Category Archives: 2012 Trek to Mount Everest Base Camp

All posts from the start of trek prep through the end of the trek to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal in March 2012 with Mountain Madness.

The Sherpa Factor


As many have heard and seen there was an awful tragedy at the beginning of the 2014 Everest climbing season. Over a dozen Sherpa were killed and several badly wounded when a massive chunk of ice broke away and devastated the area between camps 1 and 2. My blog today is not intended to go over all of the activates and conditions at Everest since the tragedy, though it is very much worth reading about. Alan Arnette has a great series of blogs and updates and links to all the information that will help you inform yourself of those things. My blog is more general. It is about the Sherpa and the way their culture infectiously changes the life of westerners who have a relationship with a Sherpa.

In 2012 I went on my Everest Base Camp Trek with Mountain Madness. You can read all about it in the archives here on this blog. Mane Sherpa was one of our team’s Sherpa and I spent a lot of time with him.

Mane is the Sherpa on the left

Mane is the Sherpa on the left

He carried my pack, watched out for every step of my trek and even dove to catch my fall when I tripped over a rock. From the moment I met him at the Lukla airport, his smile was infectious! The smallest in stature of our Sherpa team, he did not lack strength and heart. As we walked along the trail he would  tell me “Stop Miss. Drink.” and he would share a snack and a drink and we would look around and smile. He didn’t speak much English back then and was not able to chat with me. But he still communicated what he needed to and always made me feel comfortable.

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On an acclimatization hike, mane leads me down to the Tea House in Namche Bazaar

Long days on the trail he kept my slow pace.

He never complained even though, at my pace, he would miss tea with his Sherpa coworkers and still have to do all his in camp work after we arrived.

Mane was working in the trekking industry in order to get enough money for a down payment on electrical power being installed in his house.

In addition to Mane, there were several other Sherpa and Sherpa on our team.  All of them working to make their lives in Nepal better. Not any different than people around the world who just want to make life better for their families.  One Sherpa was there because he could no longer farm because of the loss of his arm. He herded the yaks that carried our duffel bags and our kitchen along the way. An Ram Kaji our kitchen leader.

Our great kitchen boss Ram Kaji.

Our great kitchen boss Ram Kaji.

He feared that due to age he might not have a job for the next season and hoped we left good reviews for him.  He was not that old and it seemed he might be over reacting. But he wasn’t.

Before I ever went to Everest Base Camp, I followed the happenings on Everest. Several years prior, there was a Sherpa who was becoming famous and even one of the first to have his own company. His name was Babu. Working as a climbing Sherpa, he was about to set the then record for summits by a Sherpa. But taking a picture for a western climber, he backed up to get the shot and fell into a crevasse and was killed.

Memorial for Babu Sherpa

Memorial for Babu Sherpa

This memorial is prominent in an area of memorials for all people who have died on the mountain.

Full shot of Babu Sherpa Memorial

Full shot of Babu Sherpa Memorial

You reach this part of the trek after a grueling uphill from the river below. Mane was quite helpful the whole trip up. We were there alone and visited all the memorials. This one made me cry as I remembered the day Babu died and how that very day, NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt had also died, bringing our nation to a halt. Yet this Sherpa man who had summited Everest 10 times by the time he was 36, had made the fastest ascent of Everest in 16 hours and 56 minutes and who had also spent 21 hours ON THE SUMMIT with out any supplemental oxygen was a small article in Outside magazine.  After My ahem… departure from Everest, I was in Hospital in Kathmandu and my nurse was a niece of Babu. She proudly told the story of her uncle and how he had helped her whole family with the earnings he attained from the notoriety of his achievements.  That is the purpose of climbing for most Sherpa. They cannot make anywhere near the kind of money climbing Sherpa do in any other job in Nepal. They not only assist their immediate family, but all of their family and much of their village in many cases.

When the tragedy of 2014 occurred, I got several contacts asking me if Mane was ok. There are different kinds of Sherpa jobs. A trekking Sherpa goes from Lukla to Everest, in the case of jobs related to Everest. They could be Sherpa or porters. They may be sherpa by job title or Sherpa by ethnicity. Porters are the “Truck Drivers” of the trail, hauling loads of unimaginable weight and proportion. Instead of truck and trailer, they rely on baskets and legs. their tires often consist of flip flops!

Porters carry heavy loads of lumber for building houses in the Khumbu.

Porters carry heavy loads of lumber for building houses in the Khumbu.

It takes brute strength and it means carrying loads and cooking and helping westerners who want their dreams to come true. It means long months away from family and friends, sleeping outside in cold conditions. It means often putting up with condescending elitists who simply do not understand that these men work hard and would do nearly anything for them despite the treatment they get from such clients.

Dawa, the Big Boss Sherpa of our team

Dawa, the Big Boss Sherpa of our team

On the second day of our trek I had been plugging along. Kaji was the Sherpa with me at the time. He helped me learn the rest step properly. He encouraged me along the way. He was a monk and also the only Sherpa with us who had traveled out of the country. He was often on his cell phone. Later I learned that there was a lot of communication between my Sherpa and the front of the pack. All the Sherpa were aware of my progress’s and each one was encouraging. Not a malicious bone in their bodies,. This job was not just a begrudging sentence to accompany us. They took very seriously the care and condition of each trekker in the group

Kitchen porter carrying loads to our next stop

Kitchen porter carrying loads to our next stop

The native mountain workers are the foundation of trekking and climbing in this region. Without them, most climbers on Everest would not be able to get up the south side of the mountain. Even in trekking, people like me ae better able to trek to EBC because much of what we need is taken care of by the Sherpa and Sherpini. Some of the Sherpa earn enough climbing to operate a tea house along the trek in.

mane and Me

Mane and Me

What ever the objective, the western trekker climber is not simply a a means to an end. For the most part, they are dedicated to doing their job well and they develop a relationship with you if you spend any amount of time with them.

The whole group at Base Camp

The whole group at Base Camp

I am proud to know some of the Sherpa of the Khumbu. They changed who I am in those halcyon days in the Himalaya.

 

 

 

 

Communication is the KEY!


I just got the most heart warming email from Katie (Mani’s English tutor for a time last year).

I just wanted you to know that I got a text message from mane and it brought tears to my eyes. It was entirely in English, thanking you for the lessons and me for getting him started before I left. He is doing well- still at Dawa’s house (which, if you ask me, is a wonderful place to be). Anyway, you should know that you did a wonderful thing, setting him up for English lessons, that will go a very long way for him, particularly as a trekking guide. I’m sure you already knew that. Hope all is well with you. I am just dreaming of Nepal as always and hoping I get to go back! All the best,

Katie

Sent from my iPhone

So it is satisfying to know, that all of you have contributed to his enrichment so much!

WE SAID “LET THERE BE LIGHT”….AND THERE WAS LIGHT!


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Our Sherpas

A year ago this week, I was making my final preparations to depart on the most epic adventure of my lifetime. I was excited and scared all at the same time, but two years of preparations were going to come down to what would happen when my plane touched down in Kahtmandu. You can read about the daily adnventures of the trip on all the previous blog posts, but one of the chapters is just finishing up, all these months later.

One night after a long day of trekking, we were just finishing our evening. The stove in the center of the room had at last been lit, and we were regaining much wanted warmth from the yak dung fire. Our Mountain Madness staff all came in…the porters, the kitchen staff, the sherpas and the yak herders. Each one of them assembled with us, all smiling at us even after they had worked a long hard day in addition to the trek in order to make our trip comfortable. Deana Zebaldo, our Guide, interpreted while each one of them introduced himself to us, told about his job responsibilities on the trek and then a little personal information. It was mezmerizing to hear these men speak of their lives in Nepal and their families. Most were farmers the bulk of the year, but worked in the trekking industry to try to get a leg up for their families. Getting a leg up meant taking an English class, getting more lumber for the building of your home, or paying for school for your children.

I was a slow trekker. Real slow. As a result, I was the last in my group and therefore always had a sherpa with me. Most days that Sherpa was Mane. a 24 year old man who was unmarried and lived in a house three days trek out of Lukla. He told us that one of the reasons he was working as a sherpa was because he was a member ofhe Untouchable caste. Because of this, when the power company was running power into his village, his family along with five other familes, were left out. However, due to changeing attitudes in the region, they can now get the power company to bring the power in, but it would be costly for them. At the time I heard this, I thought it was awful and figured it was simply cost prohibitive. I asked Deana how much it was going to take for them to get the power put in. She told me she would find out. I figured it was a massive amount of money. Not knowing much about the existing infrastructer, and knowing that anything that was going to be brought in to the village was going to have to be flown in to Lukla and then walked by porter for three days into his village, it was not going to be cheep.

A couple of more days passed with me bringing up the rear of the group. Each day, Mane was there with me, carrying my pack, stopping me to eat and drink…and always smiling.

Mane Sherpa dn I at Base Camp

Mane Sherpa and Karen A. Whelan at Base Camp

Finally, Deana was able to determine how much Mane and the other villagers were going to have to come up with to get the power in. It was around $2,600 dollars…not much more than my plane ticket for the trek. But for him and the others, it was a huge amount of money. It wasn’t something they would be able to do that year…it was going to take several years to save up the money. And with the corruption in Nepal, the price would change as they got involved in the process.

On April 8, 2012, Mane delivered me safely to Mt. Everest Base Camp at 17,800 feet above sea level. I had fulfiled my goal and my dream. I would leave base camp rather abruptly, so the picture above is one of my last moments with Mane. Though I have never seen or spoken directly to him since, I feel like he is an adopted son. I began to think more and more of his lack of electricity and when I got home, many of the people following my trek expressed their gratitude and admiration for Mane too. I started a fund and within about a month, over 40 people contributed to his getting power. The outpouring was humbling. We got all the money together and wired it to Dawa, the Big Boss Sherpa who was also with us on the trek and who would walk three days to Mane’s village to get things started. He would also have to walk three days home and stay two nights each way in a tea house. That is life in the himalayas.

Back home in the USA we were all waiting with baited anticipation to see the final product. The Monsoon Season was long and rainy, so we waited. But then we heard that Mane was heading the project up and that it was underway! So we waited. Then we heard that the internet cafe was closed in Lukla and there was no service to get pictures out. So we waited. (There is no postal service in the Himalayas, it is all hand carried.)

Then I heard from Sagar through Deana. Sagar is the man who takes care of all the Mountain Mandess personel in Nepal. He also took good care of me in Kahtmandu after my evacuation. He sent the long awaited pictures of the lights burning bright in Mane’s house! And as the trekking season begins, Mane’s family is at home without him, with lights to sit in the evening and enjoy each other’s company. I will leave you with the pictures and the thought that how something that looks so easy and simple and small has changed 6 families lives high in the Himalayas of Nepal.

mane5 Mane1 mane2 mane4 mane7 mane6 mane3

Please Help Me Help Mane Sherpa Get Elecricity


He was ALWAYS Smiling!

His name is Man Bahadur Bisworkarma. We call him Mani or Mane. He has worked this trekking season as a Sherpa for Mountain Madness, a trekking company out of Seattle. He lives in a village called Khorya in the Solokhumbu District of Nepal. I met him in Lukla when he was introduced to us among the other Sherpa that would be assisting us on our Everest Base Camp Trek.

One night we had the opportunity to spend time with the entire Mountain Madness staff. They introduced themselves and told us bits about their lives. By this time I had spent a lot of time with Mane. From the second day of the trek on, he assisted me to get to base camp. Carrying my pack. Encouraging me and always smiling that big smile. During this time of getting to know the staff, we learned that Mane is a member of a caste. That Caste is The Untouchables. Wikipedia tells us this about the Untouchables:

The Harijans or untouchables, the people outside the caste system, traditionally had the lowest social status. The untouchables lived in the periphery of the society, and handled what were seen as unpleasant or polluting jobs. They suffered from social segregation and restrictions, in addition to being poor generally. They were not allowed to worship in temples with others, nor draw water from the same wells as others. Persons of other castes would not interact with them. If somehow a member of another caste came into physical or social contact with an untouchable, he was defiled and had to bathe thoroughly to purge himself of the contagion. Social discrimination developed even among the untouchables; sub-castes among them, such as the Dhobi would not interact with lower-order Bhangis, who handled night-soil and were described as “outcastes even among outcastes.”

As a result, his family and five others were not included in receiving electrical power when power was brought to his village of Khorya.

The whole group at Base Camp

Social norms are changing some in the region and now he and other untouchables are getting better treatment. But there are harsh consequences to having been shunned so long. One is that he and the other families would have to pay a premium to get the power company to bring them power now that it has already been brought to the village. In order to get it there will cost what is insurmountable for poor Nepalis villagers who are not educated and still struggle in the work force to get jobs.

He kept me safe in all weather

Mane was with me every step of my trek. One day I tripped and as I was falling, he dove to catch me. Another he kept stopping me to get me to try to eat and drink. He smiled all the time and tried hard to speak as much English as he could to me. Those were longer days for him than any of the others because once I did get to our destination, he still had to jump in and assist with serving us our meals. He never got the afternoon rest and tea the others did because he was with me. Keeping me safe and walking.

Mane is a hard worker in a place where there is no shortage of hard work for low pay. We enjoy so much here and it is easy to take that for granted. He will go home at the end of trekking season and work the rest of the year trying to farm a few crops on his land, though there had been a difficult time over the last years getting much to grow. He will try to have enough money to go to Kathmandu and take an English course so that he will be able to advance in his Sherpa work. You see, he speaks very little English. In order to advance he will have to improve his English skills. That costs money.

Because of all Mani did for me, I would like to try to see what I can do to help him. We have had hard years here in the US with the economy as well. But If you have anything extra and are of a mind to help Mani and the other 5 families get the electricity they need just to do the basics, please consider donating. I have set up a donation site and anyone who wishes to donate can do so easily with just a

Mani was there clear up until I left in the Helicopter.

click. It is a secure site. Once we have the money in, it will go directly to Nepal so that the installation of the power to the Untouchables can be achieved. They will be more like the others in the village and will do the things we take for granted after dark…perhaps read, or stay up and talk without burning fuel for a light. The Donor page is right here.

Here is a picture of Mane’s house:

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Here is Mane’s sister in law:

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And here is the portion of his village that already has power:

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Exciting Action at Base Camp 2012!


Today we got up early and prepared to depart base camp. I was feeling ok and had achieved a dream…but there is a long way to go. My feet were tingling and my right hand was real cold. It had escaped my sleeping bag during the night and my arm had gotten a bit icy. Nothing really more than like when you are a kid and play outside too long in the snow. But uncomfortable none the less.

Mani was already gone from camp, so Nadja and Kadji left with me ahead of the bunch. The plan for the trek today was to head for Peroche. But the Heli Pad was finished and we were all headed there first because we were told a Heli was coming in. Big excitement for Base Camp at 17,500 feet up!  As we all

The Whole Bunch at Base Camp!

gathered and were told how far to stay back, I took a perch on Kadji’s back pack and was just right for the view. It was cold but as the sun came up over the high Himalaya‘s warmth immediately took over that feeling and it was quite comfortable sitting out on the glacier.

Soon we could hear the wafting of the Heli blades from far down the canyon. Everyone began to chatter to one another. The Heli came in, circled and went off. Then You could hear someone say..”no…..cannot go that fast….cannot go that fast…..”. Then the Heli came over again and made another circle and touched down. Everyone was covering their faces from the wash of the blades. The men jumped out and

And we lift off the Heli-pad

took off some supplies and then gave a signal. Suddenly, Kadji grabbed one of my arms and Deana the other and lifted me from my comfortable spot. Mani had my duffel and my pack and they were both tossed into the Heli just ahead of me. Just that fast the door was closed behind me and I was lifting off in what was the first Medi-lift of the 2012 Everest Climbing Season. My whole team was below me waving as I was taken from my beloved Glacier.

You see, what I did not tell you was that I was so exhausted and so low on O2 when I had arrived the night before that Deana, my Mountain Madness Guide, had serious concerns about me. She gave me options about walking out much slower, as our pace was to pick up over the coming days, and I had no extra energy as it was. That would leave me alone in the mountains with a Sherpaat Tea Houses as my energy allowed. I would miss my international flight

Leaving Lukla on second leg of Heli-trip

and have little support going out. That seemed like a far less safe way home than to be shipped out via Heli. Very serious stuff up here in the Khumbu. I borrowed a phone and we called my Brother, Joe, to let him know what was going on. I ate soup. lots of soup. But still was not able to really eat anything else. The food was so good, too!

My roommate had laid out my bag and pad and pretty much everything was done for me. I spent the night listening to the ice crack and the avalanches and knowing tat in the morning I was leaving on a heli and would never see or feel any of this again. I fought the feeling of failure and knowing that some would look at this trip in that way. But they didn’t have boots on the ground, up and down the mountains. They did not have my dream so they cannot end my dream. I was cold at times and could not get real comfortable, but that did not dampen the truth. I DID IT!

Mani Sherpa. I love this guy. He is strong and responsible and happy. He got me there. It is always the Sherpa when the going gets tough. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

As I looked at my team mates below and lifted off into the morning sky, I had tears rolling down my cheeks. I had not got to know them the way I would have liked. I was never with them during the long days to chat and joke and build the kind of camaraderie that they built together. And I could see it. I was not left out, it was just the way it was.

The end of the scariest runway in the world!

Soon I was at Lukla, where we had all been what seemed eons ago, though was only 8 days. I was confused since we were supposed to be going to Katmandu. But things are never that easy in Nepal. So I stood, feeling tired and weak, aside the heli pads at Lukla watching the planes come in and out of the scariest airport ever. No real protection between me and the planes and copters wondering what would happen next.

About two hours went by and the same copter that had brought me from the glacier whisked me up again and by gosh it was the ride of a lifetime! That copter hugged hills, buzzed roof tops and dodged weather over every hill and dale between Lukla and Katmandu. It was the longest roller coaster ride of my life and thrill does not begin to define it.  After and hour or more of that I was at the big airport again in Katmandu and a tiny ambulance awaited my

Ambulance time!

arrival. Along with my Mountain Madness man who rode with me to the clinic. We headed through the crowded streets of Kathmandu and the tiny siren tweeting atop the capsule was barley even audible in the loud and busy city.

But alas, we arrived at the clinic and inside I went to undergo a barrage of testing. Blood samples were drawn and and ECG performed. Funny thing that ECG. Giant Frankenstein like clamps were attached to each ankle and wrist. Then funny little suction cups around my chest. The paper feeding through the machine sounded loud as a chain saw. I felt like the machinery was right out of the 50’s.  (But I also felt awful and dirty having had no shower since Namche Bazaar.) The doctor ordered IV and some juice! So I lie in the bed in a funny little room that seemed to house two such beds with a separator curtain along with odds and ends of furniture from other parts of the facility. But it was clean and comfortable.

A nurse came to talk to me. She was a Sherpa woman. She went to school with Babu Chiri Sherpa‘s second eldest daughter. Her own father had died some years earlier leading men up Everest. It is common here if you are of the Sherpa people to have family on that mountain.

I spent the day sleeping the sleep you have when you are in a car. When the IV’s had run all of their healing juices into my veins they turned me loose. Sagar came and got me and followed my cab to the Yak and Yeti. I showered. Boy did I shower. I went and ate and came up to my room and went to bed. It was raining hard. There was lightning in the very skies I had just cone through a few hours before. I though of my friends in the mountains coming down and I was sad not to be with them. The rain beat down on the windows. and I smiled. I had done it. I had made it to Base Camp. I do not know all that it means to me yet, but I do know it means more than I can articulate here. Oh, and yeah. I am getting pictures in again. More later!

First bed I slept in for days~

Base Camp BABY!


So, as I marshal on with less communication…..and fewer showers, I increasingly get fatigued. That is OK, though, cuz it is what I signed up for. I am far slower than the group. Three went up Kala Pathar on their own  and got great views. I got rest and tried to eat. But it was cold in the tea house so I went to bed right after dinner. No liar’s dice! So we got up and headed out to Base Camp. Nothing is a slight uphill to the finish. This hike was up and down and up and down again. Across the wonderful glacial push of the Kuhmbu.  It is so quiet and I cannot even hear the foot steps of my daily Sherpa, Mani. He smiles all the time and speaks only little English. His goal with his money from trekking season is to buy lumber to cut for a house and to study more English. People here want so badly to speak English because it means better trekking jobs etc. I have met many people on the trail that I have previously met at the tea houses. They pass me and sometimes lap me going back from Base Camp.

One of the big up hills today culminated in a high flat area filled with monuments to fallen climbers. The first at the top of the pass was Babu Chiri Sherpa. He was the first Sherpa to get outside of Nepal sponsorship. he is the hero of the Sherpa people. I remember the very day he died. It was the same day as Dale Earnhardt. I had been following Babu Sherpa and then he stepped back to take a photo and fell into a crevasse. It was mesmerizing when I saw the plaque.

Full shot of Babu Sherpa Memorial

Full shot of Babu Sherpa Memorial

Just down from there was the large monument to Scott Fischer. He is the founder of Mountain Madness and was one of the victims of the 1996 storm from which books like INTO THIN AIR and THE CLIMB originate. It was an emotional moment and part of the dream of being here for me.

But this day was the day that would never end.  I keep pushing and try not to stop too much but Mani tells me stop and I do. I drink and eat a snack and move on. A snack is a Shock Block or a bite of protein bar. Just no appetite. I got some views of Everest and Mani and others took pictures for me. Onward. I could see base camp. A long sprawling thing that seemed to never end….and we would be camped in North Face tents at the far end.

Everest Base Camp Monument

Everest Base Camp Monument

I was just getting beat. Dragging myself one foot in front of the other. I finally got to the spot. The clearing where everyone gets the Money Shot. EVEREST BASE CAMP. I was there. I had made it. All the years of wondering what it was like and dreaming and reading all at once…I was there. The jagged ice falls behind me. Russell Brice‘s huge set up complete with Dome Disco tent! I was there.

After a few minutes of relishing the moment, we moved on. Spent as I was, I had a long way to go to get to my groups camp. We passed camp after camp of busy porters and Sherpas working away for their particular teams. Jagged Planet,  RMI, Mountain Hardwear….then there was this place all these Sherpas kept passing me to get to with pick axes and shovels. They were gathered at one mesa looking place and were swinging away setting up this year’s Heli-Pad. They have to do a new one each year because of the movement of the glacier. Onward. Then it hit. Just like day 2 when I was sick and retching.  I was not doing well and we still had a way to go. Pretty soon, here came Kadji. Another of the Mountain Madness Sherpas that is on our team. He and Mani walked with me and helped me where the ice or slush made climbing difficult. I was absolutely out of gas. No fumes. Nothing. But tonight  would sleep on the glacier, hear the three big avalanches, listen to the pop and crack of the ice underneath me.

I literally fell into a heap in the dining tent. Blood Ox low, heart rate high for me. But I was there. I Had seen every bit of what I have come to see and I was soon to be huddled in a tent with my excellent room mate for a night on the glacier.

During the middle of the night I had to get up for a call of nature. I walked out into the cold air of 3 degrees Fahrenheit and looked all around at the wonderful mountains. Huge above us they shot into a night sky filled with stars. What wonder. But back to the tent quickly at that temperature! A few hours and our stay at Base Camp would end. As Sonya put on my logo: “I dreamt that I was standing at the foot of Mt. Everest…..and then I woke up and I was there! Cannot wait to share some pictures!

Mane and ME at EBC

Mane and ME at EBC

Yakkity-Yak, Can’t Talk Back


Due to a mishap, Karen has been out of touch.  At 2:47 a.m. PDST this Friday morning (that’s 3:32 p.m. Friday afternoon in Nepal) she sent the following e-mail:

I am at Gorek Shep. Tomorrow to Base Camp. Maybe Kathy can guest blog. I dropped my iPhone in a squat toilet making it impossible to text or check in on the spot. It is now enclosed in a ziplock bag with rice, and I will take it to Apple and see if they can pull the picks off while wearing hazmat. I gave the little girl who took it out 100 rupees. She tried to decline the money.

I am struggling and it is very difficult. Most difficult thing I have ever done. Mani is my personal sherpa and carries my stuff every day.  So now I’m at 17,000 feet. Today’s hike was arduous. I am just carrying too much weight on my bones. I am also not able to eat more than about 700 calories a day despite plenty of food being given to us. We burn about 500 calories per hour.

It was 11 degrees outside last night and about 23 inside. My gear is working good as I was toasty warm in my bag.

Today was a Kala Patar hike as well, but there were no views due to weather. No summit of Kala Patar will be attempted by the group as weather is not offering views. I am not disappointed as I am achieving my dream of being at Base Camp. That takes place tomorrow and I will see Russell Brice and Conrad Ankor. We hiked by Brice’s low camp yesterday.

This is hard. Really really hard. I cry at the end of each hike just for the sheer overwhelming feelings and exertion.  I have not seen one other woman on the trail my size. But I am doing it. I have made it to the eve of my goal. Then we head back. Long hard days back and that will be great, too. I don’t mind the difficulty. It is good for me.

Most days they only light the fires at 5:00 or later. I play liars dice with the sherpas in the evening. They all keep telling me how strong I am – even ones that are not in our group but see me in the lodge later.

I love the yaks. They are the sound of the hills as I move along, lumbering in many ways as they do. Will check in next chance!

Rest Day in Dingboche


Today is a day of rest. That means a HIKE! I got better layers set out and hoped for the best for the morning acclimatization hike. The tea houses are getting more rustic as we go.  Rooms are very small, which is good because it keeps the heat in. The wind is fierce and the Yak Dung burning stoves take some time to project the heat.  Last night I slept in my Big Agnes sleeping bag with a thick fleece, polortec pants, and my Fits Roy Down Hoodie. OH, and a light comforter provided by the lodge. I also threw a boiling hot bottle of water in the bottom of the bag. It was very comfortable.  The Sherpas  all slept outside in tents.

Our kitchen travels with us. It is part of the service provided by Mountain Madness. I see the staff throughout the day on the trail, portering the goods and utensils needed to cook three meals a day and afternoon tea.  All of our meals are prepared outside. The staff rings it in to us and we get as much as we want of a good variety of food. Have had Water Buffalo, sardines, pizza, lots of wonderful tasting potatoes, soups,……it goes on and on.  I am having trouble eating enough, however, and I am not sure why. When a plate is handed t me I am excited to get some food but quickly feel full and simply cannot eat more than a very little off my plate. Up we were this morning and I ate some cereal and a couple bites of egg and hot chocolate.  Then we headed out to our rest day hike. Deana told us where she wanted us all to go to achieve the needed work of the day. Some would continue on to an even higher point.  The trail was steep and we headed up to 15,000 feet. I rested there, took some pictures with the Sherpa and then headed back down. I felt good. So good that I picked up my pace and thought I would give Mani a treat by getting back quicker. Then it happened.

 I took a step and the heel of my right boot caught a rock. I went tumbling face first, in what seemed in my minds eye was thousands of feet down the side of a mountain. In reality, it was about a three step, face first fall. Mani dove to grab me like a super hero. He quickly assisted me to my feet. I made sure everything was working the way it should and we went on. I slowed down and remembered that every step has to count. No more over walking myself.

So back here in the village, I was happy to get the daily hot cup of Tang. We get it every afternoon before lunch. It is good and warms up a core that is getting increasingly colder by the day. Anther wonderful treat is the head cook, Ramkaji (sp) hands each of us a towel that is piping hot and has menthol in it. We inhale it and wash our hands and face with it and it is a pure delight.

Yesterday, Deana told me that the head of the Sherpas told her that I was know to them as BIG SISTER. It is a term of endearment. She told me that Dawah had reported Kahji, my Sherpa of the day, had said I was a very good walker. It seems sped is nothing to them, distance without rest is. I made the cut. I’ll take BIG SISTER to the bank!

On the very last bit back into Dingboche today, I overheard some other trekkers stating they had a signal. I quickly dashed off a text to Kathlene and hope she got it since she had last only heard that I was trudging through the Himalayas like a Yeti in a snow storm.

Onward and Upward! DINGBOUCHE


Today is supposed to be not as hard as the last few days.  However, I am finding that  each day is quite difficult. In the mornings I often feel weak and sort of low blood sugary. They take our pulse and O2 every morning and night and I am doing well. No headaches or other symptoms of altitude. I think that may be the benefit of going so snail like in my days of hiking. Kate, the young Ausie girl has been sick for several days and trudges along with her father at her side, Now he is sick and she is nearly better, but this is not easy work. The morning has been hot down through the rhododendron forests.  I am hiking in shirtsleeves. But as we climb up away from the river the weather changes quickly. I have what I think is a soft shell.  However, it is not because a soft shell should give you some protection from rain or snow. The next few hours are awful and wonderful all at once. The narrow trail winds up from the river around the contours of the mountains. Ama Dablum is up there every now and again saying hello.  But the snow has come and I haven’t the right gear and simply must push onward. Mani is the Sherpa assigned for the day. I cannot help but feel sorry the he cannot simply spring ahead and get in out of the weather. But his job is to stay with me and to protect me.

The snow was really coming pretty good and we were high up on a ridge. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be alone with a Sherpa, high in the Himalayas, in a snow storm.

When I arrived for lunch with the others, I was soaking wet and had to have one of my momentary cries.  Then I settled in, ate a bit of food and the Sherpas fashioned a poncho for me out of plastic. I knew the next three hours would be tough, and they were. The weather didn’t let up and the climb up from the river seemed even harder. I couldn’t understand why because I thought we were going to be at around 12k again, but I was mistaken. When we pulled in, we were over 14k in altitude…higher than Mount Rainier. This is an adventure. It is hard

On to Tengboche Come What May!


After the Namche Rest day, we got up and headed for Tengboche. This is where there is a great monastery. The group set out and I, as usual, am in the back. I am always with Sherpa, and like every day, he took my pack after about the first 45 minutes. I am slow. Real slow. I remember In Junior High Track, Mrs. Campbell always said that my run was more of a glorified walk. It was true. And when Kathy and I were picking strawberry’s one summer…I never made progress down the long, seemingly ever longer rows. I think of some of that on my long walks in the Himalayas all by myself. The Hike in to Tengboche seemed innocuous on the map. We would end up a t relatively the same altitude that we left in Namche. But hikes here are not like walking across a ridge to the next village. It walking down the river, crossing on a hanging bridge and walking up again to the ridge…and then maybe back down and up. This is nothing like I thought it would be. I am expending every bit of energy every day. It is wondrously beautiful. I have never had this much solitude in my life. I am by myself with the Sherpa of the day assigned to me. He is really not assigned to me except that my slowness makes him “my” Sherpa by default. I have hours and hours to my own thoughts. I hear the sounds of traffic, which consist of the slow moving dong of the yak bell and the fast, high pitched chaos of the jingle bells that are around the horses necks. As I pass groups of porters resting aside the road with the baskets heavily laden with all sorts of necessities of life and trekking I do feel transported to another world. But it isn’t another world. It is just different. It is a mixture of worlds that are coming together and the people seem quite happy. Though it may seem odd to me that a young man trekking a basket up thousands of feet on his back reaches for his cell phone when it rings it is life as he knows it. Far be it from me to require that my trekking experience be more rustic because it fits my imagination. At the end of each part of the day, I find myself so exhausted by the up and down work that I seem to have to have a good crying moment. Not sad, not hurt, just emotional to be able to be doing this and to be with the people I am with. Every one to the last one are kind to me and to each other. The Mountain Madness staff is beyond reproach. They are helpful and happy and they love to interact with the group. Some speak pretty good English too!. So arriving in Tengbouche for me, was difficult. I set out the Spot Connect, ate a little bit of dinner and went to bed. No real interaction with the group. The next day was coming.

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