Thirty-four days of walking in Nepal! Yes, our bodies suffered with the altitude, we climbed a few minor peaks and Deb got blessed by a Lama on her 45th birthday. But this time, instead of focusing on our adventures, I'll write a bit from our perspective about the recent climbing tradgedy on Mt. Everest.
We were one valley East of the Khumbu when rumors arrived two days later at Chhukung of an avalanche that had taken the lives of 16 Sherpas working on Everest.
Those who perished, included five men from the small village of Thame, a hamlet we'd spent a few days in during the early segment of our trek. Because of our affinity for Thame and it's nearby monastery, the loses here hit us especially hard, and it is difficult to even imagine how it is affecting this small community.
The 16 who died were not your average load carrying Sherpas, though they did carry gigantic burdens up and through the mountains. These men were charged with finding the path, breaking the trail and setting the fixed ropes that make the climb up Everest a relative walk-up for Western mountaineers. They were the elite of the elite.
Though the Sherpas are paid relatively well for three months of work walking in these beautiful mountains, none that I spoke with or watched enjoyed their jobs. Over-burdened to the extreme, they were working hard in the mountains purely to support their families at home. There was little joy and a lot of grunting. Over use and a lack of respect for the environment has left a mark on the region, and left a bad taste in my mouth, not only from the polluted waters of Gorak Shep.
Out of respect for the Sherpa people, and also for lack of a safe route for Western climbers, Everest climbing was shut down for the season after the accident. Unfortunately, neither insurance nor the wealthy Nepalese government offered much support to the workers and families who have now lost both loved ones and a years worth of wages in an already hand-to-mouth economy. I asked a man in Namche Bazaar how many of the dead were his friends. With tears in his eyes, he said he knew every one of them.
An odd transition from the poverty and sadness of Nepal to the opulence and excess of Kuwait awaited us as we slowly made our way back to Central Asia. One day we were giving alms to limbless beggars on the streets of Katmandu, and the next morning we enjoyed brunch with a group of Generals from the U.S. military in an overly air conditioned four star hotel in the capital. After a quick and relaxing family reunion with Deb's dad, brother and brood, we headed back to Bishkek again, to again seek more snow in Arslanbob and our favored mountains. Maybe Babash Ata this time?