The Last Mountain

©Stephen McDonnell 2002

draft June 17. 2002

1. Prologue

March 2002, China Daily
The district of Zhongdian was renamed Shangri La after the utopia described in James Hilton's novel The Lost Horizon.

Fall 2002

The sunlight is warm today, the air less humid. It reminded me of far away Yunnan and of our expedition. Fall is in the air, every night it gets a tad cooler and drier. During the bright days we rake leaves together, enjoying their brilliant colors, piling them together then lighting them to add more carbon to the atmosphere. She tells me the Naxi do not bury lovers or people who have died violent deaths ­ they burn them. What does she in the flames and smoke? She keeps her own council.

After so many months, I finally have the courage to look at my journal­ while she steps out to do the grocery shopping. She likes doing that ­ a tenuous connection to people. They don't ask questions here.

The whole world watched the live broadcasts and followed us on the internet. Our expedition was seen at every angle and in every aspect - almost. The world has the impression it was a movie.

But it wasn't; it was a combination of heaven and hell.

"Why are you going through those old things Gary? I thought we wouldn't talk climbing anymore?"

"Babe, You know I promised them a novel or at least an article." My editors had published the other book, a best seller now because of what I had witnessed. "They have been calling me almost every day." A lie. They are not that interested; life is full of little lies, to protect us from the big truths. She reminds me, "Lilly no longer exists."

Time is supposed to heal bones and minds. Maybe our minds just forget the worst and hang on to the best. I don't think she will mind - she has recovered as much as anyone can. My heart still aches. I hope his book will bring closure to a time when we lived on the knife's edge of death and chose life.

The mountain didn't kill us, but it tried - it tried hard.

Michel Greenblum told me I could go ahead, Zach could not stop us, and Michel needed the money. Confucious said the gold in your heart is worth more than the gold in your purse and I think he was right.


Author's Prologue

My name is Gary Worth, and this is the story of a mountain climbing expedition in China.

This is the chronicle of an assault on the Meili Snow Mountain's Prince Snow Mountain of Kagebo -- Kagebo feng or Moirigkawagarbo -- called the "most beautiful mountain in the world", "God of the Snow Mountains", or - as we named it - the last mountain.

Kagebo is the tallest mountain in the Chinese province of Yunnan, towering 6,470 meters (21,221 or 22,108-ft feet) above sea level. On the southern side of the main peak, a waterfall - known as "a deluge of rain and God-mandated cascade" among the local Zang people - tumbles down from a breath-taking height of 1,000 meters (3280 feet). Meili Snow Mountain is the highest holy Tibetan Mountain in the world, shrouded in mist, cloud and mystery. It had never been conquered.

The Chinese and Tibetans also call it Kala Karpo, Kagbo, or sometimes Kawebo. They also call it the killer - for good reason. For one hundred years men and women have tried to climb it, many have perished.

"Since 1902, mountaineers from China, Great Britain, the US, and Japan all have failed to conquer the peak. In 1991, a Sino-Japan joint climbing team came very close to the main peak-Kawagebo when it began to snow heavily. The team was forced to abandon the climbing plan, and they died on the way of returning to No.3 Base of 5,100 meters above sea level: 6 Chinese and 11 Japanese. Not until July 1998 were the frozen corpses of the team finally found. "

I do not write these things lightly because every word is powerful. Like a stone, tossed into a pond it can cause ripples that can bring down the world on your head if you are not careful. There are questions that I need to answer. Some of the answers beg for questions. Maybe this book will reveal the truth or make it more obscure. Read on and see.

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