in deposits with them.

For many, standing in breadlines was the only way they would eat.

Helen survived the Great Depression.

In the 1940’s, Europe was invaded by Nazi Germany. A war was started, and over *60 million people were killed worldwide.

Helen survived World War II.

In the next decade, she witnessed the fear of communism spread across the country. She lived through Sputnik. The Korean War. The beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Segregation. Martin Luther King. She saw Elvis Presley shake his hips.

She lived through the riots and the turmoil of the Sixties.  A President, a Civil Rights leader, and a Senator assassinated in the same decade. The Beatles. The Rolling Stones. Vietnam. Woodstock. She saw the first man walk on the moon.

She lived a long life, but it could have been longer. I didn’t know “Helen”, but when I read the part of the newspaper about her death, I was stopped. I thought, “What was it that an eighty-five year old woman was in such a hurry to get to that she tried to beat a train?” At 85!

At that moment, I tried to picture her life, and how she could ever have imagined it would end this way. There’s no way she could have. I have no idea what, if any, hardships Helen struggled to overcome in her life, but dying that way, at that age, feels like a long way to come to go down like that.

I pray that she has found peace.

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*credit to History.com for the stats.

photo courtesy by freedigitalphotos.net