Posts Tagged With: trekking

River of Rock

As no doubt some of you have noticed my normal domain – – is currently out-of-order.  This seems to have been caused by some problems behind the scenes on WordPress’s end and has left me in a state of near hysteria the last few days.  While I try to figure things out with the folks over at the WordPress help center, I didn’t want anyone thinking I’d retired from writing.  So for now just come and visit me at my old domain:

That nasty bit of business out of the way I wanted to share memories of happier days with this photo I captured last spring in Nepal.  This stunning location is the result of countless millennia of glacial work.  The huge glaciers that once covered this whole area (and which are rapidly disappearing) slowly ground the rocks beneath them into small pieces.   As they melted away they left behind this vast – and only having been there can you truly grasp the scale – river of rock the extends for miles.

I'm sure they have bigger challenges than broken URLs.

I’m sure they have bigger challenges than broken URLs.

Aside from its innate beauty, the location reminds me of just how tenacious human beings are when it comes to life.  Here in this remote barren wilderness, chance had pieced together one small piece of fertile soil.  It didn’t go unnoticed and the rugged Nepali people have put it to good use.  With nothing but hand tools and patience they carved themselves a home on the rocky valley floor.  Finally, when I think about the challenges that life here poses my broken URL starts to seem pretty small indeed.

Categories: An Out of The Way Place, Nepal, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tour du Mt. Blanc

It’s not often you find yourself in a snowstorm in July, especially in Italy.  Hard to believe that just over a hundred miles (180 km) from here the local Milanese residents are being slowly roasted by the Italian sun like a sun-dried tomatoes.  My location as you might have guess is somewhere high in the Alps, perhaps only a 15 minute walk from the unmarked French border.  What am I doing here?  Well I ask myself the same thing daily, but the simple answer seems to be that I’m developing a masochistic tendency to seek out-of-the-way places that required a week of hard trekking to reach.

My first Christmas in July

This particular trek is known as the Tour du Mt. Blanc, often included in lists of Continue reading

Categories: An Out of The Way Place, France, Journeys, Photography | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Everest Base Camp Trek – Days 8 & 9

Day 8 – There and Back Again

I woke up the next morning feeling quite well, although not perfectly rested.  One might guess this was because my room was well below freezing, but actually it was due to the altitude.  High altitude, it turns out, has an extremely complex set of effects on the human body, two of which often include extremely vivid dreams (or nightmares) and insomnia.  Shortness of breath and light headaches are very common as well, although the altitude at which these symptoms start vary for everyone.  Those are the little problems; go a little too high too fast and the risks increase.  I had been extremely fortunate, only some crazy Technicolor dreams and a little insomnia were bothering me.

Impressive…. (Photo by fellow trekker Otto Lutz)

At this moment I must confess a slight degree of writers block.  I suppose the problem is that, in essence, trekking is Continue reading

Categories: An Out of The Way Place, Journeys, Nepal, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

And He’s Back!

No I didn’t fall off a mountain, get buried by a landslide or die in a plane crash.  Actually the most commonly guessed explanation for my absence was that I was arrested and locked up in a Nepalese prison, alas even that didn’t happen.  Instead I was suffering from the rather mundane problem of a malfunctioning computer combined with a relatively high level of isolation as I returned to the Himalayas for another dose of intense trekking.

Isolation isn’t always a bad thing.

That’s all in the past now and you can expect Continue reading

Categories: General, Nepal | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Everest Base Camp Trek – Days 4 & 5

Day 4 – Surprises

On day four I woke up to two surprises.  The first was the disappearance of my voice.  My throat had taken a turn for the worse during the night and although I didn’t immediately notice any other symptoms I could hardly talk above a whisper.  It was an unpleasant surprise for me, but perhaps a bit of a relief to the rest of my group. The second surprise, and by far the more pleasant of the two, was that it had snowed during the night, lending the already majestic landscape an otherworldly quality that one would expect to find in a Christmas movie.  Unfortunately while a beautiful setting for photos, this winter wonderland also made a perfect setting for some very active repertory bacteria and another day of panting cold air was not what the doctor ordered.

Clouds did nothing to diminish the spectacular scenery.

Even so another day of panting was on the schedule.  Truth be told, I remember this day less than any other day of the trek, both my head and the mountains being mostly cloudy. What I do remember was another day of seemingly endless mountain paths winding up and down, up and down.  I also remember coming to the realization that something was wrong with me.  Although I normally walk slow enough to cause sidewalk traffic jams, I maintain a decent pace when saddled with a pack and forced to walk uphill.  This means that while I’m often the last one to the bar, I tend to be among the first to enjoy the view from the top of a hill. Not today, I was tired before I even started and had trouble keeping pace with even the slowest members of the group.  I knew it was a bad sign.

I never know how to include Yaks in my stories, but they were everywhere on the trek. Turns out they make good cheese too…

When we finally stumbled into Tengboche, our destination for the day, I was only vaguely aware of my surroundings and my appetite was gone.  What was even worse though, was that I was cold.  This might seem natural enough since what we gained in elevation we lost in temperature, but for me feeling cold is rare experience.  Not gifted with any of the normal athletic talents of other children: coordination, speed or endurance, God thought it fit to enhance my meager physical gifts by making me resistant to cold.  Even in snow and ice I normally stay warm in a light sleeping bag, not so when sick.  That night I couldn’t have stayed warm by hugging a woodstove.

The night didn’t go any smoother.  Despite my nearly complete exhaustion I woke up periodically alternating between feeling like I was in a sauna and feeling like I was inside a freezer, which was pretty close to the truth.  Twelve hours of broken sleep later found me significantly worse off than I had been before and I started the day by coughing up some parts that looked important.  Like a fool I kept it to myself and simply sucked down a few ibuprofen. I hoped that if I pretended I wasn’t sick I wouldn’t be. It didn’t work.

Day 5 – High and Low

When sick my creativity also goes downhill, so I’m reduced to taking pictures of cute baby animals…

Day five proved to be even more difficult than day four, even though the walking was easier.  The snow which had painted such a pretty picture the day before had melted and the landscape underneath was revealed to be harsh and barren.  The mountains still made a magnificent backdrop, but we had risen above the altitude most living things could handle and only rocks and crows seemed to thrive where we were.  Even our own group seemed to wither in the higher elevation. The group split in half as the more ambitious members wanted to attempt one of the high mountain passes, leaving only three of us on the simpler direct route.  Simpler it may have been, but I was shattered when I arrived in Pheriche late in the day.  All indications were for another night of misery.

Fortunately things started to look up when we managed to find the nicest lodge in town.  It would hardly qualify as luxurious in most of the world’s tourist destinations, having no heated bedrooms, no free showers and only one functioning toilet, but the guest house’s common room was heated from early in the day and had a stereo with music that sounded like pure luxury to us.  The price was also reasonable at just over a dollar a night.  The real turn for the better, however, was neither this small financial triumph nor the stereo, but rather the discovery of another trekker who was on his way down and suffering from a bad case of altitude sickness.  A Canadian living in Mexico, this trekker had known of his own susceptibility to altitude sickness and rather than being deterred by it, had hoped to outpace it by making a mad dash to the top.  The result was a success, sort of.  He had made it to Everest Base Camp and the famous Kala Pathtar view point, but as expected contracted altitude sickness around the time of his arrival.  At that point it was a race against his sickness down the mountain.  Failure would mean an emergency evacuation by helicopter and success a somewhat more dignified self-powered descent.

Our luxury lounge. So warm you barely need a coat.

When I met him he seemed to have fought his sickness to something like a draw.  He had been unable to keep food down for two days and was feebly weak, but he wasn’t getting worse and finally managed to triumph over a bowl of tomato soup that evening.  As for me, my luck in meeting this intrepid traveler was twofold.  First, his own suffering was so immense that it made mine seem insignificant by comparison.  The second and only slightly less selfish reason I was in luck had to do with a bag full of medicine that he didn’t need.  In it was some spare antibiotics and although I was hesitant to take them at first, coughing up a bit more lung soon persuaded me.

It wasn’t a moment too soon.  Even with the medication I spent another night wrestling with fever.  Normally a sounds sleeper I was reduced to short periods of mediocre sleep and woke up gasping for breath in the thin air.  At one point I had to venture out of the relative warmth of my sleeping bag.  I noticed my water bottle had frozen and dangerous thoughts like “this sucks” began to creep into my head.  That was even before I made it to the bathroom to find the only working toilet had frozen.  This whole Everest business was turning into a challenge.

Read about days 6 & 7!

Categories: An Out of The Way Place, Journeys, Nepal, Photography | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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