The trek back down the Khumbu Valley descended into summer. Dirt patches we had passed next to village homes on our trek up now flourished with rich green vegetables. Yak herders struggled to keep their trains moving as an abundance of trailside temptations lured the beasts to graze. Many cottage entryways had baskets of flowers set out to dry for tea. These were the milk and honey days for a people who endured a hard life the rest of the year. Soon their men would be returning from the expeditions they had worked on the various Himalayan peaks. Husbands, Fathers, Brothers, Sons. A fortunate few will have made enough money to support their families clear through to the next climbing season. They would tend their gardens, play with their children, and remember those who had not returned.
“I have been playing the football and now I am drunk to watch the football,” he announced gleefully, gesturing toward the television at one end of the dining room. Llama had always worried about us each time we left EBC for the Ice Fall. He liked to hug each climber, affixing what he saw as a protective shield. Seeing him finally relax and cut loose that night impressed upon me just how great a stress the past weeks had been for Llama. It had not just been the Climbers, or their families and friends. Everyone had lived this thing. Everyone. And now it was over.