Re-entry continues. I’m actually feeling okay… starting to understand that the trip is going to take some time to digest, and appreciating the support and advice from friends who’ve done big trips, and gone through adjustments when they’ve gotten home. I think, if I didn’t have you all sending me such wonderful little tidbits and advice, I’d think I was going nuts. I had a great short afternoon in the climbing gym on Sunday, which turned out to be just the ticket — it was crowded, and loud, and both of those things made me feel at home. I was also surprised by the sensation of climbing… after basically taking the last six weeks off, it felt really good to use my climbing muscles. I felt strong, which was a surprise, and my commitment level is way up (before the trip, I was so scared I’d twist an ankle, or hurt myself … so I’d been climbing really cautiously, when I was managing to climb). So — getting out of the house, and specifically, getting into the climbing gym, are helping. I’m still not sleeping, which is getting really annoying. But, stressing out about it only makes it worse, so instead, I’m just going to keep a pile of books by the bed, and trust that this will pass, eventually. I read pretty voraciously during parts of my trip, so I’m considering finally taking the plunge and getting myself a welcome home Kindle. Larry, you’re a bad influence (not really).
Since I can’t sleep this morning, I might as well be writing.
Eileen, aka, Rockgrrl is one smart cookie. Aside from her support and suggestions with regard to my re-entry, one of her questions about my trip gave me the perfect starting place for my posts about Nepal… she asked what I thought about the people I met. It makes sense to start there, since then when I tell the rest of the stories, you’ll have an idea of who the folks are that I’m talking about. Brilliant! I met so many wonderful people, that I’m even going to have to break this down into chunks… so first, here’s an introduction to my travel companions from North America (and New Zealand).
The Expedition Hanesbrands Climbing and Trekking Team
Starting at the beginning… the first people I met were our own team!
I’d metJamie when he came through Seattle last spring. For this trip, I flew to Vancouver BC to meet up with Jamie, Todd, a guide based in Golden, BC, and Jamie’s childhood friend Aenea who’d be joining us for the trek. After our long flight to Hong Kong, we were on the moving sidewalks in the Hong Kong airport and I looked over and saw a Westerner with a mop of curly hair and thought, “That dude has GOT to be a climber.” Turns out, it was Scott, our trip photographer and a climbing team member, based in Salt Lake City and New Zealand. Here are Jamie, Todd and Scott, outside the Boudhanath Stupa, on our first full day in Kathmandu.
And here’s Jamie and Aenea, in one of their “moments.” Occasionally, they’s just start OFF… some kind of interaction pattern that probably started when they were in Grade 5. I vaguely recall that this one might have had something to do with shaving… but I can’t remember for sure.
Todd, Scott, Aenea and I all got to know each other during our travel to Kathmandu, with visits from Jamie when he wasn’t dozing in his big comfy seat at the front of the plane. We all hit it off instantly — I’d been a little nervous about a trip that long when I had only barely met Jamie and didn’t know the other climbers… my nerves were completely unfounded. All of us had a great rapport from the start, the vibe was positive, fun, and inclusive… the guys helped me feel at home, right away.
When we got to Kathmandu, we were greeted by rolling cameras and the film crew for our trip. Paul, Lovinder, Kenny and David had come ahead of us to do some shooting before the team arrived, and they were ready to roll when we got off the plane.
And, Dave and Kenny hamming it up on our first day of trekking:
The biggest smile I caught on Lovinder was on the day he was headed down.
Also, on arrival in Kathmandu, I was excited to see Mike and Charlie from Hanesbrands, who I’d gotten to meet in person this summer in Winston-Salem, and both of whom had been just wonderful to me in the weeks leading up to the trip. Here’s Mike, AKA “Big Diesel”:
who turned out to be a wee fraction of the man I’d met in Winston-Salem… where I’d gained weight like crazy for the trip, he’d lost a bunch! Here’s Charlie:
Finally, our trip leaders from Berg International, Leila and Wally. Leila was our trekking guide as far as base camp, and Wally was our expedition leader. They’re based in Canmore, Alberta and operate trips all over the world. Here’s Wally, in Pheriche:
And, Scott and Leila, getting ready to head out from Na
In retrospect, I laugh about this… but the whole start of the trip, I was super nervous about meeting Wally. Wally is an incredibly respected, knowledgeable and experienced climber, guide, and expedition leader. The first American (now, Canadian) to stand on the summit of Lhotse, with a long Himalayan history and the stories to match — let’s just say I had some preconceived notions about meeting a high altitude mountaineer with his resume. Again, my concerns were unfounded. I met Wally the first time in the lodge dining room at Pheriche, and he walked over, gave me a huge hug, planted a kiss on my cheek, and said, “I’m so glad you’re here. Welcome to Pheriche.”
I was blown away, right away, by his and Leila’s warmth and encouragement, and their excitement about having me on the trip erased any remaining fears or nagging doubts I might have had about my place on the team. In fact, I’ll never forget the day that we reached Dugla for lunch, at about 15,100 feet. At that point, I was still going strong, and the altitude hadn’t really hit yet. I got to a rest stop and Wally looked up, snapped some pictures, complimented me on my altitude smile, and with a huge smile on his own face, said, “You BELONG up here.”
For a girl who lives at sea level, who’d never been above 10,000 feet before, that was the kind of encouragement that will stick with me forever. I swear, when I started to have some altitude sickness, I could hear Wally in my head, saying, “You BELONG up here.” It might not sound like much — and I don’t want to digress into a discussion of gender politics in the climbing community — but I’ll treasure it.
Here’s me, somewhere in Nepal, snapped by Scott:
Those are the folks from North America (and New Zealand). If you want a sneak peek about our Sherpa team, here’s a dispatch from while we were on the mountain, and I’ll share more when I do a post about my experiences with the rest of the folks I met in Nepal … the locals, and other travelers.
At least now, when I tell stories, you’ll have a face to put with the name. Thanks, Eileen, for the idea… and stay tuned for more!
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