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Eidetics' Senior Engineering Specialist Joe Heid Treks up Mt. Everest Base Camp

 

On September 22, 2001, I departed Los Angeles for Nepal to climb Mt. Everest base camp. The following is a journal I kept of my expedition. Any comments or questions may be sent to joe@eideticscorp.com.


Tuesday September 25, 2001

Greetings from Kathmandu,

My trip to Mt. Everest base camp is going well so far. The flight to Bangkok was only two-thirds full and I got a row to myself. Unfortunately, the armrest did not go up on this row, but it was comfortable just the same. Observed a spectacular sunset over Mt. Fuji on approach to Tokyo airport. Spent Sunday night in Bangkok and flew to Kathmandu on Monday.

Exiting the Kathmandu airport, there were several hundred locals offering their services, mostly for taxi rides, hotel rooms and trekking companies. There must have been 2 to 3 solicitors for every passenger deplaning.

The drive to the airport was interesting. The roads were crowded with everything from pedestrians to rickshaws, to taxis, to buses, all traveling at their own speed but in very close proximity. The only time the cab driver used his brakes was to avoid hitting a very scrawny cow in the middle of the road. As a Hindu country, the cow is sacred here. A number of monkeys also lined the road into town.

Kathmandu is a typical third world city. Got a hotel room in the Thamel section of town. This area caters to trekkers and is crowded with hotels, outfitters, and guide services. The streets are narrow and cluttered with the aforementioned vehicles. The exhaust is sometimes overwhelming. One is constantly badgered by beggars and shopkeepers trying to get your attention. The key is not to make direct eye contact. I havenít had this much fun since I was in Naples Italy. I wonder if the similar spelling of the two locals is just a coincidence.

The people I have talked to are very friendly. When I tell them I am from the U.S., they want to talk about the terrorist attacks. I donít like to get into political discussions when traveling, but they all express their sympathy and support for the U.S. Perhaps this is only a way to please a prospective customer, but they seem sincere.

I suppose I should give a little background on my trip, for those reading this e-mail who are not familiar with my plans. I first became interested in trekking (thatís the Nepalese word for hiking) after reading an article three years ago about climbing to Everest base camp. I was surprised to learn that it required no technical skills or equipment. Just warm clothes, good boots and lots of effort. I started climbing the mountains surrounding Los Angeles and have twice scaled Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states (14500-ft elevation).

Most trekkers in Nepal enroll in an organized expedition, but it is common to trek with just the services of a sherpa. Actually they are called porters. Sherpas donít carry loads for just trekkers. I went with the porter option, preferring to travel at my own pace and enjoying the freedom to vary my itinerary at will. I will get my room and board at lodges in the numerous villages along the trail. 

The following is my trekking itinerary for those who have a map of the Everest region and would like to follow my progress. 

Sep 26 ≠ Fly to Lukla (9315í) and trek to Phakding (8560í)
Sep 27 ≠ Namche Bazaar (11283í)
Sep 28 - Tengboche (12660í)
Sep 29 ≠ Pheriche (13907í)
Sep 30 ≠ Lobuche (16104í)
Oct 1 ≠ Gorak Shep (16810í)
Oct 2 ≠ Day trip to base camp (17252í) and Kala Patthar (18171í)
Oct 3 ≠ Dingboche (14464í)
Oct 4 ≠ Tengboche (12660í)
Oct 5 ≠ Namche Bazaar (11283í)
Oct 6 ≠ Lukla (9315í) 

The one way distance from Lukla to Gorak Shep is 30 miles.

This is a best case scenario and I will probably require a couple of days off to acclimate to the altitude on the way up. I am told there is no Internet access along the trail, so you probably will not hear from me again until I return to Kathmandu. At present, my return flight from Lukla to Kathmandu is not until Oct 18, but I hope to move that date forward. If not, there better be a good bar in Lukla. 

Finally I would like to address the events of the last two weeks as it pertains to my trip. When I awoke to the news of the atrocity, my first thought was my trip would be in jeopardy. In making the go/no go decision, I consulted several individuals with experience in this region of the world. They reassured me that I would be safe and recommended that I proceed with my plans. My deeper concern was my mental state during the trip. I have to admit to being mildly depressed for the last two weeks (as no doubt most people were) and how this would affect the enjoyment of the trip. On the other hand, the fact that I had so much invested both monetarily and in time, and that I was looking forward to this trip for so long, persuaded me to continue as scheduled. 

Unfortunately, CNN pervades all the foreign airport terminals and hotel rooms, making it impossible to be far from the tragedy, even on the other side of the world. Alternatively, I am not quite sure how I will deal with being cut off from instant coverage of the latest breaking news for two weeks. Who knows, maybe there is a Starbucks with satellite TV at base camp. Eventually I suppose there will be. Thatís why I am going now. 

Well, enough philosophizing. I hope everyone is doing well and I will login when I return to Kathmandu. 

Welcome to my adventure. 


Wednesday September 26, 2001 Phakding (8,560 ft.)

Still having trouble sleeping. Woke up at 1:00 am and again at 2:30, in and out of sleep after that. Got up at 5:00. My sherpa was supposed to meet me in the hotel lobby at 5:30. By 5:50 I left for the airport without him. He showed up at the check-in counter just minutes before I went through security. Said he overslept.

About takeoff time, we were told there was at least a one-hour delay due to bad weather at Lukla, our destination. About 15 minutes later they loaded everyone onto the aircraft shuttle buses. 

The airplane is a small twin engine turboprop that seats about 15 people. I got a seat right behind and between the pilots. They never closed the cockpit door. It felt as though I was the flight engineer. I could literally reach forward and touch some of the controls. The approach into Lukla was quite interesting. The pilots had to thread a path between breaks in the clouds. At one point I could see mountains, no more than a few hundred yards on either side of the aircraft. The landing was equally interesting. The runway was no more that 3000-ft. long and sloped up at a considerable pitch. At the end of the runway was a mountain. I think I got some good photos of the approach. 

The first day on the trail was rather easy. For the most part it was downhill and the weather was nice, probably 80 degrees. This part of the Everest region is lush with vegetation. Felt more like hiking in Hawaii. 

The cows in the mountains look a lot healthier than the cows in Kathmandu. Their droppings are healthier too. One must always look before planting a foot. 

So far I am in good health. There is plenty of opportunity to get sick climbing Mt. Everest. Probably the most common and potentially the most serious is altitude sickness. The symptoms include headaches, nausea, vomiting, chronic coughing and something called high altitude pulmonary edema. Climbers can die from the last one. If thatís not bad enough, there is also a problem with hepatitis, typhoid, meningitis, polio and rabies. Fortunately I found a good travel medicine doctor in LA who has been to Nepal. After 2 visits, $500 and countless shots, I feel well protected. 

My biggest concern is the water. Although the water in the rivers and streams look pure, supposedly there is a significant problem with pollution caused mainly by people and animals not using the proper facilities. It is not practical to carry enough water to last 2 weeks in the mountains, so I am using a special filter and iodine tablets. The last thing I want to do is spend a couple of days in the outhouse. You should see the Nepalese outhouses. 

This is definitely more fun than Naples. 


Thursday September 27, 2001 ≠ Namche Bazaar (11,283 ft)

Got my first good night sleep since leaving LA. Discovered that a hot shower means cold and ice cold faucets. Had breakfast and hit the trail at 8:00 AM. Finally sighted the first snow covered peak, Thamserku at 22000 ft. The first part of the trail was fairly easy. In the afternoon the trail increased in slope considerably up to Namche. The temperature was in the 70ís and sunny in the morning, but by afternoon became overcast obscuring the mountain peaks. 

The trail was more crowded than yesterday. Also saw a lot more yaks. Yaks are the beast of burden in the Everest region. They look like a cow only smaller. They are very tame animals but not very graceful. I suppose I wouldnít be very graceful if I were carrying a couple hundred pounds on my back. Since there are no roads and hence no vehicles except for the occasional helicopter sortie, the entire region is dependent on the Yak to deliver most of the goods. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Namche Bazaar is the major trading center for the Everest region. It consists of perhaps 100 buildings set in a bowl shaped terrain with one side cut out. The buildings are situated on the steep sides. 

Although I feel well and wanted to push on, my sherpa and some other experienced climbers convinced me to spend an extra day in Namche to acclimate to the altitude. This also gives me the opportunity to send this e-mail. Satellite Internet access was just recently installed in Namche. I very much doubt I will find another Internet access site until I return to Namche, which should be on October 6 or 7. 

I better sign off now, this e-mail is costing me a fortune. 


Friday, September 28, 2001 - Namche Bazaar (11,283 ft) 

Still having problems sleeping. Woke up at 2:30 am. Must be on LA time still. 

Today was an acclimatization day. That means that we climb to a higher altitude during the day, and return to Namche to sleep at the same elevation as the previous night. It is suppose to reduce altitude sickness effects. 

Took a trek to the Everest View Hotel, which is about 1200 ft. above Namche. Unfortunately the clouds obscured any view of Everest. The hotel was nice, but it seems we were the only ones there. Supposedly cost $135 a night. 

After the trek, visited the shops in the bazaar. Itís only a couple of streets, but the vendors are much nicer than in Kathmandu. They donít badger, are happy to explain their goods, and donít complain if you just window shop. 


Saturday, September 29, 2001 ≠ Tengboche (12,660 ft.) 

Left Namche Bazaar at 8:00 am. The skies seem to be finally clearing up. The trail was steep for a short stretch leaving Namche. 

About half an hour out of Namche, rounded a bend in the trail and sighted Everest for the first time. It was quite motivational. 

At first glance, todayís trek would appear to be rather easy. However I failed to notice on the map that the trail makes a steep decent to cross the Dudh River. This means re-climbing the lost elevation on the other side of the valley. This made for an even more difficult day than from Phakding to Namche. 

Which brings us to Joeís first law of mountain climbing. ďWhen ascending the mountain, for every step down hill, there is an equal and opposite step uphill.Ē 

Arrived in Tengboche about 1 PM. Stayed in the Gombu Inn, next door to a Buddhist monastery. Dropped in on one of their prayer services. The monks ranged in age from about 10 to 60. 


Sunday, September 30, 2001 ≠ Dingboche (14,464 ft.) 

Woke up to the beginnings of a cold. Didnít affect my climbing performance much. Hope it doesnít get any worse. 

A mist surrounded Tengboche in the early morning hours. It burnt off as the sun rose revealing a picture postcard view of Mts. Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. It was as though the curtain was raised on a stage. 

Today was markedly colder. Probably in the 50ís. A bit windier also. Had to break out the cold weather gear. 

The trail offered no surprises today. Mostly a steady grade uphill. Not very difficult. We ascended above the tree line.

Around midday a helicopter flew overhead heading toward base camp. A couple of hours later, it returned going down the mountain. Later I learned that a Korean woman died trekking to Everest base camp. There were conflicting reports concerning the circumstances, but it appears that she died from altitude sickness.


Monday, October 1, 2001 ≠ Dingboche (14,464 ft.) 

Had problems sleeping last night. Kept waking up out of breath. Felt like I just swam a lap under water. Would take a few deep breaths and fall back asleep. Probably did this a dozen times. 

After talking to some trekkers descending the mountain the previous day, decided to take another acclimatization day. Took a side trip to a village called Chhukhung. Supposedly offers a nice view of Island peak and the Chhukhung glacier. Unfortunately the weather didnít cooperate. The clouds parted for just a few minutes, and then closed in again. When it started to rain with a snowflake or two, we decided to race back to Dingboche before we got too wet. 

Today marked a personal milestone. I reached an elevation of 16,000 ft., besting my previous record height of 14,500 ft. atop Mt. Whitney in California. 


Tuesday, October 2, 2001 ≠ Lobuche (16,105 ft.) 

Left Dingboche at 7:30 AM and arrived in Lobuche at 11:30. The first half was an easy grade, paralleling the Lobuche River high above its east bank. The trail became much steeper after reaching the Khumbu Glacier terminal moraine. This is where the glacier deposits its rocks and boulders. 

A memorial to fallen mountain climbers and sherpas exist at the top of the moraine. The memorial consists of rocks stacked to a height of 10 to 15 ft. There must have been a hundred or more. It was very foggy when we arrived, giving the memorial an eerie effect. 

As has been typical, the morning weather was nice with some good views of the mountains while the afternoon tended to become overcast. 


Wednesday, October 3, 2001 ≠ Gorak Shep (16,925 ft.) 

Woke up at 5:30 AM to a light snow shower. About an inch accumulation. Was very beautiful, and since there was almost no wind, it wasnít uncomfortable. 

Just before we departed Lobuche, my sherpa informed me that he had a bad headache. At first he didnít want to continue. I considered carrying my own pack to Gorak Shep and having him follow when he felt better. Instead I gave him some altitude sickness medicine and he felt good enough to continue. Shortly after we hit the trail, his headache was gone. 

The distance from Lobuche to Gorak Shep is the shortest of the trek, and the elevation gain is only 700 ft. But the altitude takes its toll, making for a somewhat difficult trek. 

Gorak Shep is our final destination. From here itís a day trek to Everest base camp. 

We arrived in Gorak Shep at 8:30 AM. The weather had cleared up nicely. You cannot see Everest from Gorak Shep, but there is a nearby peak called Kala Patthar that offers a panorama of the all the peaks in the Everest region. After securing a room in the lodge, we set out immediately for Kala Patthar. About half way up, the clouds moved back in. I got a couple of nice shots of Everest, but didnít get the panorama. 



Kala Patthar doesnít look too intimidating from Gorak Shep, but the closer you get to the peak, the harder it gets. Finally reached the summit after two hours, and at just under 19,000 ft. elevation. It was very windy and cold. Stayed there for about an hour hoping for the weather to break, but no luck. Finally returned to the lodge. 

 



That afternoon wandered out to the Khumbu glacier, which is only a couple hundred yards from the lodge. If you sit quietly, you can hear the glacier. Every couple of minutes rocks slide down the pinnacles of the glacier. Maybe once an hour or so, you can hear an avalanche. Sounds very much like thunder, but lasts longer. I could tell the general direction where the avalanche was coming from, but couldnít see it. I assume that it was on the other side of the ridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Thursday October 4, 2001 - Gorak Shep (16,925 ft.)

Took a day trek to Everest Base Camp. Left Gorak Shep at 6:30 AM. There was light snow falling when we started, but the sky cleared up quickly and it was nice most of the morning. The trail followed the west side of the Khumbu Glacier side moraine. Although the total elevation climb from Gorak Shep to Base Camp is only a few hundred feet, the moraine is very hilly making for a more difficult climb than I expected (everything in Nepal is more difficult than one expects).

The last mile or so was on the actual glacier. It is difficult to tell the difference between the moraine and the glacier. They both look like enormous piles of rocks and boulders. The difference being, there is solid
ice just under the rocks of the glacier.

The base camp is situated at the base of the Khumbu Icefall. If you consider a glacier to be a very slow moving river of ice, an icefall would be analogous to a waterfall. The icefall and the glacier just down stream of the icefall is nearly devoid of rocks. It is mostly pure white with some streaks of blue ice.

The base camp is completely evacuated, since there are no summit bids occurring this season. I couldn't even find a pile of empty oxygen canisters to have my picture taken next to. The best I could find was a
pile of empty beer cans.

Got some good photos of the icefall, glacier and the surrounding mountains before the clouds began to move in again. Shortly afterward, it began snowing so we returned to Gorak Shep. The entire trek took about 6 hours.


Friday October 5, 2001 Ė Periche (13,907 ft.)

Woke up at 5:30 hoping to see some clearing skies. I instead walked outside to a heavy snowfall and 2 inches on the ground. I intended to summit Kala Patthar once more for some better photos of Everest, and to take a series of panorama pictures of the area. By 7:30, it was obvious the weather wasn't going to improve soon, so I decided to start down the mountain. This was a difficult decision since I never got the photos of Everest I wanted. But I knew that in October of 1995, a blizzard dropped several feet of snow that caused some avalanches and killed a number of people. There is no weather channel in Gorak Shep, and with the snow getting deeper, I couldn't take the chance of being snowed in for several days (or weeks).

We got underway immediately. Fortunately enough people had traveled the trail that it wasn't very hard to follow their footsteps. A few times I was confused, but my sherpa is a good guide as well. About an hour out of Gorak Shep, the snow depth was 8 inches. The trail was nearly all down hill. This made for a dangerous trek stepping down many slippery slopes. As our elevation decreased, the base of the snow turned to slush, making the trek even more treacherous. More than once I slipped and fell, but never sustained any injuries. As we approached Periche, the snow turned to rain, making it very uncomfortable. To make matters worse, for the last mile into Periche, the trail turned into a stream. Fortunately my Gor-Tex boots did the job.

Arrived in Periche about noon. Decided to get a room and spend the night. Weather started to improve by late afternoon, and cleared up completely by sunset. Later that evening, I walked outside and was amazed at all the stars visible. Haven't seen the Milky Way in many years.


Saturday October 6, 2001 - Namche Bazaar (11,283 ft)

Woke up to a crystal clear morning. Only a few clouds in the sky to give it some definition. This is the best weather of the entire trek. Walking outside and looking north toward Gorak Shep, it was painfully obvious that had I spent one more night in Gorak Shep, I could have summitted Kala Patthar once again for some excellent photos of Everest.

We departed Periche with the hope of reaching Namche Bazaar that afternoon. The slush of the previous day had froze overnight and there was about 2 inches of snow on the ground, making the start of the trek difficult. About an hour downhill, we descended below the snow line. A couple of hours after that, we reached the tree line. By afternoon, we were again in short sleeve weather. Although we were still at 12,000 ft., the increase in atmospheric pressure was noticeable.

The last couple of hours were mostly uphill. I should have had one more chance to glimpse Everest just before reaching Namche, but by now the typical afternoon clouds had stolen my last opportunity. If there is one thing I learned, Everest is very camera shy.

Made the final decent into Namche and back to civilization. The first thing I did was to take my first shower in five days. Next I took my gear to the three-hour laundry. Finally I drank my first beer since I left Los Angeles two weeks earlier. I'm not sure if I did this in the right order.


Sunday October 7, 2001 Ė Lukla (9315 ft.)

Hit the trail at 7am. The morning started out clear and chilly, but quickly warmed up as the sun peeked over the mountains into the canyon. Another long day ahead, but the air feels so thick, itís as though our lungs are turbo-charged. This being the last day of the expedition, we needed no other motivation.

The first half of the trek was downhill, the remainder uphill to reach the airfield at Lukla. What were most interesting, were the waves of trekkers we past who were headed up the mountain. Apparently the bad weather of the past couple of days prevented flights from landing at Lukla. The airlines were cycling their aircraft as quickly as possible to work off the backlog of passengers in Kathmandu.

Arrived in Lukla at 2 PM. After securing a lodge room, I went to the airline office and was assured I would get a seat on a flight to Kathmandu tomorrow.

While it took 8 days to ascend the mountain, it took only 3 days to descend.


Monday October 8, 2001
Kathmandu

Woke up to a very heavy fog at the Lukla airport. At 7 am, everyone on the dayís manifest gathered at the departure terminal, a dilapidated corrugated structure. They have a unique boarding procedure. Everyoneís check-in luggage is placed in separate piles on he airplane parking area. We were instructed to walk across the runway to the parking area, locate our bags and wait beside them. When our bags are loaded onto a newly arriving aircraft, that is our cue to board that plane.

After about an hour, the sky quickly cleared up and shortly afterward the first aircraft arrived. My Sherpa and I departed on the fourth aircraft. The departure was as exciting as the landing. Its not much different than an Olympic ski jump. The aircraft taxis to the uphill end of the runway. There is a small level area, slightly larger than the size of the aircraft, where the pilot performs the engine run-up. When all systems are go, the pilot releases the breaks and the aircraft pitches down the sloping part of the runway. The aircraft lifts off halfway down the runway and the pilot threads his way between the mountains and clouds. After arriving in Kathmandu, I talked to the captain briefly, He told me the Lukla runway is about 2200 ft. long, and slopes at 4 to 5 degrees.


Tuesday October 9, 2001 
Kathmandu

My sherpa took me on a tour of Kathmandu, which included visiting several Buddhist and Hindu temples, and the local bazaars. Observed a funeral pyre at the Hindu temple.

My sherpa also took me to his home in Kathmandu. To be honest, I found it depressing. It was a small one room flat on the ground floor of a three-story apartment building. The flat belongs to his older brother, but he and his wife lived there with him during the trekking season. I felt bad, because as the guest of honor, I was served a breakfast of fried eggs and an apple. I declined to eat the food on the advice of my doctor, due to the risk of food poisoning. I told him I wasnít feeling well, instead of trying to explain the danger of salmonella poisoning.


Wednesday October 10, 2001
Kathmandu

This is my last day in Nepal. I had budgeted four weeks for the entire expedition, but every thing went nearly as planned, having completed the trek up and down the mountain in two weeks. This allowed me to activate my contingency plans to tour parts of India and Thailand.

My sherpa volunteered to escort me to the airport. As usual, he insisted on carrying my main pack. The hordes of hawkers were still waiting outside the terminal in anticipation of the next arriving plane full of trekkers. I didnít get nearly the attention since it was obvious I was departing.

Security allowed only ticketed passengers into the terminal, so we said our good-byeís after I promised I would return to Nepal.


The following are some observations of my experience climbing to Everest base camp.

Lodges

The Lodges at lower elevations are typically two or three story stone buildings. At the higher elevations, the lodges are one-story plywood structures. The rooms are small, about twice the size of the bed, unheated and unfurnished. The bed is a plywood plank with a foam mattress maybe two inches thick.

 


Every lodge has a dining room with benches and tables around the perimeter and a stove in the middle to provide heat. The stove is fueled with yak patties and serviced by he cook. That might explain the interesting flavors in the soup. The dinning room also serves as a gathering place for the trekkers and sherpas for conversation, as well as for mapping their strategy for the following day.

The typical rate for a single room ranges from 50 to 200 rupees, which converts to $.67 - $2.70. But there is a catch. One must eat all meals in the lodge or a hefty surcharge is applied. Typically the room and board average $15 per day, with the cost increasing with elevation.


Food

At first glance, the lodge menu might confuse you into thinking you are eating at Dennyís. You can order a cheese omelet with hash browns and orange juice. But when you order arrives, it doesnít look at all like a grand slam. My diet consisted mostly of rice, soup and noodles but that got old quickly. When I felt adventurous, I would order potato chips with ketchup (thatís french fried for those who havenít been to England), but the quality was hit or miss. Never got up the nerve to order a yak steak. When all else fails, there are unlimited supplies of Pringles, Snicker bars and Coke. Like everything else in the Himalayans, the prices go up and the quality goes down the higher you climb.

 


The Seasons

Like most places in the world, the Himalayan Mountains have four seasons. As can be imagined, winter can be quite cold. During this time, most of the lodges are shut down and very few trekkers attempt base camp.

Most of the Everest summit bids occur during the spring, but this time of year is not as popular with trekkers climbing to base camp, since clouds often obscure the mountains.

Summer bring the monsoons along with muddy trails and leeches. I talked to some trekkers who were on the trail in late August and early September. I was surprised to learn the leaches would jump from the side of the trail and attach themselves to the trekkerís legs. The trekkers said they were more of a nuisance than a hazard, and would usually fall away with a swat or two.

Autumn is the most popular season for trekking. The monsoons typically end in September and the visibility is generally good. I started my expedition during the last week of September in order to beat the crowds. Unfortunately the clouds lingered well into October this year.


Trekkers

I met trekkers from just about every part of the world. By continent, Europeans dominated and there were probably more Germans than any other nationality. Nepal is the last place in the world I expected to practice my German, but my fellow German trekkers suffered my lack of recent speaking experience well. Not surprising, there were far fewer Americans than would normally be expected.

I would guess that most trekkers were in their 20ís and 30ís. I met several individuals in their 60ís and saw some children that appeared to be no more than 7 or 8.


My Sherpa

When I arrived in Nepal, I considered trekking by myself. After consulting with several organizations in Kathmandu, established to protect porter interest, they convinced me that it would be in my best interest to hire a sherpa. Not only would he lighten my load, he would also double as a guide and traveling companion. Solo trekkers also run an increased risk of falling prey to criminals.

I was fortunate to have found and excellent sherpa. His name is Nima Tamang. I hired him through one of the numerous trekking companies found in Kathmandu. He is 21 years old and this was his second expedition to Everest base camp. He grew up in the Himalayas north of Kathmandu, is the youngest of seven children and has been married for six months. He recently completed an English course. Although his English was not very good, it was better than my Nepalese, and for the most part, we communicated well. I would guess he is 5í4Ē tall and weighs 120 lbs.

I was at first apprehensive of his abilities, but he proved himself to be quite capable after only a couple of days. He would never allow me to carry my main pack and always accompanied me on the side treks when I offered him a day off. I would guess that his load was twice that as mine, carrying his own pack in addition to my main pack. He was respectful to a fault, addressing me as sir throughout the expedition, even though I made it clear that I preferred to be call by my first name. My safety and well being was always his first concern.

I am embarrassed to admit the daily wage I paid for his services. In many places in the United States, you couldnít convince a bellhop to carry your bags to your room for the same amount, and my sherpa didnít have the use of an elevator. I know that a dollar goes a long way in Nepal and I also know he was grateful for the tip he received at the conclusion of our expedition. I am grateful for his making my journey more enjoyable, and very possibly making the difference between success and failure.


Epilogue

I have safely returned to the United States. My visit to India and Thailand was enjoyable and interesting. I wasnít prepared for the poverty and lack of order I saw in the Indian society. But then again, I wasnít prepared for the beauty and awe I experienced visiting the Taj Mahal. In Bangkok, I met up with my friend Karen. Traveling alone offers its own rewards, but it was very nice to see a familiar face after three weeks.

Four weeks is a long time to be away from home, especially in the undeveloped countries of the Indian sub-continent. One thing is for sure, it gives a better appreciation for the most basic of conveniences, like not having to use bottled water to brush your teeth.

Some friends have questioned why I would squander thousands of dollars and two years of vacation, when I could be lounging by the pool at Club Med. I very much enjoy traveling. I like to visit the wonders of the world, both natural and man make. I like to meet people from other cultures, and try to understand the differences and similarities to my own.

I am lucky that I live in an age that makes it so easy to travel, even taking into consideration the attention our air travel industry has received recently, and the inconveniences like waiting in numerous lines to have your body and possessions searched. In only a couple of days I went from my apartment in Los Angeles, to a lodge in the Himalayan Mountains. I canít help but appreciate the time and effort the first explorers expended in tracing the same route as I, just a few generations ago.

I am also lucky over the years, to have traveled to many parts of the world. Yet there are still so many more places I have to visit. One thing is for certain. None are more beautiful or as challenging as Nepal. I had begun my journey with the intention that I would go to Nepal, climb to Everest base camp, and check that destination off my list. But since returning home, I can hear a voice, growing louder every day, calling me back to Nepal.

I will close my journal with the greeting the Nepalese give when passing on the trail:

Namaste (nam-ah-stay)

 

 

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