Annapurna Circuit

After some pretty marginal tea houses at the beginning of our trek we came to what looked like a really nice place and Angin had informed me that they had nice private cottages.  When we arrived the place was indeed nice and we headed to the back area that did indeed contain several private rooms.  When we got to mine however, we discovered that a Yak had been slaughtered that morning and my front porch was being used as the butcher shop.  No worries, we simply pulled the tarp, complete with all kinds of yak parts on it, away from the front door and I checked into a truly nice room. I then sat on the stoop as two men used hatchets and long knives to cut the animal into strips for drying. They explained the process and explained that Yaks are not often killed for meat, but when they are old and dying, well you might as well eat them.

Yak butchering outside room

Yak parts

Goat parts

On the other side of the mountain, we had lunch while each household in the small village that owned goats slaughtered two of them.  I inquired with everyone why so many goats were loosing their live today, and from what I gathered this was simply the day you were supposed to kill two goats.  Eating my vegetarian noodles, I talked to the butcher who scraped the hair from the goats head and explained how it would be used to make “very tasty” soup during the soon coming winter. No part of this animal was wasted and the small amount of flesh that came off with the hair was thrown to the patient but obviously hungry dogs.  In the west we have grown accustomed to eating our meet without bones and without skin (chickens for example) but here that is considered a crazy, wasteful, and less “tasty” option.  “Bones provide much flavor, must always cook with bones” the butcher proclaimed.   And given the small amount of meat that is actually consumed here and the amount of hard physical labor that is undertaken here, I am pretty certain that a little chicken skin in a cholesterol problem.


Annapurna Circuit

Annapurna Circuit

Sunrise at Poon Hill

Without a doubt the Annapurna  circuit is the most diverse  trek I completed in Nepal.  Certainly the scenery on Gokyo and Everest base camp were more spectacular, certainly the jungle areas  and crops of Langtang were more varied  but for a single trek that captures the diversity of Nepal – Annapurna is incredible.  From banana trees, to hard wood forest, to pine covered mountains, to sub-alpine tundra, to barren snow covered alpine passes, to desert in the rain-shadow, to apple orchards, to orange trees, to rice terraces, and back to banana trees once more. Certainly the road construction deters from the trek and many opted to fly out of Jomsom or take a jeep down when available, but with a competent guide, it is still possible to stay out of the ankle deep dust of the road,  In fact, that section of the trek, through now forgotten villages on the other side of the river, is really remarkable and having few tourist was an added bonus.

Tea house along the path

I had originally planed to hike into the “Sanctuary” (Annapurna base camp) as well, but after a 1600M decent my knee was less than happy and I was eating Ibuprofen like Chiclets.   So Angin and I simply slowed our pace and took a few rest days as we completed our circumnavigation of the massif.  Actually the trek is not a complete circle but rather about 300 degrees of a a circle. It is a few hundred kilometers regardless as you climb a valley, cross a pass and decend a valley.

Women who served up tea

The women in the photo walks an hour each morning and and hour each evening in hopes of selling a few cups of tea to the porters and maybe a tourist who pass by.  If the weather is to bad or if she has customers late in the day and it gets to cold she simply stays in the hut. Having tea, and talking to her was one of many trek highlights.  When I commented that she had a great little tea hut she laughed and laughed and said “Very smoky, roof  leak, very cold, many mice….but yes I am very fortunate and have good tea hut”.

Tibetan Women

As we climbed higher up the valley we met more and more Tibetan people who were living in exile in Nepal.

Washing clothes, chickens and feet

Cold on summit day

Working our way towards the pass at sunrise

All down hill from here

Hill town

Rain shadow side of mountain

Children of Kalbini

Hill county living

Plowing under lasts seasons rice

Avalanche – bodies inside not recovered

Bananas and Poinsettias

Wonderful guest house in hill country

Road Block

November 10, 2009,

I thought Ronald Regan, Casper Weinberger, and I put an end to Communism back in the 1980s?  Hell, Ron was the President, Cap was the Secretary of Defense, and I was a young Marine convinced I was saving the world from tyranny with my “service and duty”. When I started to see red Hammer and Sickles banners and flags, I had to admit that, like a later President,  our “Mission Accomplished” bravado may have been a bit premature and likely misguided.

Hammer and sickle emblem of the Maoist party in Nepal

Who can blame them? For the poor and down trodden, Communism sounds really good.; it just does not seem to work particularly well. Here is no exception as the word from the person on the street is: “Monarchy was very bad, Communist – very bad,  now the so called “republic” it’s very bad….all corrupt, nothing changes in Nepal“.

It had been widely reported that the Maoist were going to hold a “strike” the day of my departure back to the Himalayas and the Annapurna circuit. After verifying that these things often do not actually happen, and were typically peaceful, I decided that a private car, leaving  very early would likely be the best option to avoid any hassle.  I also wanted to begin the trek on the same day I left Kathmandu, and thus avoid a typically shabby hotel at the end of a bus line with no viable options.  Postponing was an considered as well, but perceived schedule issues over ruled good judgment.

At 5:30am we departed confident in our approach; all we had to do was get over the pass road that led out of the Kathmandu valley- easy. Stopped. The driver walked up the road to assess the situation, Angin talked to other stranded locals, and I took a pee beside the road.  Ultimately the driver came back and said “Maybe”, which should have been my first clue. We pulled out of line and started slowly driving forward up the wrong side of the road-past dozens of mostly busses and other commercial vehicles who’s occupants looked on in puzzlement. As we moved ahead , I first saw Nepali police in full riot gear (not good), then I saw the Nepali Army which was more heavily armed (more not good) but looking particularly casual.  Finally we were close to the top of the hill where the road bottlenecked and made for a perfect place for the blockade.  They saw us, and as our car was about to be mobbed.  I yelled to our driver: Turn the fuck around and get us out of here”.  To late.  Crowds of young, wanting to be upset, men  is a situation that one should ALWAYS avoid – Broke that rule.

Now Nepali’ people are typically soft spoken unless they are yelling into a phone (as the connections are always poor), and apparently unless they are trying to negotiate a car and its stupid passenger out of a potential riot. Initially I was paralyzed and sat frozen in fear.  Then I realized that this car was of no protection so I might as well do something.  So I casually put my camera under my arm, rolled down my window, put my arm on the window ledge and said “Namaste” to the first pissed off guy who got in my face.  That helped calm him down – generally the Nepali people are REALLY friendly and certainly not aggressive. “Strike, Maoist strike, you understand strike” he said.  “Yes I course” I said nonchalantly.  “Me American, strike is good, Martin Luther King is good, Che Guevara (they love this guy in Nepal but based on my inquires most do not know who he was) is good.  But blocking the road…not so good.  And I do not understand – The revolution is over, and I thought you guys won?”  My driver was still shouting with the guys on the right, and the crowd grew as people wanted to see who was tying to “run” the road block.  About that time, I saw the comforting  blaze of a UN human rights observer on the back of a vest.  He was obviously not going to intervene, but I was glad he was watching nonetheless.   Maybe he would document my less than heroic demise.

I continued to have a conversation with my guy while exposing my views on why road blocks were actually bad for the Moaist and how President Obama did not approve of them and would consider this a terrorist act at an airport when my driver started to try and turn the car around; apparently that is what he had successful negotiated. But  the military, who are not Moaist (it is really hard to figure out who is who in this decades old conflict) did not want us back and blocked our path.  Then the “Man” showed up.  While listened to a bunch of yelling from both apparently self appointed negotiators  he stuck his head in the drivers window and looked at me.  “Namaste sir” I said while chuckling at the situation while shrugging my shoulders; he immediately smiled, laughed as well, and responded in kind.  He barked a few orders, like the Red Sea the crowd departed as he walked beside the car as we moved forward up the road.

The next group, who were apparently the original road blockers, quickly rebuilt their human chain to prohibit our passage.  Wow, what an good group to get news coverage if things got ugly; maybe 40, brightly sari clad, bendi adorned, beautiful women, all smiling at me with a determined look that I was not going anywhere as they clasped hand in Communist unity. Fine, take me prisoner, abuse me.  But, the “man” raised his hand and the human chain fell apart.  I am not sure what he said to them, but many clasped their hands and mouthed Namaste as we passed.

Having the road to ourselves we made great time and startled the intermediate road blocks who quickly let us move through thinking we must somehow be important if we got this far.  We followed a powder blue SUV with giant UN blazes across the back, front, top, sides for a while on the now deserted road, then  passed on a blind corner as my driver honked his horn incessantly.  I gave a big wave as we drove past.  I paid my driver a handsome tip given I was still alive, and was heading into the mountains at 2pm. I heard later from others that they spent a dozen hours beside the road and hundreds of people simply opted to start walking in the often seen “resigned” fashion that recognizes that the system is broken but you still have to get home.

Post script: The civil unrest in Nepal is increasing again with several reported violation of the peace accord including armed clashes between the Moaist and the Nepali government (which the Moaist are now a part of).

VIVA Annapurna

Oh, maybe “Viva” is not Nepali.  Anyway, signing off again for a while as I am heading for the Annapurna masiff in the morning.  I will be trekking the classic Annapurna Circuit, with some modifications.  They have build a road over part of the trail, so I may take a jeep in those areas and then take some side trips up the more remote valleys.  I should be in Pokora around December 1st and am having my netbook sent over to me (we will see if that is a good idea…..will it show up) around then; so I will be back on-line sometime that week.  I understand Pokora is a great place to hang out and decompress after 3 more weeks in the Himalayas.  Looking forward to it all ready.

Oh Shit, that means I am going to be on the trail for Thanksgiving….I may have to commandeer a chicken in the lowlands and have it travel with me until dinner time.

small worhip shrineHindu god and goddess

The cough is still lingering, but I think it is good enough to go back into the mountains.  The pass is something over 5000m, but I am feeling good so off we go.

bike and fruit

Fruit vendor


Bhaktapur, Nepal

Hired a car and went to Bhaktapur first thing this morning.  I am finding this is the best times to see the sacred sites as this is when the locals come to prayer, and is before of the souvenir vendors look for westerners.  Bhaktapur is an amazing ancient city with a high history between the 14 – 18th centuries.  It is rice harvest season around Nepal and thus most of the public squares are being used for the cleaning and drying of rice.  Dust is removed from the rice when one person throws the grain into the air and other “fan” the rice with large disk.  This is done over and over again until the rice is dust free.  Then barefoot women turn the rice throughout the warm fall days until fully dry.

temple and bell

Temple of Bhaktapar

temple protectors

Protectors of the temple

rice in square

Rice being cleaned and dried in the square

rice in square 2

Rice in front of Hindu shrine


Protectors of the temple


Chitwan National Park

I went to Chitwan as a complete after thought; it was cheap ($130 USD for 3 nights, four days, all inclusive “adventure” package),  and sounded like a good place for some R&R.  I figured the higher humidity would be good for my cough as well.  Wow, was I surprised.  LOVED IT.  I saw one horned Rhinoceros from the back of an Elephant and from a dug out canoe. We saw crocodiles along the river bank and villagers thrashing rice by hand.  Ox drawn carts were common transportation, and washing the elephants in the river and having them dump you off and spray you with water was a blast.  A Bengal tiger killed a water buffalo while we were there and the villagers stole the meat (bad Karma in my view)  Anyway lots more to say, but no time so the photos will tell the story.

gilirl with goatcanoe guyellephant s[pray

girls playing

rhino 2Elephant spraybaby elephant with grass loadelephant grass crossing rive 2

Burning bodies

Pashupatinath, October 29, 2009

“What are the men, the ones in the river, below the cremation platforms doing with the fine toothed rakes and other garden tools” I asked my very knowledgeable and passionate Hindu guide.  “They are looking for the jewelry and gold teeth of those who have been released from this earth” he said in a matter a fact manor. Thus started my tour and sobering experience at the most holy Hindu site in Nepal – Pashupatinath.

platformsCremation platforms

About 50-60 people are cremated here every day and the environment is hard for a westerner, at least me, to get my head around. Most of the bodies are from the Kathmandu area and some come from the hospice facility here at the temple.  If you happen to be lucky enough to ever leave this hospice alive, you are considered a miracle and are given a new name because you have been saved by the gods are “reborn”.

man tending cremationMan tending cremation fire

There are three main components to this temple; the cremation area (dead and mourning), the fertility section (trying to make life – either happy or sad depending on how you are doing), and the main temple area (general Hindu worship – happy or sad also seemed to be the prevailing conditions) that is restricted to those born into the faith.

phallic symbolsFertility shrines with phallic symbols

On the day of my visit, I watch and/or invade in morbid fascination as 8 bodies burn on the platforms, and their ashes are pushed into the filthy but highly sacred river that ultimately connects to the holiest of all Hindu river – the mighty Ganges in India. I see young couples praying over phallic symbols in the hopes of conception – specifically male conception. And, being it was the first day of the marriage season, the main temple is full of joyous or worried worshipers celebrating the potential opportunities available during this holy “union” season.

people leaving templePeople leaving temple

Large pieces of saddle wood are stacked in a manor similar to the “log cabin” camp fire method taught by the Boy Scouts.  Smaller pieces of wood are put inside the frame, and very light and dry material is added as kindling. The bodies, all of which died today, come wrapped in shrouds of white linen.  As per custom, nothing has been removed from the body after death.  In fact, most of the person possessions will be given away or thrown into the river so the persons soul we leave unencumbered by worldly possessions and leave the home.  Often a piece of shroud is torn away and filled with rice or other offerings, and carnations are abundant throughout the entire temple and float down the stinking coco brown river as orange islands. The toes of the body are touched in the blessed river and the dead are placed north or south on the “cabin” depending on gender.

old manHindu man

While Hindu people do not believe in organ donation, they do allow for the corneas to be removed and reused.  Therefore, immediately behind the platforms is the eye removal center, complete with a huge sign advertising such. A man is assigned to light and tend the fire that will burn for 4-5 hours. A mourning man will shave his head and eyebrows and will wear all white for an entire year after the ceremony.  Mourning women completely forgo all color from their traditional dress of gorgeous red, green, yellow Sari’s. If they are touched with color during the year, they will start the grieving anew.

oled womenWomen leaving temple

When the process is complete, large pieces of wood are still smoking, and they along with the ashes of the body and other fuel are pushed into the river.  This wood is retrieved and made into charcoal for further burning in homes for fuel or heat. While standing a respectable distance away, contemplating the inappropriateness of taking photos, I struggle with understanding what I am watching: “Those are bodies, those guys are looking for their teeth, that cow just below the platform just defecating in the water, that wood is going to be made into charcoal, those people over there are pouring a liquid that simulates bodily fluids into and on a phallic symbol, those goats are humping amongst all those pigeons and kids throwing rice, that women is prayer her daughter marries a good Hindu man, that man has no feet….”

Above the public platforms there are concrete stands for those of royal (not now as the Monarchy was dissolved post Maoist revolution (which has apparently started again since I got here, but that is another story) or other “important” people.  While here, one of these VIP’s is also torched off, but I never figure out who he was; no one seems to know. In the high rent section there is a larger area for public viewing and a lot of followers look on between praying for babies and marriage success. They seem neither happy or sad, but simply at the temple like any other day.  Some threw coins in the water, and young boys who wade in their underwear cast large magnets into the liquid that started as water, and drag the bottom in hopes of securing their fortune. Like committed fisherman they throw and retrieve their lures over and over and over.

Some of the dogs (those who go in the water) around the temple are frightening in appearance. Like Chemo therapy, the chemical soup of liquid has made their hair fall out creating an alien and grotesque looking creatures. Apparently there are rug factories up stream that discharge a deadly toxic slurry directly into this sacred river. The people know this, but readily wash there feet in the water before entering the holy site.  My guide tells me that it is sad the river is polluted, but he dreams of the day he to will be pass from this life and be put into this water body also.  He is not looking to die, but rather is a man of great devotion, who believes things are as they are supposed to be…..it is all a process.  “I do hope I do NOT come back as a dog” he adds however.

We see the holy men who truly look like highly colorful (complete with face painting), dreadlocked,  sunglass wearing, pot heads.  I don’t get any photos because they expect a commission in order to refill their pipes. I begin to think I am being closed minded and try to remember these are the holiest men in the Hindu religion. As reading my mind, my guide says: “The Sadhas, are the holiest of men, they are buried and not burned because this is there last incarnation….they have reached nirvana or perfection and will not be coming back, so they get to sit around all day, be lazy, and smoke hash in this life; very lucky”.

cows in riverCows below the cremation platforms

After paying my guide I go back into the temple area.  I put my camera away and walk to the cremation side of the river.  I am welcomed by a stoned Sadhas, who tries to bless me with grey ash (who knows where that came from) he was covered in,  to an area just above the bodies and the burn platforms.  I sit for a long time.  I do not remember what I think about, but I know it forever changes my perspective on “How things are”.  It has been said that this type of travel will “Rearrange your internal furniture”. I liked the sound of that before I left easy street California, but now that I am in deep, I wonder what happens to you when the furniture is complexly turned upside down?

I Quit

October 12 – 27, 2009

Gokyo Valley, Chola Pass, Everest Base camp

rf mt everestAtop Kalipatar: Mt. Everest Sunrise

The question had been plaguing me for weeks – since first asked. The more I focused, the more I tried to force fit into something I thought I new, the more it evaded capture, evaded dominance.  Recognizing that life’s important explorations rarely present forthcoming clarity, I simply let go; like the “Purpose of life” inquiry –  Who the fuck knows.

road to goykyoTrail up Gokyo Valley

I tentatively and very carefully place each foot and hiking pole (ensuring four points of contact and hopefully safety) on the steep, snow covered, and very icy slopes of Chola pass. This is the same pass that a Nepali porter lost his life on days before in a sudden avalanche of rock and snow. While focusing on climbing,  a counter question, with complete inappropriate timing, springs forth: “Maybe you are supposed to leave something in these mountains” rather than “hopefully you will find what you are looking for” as my dear friend Alan first proposed as I departed for these Himalayas.  “What?” my brain screams- “What the hell does this mean, who the hell cares – shut the hell up – I am trying to stay attached to this mountain……what good is an answer to a dead guy?”

stone house and mountyainStone house on route

Later that night I crawl into my down bag after realizing I will  be sleeping on a platform of stacked rocks; largely flat, but hard and granite cold.  The 3 inches of ancient, filthy  compressed foam make little difference. I replay the question over and over trying to decipher: “Maybe you are supposed to leave something in these mountains….”.  I turn on my headlamp, write the new question in my journal and recognize I must indeed be suffering from a lack of oxygen, that my mind has finally,  at 46 years, gone….completely.  Find something – leave something. I begin to cough again and notice through my lamp beam that my closet (5.75 x 2.75  x 5ft ) is completely filled with Yak shit smoke from the mis-directed flue of the dining hall stove. “Great: yak smoke, rock bed, flat mattress, shitty food, and stupid questions followed by even more stupid questions”. sleep comes slowly and is fitful.

porterEverest Region Porter

Days, and kilometers later in Dingboche the questions are far from my mind.  In fact, I have not given them another thought.  Rather I have been mentally preparing for my final and greatest “Conquest” of this trek – Island Peak.  We are indeed going to follow Sir Edmunds lead – Like Mt. Everest in 1953 we were going to “knock that bastard off”. Hubris my ass. While a far cry from Everest this is my mountain, and like other goals throughout my life this +20,000 ft rock  is on my “list”. Therefore and by definition – like all others before it, it will soon be reduced to a check mark along with, unfortunately but necessarily, my own mental asterisk – it will be a temporary positive feeling of accomplishment, of self worth, of bragging rights, but it will not be enough…they never are. That is not the point  This is simply how things are, how they always have been, how they always will be.

robert angin kalipatar 2

Angin and Robert on Kalipatar

Forget that I have developed a nasty cold, that my cough is worsening due to high altitude combined with yak smoke and kerosene fumes (days later I will be diagnosed with severe bronchitis and a respiratory infection). Forget that I have concerns about the climbing conditions; more specifically the people who were creating these conditions; I see photos of nearly a hundred tents at base camp (you pay your rupees, and you can be a mountaineer – I realize, embarrassingly,  that I am not alone in my ego), while hearing stories of skilled climbing guides doing their job of “putting” clients on top even if it means with the aid of mechanical devices (effectively “pulling em up and lower em down“). I hear of potential for serious bottle necks on the steepest part of the mountain whereas you can not climb up or down due to your nose in someone’s ass and your ass in someone’s nose – I have read enough climbing accounts to know that these potential traffic situation are very dangerous and have led to some of the sports biggest human losses. Forget that I am scarred. Tomorrow morning I will face these minor obstacles and in typical fashion I plan to kick their ass. That is what I do, who I am. I am not a strong guy or a particularly smart guy, but I am a guy who does not quit.  A man my friend Michael describes as “Hitting an obstacle and thinks the only option available is adding more fuel to the tractor”.  Yes, I have been told, and yes I believe, this makes me an incredibly effective corporate warrior, impossible to live with or maybe even love, and while not reckless potentially dangerous on mountains and elsewhere.

player flags on gokyoPrayer flags on Gokyo Ri

Earlier in the day I pay a Nepalese fortune to charge my Ipod Nano using a solar panel; once atop Island Peak, I can play the theme song “Memories” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece Cats in remembrance of my mom who we lost to cancer just over a year ago. I have not listened to this song since her memorial as I have been saving it for such a grandiose day. A day she would be proud of.  A day my post divorce councilor would have described as “consistent with your narcissist tendencies”; like he actually knows a God damn thing.

spot lightEvening spot lights

Just before midnight I wake up frantically grabbing my mouth, my nose….my chest.  Trying to clear an opening, trying to make a passage- open damit, open – I am fucking suffocating, I am going to die….hyperventilating, sit up, gasping. STOP! Breathe, concentrate, relax, you are fine.  Breathe, breathe……breathe. No problem see, just a cold, just high altitude, just some fluid on your lungs, just one of those ever more frequent panic attacks – I now understand why climbers and divers often tear off their oxygen supply as they struggle to get life supporting air. When I die, please don’t let it be from suffocation.

morain contrastMoraine

What was that?  Dreaming? Dreaming before I nearly suffocated? Who was that? While not part of my plan, I instinctively search for my Nano….feeling in the dark.  I squint to see, hit the repeat function, and play “Memories” for hours while I stare at the ceiling to black to actually see; I try to breathe.  I wake with the first rays of morning, my mouth sticky dry, – I sip tainted Iodine water to lubricate my swollen tongue preventing it if from affixing to my palate or teeth permanently. I blow my nose – thick mucus, dirt,  and dried blood.  One ear bud is wrapped around my neck, the other plays:

anataplumAma Dablam (maybe the prettiest mountain in Nepal)

Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise.
I must think of a new life,
And I mustn’t give in.
When the dawn comes tonight will be a memory too,
And a new day will begin.

bc sign
Everest Base camp (this is the old camp sign)

I dress quickly and go to the small dining area where Angin  pours morning tea.  With no forethought I say “Angin, we change plans; we not climb Island Peak”. A look of great concern and then horror comes to the young mans face.  “Oh no sir, you feel better in a few days, you strong man, you not quit, you never quit, you-me…we all ready walk Langtang trek, we climb Gokyo Ri, we climb Chola pass, we climb Kalipatar, we go Everest base camp….we now go Island Peak; you climb slow-slow all way top; you be rock star – like Mica Jackson.  You satisfy, I satisfy” I had not considered this being Angin’s climb as much as mine but then I think back to all of the times he had bragging rights in front of the other Sherpa porters and guides as our time in the mountains far exceeded most of the other trekking tourist. From somewhere outside of me I say simply and with complete resolve: “Angin, I am sorry.  I can climb that mountain if I want, and I can climb that mountain if I need, but I nor want or need to climb. I have no desire and nothing to prove…..especially to my self”. His response is simple and final: “Yes sir, you decide”.

lobeche tea houseLoboche tea house

I eat my breakfast alone as my highly competent guide and porter manages the logistics of a sudden and surprising change of plans.  Upon his return, we quickly and unceremoniously grab our packs and go outside.  We stand for a long minute looking up valley towards Island Peak just as the sun began to touch her flanks. While there I hear: “I will always be here and you are welcome to try and climb me.  If you come of “want” you will either reach my top or not…..who cares, it is unimportant. But if  you come again of “need“, remember I am insidious, with an insatiable apatite. You may reach my highest point, but it will never be high enough – I will give you a higher mountain, a more precarious sea, a faster motorcycle,….you will never catch me, I can not be caught”.   I smile a huge grin, laugh out loud, and give a nod as I turn smartly down hill.  “How far down can we get today Angin?” I direct.  “You sick sir, but I carry your day pack also, we make dinner – Namche Bazar”.  I Okie/Nepalese  blow-out – more mucus, more dirt , more blood. We leave.

more stone mantraStone Mantras line the way

I do not speak, think, or turn around for over hour and while physically racked, I move very quickly down the valley. When we do stop and look back, Island Peak is gone – what an odd feeling – “Christ, Jesus Christ, did I quit?  Yes, Robert you most certainly did quit – you are a quitter”.  That is strange, quitting did not kill me, in fact I feel good, really good. My head goes foggy again and I shake myself back to consciousness when suddenly: “Maybe you were supposed to leave something in these mountains”. Shit, I just left a whole God damn mountain unclimbed, a life goal unattained. You are fucking kidding me!

chola ice fieldSnow field on backside of Chola pass

Really, truly my brain scratches? did you? Or – “Find what you are looking for in those mountains?” What? What the hell are you talking about I shout silently, give me a break – I finally get an answer to the question you bring forth, then you change back to the original question. Frustrated.

stupa eyesStupa eyes

Walk, calm now –  “You are in the land of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Genesh….the land of the Buddha and the Dharma…..the land at the top of the world……hold both questions – they are not exclusive, they never were….life is not linear nor singular; neither black or white,  embrace the duality – a river of birth, a river of death – You left a mountain, you found Freedom”.

monisstary paintingMonastery Painting

Back in KTM.

NOTE: I am publishing post on the date of event to make searching easier in the future.  Thus you may have to scroll down past this post to see what has been happening the last few weeks.  This situation will self correct as I get caught up.

The photos are downloaded,  and I am starting to write.  But I only have a bit of time as I am going to Chitwan National Park for a few days (doctors orders) to ride the Elephants and hopefully see the endangered white Rhino’s, and while not likely – but possibly,  the Asian Bengal Tiger…… some days I love being me. But then again it may be all the drugs they put me on to hopefully curb the growing infection in my chest, or it could be the abundant amount of oxygen at this altitude. Regardless, I am on restricted duty so here are a few photos.

horse head

Horse on the Steppes of Nepal


Ama Dablam (mother and her necklace)

After I sat down on the cold earth these two came over and ultimately let me scratch their matted hair.  Now, as my crazy about horses friend Dana knows, I am scared of equines so this was a bigger deal than reaching the base camp of Mt. Everest.

October 15, 2009

Namche Bazar – Dhole 4110m

We got news last night that a porter was lost on Chola pass due to a quick moving avalanche. This sad news hit many of us hard – especially those who new the man who lost his life. We also heard that Island peak was experiencing severe weather with temperatures of -35c; if it is anything close to that cold when I get there in a few weeks you can be assured that my lily white ass will be staying in the tent.

angin above namcheAngin above Namche Bazar

At 9:30am we reached our scheduled destination and appropriate acclimation altitude. Angin and I studied the map carefully and felt very confident the we could go on to Dhole without a significant risk of contracting altitude sickness. It was an absolutely magnificent day for trekking with Pacific blue skies, frequent vista’s of snow capped mountains, and glorious fall weather.


Just before Dhole a group of 4 young men who were carrying their own loads blew past us with nary a wave.  They had also started at Namche and planed to push on farther up the valley. Around 11pm in the evening, I heard a great deal of commotion and realized that these “studs” were back in Dhole and one was suffering from Acute Altitude/mountain Sickness (AMS).  He was suffering from an excruciating headache, nausea, blurred vision, shallow and labored breathing, and numbness in the extremities. And, well he was freaking out. They got settled down, and Diamox was given to hopefully counter the affects of the oxygen shortage. Diamox is actually a glaucoma drug but is used frequently for AMS.  Some take as a preventative and others, myself included, carry it as a treatment option if problems develop. Unfortunately, some of the big outfitters hand this potent drug out like Chiclets and run the risk of masking the symptoms of a potentially fatal problem.  In the morning we saw this poor guy and he looked like he had been hit by a yak – a very big yak.  He was recovering but his trek was over as his options were limited to one; go down.

mantra stonesMantra stones

Ironically or is that stupidly?,  after watching this AMS situation unfold,  a young and obviously very fit U.S. Navy guy who is stationed in Singapore announces to the group that he has limited time and is going to push on to Gokyo today, climb Gokyo Ri tomorrow morning and then return to Namche the same day. “I really don’t think I will have any problem, I have a headache, but Ibuprophen seems to take care of it”.  Mind you this is the same guy who is traveling exclusively with U.S. dollars because “Everyone wants them right?” We have a good laugh at his expense as we watch the stupidly low (about half) exchange rate he is given at the lodge and his apparent lack of math skills.  Later we hear from Angin that this guy has both a guide and a porter (who he hired at the airport), and he is paying almost triple the going rate. His guide and porter are also ordering food off the tourist menu and he is paying for that as well. I told Angin that he got the wrong client; “Oh no sir, he get killed, maybe kill guide”. Please tell me this guy does not represent the “New, smarter U.S. military”.