Category Archives: facing fear

Things That Go Grunt In The Night

Sometimes we let our fears get the best of us. Our imaginations get carried away, and we find ourselves blowing things out of proportion.

We had been slogging up a steep, winding trail in the Himalayas, en route to Mt. Everest.

Adjusting to high altitude took its toll on all of us. Headaches. Nausea. Hallucinations. I swear I saw a pink elephant laughing at me. At nearly 18,000 feet, where there’s less oxygen, the mind begins to play tricks.

I popped another diamox (medication used to accelerate acclimatization to high altitude) to get me through.

We made camp, convened in the dining tent for a dinner of yak cheese, kala chia (black tea), pasta with veggies, and some kind of mystery meat. Lhakpa, our sherpa, told stories about the Yeti. He said he came face-to-face with one, and described it as a human ape about eight feet tall. Yeah sure. “The only yeti I’ve seen was the one in my mirror this morning,” someone joked.

After dinner and storytelling, we each retired to our own tents to rest up for tomorrow’s acclimatization hike. A sleet storm had moved in; I could hear it dancing off of my tent. I fell asleep to the sound, sleeping quite comfortably despite the bitter cold temperature.

And then the urge to pee awakened me.  Darn it. I drank too much tea at dinner.

I looked at my watch. 3:37 a.m.  Not now, I whined.

I really did not want to go out into the freezing air.

I fumbled around for my headlamp and Charmin and unzipped my tent to face the night.  The toilet tent that our sherpa’s assistant pitched was two tenths of a mile outside of camp. I took a deep breath and made my way down the path, my body shivering, just to squat over a hole, and as I did, the cold air rushed to violate me in the process. Jesus! I miss the feel of porcelain!

Suddenly there came a grunt.

I stopped midstream.

Then another grunt. And another. What the hell?

My heartbeat quickened. Adrenaline raced through my veins. What should I do?

Images of Lhakpa’s Yeti filled my mind.  I. Was. Scared.

The grunting moved closer. And closer.

I could hear it breathing just outside the privy. Holy crap!

Finally, I decided to make a run for it. I pulled up my pants, armed myself with my roll of Charmin, and bolted, only to run straight into the source of grunting. It knocked me flat on my butt.

When I came to, I saw it.

A yak.

Thank God! I sighed, as warmth trickled down my leg.

I didn’t know whether to kiss that yak, or kick it, but I never felt so relieved (in more ways than one!).