July 2, 2018
The weather is finally warm and clear and can now see the elusive K2. It's still big. And created a perfect backdrop for our Puja ceremony this morning. We're very fortunate that one of the Sherpa on our team, Mingma is a Lama and could lead the ceremony. Mingma always looks like his clothes are freshly laundered and pressed. I don’t know how he does it. When the rest of are unkempt and stinky, his shirt is tucked in, he's wearing a belt, and his hair is perfectly styled. I really need to ask his secret. The Puja is a prayer ceremony for Buddhists and Hindus to present offerings to the mountain and ask for safe passage. First, every climber places a piece of climbing gear on a stone shrine called a stupa. Carefully we choose our most important gear, like crampons and harnesses and stacked them beside our offerings. Today we offered the mountain soda, butter, cookies, whisky, candy bars, peanuts and cake. After we're all sitting around the stupa in the sun, Mingma started to pray. I can't understand anything that he is saying, of course but it is important to me to pay attention none the less, and to use this time to contemplate the task ahead of me. K2 looks so big and daunting in the distance, it's hard for me to wrap my brain around what it will take for me to safely climb and descend. I feel completely overwhelmed. I'm sitting right behind Mingma and his prayers, which sound like peaceful chants to me, are soothing.
Around me is our whole team - probably 40 people - plus members of other teams, increasing our Puja to about 60 people. Although Pujas are ceremonies in the Buddhist and Hindu religions, I am happy that the Muslim members of our team have joined. This feels important to me because we're attempting K2 as one team, regardless of religion or gender or beliefs and I am certain that it will take the support and efforts of everyone if we are to be successful.
After about an hour of praying, Mingma stops, looks across the stupa at Purba, and Purba instinctively reaches for the whisky. The festive part of the Puja has begun :)
We shared capfulls of whiskey, and danced Buddhist dances and sang Pakistani songs in the sunshine for a long time. In this moment we seem more alike than different to me. I imagine that we all have the same fears as we stare up toward the summit of the mighty K2. And, I am confident that she doesn't care about our backgrounds or religious beliefs. I wish that I knew what would transpire in the coming weeks. I wish that there was a guarantee that we would all come back safely. Since there is no way to know, my hope is that the mountain grants us safe passage and that we all learn something important about ourselves.