That night Brig slept fitfully, partly because of his partner’s snoring, but also because of the high-altitude. He no longer suffered from headaches, but at this altitude, he struggled even harder for every breath. He couldn’t fathom how some elite climbers were able to summit Everest without oxygen. Freaks of nature. Brig thought respectfully.
At around 4 a.m, while James slept, Brig prepared for his next move. The storm continued to rage and had added another twelve inches of new snow during the night. Brig worried that James would once again try to postpone their ascent to EBC. Brig rose from his bed and dressed as quietly as possible. James had conveniently placed the Jeep’s keys on a table that sat near the room’s exit. Brig withdrew the remaining wads of money from his pack and set them on the table as he picked up the keys. Before opening the door to leave, Brig looked down at the slumbering New Zealander. James had rolled over on to his side, and his snoring had stopped for the moment. Brig sighed and thought how ironic and sad it was that he had developed such a strong friendship with James in such a short time and at this point in his life.
Brig resolutely turned away and prepared to make a run for the Jeep. He knew James would wake up as soon as the door opened, but James would be in his underwear and bare feet, surprised and unprepared to stop Brig from driving away in his Jeep.
“Goodbye James,” Brig whispered as he laid his hand on the doorknob.
“Safe travels my friend,” Brig heard James respond from beneath his covers.