Tuesday, December 11, 2007

200 lbs of Clothes 20,300 feet of Mountain - Part 1

This Adventure Report comes from Connie Garrett of Bozeman, Montana who last month set off to climb Kyajo Ri in Nepal and who along the way delivered over 200 lbs of gear to the Sherpa Climbing School that she rounded up from blog readers and locals in Bozeman.

Butterflies held a field dance in my stomach as I boarded the flight from Bozeman for the Khumbu in Nepal with 200 lbs of donated winter clothes shoveled into 4 duffel sacs. By the time I return from climbing there would be ice in Hyalite, snow on the ground, and leafless trees echoing in the winter wind.

Our climb of Kyajo Ri became a vehicle for delivering much needed technical clothing for Nepali high altitude workers. It all started as an easy way to distribute a few unwanted jackets from my closet and turned into a clothing drive resulting in 200 lbs of technical winter gear. Items were received from as far away as Edmonton, Alberta in Canada and as close as my closet, ranging in techno-colored gear from the 80’s to items featured in last year’s catalogues. All of the donated clothing was distributed to the Khumbu Climbing School, Porters Progress, and Inter-Mountain Explorer’s Connection.

Our plan was to climb Kyajo Ri, just a day’s jaunt from Namche to the north. For acclimatization, scenery, and a taste of the Khumbu our team circumnavigated the mountain before trekking into base camp. The Khumbu highway has two main branches from Lukla—one to Everest Base Camp and the other to Gokyo. They split in Kyahgjuma where trekkers have their pick of the many varieties of Pringles and enough tea to fill your bladder for days. Street vendors sell jewelry items, yak bells, knitted socks, and other trinkets. These street vendors are savvy, selling part time in Nepal and then charging to Aspen, Colorado for the ski season. All of the villages are reached only by foot and an occasional helicopter. Porters carry large loads of supplies, including meat, plastic lawn chairs, tables, and vending goods. One porter may carry as much as one and half times his weight. Female porters abound, often carrying farming goods between towns, such as a basket of potatoes. Life is simple in the Khumbu.

Trekking in Nepal is a journey in itself. Trekkers seldom carry over 15 pounds. There are tea houses within 20 minute walks of each other. Maps of the area show distances measured as time, not miles or kilometers. Majestic mountain views are in every direction, including famous peaks like Everest, Ama Dablam, and Cho Oyu, with some of the best views being the unknown peaks such as Thamserku, Kongde, and Teng Ragi Tau. Trekkers will find themselves at 10,000 feet with mountains twice as high surrounding them in all directions. There are prayer flags, monasteries, stupas, and prayer stones throughout the entire region setting the path on which direction to walk—to the right around prayer stones to build up merit.

After trekking a few days from Lukla, we arrived in Namche’s amphitheatre hamlet for a rest day and some sight seeing in nearby Khumbjung. Namche is picturesque with views stretching seemingly as far as Lukla. The ridge above brings towering views of Everest and Ama Dablam. In the “square” Tibetan traders set up shop after traveling over a week to the market to sell brand name knock-off’s of tennis shoes, puffy jackets, blankets, and the sort. In Namche climbers and trekkers can pick up last minute supplies from toilet paper to technical climbing gear and everything in between. Namche tea houses offer laundry, showers, and hot meals. There is a post office and I can attest that postcards mailed from Namche arrive in the United States about 3 weeks later..... (to be continued on Wednesday)

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