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Road to Everest Day 1 – Is the key to peace in the Himalayas?

The following 6 blogs were written on the trail as my friend, and I trekked the road to Everest in Nepal.

Day -1 Kathmandu Airport to Phakding

We arrived at 7:15 AM for our 8:15 AM flight. We got off the ground at 2:15. It was everything I hate about air travel with culture shock chucked in. Flight cancellations. Airlines saying, “10 Minutes.” Hard metal chairs. It pushed all my buttons. Delays. No control. Lack of information. My frustration reached the level of the absurd when I found myself reasoning why, as we accelerated down the runway, “The pilot didn’t need to abort take-off for a cabin door that wasn’t closed correctly! It’s not a pressurized cabin!” Psycho. But that’s a person with Command and Activator for you.

It was typical me. I act relaxed and adventurous, but that’s often built on a foundation of control, understanding, and momentum. Remove those things and I’m a sulky kid.

Perspective would have been helpful in that moment. But, you have to have distance for perspective.

As frustrating as it was it was all forgotten as we started our cloud-covered approach to the most dangerous airport in the world- Lukla. The runway is at approximately 10,00 feet elevation, 527 meters long and 98 feet wide. All on an 11% pitch. was it was all was all forgotten as we started our cloud-covered approach to the most dangerous airport in the world- Lukla. The runway is at approximately 10,00 feet elevation, 527 meters long and 98 feet wide. All on an 11% pitch.

The weather in Kathmandu is like another planet compared to Lukla’s deep mountain climate. We skimmed the mountain peaks and bucked liked a rodeo hero as the little 14 passenger plane bounced through the mountain clouds. If the visibility didn’t clear before our approach we’d be turned back. (The airport has been known to close for 8 days at a time for cloud cover.) As we dropped into the valley below, Kale, (pronounced KAL-a but we called him kale for fun) our guide, gave me a relieved look.  liked a rodeo hero as the little 14 passenger plane bounced through the mountain clouds. If the visibility didn’t clear before our approach we’d be turned back. (The airport has been known to close for 8 days at a time for cloud cover.) As we dropped into the valley below, Kale, (pronounced KAL-a but we called him kale for fun) our guide, gave me a relieved look.  liked a rodeo hero as the little 14 passenger plane bounced through the mountain clouds. If the visibility didn’t clear before our approach we’d be turned back. (The airport has been known to close for 8 days at a time for cloud cover.) As we dropped into the valley below, Kale, (pronounced KAL-a but we called him kale for fun) our guide, gave me a relieved look.

Our late arrival meant we’d have to push to make our first Tea House before sunset. As we got ready to pass under the memorial to the first Sherpa woman to summit Everest, the unofficial start of the trail, we were greeted by a team returning from “base-camp” willing themselves to the finish. The look of accomplishment was unmistakable. Wishing we had the time to get to basecamp but knowing we didn’t, we set off in the twilight. basecamp but knowing we didn’t, we set off in the twilight. basecamp but knowing we didn’t, we set off in the twilight. basecamp but knowing we didn’t, we set off in the twilight.

From the start, you are immersed in the Buddhist heritage of the Khumbu region. Stones carved with monk “chant phrases” of blessing line the trail. Many weathered by time with others refreshed and painted by locals.

Prayer wheels are set up for spinning as “prayer” as you walk by. My refrain became, “A good Buddhist goes left.” The tradition is to always spin or walk around a sacred site clockwise. The opportunities to “pray” were numerous on the trail. I chuckled when we came to places that had prayer sites spun by water wheels on streams and rivers. They figured the water could keep the praying going. Doesn’t matter the religion or belief, we’re always looking for ways to automate our situation in life. Even when dealing with the divine.

“Tea House Trekking,” makes hiking the Himalayas an experience unlike any other. Tea houses are Nepali “bed and breakfasts” that have sprung up along the trail over the years. They house trekkers and provide meals all times of the day. The sheer number of tea houses in the Khumbu region produces a support network of accessibility even if the terrain doesn’t. They’re a mix of Nepalese culture, international tourism, and adventure. meals all times of the day. The sheer number of tea houses in the Khumbu region produces a support network of accessibility even if the terrain doesn’t. They’re a mix of Nepalese culture, international tourism, and adventure. meals all times of the day. The sheer number of tea houses in the Khumbu region produces a support network of accessibility even if the terrain doesn’t. They’re a mix of Nepalese culture, international tourism, and adventure.

The attraction to Nepal is the trekking terrain, but it’s clear the “take away” is the people. You meet the world in the tea house dining room. Malaysian, Russian, Polish, Chinese, Japanese, Australian, Kiwi, French, British, Spanish, Brazilian, Mongolian, and Arab; and those are just the ones I met. Above all, you meet the Sherpas.

I learned today that Sherpa is a race of people, not a job. Because I’ve always heard of the Sherpas who’ve been critical in the exploration of the Himalayas, I assumed Sherpa was a Nepalese word for a guide or something. It’s not. Sherpa is the tribal name of the people who live and work in the Khumbu region of Nepal. They are physically strong, innovative and kind. They wear the name with pride. Kale’s name is actually Kale Sherpa. In a single day, it’s already become clear, the Sherpa care, hospitality and generosity have a magic power to set any guest at ease.  Sherpa is the tribal name of the people who live and work in the Khumbu region of Nepal. They are physically strong, innovative and kind. They wear the name with pride. Kale’s name is actually Kale Sherpa. In a single day, it’s already become clear, the Sherpa care, hospitality and generosity have a magic power to set any guest at ease.  Sherpa is the tribal name of the people who live and work in the Khumbu region of Nepal. They are physically strong, innovative and kind. They wear the name with pride. Kale’s name is actually Kale Sherpa. In a single day, it’s already become clear, the Sherpa care, hospitality and generosity have a magic power to set any guest at ease.

As I slip into my sleeping bag, thankful for its heft on this 28-degree night, my thoughts are of the people downstairs. Different languages, religions, and customs all eating and laughing in peace. The power of a common goal, a shared experience and the space created by stepping into the unknown. Off to Namche in the morning.

~Typed by thumbs on the trail.  Please forgive the errors.

~M Dauphinee 10/18/16