Saturday, April 23, 2011


Believe it or not, it's not all glamor and high adventure. Sometimes even mountain guides have to sleep, get over jetlag, recover. So what does one do with a week and a half off?

Well, mostly sleep. And unpack, do laundry, repack, email the expedition team, stop by the office, spend time with one's partner, sort through mail, etc. All the things everyone has to do, just on a compressed time schedule.

We were fortunate enough to have two beautifully sunny days here in the Northwest recently, so we decided to go camping. Yes, camping - not climbing, skiing, scoping a route, or training, just camping. Bellingham has a few small mountains just minutes away with lots of trails and actual designated campspots, so we packed a minimum of gear and hiked up in jeans. Yes, jeans! Laid our sleeping bags out by a small lake, had cocoa and went to sleep, enjoying the quiet and surrounding nature. Woke up, had more cocoa, laid around appreciating that we didn't have to be anywhere, and hiked back down as dayhikers started to arrive on this beautiful Saturday.

So there you have it. In another week I'll be back on a glacier, but for now it's nice to just be here, now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

There and back again

It's kind of neat to go to a place every 6 months, with different people, different attitudes, different weather, just a chance to see the place in a new time and space and through new eyes.

We had a great trip up the Khumbu Valley, over to see Thame on the way, then up to Everest Base Camp and then up nearby Kala Patar to see where we'd been, and where we weren't going (Everest!). My second trip up in the spring, with all the climbers on the trail and in the tea houses - lots of characters around! Our own Alpine Ascents climbing team seemed like a collection of good people, great to get to know on the way up and usually getting to the evening's destination well before us! Good thing it's not a race...

We got a bunch of snow over the course of two weeks (way better than rain!), which kept the dust down and made things look pretty, and indicated that it was a little colder than last spring. This was validated when we got to our highest tea house and the indoor toilet wasn't working because the underground pipe outside had frozen solid! Ah, the nature of adventure. Fortunately the group was great, with a good sense of... adventure, and an ability to deal with what came our way, knowing it only makes for good stories later. (That's Ama Dablam in the background.)

Additionally, our trekking staff was particularly wonderful - we had the opportunity to ask lots of nuanced questions about culture and experience, see Tsering's parents' home, and just generally connect and have a great time with them. The particular people on each trek tend to change from time to time, but I do hope to have most of the same folks with us again in the fall. We unfortunately had to give up Mingma to accompany one of our group to Island Peak while I continued down with the trekkers. We did hear that Derek summited successfully a couple of days ago, so I guess it was worth it. *grin*

And in a blatant commercial plug, we used a UV-light water sterilization device called a SteriPEN on this trek for the first time, and it worked beautifully. There are many environmental impacts of trekking on this region, and a big one is the use of fuel. Historically there was barely enough wood to support populations living here, but the heating and cooking and water-boiling required by thousands of trekkers puts a huge strain on the amount of kerosene and propane and yak dung (yep) available for fuel. So our local organizer suggested switching to battery power, and NO ONE had any debilitating GI issues! This is pretty unheard-of up in the Khumbu, so that is my testimonial. Pretty cool technology. (We decided these animals moving propane up the trail were called "fuel mules". I call them rocket mules. Either way we hope they don't slip.)

And now we're all on our respective ways back home, with a little time in Kathmandu and lots of hours on planes, heading back to that myriad of things that make it home. A little time for me to unpack, remember what the Northwest feels like, then pack up again and head north...