Monday, September 2, 2013
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Sunday, January 13, 2013
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Since reading Into Thin Air, I have probably read every book or magazine article that was ever published related to the 1996 Everest disaster. Has to be well into the hundreds...I have seen every film and documentary too, multiple times. Ive looked at so many photos online and read so many mountaineering and trekking blogs and journals that I know far too much about Everest and trekking to base camp than any sane person ought to know. It was like hiking in a world that I, in some capacity, had visited before. I fully expected that I would be extremely sick somewhere along the way, whether it was due to poor sanitation or the climate. The mountains are unforgiving, they do not care who you are, how much your trip is costing you, or what your health history is. Have I mentioned that before? Altitude sickness can strike anyone, even someone who has a lot of mountain experience, even after never having any symptoms on any previous trips. As you ascend and begin to feel unwell, your mind can't help but wonder what it will progress into. The rescue helicopters that break the silence during the day are a constant reminder that you are not in control in this environment. When you get above 10,000 ft., nothing heals, either. So if you have a slight cold or a headache at lower altitude? Its not going to get better in a few days. Again, you expect and prepare for the worst but hope for the best. You can take care of yourself by being in good physical condition, hydrating, consuming lots of calories, using a buff to cover your mouth, climbing slow and acclimatizing as needed, but luck is still a huge factor. I absolutely knew the possibilities and expected every symptom that would happen along the way to people in our group. The insomnia was somewhat worse than I anticipated. But certainly not unexpected. Its challenging to be physically exhausted, losing brain cells at 17,000 feet and climbing for 6-7 hours a day on only 2-3 hours of sleep, fighting bronchitis. But to have escaped with ONLY bronchitis and insomnia while capturing my dream? I am a lucky, lucky girl.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
I'm missing lots of things about Nepal this week. Its similar to childbirth where right afterwards, you swear youll never do it again, but then you gradually reconsider. At the Rum Doodle we talked about how much money someone would have to pay us to make us turn around the next day and do the trek again. I said $5,000. By the time I got back to the United States, it was just someone paying for my trip. This week? Its almost as if I should contacting Mountain Madness to see when the next group is leaving and if there's space for me. And maybe I'd like to go higher this time! Ahh, how soon we forget...
There, I was a person in the midst of the quiet mountains. No traffic, no media, no obligations, no nothing. Just me and my dream. I could hear the stones crunch under my boot with each step and I listened to myself breathe into the fabric around my neck that kept the dust out. The noisiest thing I can think of was a passing yak's bell or someone coughing in the next bed. Here it is sensory overload everywhere I turn.
I can't seem to make my Milk Tea the same as RamKaji did for me every morning. I miss Sila's inquiry of "Pleeze, Milk?" at breakfast.
I miss mindlessly picking up my heavy pack and throwing it on my shoulders and just walking, walking, walking...
I miss the string of "Namaste" greetings we get from people we pass on the trail.
I miss the friends and the laughs we shared along the way.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
"So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle of life itself is forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for".
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
And, my friend Jon has an awesome blog from our trip with some spectacular photos.
Even a photo of me smiling! http://everest.jonwist.net/
After my face cracked, peeled and bled at 18,000 feet from blowing my nose too much and being exposed to the elements, it's finally healing. I keep examining my skin in the mirror and I'm pretty sure its never looked better. Or felt softer. Is it because I'm back in the land of moisture content? Or does it feel that way because its been hidden under layers of clothing for weeks and I just have forgotten what skin feels like? Either way, I'm fascinated. Getting up for work today, the house was set at a balmy 64 degrees. It felt like an Alabama summer afternoon in the bedroom. As I waited for the shower to heat up (!), I realized that I was about to get in and I wasn't even shivering. This is how a shower at 16,000 feet (highest elevation that I took a shower) goes: Dangle your soap and camp towel from a rusty hook, take off all of your fleece, leave on your flip flops, ready, go! The warm water trickles out from a small tube attached to a barrel on the roof. You race to scrub every inch of yourself as fast as you can so you can get a once over of a rinse before your teeth start to chatter. You try not to look down at the "shower floor" because its so disgusting. And oh my God, you're wearing the same flip flops you trudge to the squat toilet in every night, the same toilet that people routinely "miss", ahem... You try to get re-dressed while standing on one leg so as not to get your "clean" pants wet from touching the ground. In the end you don't care because you've "cleaned" the top layer of grime away. There are no mirrors anywhere to see yourself anyway. Your beauty regimen consists of slathering the face and ears with SPF 50. Or REI GLUE as some called it. No need to pluck the eyebrows or even check them...nothing grows at this altitude anyway. It's funny that during the trip I once wore my winter hat for 3 days straight, even to sleep. When I took it off, my hair was a matted rats nest, so I just put the hat back on again. When we finally got back to the Yak and Yeti in Kathmandu I think many of us were shocked at our reflection in the mirror. All of the guys on the trip had full beards by the time we returned. We'd all lost a ton of weight. When we finally came down to dinner, it was like seeing a whole new group of people. The women all had makeup on and blow dried hair. The men had all shaved. We all had a previoiusly unseen set of clean clothes on! Thank God for the small things in life.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Seeing my kids for the first time in a month was sweet! Laying down for a nap an hour later was almost as sweet.... I meant to rest for a few hours but it turned into 6. Then I got up and ate some leftover sushi and then went back to bed for another 7 hours. Curiously, the first things I ate when I got home from the airport were a goat cheese/chicken salad and some Hostess powdered donuts (?!) Nothing like going to the store on an empty stomach. The house was clean and warm, my bed was soft--like an exaggerated-sensory-experience softness. Looking around, everything seemed like it was in excess: taking a shower suddenly involved a choice of 3 shampoos and 4 conditioners, not a bucket of cold water and some Dial soap. I had 3 blankets and 2 pillows, none of which I was worried about getting lice from! When I got OUT of bed, I wasn't damp and shivering--I wandered into a huge closet full of clothes. Emptying my bags into the laundry room, the first load was whites and lights, on HOT with a big cup of BLEACH. Followed by a second washing of the same load on HOT again, this time with OXYCLEAN. There were very few items that I did not use: my balaclava, an extra bandana, and some mittens...thats about it.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The Yak and Yeti hotel is crowded with trekkers coming and going on all sorts or Himalayan hikes, the bar is crowded with a diverse group--young fit people all the way to the old group of travellers who are wearing freshly purchased shirts from the Magellan catalog and matching fanny packs. And then there is our ragtag group of people in their 20's all the way to their 70's, all feeling we have earned the right to be a little loud with our story telling. Everything from the trek is much funnier after several beers.
The festival of Tihar continues today in the city. We may take a stroll to Durbar Square and then later have lunch at the Rum Doodle, a must-visit place in the city:
Lonely Planet review for Rum Doodle Restaurant & BarNamed after the world’s highest mountain, the 40,000½ft Mt Rum Doodle (according to WE Bowman, author of The Ascent of Rum Doodle, a spoof of serious mountaineering books), this famous bar is still milking a dusty (1983!) Time magazine accolade as ‘one of the world’s best bars’. It’s long been a favourite meeting place for mountaineering expeditions – Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner, Ang Rita Sherpa and Rob Hall have left their mark on the walls – and a visit here feels like a bit of a pilgrimage for mountain lovers. Trekking groups can add their own yeti footprint trek report to the dozens plastered on the walls. The restaurant serves up decent steaks, pasta and pizza and there’s often live music. You can eat here free for life – the only catch is that you have to conquer Everest first!
DURBAR SQUARE- The streets leading up to Durbar Square were massively over-crowded and over-stimulating. I begged someone to accompany me to this must-see UNESCO Worl Heritage site, and Jon graciously agreed to be my escort even though he had already been there when we were in Kathmandu three weeks ago. Thank God I was not alone! Wow-the streets are a noisy maze and the powerful smell of incense and colors of Tihar overwhelmed my senses. I didn't feel unsafe, like afraid of being pickpocketed, but I felt like if I make one wrong turn I might be swallowed up by the city and lost forever. We met up with Andy, Abby, Steve, and Derek at the Rum Doodle, and, as is customary for all trekkers to Everest, left our decorated and signed Yeti print hanging over the patio!
Monday, October 24, 2011
Im not sure why this one posted out of order but it is an awful photo from our dinner last night. Steak and champagne were the highlights! Funny stories, laughing, toasts...our most relaxed evening yet. Sagar, one of the coordinators from the local Mountain Madness offfice joined us. He had lots of good stories from past treks and expeditions... Yesterday during the day was spent picking up last minute gifts and touring the city. We headed to Durbar Square and lunched at the famous Rum Doodle where we left our signed Yeti print hanging on the ceiling in the patio area (see other post from Durbar Square). Wandered back through the chaos of Thamel and relaxed for the rest of the day.Today we all depart at different times for different connections throughout the world- Bahrain, Doha, London, Seoul, Hong Kong....Everyone is looking forward to being home but it will be another day and a half before we all arrive there.
Take off and landing can be found here:
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Celebrating our descent to Lukla. We shared a meal with the entire staff and presented them with their gratuities. Later in the evening we toasted with a little moonshine-- "Roxy" as its known. Or gasoline, as it tasted.... And then we dueled with singing---Nepalis first, then countered with an American song...I wish I had video of the closing production of everyone doing the Hokey Pokey.
As far as tips and money go...the head sherpa guide in the group makes probably less than $10 a day (a fair wage here, even a little above average), but most of their earnings come from client tips. His total payment for 14 days with us was about $800. Some of cook staff and porters make as little as $250 for those 14 days. They sleep in cold tents, they rise early, they attend to clients every request and yet they are very grateful for this opportunity to work with Mountain Madness because being part of a trekking staff is a lucrative position.
A fun part of the evening was bequeathing some of our unwanted gear to the guides and staff. We all put our unwanted gear (coats, shoes, boots, sunglasses, waterbottles, socks, hats, etc) in a pile and there was a lottery system and each staff member "won" 2 items. The look on their faces when they received a coat or sunglasses worth a few hundred dollars....its just so hard to reconcile that with the way we consume so much here in the US.
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Ok its not actually an authorized franchise. Check out the mountain in its logo: Its Ama Dablam! In protest, I wasn't actually going to visit this Starbucks, but since it's not a "real" one, and I reallllly needed to indulge, I went in.
It took us 7 hours to walk down from Namche Bazaar to Lukla, the starting/ending point of the trip. The last 40 minutes of the whole trek is uphill (OF COURSE!!!!!!!!!!). We laughed the whole way down about the idiot trekkers in clean clothes we kept passing coming up the mountain! How naive they were to be smiling like that! Giggling at how refreshed they looked when in just a few days they'd be beaten and worn!!
Walking through the city gates at Lukla felt like finishing an Ironman. Or 100 of them. An amazing feeling of personal accomplishment and physical exhaustion. It is hard to put into words what we all felt at the finish line but our common goal of visiting Everest Base Camp will bind us forever.
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Saturday, October 22, 2011
Everyone's wish right now is to get a good night sleep. Diamox is a diuretic so most of us are up every two hours for a bathroom break. Half of us have a respiratory infection or cough (got to laugh at the communal nose-blowing sessions we have before meal times!) Some have blisters or twisted ankles. Despite what we've been through, it is nothing in the grand scheme of the trip. We ooh and ahh around every corner. We manage to laugh a lot at dinner and downtime. We share chargers, books, snacks, cameras, meds, and gear. No one is grating on anyone's nerves (not even mine), and there's been only a handful of swear words thrown out in 2 weeks. Ok, so I contributed my first one today. An F bomb when I rounded another corner and saw yet another 30 minute uphill climb. I blame it on low blood sugar.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011
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I did not go higher than 18,000 because of my respiratory infection. My roommate had such severe altitude symptoms in the middle of the night -severe headache, vomitting, dizziness, inability to eat- that they had to give her oxygen several times. The guide and sherpas administered the oxygen from the typical cannisters with mouth piece that are used at altitude. By morning, she was slightly improved but not allowed to ascend to basecamp with the rest of the group. We took her prayer flags, though and had the sherpas string them at the base camp marker, and then photographed it for her. She is in OK spirits today and descending to Pheriche this morning for a re-evaluation and may possibly join us when we descend to Namche again in 2 days. She had previously been one of the healthiest and strongest hikers in the group. It was a scary night. The 2 people in their 70s made it to basecamp without problems other than assistance with their backpacks. Impressive. By the way, here ends any desire I have to actually climb Everest to the summit. I'm physically exhausted, I'm cold all day and night, I'm dehydrated and sunburned, I've inhaled too much yak dung smoke, I loathe the outdoor hole in the ground for bathroom time, and my lungs are screaming. And Everest's summit is still almost 12,000 ft above basecamp!
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