April 4, 2009
I arrived in Kathmandu on April 2, after an 18-hour flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok and a 3-1/2 hour flight from Bangkok to Kathmandu. Other than the length of the flights, the trip was uneventful. The Asian Trekking representatives greeted me at the airport, as did my Sherpa, Mingma Sherpa. This was so thoughtful of Mingma, especially since his wife, Ang Doma Sherpa, gave birth to a baby boy on March 31. There were complications from the birth, and she was hospitalized until yesterday, even spending time in the Intensive Care Unit. I urged him to stay with his wife at the hospital, but he insisted on coming to the airport to meet me. Ang Doma is home now, and she and the baby are doing fine.
This morning, Mingma picked me up at the hotel and took me on his motorbike to his home to see his wife and baby. I felt kind of bad for his wife, since I knew that the last thing she needed in her circumstance was a stranger coming to her home the day after she returned from the hospital with an newborn, but I did not want to disappoint or insult Mingma. Their son is so beautiful. I know they are proud, and Ang Doma seemed happy to see me. Don’t worry Sharon, I didn’t stay long. According to Buddhist custom, they will name the baby tomorrow. The procedure is that a Lama (a Buddhist Priest) comes to the home to do the blessing. The father chooses a name and the Lama chooses a name and the names are put in a hat. They are then drawn out of the hat, one by one, and given to the Lama. The Lama then decides which name is most appropriate for the baby. In legal jargon, we would call giving that decision to the Lama a conflict of interest. After visiting Mingma’s home, we went to the Lama Ongthi Gobah Buddhist Monastery and participated in a Puja Ceremony. In that ceremony, I kneeled down before a Lama, and he blessed my journey up the mountain. This is considered very important to the Sherpas, and will be repeated again at Base Camp before we make our first move up the mountain. The Sherpas believe that success on Mt. Everest can be attributed to a good Puja, while failure and tragedy are often the result of problems with the Puja. So, now I have double protection for my journey. Funny thing: last year, I never had a Puja before I started the trek to Base Camp. As in Everest 2007, I wore a cross around my neck to express my own personal faith. This cross was given to me last year by my friend, Lanny Anderson, who lives in Colorado. I promised Lanny that I would christen his cross on the summit this year and return it to him.
We had our first team meeting at Asian Trekking tonight. There are 14 climbers on the 2009 Eco Everest Expedition team, including 6 Americans, 1 German, 4 Austrians, 1 Indian, 1 Dane and 1 person from the Netherlands. The Americans are my friend, Bud Allen, from Georgia, Pritzker Yury from Illinois, Jesse Easterling from Washington, Nicholas Cunningham, from Minnesota, Will Cross from Washington and me. I will have more to say about them later. Everyone seems really nice, and I know we will all have a great time together this year. Dawa Steven Sherpa asked me to serve as the 2009 Expedition Leader, which is a real honor for me. Asian Trekking will be filing expedition reports on its website almost every day, so you might want to log on to their website every now and then to see how the team is doing.
The name “Eco Everest Expedition” comes from the commitment of Asian Trekking to clean up the mountain as well as bring attention to the global warming crisis that threatens Mt. Everest and the entire Himalayan mountain range. Last year, they brought down over 1 ton of garbage from Base Camp. So, I am happy to be part of this team. In reading my reports, especially while I am on the trek and climbing the mountain, I would suggest you check out the 2007 and 2008 Everest photos on my website, so you can have a visual image of where I am at all times. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Alan Arnette has a great animated map of the route up the mountain that shows the typical acclimatization schedule. There is a link to his website on my website, and you can find the map under Everest 2009.
Most of the team is flying to Lukla on April 6. Bud and I are flying on April 7, since Bud just arrived today. I will file another report after we begin the trek.