National Geographic : 2015 Sep
86 national geographic • september 2015 Renan, Cory, and I pass the spoon, each of us gulping down hot soup, while the wind punch- es at the tent like a boxer working a heavy bag. When the pot has cooled, we hand it around and swill the last of the liquid. We pack snow inside the pot, put it back on the stove, and keep melting snow until each of us has a full hot water bottle, which we will sleep with on our chests. It is so cold we would prefer to just stay locked together around the purring stove all night—screw the toxic fumes—but we don’t have enough fuel. We turn off the stove knowing that the next hours will feel like several days. We arrange our ropes and packs underneath ourselves and try to find some way we can all stretch out. If we lie on our sides, it’s just possible. “Nothing I like more than spooning with two really smelly dudes,” Cory quips. We are so smashed together that none of us calling its prominence into question embar- rassed some Burmese. (Tragically, Andy Tyson was killed in a plane crash in April.) In fact the Burmese expedition had set out to prove that Hkakabo Razi was still the country’s highest peak. Before disappearing on the upper reaches of the mountain, their ill-fated climbers had transmitted a GPS reading of 18,996 feet. In my own research, I had contacted Rob- ert Crippen, an Earth scientist for NASA. We discussed the various methods for measuring Gamlang and Hkakabo. “The real bottom line is that errors of 30 meters [100 feet] or more might not be evident, and this is about the difference in these peaks,” he said. “So we have evidence, but no proof, for which one is higher.” The highest mountain in Myanmar would remain a mystery until someone stood on the summit of Hkakabo with a GPS.