© 2009 Benjamin Chernivsky Namche Bazaar at night.

Namche Bazaar, 3443m and rising…

It takes a few days to really feel alive on these mountains. For the first few days it all feels like a dream.  Looking up is dizzying.  Each step up is a challenge.  The word acceding takes on an idea, and its meanings are limitless.  Ascending are the trails, the mountains, the trees, the prices, the challenges, the breathing, the opportunities, the dreams (literally, and figuratively), the ideas.  There is more to the top of the world than a place.  There is meaning around every corner, beneath ever rock, in the breath of every bit of life up here.

The passes are incredible, as if a hand more powerful than anything any human could dream of just pushed the land together like a child playing with sand.  But not sand, rather mountainous gobbets of living land speckled with trees and bushes hanging onto steep walls, gasping swathes of CO2 and gusting just enough oxygen out for those brave enough to breath in such an oddly auspicious place.

In an eerie way, God has already left His mark on this landscape for humankind to play around in.  And they play, ever do they play.  It amazes me that only about 60 years ago did the first Westerner step foot into this land.  Think:  at the same time mankind was racing to put a man on the moon.  Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and the Nepalese sherpa, Tenzing Norgay first reached the summit of Mount Everest in May of 1953.

And the same airfield that Hillary created in Lukla to bring supplies for building sherpa schools in the area – the same airfield that brought us here – is one of his regrets, for it has brought incredible amounts of commercialization.

Were in the bustling mountain town of Namche Bazaar, and during dinner last night I ran into a team of architects from Montana working towards their masters programs.  One of them introduced themselves and started talking about a technical mountaineering school for local sherpas they were helping to design and build – and I right-off started asking a ton of questions about them and their project.  (be sure to check them outby clicking here)

1/3 of the deaths up here are sherpas, and primarily because they lack technical knowledge that their clients require for the climbing in the area.  It’s one example of how heavy commercialization has changed the lives of the local culture in the area.    So back in 2001 someone got the wise idea to create a school to properly train sherpas in the technical knowledge.  Eight years later and this team of scholars and builders are about to set the foundation up in a small town of 300:  welcome to Phortse, where the Khumbu school is going to breath its first dash of Everest air.

More on the group:  Getting used to the altitude has been a challenge.  Just two days ago I sat at about 2,800 meters feeling disoriented, tired, and unable to move on my feet.  I kept it down low, did a lot of prayerful work with the help of Guy, and we planned on making a move the next day.  Meanwhile Graham and Lyndsay struggled up the hardest and longest bit of trail to Namche Bazaar.  We later found out that their planned 4 hour trek took about 6 hours.

Guy got another night with the local kids, and watched Wall-E with one of them.  My diet for the entire day consisted of water, apple juice, 2 apples, and 2 oranges. My bowel movements are liquid.  My body is cleansing itself.  The next day I work up feeling much better, but not well enough to carry my bag, so I decide to hire a porter for the day.  It set me back 1,000 NRS, but was well worth it.

The porters are amazing: struggle isn’t a part of their vocabulary.  They carry triple the weight we do without any of the fancy baggage.  They travel thousands of meters up and down each day, they move faster than any trekker.  They are certainly of this land.  And today we’re introduced to our first look at Everest during a break of water and fresh oranges being sold by some locals on the trail.  Just before lunch Guy and I meet a great couple from Australia who are traveling bits of the world together.  After Nepal they plan on heading to Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, then are moving to London, England on a five-year work visa.  They remind me of how inspiring it is to meet other travelers on the road:  there really are other people with the same kind of dreams and aspirations

For now Namche  Bazaar is solitude for us. Hot showers, laundry, reasonably cheap Snickers bars and Yak steaks, and most importantly (I think) time to relax and reflect: everything we need for our final push to 5318m at Gokyo Peak.


  1. Posted December 2, 2009 at 1:54 am | #

    To learn more about the Sherpas of the Mt. Everest region, read Beyond the Summit by Linda LeBlanc. Sherpas are the true heroes of Everest. Without their assistance, very few would reach the summit. Details of Sherpa culture and religion are interwoven in a tale of romance and high adventure. The story has something for everyone: a love affair between an American journalist and Sherpa guide, conflict between generations as the modern world challenges centuries of tradition, an expedition from the porter’s point of view.

    Below are selections from reviews. To read the complete ones and excerpts go to http://www.beyondthesummit-novel.com

    Beyond the Summit, is the rare gem that shows us the triumphs and challenges of a major climb from the porter’s point of view. The love of two people from diverse cultures is the fiery centerpiece of a novel that leads its readers through harshly beautiful and highly dangerous territory to the roof of the world. Malcolm Campbell, book reviewer

    Conflict and dialog keep this gripping story of destiny, romance and adventure moving from the first page to the last paragraph. LeBlanc has a genius for bonding her readers and her characters. I found I was empathizing in turn with each character as they faced their own personal crisis or trauma.
    Richard Blake for Readers Views.

    A gripping, gut-twisting expedition through the eyes of a porter reveals the heart and soul of Sherpas living in the shadows of Everest. EverestNews.com

    A hard-hitting blend of adventure and romance which deserves a spot in any serious fiction collection. Midwest Book Review

    LeBlanc is equally adept at describing complex, elusive emotions and the beautiful, terrifying aspect of the Himalayan Mountains. Boulder Daily Camera

    LeBlanc’s vivid description of the Himalayas and the climbing culture makes this a powerful read. Rocky Mt News Pick of the Week

    A rich adventure into the heart of the Himalayan Kingdom. Fantastic story-telling from one who has been there. USABookNews.com

    This is the book to read before you embark on your pilgrimage to Nepal. The author knows and loves the people and the country, and makes you feel the cold thin air, the hard rocks of the mountains, the tough life of the Sherpa guides, and you learn to love them too. This is a higly literate, but also very readable book. Highly recommended.”
    – John (college professor)

    Memorable characters and harrowing encounters with the mountains keep the action moving with a vibrant balance of vivid description and dialog. Literary Cafe Host, Healdsburg, CA

    This superbly-crafted novel will land you in a world of unimaginable beauty, adventure, and romance. The love story will keep you awake at night with its vibrant tension and deep rich longing. Wick Downing, author of nine novels

    Such vividly depicted images of the Everest region and the Sherpa people are the perfect scenario for the romance and adventure feats narrated. It’s a page-turner, so engrossing you end up wanting to visit Nepal! Not just novel, but perfect for those seeking to get acquainted with the culture of this country.
    By Claudia Fournier (América, Bs. As., Argentina)

    Available through Barnes and Noble, Borders, amazon.com, Chesslerbooks.com, and the web site

  2. Posted December 4, 2009 at 8:26 pm | #

    What great adventures. Cannot wait for tea and stories time.

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