6:00 am

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The flight of stairs seems neverending. I grit my teeth and up my pace to get it over and done with, which just tires me out more quickly. We're about 3000 metres above sea level and oxygen is thin. In half an hour I've stopped thrice to catch my breath, standing on rest platforms by the side of the stone staircase.

The downside to taking these breaks is that passing climbers keep beaming their torches at my face to see if I'm someone they know. I try to be polite to strangers (I get progressively ruder the better you know me, it's my special way of showing affection) but after the nth flashlight I can no longer be bothered to contort this face - (-_-) - into a smile.

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