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WTF, Nepal?!

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
4 min read

So, for those of with whom I’m not connected on Twitter or Facebook, a little bit of news…

I’m leaving for Nepal in approximately twelve — yes, twelve — days, to support the Expedition Hanesbrand climbing team.

Since the news actually broke on Tuesday, I’ve gotten a deluge of support from my friends and family, and a puzzled comment or two from folks who don’t know me as well.

Here, the short version of the whole story of how my imminent departure came to be, and what you can expect during my trip.

It all started on Twitter.
I’m not kidding. It did.

Early this year, a woman named Elizabeth Castro and I connected via Twitter. We chatted outdoors stuff a bit, then in April, when she was planning a speaking tour for a Canadian mountaineer, she asked if I’d help spread the word about his Seattle stop. I’m asked to do this frequently about climbing events, but I can only attend a small fraction. I didn’t plan to go to this one, but at the last minute (literally) I decided… aw, I could use a mountain story and some pretty pictures today… so I went.

I met Elizabeth and Jamie Clark, a Calgary-based climber, at my alma mater, Seattle University. We had a nice chat before the event, and then I settled in for Jamie’s talk. What he does is very different than what I do — I climb big and little rocks, and he climbs big mountains. But as he talked, his story of “failures” and “successes” resonated with me, as did the little details of his life as a climber. I was struck by how much we have in common as “mountain people,” and really enjoyed the evening.

Jamie and Elizabeth and I all kept in touch via Twitter and email, and after a couple of months, my phone rang and it was Jamie.

“I have a crazy idea…” Jamie started… and he asked if I’d be interested in participating in the project in some way. I didn’t hesitate, and responded, “There’s no way I could say no.”

Jamie started to explain his thinking, I interrupted him to say something like “Oh – no – you don’t have to convince me … ultimately, you’re going to come to your senses and find someone more qualified … but until you tell me I’m not needed, I’m in.”

And, that’s how we proceeded. Through a visit to Winston-Salem earlier this summer where I got a preview of the project, to meet the team at Hanesbrands, during which I learned some of the finer points of North Carolina culture (“Bless yer heart” doesn’t mean what you think it means). Through a summer of dividing my training time between rock climbing and conditioning for mountaineering, JUST IN CASE he didn’t come to his senses. There was the acquisition of a small mountain of climbing gear, and the scheduling of basic mountain skills training. There was replacing my lost passport, and starting travel immunizations, and phone call after email after phone call with Jamie and Sheila in his office, and Elizabeth and her staff. And then, this week, the slip during the press conference that announced the project, that I’d be one of the climbers on a R&D and training trip taking place this fall to Pumori.

At this point, we’re about twelve days from the date of departure, and I just chatted with Jamie the other night… nobody seems to be coming to their senses.

I’m going to Nepal.

Why?
A part of this project is a contest, called Climb Everest With Us where a lucky winner will receive $10,000 to help pursue their answer to the question: “What’s YOUR Everest.” This fall trip is also a practice run for Jamie’s return to Everest next spring.

Hardened climbers and those who have seen sponsored Himalayan expeditions in the past will have their take on all of this, but the way I see it is that mountains do still have the power to inspire. If, in some little way, I can learn and grow through participating with Jamie and his team, and inspire others to get out there and play outside, then this is all time incredibly well spent.

You don’t have to be planning to climb Everest to play outside. I like that the brands behind this project are accessible to “normal people,” not just people who think of REI as a home away from home.

But seriously – what are you going to be doing over there?
From Jamie and the project’s point of view, I have skills to offer — I’ll be writing and communicating on behalf of the climbing team while we’re in Nepal, as well as hopefully assisting the team’s photographer a bit (since I’m super excited about the opportunity to do some serious learning in that regard).

And, to borrow a comment and my answer from my blog, earlier today:

Do you really think you are ready for the Himalayan mountains after one trip to BC? And a training trip at that.

I think I’m ready to trek to Pumori basecamp with the group that I’m traveling with, yes (at least, once I get my flipping trekking shoe issues worked out, but that’s another story). I’ve spoken with a number of folks who’ve been to Pumori, some of whom have climbed on Pumori, and I have felt encouraged by their stories of the trek to basecamp.

I don’t have any illusions about my mountaineering skill or lack thereof, once we’re actually on the mountain. Neither does the team I’m traveling with.

I’m not going to Pumori with a specific climbing goal; I’m going to learn from, and to support an incredibly generous team of climbers that does have the experience and skills to climb in the Himalayas. I’m very much looking forward to the trek to basecamp, and to supporting the climbing team to the degree I’m able.

I’m excited to travel with this wonderful group of people who I’ve come to know over the last several months, and am looking forward to seeing a part of the world I’ve only ever read about in books (lots, and lots of books) and seen in pictures. I hope that I’m able to help bring the trip’s story home. And, if my participation happens to help another girl decide to sign up for Mountain school (or, an intro to climbing class, or to try interval training (my secret weapon — more on that in an upcoming “training” post)) then sweet. But aside from all that…

How could I say no?

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.