I got an email from Mountain Madness yesterday. I had to send them my flight itinerary and ask any questions I may have that they could assist with. As I fished out the itinerary from my old emails and looked at the flights and times and layovers the adventure adrenaline began to flow. It is on us folks and I am reminded that there is much to do besides get physically ready.
The first order of business is to make a list of things to accomplish. Things like: 1) prepare enough dog
food for the dogs for about 12 days. I have a special needs dog who has to eat certain food in a special chair. Which brings me to 2) train the house sitters on the care and feeding of Tashi Sherpa, my special needs Schipperke who has a disease called Megaesophagus. I have someone staying right at the house spoiling Tashi and Jack the entire time I am gone. Makes it much easier on the pups to be at home when I am gone that long. 3) Also train the sitter in how to determine if Tashi needs to go to the vet and how the insurance works for her.
The next task is 4) sort and organize gear so that I have everything I need and not more than I need. When I went to Everest, I took WAY too much and had to pare it all down after the first day on the trail. It is even more critical this trip because there are weight limits as to what you can carry and what a porter can carry. There is also the consideration of the plane and cost for luggage. I do not want a repeat of what happened in Hong Kong where my whole trip was nearly bagged by a sudden change in policy from one airline to the handoff to the next.
Item number 5) make a doctor appointment and get Diamox and antibiotics to take along. Diamox helps in case of altitude issues and antibiotics are used if Montazuma’s revenge (In this case, Huayna Capac’s). And I will need to do all the work on my calendar, get extensions or make arrangement with coworkers to cover for me. Just another reason to remain on good terms with them!
Next I will 6) need to pay ahead on my bills so I don’t come home to a foreclosure notice on my house or see my car is missing from the driveway. Though this is not a particularly long trip, I get nervous about that stuff and do not want to give it a second thought while I am gone. 7) Get cash for the trip and for the tips to the porters and guides. 8) Call credit card company and let them know I will be using my card out of the country. that Target fiasco has even made it more difficult to go outside your normal patterns of use than it was before.
9) make sure my Spot Connect is working and that I have an international wireless plan for the time I am on the trip. Update email list for those who wish to receive the emails in real time on my trek through the Spot Connect.
Well, that is what I can think of, which means there is much more to be done around work and fitness and hiking. But it is on like Donkey Kong and I am instantly excited that this train is speeding toward August 30, when ALL THE FUN WILL REALLY BEGIN!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
The home stretch to the trek is here. Two months from today I will board a plane and leave for what has been a two year plan. I find myself exhilarated and anxious at the same time. Since I made the decision to do this trek, so much has happened. I am so glad I told myself early on to enjoy the journey. Along the way I have made great friends at Crossfit Max Effort. I have made great friends at the climbing gym and kayaking. I have enjoyed hiking and going to climbing walls in Red Rock and at Mt Charleston. I have learned and gained more friends at www.trailspace.com. As a matter of fact, one of the great mountaineers there made it possible for me to get a free pair of yak trax to try out on the trek!
During this time my father’s health has been declining. We have been in the hospital with him twice in the last month. This raises obvious worries with regard to what may happen while I am gone. The rules have been placed: I will not receive any information regarding my father while on this trek. The family believes that there is nothing I could do if something happened but worry, so finish my trek and come home, hopefully to regale my father with adventurous stories of the Himalayas.
I have added biking into my fitness activities. It is something I used to do regularly all through college. I got a new road bike at Christmas and hope to continue to gain back my health and fitness and do some organized rides.
Another benefit of this two year preparation is that I am not done when the trek is over. In July or August I plan to climb Mount Shasta:
Then Mount Baker:
So, as you can see, this has changed my life. This is going to be what I do with the time I have here on this orb and I cannot tell you how much more enriching it is to be out there amongst the greatest creation in history, THE PLANET!
So. I ordered my duffel today for the trek. It is a Mountain Hardware duffel and got great reviews. It is the tip of the iceberg of lists of things to get. Here is the list that Mountain Madness has supplied me with:
2 Long Sleeve Polyprop T’s (1 to date)
2 sports bras
Soft Shell Jacket
Down/Synthetic jacket or vest
Hard Shell Jacket with hood ( got mountain hardware outer shell)
Warm Hat (GOT)
Shade hat (GOT!)
2-4 pair liner socks
3-4 pair light trek socks
2 pair light long underwear
1 pair quick dry hiking pants
1 pair soft shell pants
Spare relax shoes (GOT)
-5 rated sleeping bag (GOT!)
Sleeping bag liner
2400 ci Day Pack (GOT)
Large duffel bag (GOT)
1 small carry on
Headlamp with spare batts. (GOT)
2 1 liter water bottles (GOT)
Treking poles (GOT)
Baggies for TP
and an extensive first aid kit.
So. I still have a lot to get and am excited to acquire all I need!