Top of the World - Mt. Everest trek

Trip Start Oct 22, 2007
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Trip End Dec 12, 2007


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Where I stayed
Khumbu lodge

Flag of Nepal  ,
Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Is it not easy to be wise man on top of a mountain".
W. Somerset Maugham---- from The Razor's Edge

My room was basic, quiet, and achingly cold. Begrudgingly, I shuffled my body away from the warm multi-layered blankets and sleeping bag, turning my head toward the window to view outside into the night.
The prior afternoon, I was climbing the steep mountain ascent above Namche Bazaar when suddenly a series of clouds swiftly vanquished a previously gorgeous blue sky, enveloping the lower peaks and cloaking myself in a sea of ethereal chilled clouds. The stunted alpine trees and grassy hillsides I was trekking through abruptly took on a mysterious tone.
Soon descending, distant human and animal sounds breached my ears, telling me my destination, the sherpa village of Khumjung, was near.
By evening, the fog had gradually lifted over the high mountain village, however, the Himalayans still remained a mystery.
I was, for the second night, the only guest at a Sherpa family-operated lodge that I had chosen for my stay. The warm fireplace stove situated in the center of the dining room was a great welcome and relief, especially since heating sources are a scarce commodity. The food was tasty and filling. The family's husband lent me a book on Sir Edmund Hillary, the book dedicated to the 50th anniversary of his Everest summiting. I asked if he and his wife had met Hillary and he said, yes, many times, including the big party thrown in Kathmandu three years ago celebrating the 50th anniversary. I said very cool and we shared a cup of tea. Beyond the summiting, Sir Edmund Hillary had continued to contribute a great portion of his life, up to present day, to the betterment of the Sherpa people, a people he had become so fond of and admired.
Bedtime is always early in this cold region. I scrambled under my blankets and prayed for clear skies in the morning.
My prayers were answered. I was awestruck when I looked out my bedroom window.

A moonlit, abundant horizon of Himalayan giants, including the "Big Guy", Mount Everest, glowed in the near distance, while crystal-clear, sparkling stars danced over their heads. The uniquely shaped Ama Dablam was regally crowned with the Southern Cross constellation. The time was 2AM. I could not wait for daylight.

Morning light marked a truly memorable moment. I was staring at the "top of the world", Mount Everest and friends; Nuptse, Lhotse, Ama Dablam, and other snow-frosted, steel gray masters of the Himalayan range. The grandeur of the landscape was breathtaking, humbling. I shared many respectful salutations with the peaks, ranging in languages from Nepalese to Navajo. I joyfully shouted the Basque cheer and even did an Irish jig. It was, you may guess, an exciting moment.

Close yet still worlds apart from where I now stood, these peaks held their own court, lived on their own terms far from humanities' influences, though many mountaineers try. This was the realm of the snow leopard and the yeti, a fiercely frozen inhospitable glorious region.
I thought, if I did come across a yeti on the trail, he'd probably freak, immediately reverse direction, hightailing down the mountainside muttering "I'd heard the stories about the existence of the PecosKid but...I..I really didn't think he existed !!"
To no avail, I'd call after him saying "But I thought we'd have espressos!"

So how did I get to this place? The Everest Himalayan trek journey began with a Yeti Airlines flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. The small aircraft rises over the Kathmandu Valley and within minutes is within view of the approaching Himalayan mountains. The journey climaxes with a swift descent to a narrow mountain valley where a small inclined runway in Lukla assists arrivals.
I grab my backpack, say "no guides, no porters" to many an anxious Nepalese, lift the bag onto my shoulders and proceed briskly forward  through Lukla to the beginning demarcation of the trail. Even from Lukla, there are dramatic views of several peaks, their shimmering sections of bleached-white snow set against the steel gray granite rock peaking above the green canyon valley I now traversed.
The initial six odd miles of trail is fairly level sloping first down to the river, past several villages, and gradually rising higher running parallel to the river. You have to crisscross the river many times across Swiss-built, steel cable reenforced bridges. They don't sway TOO much, depending on how many yaks and porters are also on the bridge. Let your eyes drift downward and you realize how small the river looks down below!
This particular trail is heavily traveled. First there are the series of large group processions of trekkers, accompanied by their guides and porters that you have to maneuver around. These processions however pale in size compared to the leagues of sherpas, and their yaks, each labored beasts of burden, that regularly traverse this trail's steep stone steps to deliver supplies to the trail's linked villages, some many miles away. You skirt along a narrow section of the trail and bang! you have to find a safe spot to position yourself as a long team of yaks come lumbering in your direction.
The scenery along the trail is simply beautiful; crystal blue river, occasional waterfalls,  interesting villages and the occasional glance from one of those big Himalayan guys.
To my surprise few people, trekkers and locals alike, bothered to take a moment to find a spot to rest their gear and marvel at the surroundings. I did as often as I could. 
The scenery directly on the trail usually consists of gray slippery stones, gravel, loose dirt, wet mud and plenty of yak dung!  Several Buddhist stupas are positioned along the trail offering comfort to those laboring sherpas. The sherpas, men and women, all ages, carry everything; four full cases of beer and whiskey, propane tanks, beds, wood beams, you name a product..it's on their backs!
My first night stay with a Sherpa family was quite pleasant. Besides the spectacular moonlight enhanced views of the mountains, waterfall, river, and forested canyon, I gained a friend...the family's pet dog. He took a liking to me and sometime in the middle of the night, had pushed my poorly latched door open so he could sleep on the bed next to mine.
Second day included a huffer, puffer, 2000 foot climb to Namche Bazaar, the busiest town of the Sherpa Khumbu region. The third night I stayed at the Khumbu lodge. I thought if Jimmy Carter and Robert Redford could stay here, so could I.
Always the day's highlight for me was spent gazing upward at those massive monoliths of snow and rock, the day's altering light and moonlight providing many different shades and moods to the Himalayans.
This was still an ancient landscape, watched over by a centuries old traditional mountain people. Admittedly, ancient and traditonal may not describe those sherpa individuals who oggled over newly acquired cell phones and internet; after they'd spent the afternoon grinding corn the same way they had for centuries of course. The old and the new worlds colliding again.
As I left Namche Bazaar, a more bazaar group of ninety marathon runners were going to run a marathon, passing Everest base camp, crossing a 18,000 ft. mountain pass that circled over to Gokyo and back down to Namche. What's the phrase...whatever floats your boat!

I do like the response a young Swede gave me who decided to see Mount Everest by plane. As the plane passed Mount Everest, he was going to raise his gin and tonic glass, look out the window and toast the poor fools down below struggling up the mountain.

Still, the sweat and struggle of the trekking journey just makes the view of the "top of the world' that much sweeter and a heck of a natural high!

To see more of my travel photos, click www.michaelmcguerty.com

To view more of my travel writing, click www.pecoskid.com


 
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