April 4, 2019
3 AM: I woke up without hesitation. The room I’m in “Kala Patthar” at the Paradise Lodge is made of plywood walls covered in a cracking, dull yellow paint, old images of climbers, and a short history of the mountain this room is named after. The beds are foam pads wrapped in fraying sheets on a frame made of 4x4s. Laying in the dark, I wonder if the stale smell that’s clouding my head is my sweat permeating the pillow, or if it’s the hundreds of other heads who have also laid here. I can’t help but laugh really. I wanted my mom to join me on this trek in to base camp to send me off. In this moment, I whole heartedly realize that it’s a good thing she didn’t.
I decided to try and meditate. Which really just turned in to me wondering how the Hell small Nepalese people could make so much noise above me. I swear they were dropping bowling balls in an effort to sweep the floors.
730 AM: Christopher came in to my room and laid on the other bed across from me. I poured my heart out about everything I want to show through this climb — from having patience with yourself to knowing yourself enough to know when it’s time to just go; to just chasing after the dream you’ve been hanging on to, to encouraging people to find their passion or a reason to jump out of bed every day, and to the crazy world of the human body and what we put them through. I don’t talk to a lot of people openly or about the crazy things that run through my mind – sometimes my ideas and thoughts even overwhelm me. I finish packing my bag and head to breakfast.
10 AM: We were supposed to be flying by now. Hell, we were even meant to have our gear. Supposedly it’s on the next flight in and we can be on our merry way to Namche. Rob has asked me countless times how I’m holding up with a chuckle in his tone. Since he was on Denali with me, he knows how difficult it is for me to be patient and still. I have been trying to make a conscious effort to slow down and let the process just happen. Maybe it’s because I’ve already done the trek once and know it’s less than enjoyable for me – but I’m ready to get it over with.
1 PM: Bags are here. So is the weather. We walk over to the “Irish” Pub/Coffee Shop. If only you could see this place and their menu that reads “Irish Car Bum.” Easily the best spot in Lukla though. We order our pizzas, but it doesn’t really matter what you ask for on top; it’s whatever the chef comes up with. You can guarantee that there will be yak salami and yak cheese on it though. I force feed myself and brace for the news that we won’t be leaving.
4 PM: On our way back in to the Lodge, Sange (our lead Sherpa whose sternness may deter you at first, but infectious laugh will change your mind) looks at us as he stands in the rain wearing a shit eating grin and says, “Guess we better get some rooms, huh.” We’re laughing at our own pain, but no ones surprised.
On my way in, I looked at the owners and told them that I may as well move in. Then they offered me a job. At least I know I have options.
5 PM: I threw my body back down in to the tea house bed. Now in the Makalu room, but it’s no different than the last one. The sign above the toilet still reads, “Do not flush toilet pepar.” The shower slippers in the room may have seen less feet, and I have a couple new little bug friends, but otherwise it’s dejavu.
Christopher and Rob come in to kill some time. I was aimlessly trying to figure out if the tea house in Namche we’re staying at is the same one I’ve stayed at before in 2017, when Rob was finally bored enough to leave. So bored that he locked Christopher and I in my room with a lock on the outside. Let the games begin I suppose.
So this is where I’m at: Locked in a room with walls that I could walk through, calculating that I have two thirds of the equation for a shower (just missing the hot water), and I’m in a slight panic that I’ve run out of things to think about already on day two of sixty.
April 5, 2019
Yet again, I was wide awake at 3 AM. I really won’t complain though as I quite like being up when it’s still dark out. Today’s the day. Or at least I hope. I’ve tried to be good about staying quiet and to myself, but Lukla gets boring when there’s not a lot to do. I was told breakfast at 6 sharp, and then we would head to the heli pads for an update.
Anything with milk here reminds me of mac and cheese, the kind from a box. Usually, I wouldn’t mind, but between not wanting my honey oatmeal to taste that way and remembering what it was like to have Mountain House mac and cheese on Aconcagua, my appetite was long gone. Not a strong start to trying to maintain my weight before being at altitude.
Once at the heli pads, it dawned on me that one of the birds was still the same one from last night; downed for maintenance. It was gorgeous out, but I was doubtful. I’m sure they’d just wait til the weather rolled in to let us know we’d be stuck in Lukla for a third day. We watched Air Dynasty helicopters come in and go out. Some with cargo, and others with passengers. We watched other companies fly towards Namche, with empty seats. I have to remind myself that we have two months here and that really, nothing is a rush.
After standing around a while, a younger man came up to us with a clipboard and asked for our names, ages, nationalities, and weights. Holy shit. We may actually get out of here. A heli in bound from Namche landed, and we loaded up. This time there was no reminiscing or being sentimental, I was just ready to get out of dodge. Lukla is lovely, but I had enough of sitting around.
Flying over the route from Lukla to Phakding and then to Namche was humbling. Not only was I getting a birds eye view of a trail I walked two years ago, I realized just how much of that Hell I was skipping. I am actually shocked by the distance and terrain that we went over in 2017 (without me knowing of course). Long bridges suspended a hundred feet in the air wrapped in prayer flags looked lovely from above – I wouldn’t be thinking that if I were on them again though.
Coming around the corner and seeing Namche will stop you in your tracks. It’s unreal. It’s a city built into the side of a mountain. No machine built this. It was all by hand. Hotels, tea houses, cafes, and tiny shops, all standing because of the manual labor of the Khumbu Valley people. Men, women, and children coming together to make a vision a reality. Namche is the heartbeat to Everest. It is the hub where everyone congregates and finalizes plans, then breaks off to achieve their goals.
I hopped out of the heli and was instantly greeted by a man saying, “I hear you have a good Instagram.” I couldn’t help, but laugh and shake his hand. His name was Mark and also on his way up. After a photo, a young woman and her father came up. Mrika, a 17 year old Albanian girl, is seeking to be the youngest female to complete the Seven Summits. I will hang on to her kind words and her appreciation for what I am trying to do in the youth and women populations. She told me that I was inspiring, but truth be told, she’s inspired me.
After the father/daughter duo left, a woman from Morocco approached me and let me know that she was familiar with my story due to a friend of hers bumping in to me on Aconcagua. What a welcome. It is such a small world, and an even smaller one in the mountains. I was completely motivated and recharged after these encounters, to the point I was ready to skip Namche and start cruising straight in to Tengboche.
Navigating Namche has never been easy for me with the hand made steps and cobblestone walks. But every step I take, I think of the people who worked tirelessly to build them, and my pain and frustration melts away. We made it to the Khumbu Lodge owned by a charming man named Pemba. The lodges in Namche are all abuzz with mountaineers and trekkers. After getting settled, Rob, Christopher, and I venture off for lunch and a couple of smaller items.
Typically, the stares don’t bother me, but it exhausted me today. By no means am I offended, its more so the reaction that I have to give, even if it is just a facial expression. My mind is bombarded with watching my sticks and my foot, dodging yaks, people, and bumps in the road, and responses to the many questions I receive. We wandered around town for a while and I watched two kids run around on sticks (their pretend horses of course). Life as a child is simple. Life here as a child is simpler. Their appreciation for everything around them warmed my heart, but also brought a sense of guilt over me.
Two young boys stared at my leg and made eye contact with me. The younger one started to bend his legs mimicking what my leg might be doing, so I stopped. Through our language barrier, I was able to make out the words “robot” and “leg,” to which I tried my best to explain that it was in fact, both. I was just as fascinated with the kids as they were of me. I appreciated their openness and curiosity. I admired their effort to understand. At what point do us adults lose that? When do we become so wrapped up in our own lives that we stop yearning to learn more about what’s different or what’s right in front of us?
We parted ways and headed back to the lodge. After a nap (it must be these early mornings that are wearing me out because I haven’t done much else), I forced myself to be semi social, even though I was still wearing my infamous resting bitch face. Christopher and I went for the pork chop special. Bold move for sure, but the flavor was great and I managed to avoid breaking any of my teeth. While we sat in the comfort of a warm dining room surrounded by dozens of foreigners, Rob sat in the fog near Everest View Hotel seeking a night sky time lapse.
Let’s just say, Rob ended up with some really detailed shots of said fog.
April 6, 2019
The original plan was to have our preordered breakfast at 6 AM sharp. Christopher and I were down in the dining hall shortly before. Since it was clear skies, we would eat as quickly as possible, then do a day hike. Rob meandered down around 630 since he has learned to set his watch to Nepali time. Breakfast was served a bit after 7.
With a mouth full of bread and egg, Rob says, “It looks like its clearing up some.” I turned to look out the window and couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. A solid two feet of visibility. Surprisingly, I laughed. Why would it stay nice out for our anticipated acclimatization hike?
I shoveled my last bite of banana pancake in to my mouth, and no sooner than I did, I heard the clouds burst. Watching the sideways rain sucked the life right out of me. It meant another day of sitting stagnant. The low visibility combined with monsoon like rain would keep us from safely stretching our legs. Back to the drawing board. Christopher addressed our timeline that was now cramped for time. He decided that we would eliminate the Chekkung acclimatization hikes to make up for our lost days in Lukla — in hopes of still making it to base camp by April 12th. Admittedly, I’m not the least bit upset about Chekkung.
While today was certainly slow, the highlight has having the opportunity to sit down with Pemba. He has such a rich history here as he he took over the longest operating lodge in Namche from his parents. To hear the stories of how he’s traveled the world, always returned because this is where his heart is, and how he will die here in the Khumbu valley made me realize even more so just how different our cultures and lifestyles are. His support of my climb brought me to tears as he told me that I’m the example now. Toward the end of our chat, I asked him if he would ever climb Everest. He replied, “I have ten times. Just in my dreams,” as he flashed a smile. This expedition is in its infancy and I’ve already learned so much about myself and the beautiful people around me.
It continued to pour all day and into the night. Typically, I would dread moving in the rain. But as long as we are going to be one step closer to base camp, I’ll keep my head down and mouth shut to get to Tengboche tomorrow. I am craving progress; some forward momentum. Luckily, there’s no choice but to move in the morning.