The trip up Rainier left me with a new respect for altitude. When they say that the air is thin up there, they mean that there isn't any air. They mean that your ribs will heave and spread and all that effort will be to no gain, because there is no relief from the feeling of breathlessness. The air is so thin that the effect of haziness that comes with distance at sea level is gone, or at least greatly reduced, and the world looks strangely flat. The air gets thinner the higher you go. Our hike on Rainier got us up to the lowest elevation that we'll see in Bhutan, and the highest point of the trek will be double that elevation.
I did recover, and I did finish the hike. But I was left with a feeling of trepidation... I've spent more or less my entire life at sea level, usually in coastal cities. I guess that before, elevation was an empty threat. I had no idea what that would look or feel like, and so it was easy to just not think about it. Now, I have seen the face of the monster, and it's more real.
Nine days till I leave town.