That’s how Neal Jing described feeling at one point as he approached the summit of Mount Everest.
It wasn’t the 22 below zero temperature or the lack of sleep and food — it was the bodies of people who didn’t survive the climb that he had to step over.
The bodies — frozen in sitting or crawling positions — were a deadly reminder of the dangerous adventure the Gilbert 40-year-old was undertaking.
When he reached the north side of the summit after two months of climbing, camping and enduring the weather, he spent only 20 minutes taking pictures and looking at the sights before starting back down.
"I was nervous because most people die on the way down," said Jing, an Intel engineering manager and father of two, who returned June 12. "If you break a leg, you will die."
The dangers of frostbite, running out of energy, high-altitude brain swelling and his limited mountaineering experience did not deter Jing from climbing the highest mountain in the world.
"It was a tough expedition," said Jing, who suffered frostbite on his cheek. "If I knew it was that tough I probably wouldn’t have gone. I’m pretty stubborn, though. Once I decide to do something I will carry it all the way through. I don’t accept defeat without trying my best."
Climbing the 29,035-foot Everest is a multistep process that involves several weeks of climbing up and down to several camps to acclimate the body to the altitude and rough conditions. Because of the thin air, not only was it hard to breathe, but it was difficult to sleep and eat, Jing said.
Jing began training for the climb in August when he joined a glacier school in Washington and climbed Mount Rainier. Jing found out during his Everest climb that two people he met in the glacier school died while climbing mountains, one while climbing the south side of Everest.
In October, Jing climbed HaBa in South China. Then he climbed the even taller South American Aconcagua in January.
For two months, he ran 7.5 miles a day six days a week. On the seventh day he climbed Camelback Mountain twice carrying 50 pounds.
He joined a summit club, and with his expedition of seven climbers and 14 Sherpas, or expert mountaineering guides, his trek to reach the summit began April 1.
All the other climbers had more climbing experience than Jing, and rumbles through the camp wondered if he would make it, said Bob Guthrie, a climber since 1996 who’s climbed six of the world’s seven tallest summits and who was a climber in the Everest expedition.
"He sort of made believers of everybody," said Guthrie, 53, who lives outside Boulder, Colo. "The reality is that he was a fast learn, very athletic and gifted with the right physiology. He was very impressive."
Ryan Waters, expedition leader and a climber for 14 years, said Jing was driven and open to hearing what other climbers had to say.
"He turned out to be a great guy to climb with," said Waters, 31, a mountain guide who lives in Atlanta and Argentina. "He really just persevered through the whole thing and was fortunate to get to the top. We were very excited for him."
Jing said he enjoys challenging himself and wanted to do something hard during his vacation. Intel employees are given two extra months of vacation every seven years, and Jing said most of his colleagues go to a resort to relax.