Dominic Alexis was waiting his turn to use the airplane bathroom when he got his first glimpse of Mount Everest.

Standing there in the narrow aisle of the 747, he froze, gawking out the rounded porthole in the emergency door. To the north rose the jagged icy spires of the Himalayas, the highest mountain range on the face of the Earth. And right in the heart of it, the giant among giants - barely lower than the cruising altitude of the plane - Everest.

There should be trumpets, he thought reverently. A fanfare. Fireworks.

Norman "Tilt" Crowley came up behind Dominic and hip-checked him out of the way. "Man, this airline stinks! What do you have to do to get a bag of peanuts?"

Wordlessly, Dominic pointed out the window at the unmistakable silhouette.

Tilt peered through the porthole. "Big deal - Mount Everest. What, you thought they were going to move it before we got here?"

But for all his attitude, Tilt stayed riveted to the spot, fascinated by the sight of the big mountain that the Nepalese called Jongmalungma - goddess, mother of the world.

An announcement came from the cockpit. "On our left, we see Mount Everest." It was repeated in several other languages.

There was a rush for the left side of the plane. For most of the passengers, this was the closest they would come to the top of the world. But Dominic and Tilt were part of SummitQuest, the youngest expedition ever to attempt the planet's highest peak. For them, the massive profile of Everest was the shape of things to come.

Sammi Moon shut off her Walkman and rushed over to join them at the porthole. "How is it? Extreme, right?" She spotted the mountain. "It's beautiful!"

"You paint it; I'll climb it," put in Tilt. "That lump of rock is going to make me famous."

"We have to wake Perry," said Dominic. "He should see this."

The fourth member of their team, Perry Noonan, was in his seat, fast asleep.

"Are you kidding?" snorted Tilt. "He's so scared of Everest that he can't even face the picture in the in-flight magazine! He'd take one look out the window and wet his pants!"

Dominic's eyes never left the mountain. "You've got to be crazy not to be a little bit scared."

"I'm just amped," said Sammi. "I can't believe we're really on our way!"

They squinted through the clouds, trying to discern the summit - the object of years of climbing and months of preparation.

What Dominic, Tilt, Sammi, and Perry could not know was that the mist-obscured peak was more than a goal. For one of the four team members, it would be a final resting place.