It’s hard to believe that two weeks has passed since I returned from Kathmandu, Nepal back to the hustle and bustle of daily life in Northern California. I so appreciate being able to take a hot shower whenever I want, sleeping in a nice comfortable big warm bed, and eating anything besides fried noodles! Looking back at my amazing journey, there are so many lessons to be learned from this experience.
Just one year ago today, on April 25, 2015, a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, just outside of Kathmandu. The earthquake killed approximately 8,700 people and injured at least 22,200. There were entire remote villages destroyed without a single home left standing. More than 500,000 homes in Nepal were destroyed. Nearly 8 million people, one-quarter of the Nepali population, live on less than $1.25 per day.
As I reminisce about our trek through some of the most beautiful mountains in the world and share with you lessons that I learned, I try to keep in perspective how uniquely different our lives are here in America. Yet…as I will share, some of the happiest, most humble, and hardest working people I have ever met are in Nepal.
Life Lesson #1:
Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander mountaineer, along with Nepalese Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1953. I really like this quote from Edmund Hillary because, over the years, it probably has meaning for all of us. At one time or another, everyone has a problem (a mountain) in their life that they need to overcome. Many people may never have a desire spending two weeks climbing to the base of the world’s tallest mountain, but we’ve all had metaphoric mountains that sometimes seem insurmountable. Many times it is not the mountain we need to conquer, but maybe our own fears, uncertainties, feelings, or thoughts.
About two hours below Base Camp, my altitude sickness almost prevented me from making it. As the rest of my group forged ahead, I sat on a boulder guzzling water trying to endure my pounding headache and dizziness. One of our guides and a porter waited with me to guide me down to a lower elevation. For the first time, I came to terms with impending failure. I was forced to make a decision. I asked them to wait a few minutes and let me rest. I decided that I was not going to give up…I was going to Base Camp. They were somewhat surprised, yet supportive, of my decision. We continued our ascent over shale and boulders more slowly and steadier than ever. Looking back, I know I overcame a lot to make it to Base Camp, including possibly some self-doubts and fears. The point is…I made a decision, stuck with it, and did not give up. I also had support along the way…my guide and porter who were with me every step of the way, the thoughts of those of you supporting me from afar, and the cheers of my fellow trekkers as I rounded the corner below Base Camp.
As we face mountains in our lives, I learned from this experience that we need to make decisions without waffling, deal with our fears and uncertainties, and know that we are never alone.
Life Lesson #2:
One of the first lessons I learned before I ever went to Nepal was from my new coach and friend, Jim Geiger. Jim first came across this quote in 2008 as he prepared to summit Denali and lived by the words as he prepared himself for summiting Everest in 2014. Jim later admitted that he was nervous early on if I had enough time in the short three month period to be prepared enough for the Base Camp trek. We implemented a very defined plan that covered every aspect of my journey. I prepared my body through regular cardio on the “mountains” around Northern California, leg strength workouts, and high protein/low carb nutrition. I also prepared with the proper trekking gear, medical evacuation insurance, immunizations, preventative prescriptions for the trek, and research from our trekking company and any one else I could talk to! Without this plan and strong follow-through, I would have definitely failed.
Life is the same…whether it be overcoming those figurative “mountains” in our lives, accomplishing our “bucket list” dreams, or achieving a very comfortable retirement…without a well thought out plan and thorough follow-through, our chances for success is minimal.
Life Lesson #3:
Experiencing this trek reminded me so much of how we live our hurried lives. How many times do we just run ragged to reach our destination without stopping to smell the roses and enjoying the journey along the way?! I am guilty of this often. Our Nepali guides constantly reminded us to take things “slow and steady”. We only needed to think about the step right in front of us.
I learned as long as you reach your goal, the speed doesn’t matter. If you plan to travel to somewhere you have never been, tackle something on your “bucket-list”, or aim to achieve other personal goals, just start doing something even if you need to take small steps at first. Start by listing out the places you want to travel to, research a dream on your “bucket-list”, or map out some steps you might consider in achieving other personal goals. The key is to start taking small steps toward your dreams and goals no matter how small they may seem.
As we ascended toward Base Camp, it was important to not get ahead of ourselves, which is not easy for me! During rest and water breaks, I quickly learned to not only catch my breath and re-energize, but to also “live the experience”, before our guide uttered the phrase “jum-jum…let’s go”. Reaching Base Camp was the goal, but the challenge and journey was really what it was all about. Walking slowly allowed the blood to acclimate better at higher altitudes, but it also allowed more time to stop, admire the beauty of my surroundings, and to be present in the moment. Now that I am home, I will need to remind myself of this constantly in daily life. It is certainly a great lesson for all of us.
Life Lesson #4:
One of the greatest lessons I learned in the Himalayan mountains was just how fortunate we are in America, yet how unhappy we can be at times. We take so much for granted…a warm bed, clean water, electricity, warm clothes, good food, education, grocery stores, transportation, shoes, freedom of choice, heaters, Home Depot around the corner, traffic lights…the list goes on and on. While we trekked along “slow and steady” with backpacks containing maybe 25 pounds, sherpas and porters raced without complaint up the mountains ahead of us, sometimes carrying up to 150 pounds or more. Many wore shoes or clothes clearly not designed to climb a mountain. They pushed themselves to the limit daily, risking their own lives for as little as $3 to $5 a day, so that trekkers and climbers could have this amazing experience. They suffer from the cold and altitude over and over because they have families to feed and this is their livelihood. We had to “survive” these elements for just two weeks. I wonder how many trips these sherpas and porters have made up and down the mountain over the last two weeks while I have been back home in my very “comfortable” life.
Standing among the tallest mountains in the world was humbling, but watching how hard the Nepali people work without complaining was among one of the greatest lessons I took home with me. The children were even more amazing. They sometimes hike five miles up and down mountains in their uniforms to go to school each day. Every child we saw was so full of life and they were always happy. It certainly wasn’t because they had material things. What made them the happiest? Giving them a big smile and “Namaste” and slapping them a high-five. The hard working Nepali people and “full of life” children really taught me that happiness does solely rely on what you think, not on what you have, or who you are. I am becoming more eternally grateful for everything I have in my life.
Life Lesson #5:
One of the greatest lessons I brought home with me is to make the most of every opportunity that’s been given to us. I thank my good friend Keith (second from left) for opening the door to this incredible opportunity. So many of us put off until tomorrow what can be done today. So many of us may deny ourselves happiness because we fail to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us. What happens when there is no tomorrow?
I developed a couple of great new friendships along the way. John (left) was my teahouse “cellmate”, as we liked to refer to our accommodations. John and I were two of the oldest in our trekking group, but we certainly did not act like it! Sometimes the only way we could handle getting up early in the cold frigid mornings was to start laughing hard about something. The young German studs in our group told us that our early morning laughter was the thing that motivated them to get going each day! Chris (second from right) and I trekked solo for a couple of days in the beginning and really got to know each other well. Chris, who is an amazing photographer, truly lives each day to its fullest and I learned so much from him…even how to properly hold my camera!
On the trekking trail, everyone always says Namaste (hello) and encourages each other along the way. Everyone is an equal on the mountain. Now that I am home, I realize how important it is to treasure the relationships we form along the way and take nothing for granted. We never know what tomorrow will bring.
At the end of the day, accomplishing this ambitious goal was so rewarding in so many different ways. I pushed my limits over and over, which in turn can now open up so many more opportunities in life. The greatest lesson I have learned… Anything is possible. Today is the day.
Thank you for joining me on this amazing journey to Mt. Everest Base Camp! Your support along the way was so motivating to me. I surely never felt alone on the other side of the world!
As you may remember, I dedicated my trek to Alicia, my friends’ three year old daughter, who was diagnosed with childhood leukemia in February. Your support has been amazing! To date, thanks to you, there has been more than $3,500 contributed to Alicia’s Hope thus far. Alicia’s parents shared that she has come a long way since when she was first diagnosed. Every stage of treatment has different side effects. This week at least, Alicia is smiling, playing, and being her cute self. I just received a picture that Alicia colored to thank everyone for supporting her! I love her adorable smile!
Below is a link to the Alicia’s Hope Facebook page which has updates on Alicia’s progress and how you can still help support Alicia if you wish. A Go Fund Me account has been established for the family and I have also included the link below. Thank you so much for supporting me on my trek that I dedicated to this precious little girl.
Alicia’s Hope Facebook Page
Contribute to Alicia’s Hope
Until the next journey…Namaste!!
All my very best,
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Day 14: Lukla/Kathmandu
I woke up early this morning and for the first time it really sunk in…our trek through some of the most majestic mountain passes in the world was complete! Last evening we celebrated our accomplishments at a farewell dinner in Lukla with our new friends from across the globe who we shared the last two weeks with. It’s truly amazing how different people from the U.S., Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada can spend two weeks together and develop such close bonds. After all, we did have something in common…we all made it successfully to Base Camp and back and none of us really smelled that good! We shared some fun stories about our journey and definitely had a lot of laughs!
After completing the trek, it is customary in Nepal to memorialize your accomplishment on a flag representing your country. The U.S.A. flag on the wall was fairly small because apparently not too many Americans make this journey we discovered. We were definitely proud to represent our great country!
There was only one more thing we wished for before our journey was complete…nice weather to fly back to Kathmandu! Between the cloudy or foggy weather in the mountains in Lukla and the smog in Kathmandu, it can sometimes take up to three days or more to get to either place. Spinning every prayer wheel along our trek certainly must have helped because the weather could not have been nicer! As we left Lukla early in the morning, I turned to admire the beauty once more that had been our “home” for the last two weeks.
As we flew back to Kathmandu, I admired the enormous Himalayas that had enveloped us the last two weeks, forever etching an amazing memory in my mind.
What a stark difference between the majestic solitude of the mountains and the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu! I had literally not heard the sound of any type of motorized vehicle for the last two weeks. Boy did that change in a matter of minutes! I couldn’t decide who had a tougher job…the sherpas lugging 100 lbs or more on their backs or this poor guy who risks his life every day serving as a “traffic light” or “stop sign” in a city that possesses neither.
When we arrived back in Kathmandu, I had the opportunity to profusely thank our two guides from G Adventures, Bahrat and Krishna. I let them know that they were not only just excellent guides in my mind. These two caring men from Nepal with ready smiles and encouraging words, sincerely helped create a life changing experience for me and I cannot thank them enough.
After spending a few hours in the Thamel area of Kathmandu, the four Americans took a thrilling taxi ride through the wild streets of Kathmandu to the Hyatt Regency. What a welcome sight!!! I could already feel the hot shower pounding on my weary body!
For the next 24 hours, we relaxed and lived like kings with our strong U.S. dollar in an inexpensive country. We reminisced every tiny detail of our trek and counted our blessings how fortunate we were to have experienced this amazing journey. We tried not to think about the long 25 hour flight back home that awaited us. After all…not many people can experience the euphoria of being this close to the “top of the world”.
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Day 13: Namche Bazaar/Lukla
Have you ever woke up in the early morning and thought… whew I can go back to sleep and sleep in today…and then realize no, that’s not the case?! That was what this last trekking day felt like! We stayed up later than normal last night in Namche because we were a little giddy from our long hiking day and increased oxygen. It felt good to be a little closer to civilization (especially with no pounding headache)! We started trekking early in the morning and logged another 15 miles. We had beautiful weather and were able to take in some gorgeous views that we missed on the cloudy days on the way up. I almost felt I was hiking in Northern California…with less oxygen!
It was fun to walk through the small villages again and see the Nepalese live their normal hard working lives. It is still amazing to see the huge smiles on the faces of people who work so hard and have so little. Makes you stop and think.
Throughout our trek, we could see signs of the devastation caused by the earthquake. The devastation was overshadowed though by the rebuilding efforts of the proud Nepalese people.
We stopped for our last lunch at the tea house in Phakding where Chris and I stayed on our own early in the trek. I realized that I can’t wait for a normal meal that doesn’t consist of dal bhat, fried rice, fried noodles, or fried macaroni. It’s hard to believe I can eat this much fried food and still lose weight.
Only three hours to go after lunch!! Wouldn’t you know the last 20 minutes of our “descent” we had to “ascend” straight up a mountain into Lukla! It seemed so fitting.
We made it!!!!! Under the scraggly beards and dirty clothes you can sense the exhausted exhilaration on the faces of Keith, John, Chris, and I as we celebrate the conclusion of our challenging yet rewarding trek.
After our final dinner together tonight, we will hopefully (weather permitting) fly out from the fresh air of Lukla into the smog filled air of Kathmandu early in the morning. I will keep you posted!
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Day 12: Pheriche/Namche Bazaar
Namaste. I thought descending would be easier! We trekked literally all day and logged about 18 miles. Descending in the Himalayans though means going down a mountain, then up another, and back down over and over. It was actually one of our tougher days although breathing definitely got a little easier.
When we left in the morning, I discovered this memorial outside our tea house commemorating the lives lost attempting to summit Mt. Everest. The names include the 16 Sherpas who died in 2014 when my coach Jim Geiger attempted his record setting summit. One of our awesome G-Adventures guides is admiring the memorial here.
The day started out sunny so I was able to capture some beautiful images on our journey down.
We are up early for another long trek into Lukla Wednesday. It is funny to see how much more energetic and exhilarated we all are! We all made it, the uncertainty of what lies ahead is gone, and we can breathe again!
One more day of trekking and then we pray for good weather to fly back to Kathmandu Thursday. I’m looking forward to coming home soon!
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Day 11: Gorakshep/Pheriche
It is amazing how perspective can change. Just a few days ago I commented about reaching 14,000′ altitude and how the high altitude can affect you. Today we trekked 12 miles and descended more than 3,000′ to 14,000′ elevation. This was one of the easiest parts of the trek so far!
We all sat around our tea house at dinner tonight talking about how much better we feel at this “low” elevation. I feel like a completely different person than yesterday, thank goodness!
The weather turned cloudy and cold this afternoon. We have been very lucky so far with the weather. It was tough to take photos today. Looks like we are trekking into “The Twilight Zone”.
It is amazing to me how much weight the sherpas carry on their backs going straight up the mountains over boulders and shale. We heard today that some sherpas carry over 160 lbs. I can’t imagine the back and spine problems they will have when they are older. When we need lumber, we can go to Home Depot. When lumber is needed in a remote village in the mountains, this is the only way it can get there.
Some of you might wonder what is a tea house and what are our accommodations like? The room we checked into tonight was one of the nicer ones.
Everyone shares a bathroom. Sometimes there is a western toilet which is a treat. You have to pour cold water in the toilet to flush it. There is no hot water and no electricity in the room other than a dimly lit bulb. I was able to take a hot shower (you pay for it) once during the trek. What a treat! Yes we do have it very good at home in America!
My beard is getting thicker every day. It is coming in much grayer than my hair. I cannot wait to get back to Kathmandu to take a nice long hot shower!
Tomorrow we continue our downward trek toward Lukla. We are trekking for about 8 hours straight to Namche Bazaar. We will descend close to 3,000′ but will be trekking up and down several mountains to get to our destination. I’m guessing our breathing will continue to improve immensely as we descend.
Onward and downward!
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Day 10: La Boche/Gorakshep
“I arrived in Base Camp with clarity, focus, ease, and grace. There were difficult portions, but I overcame the struggles along the way and arrived healthy and inspired.” On my way to the San Francisco Airport, I stopped to see Jim Geiger, my coach. These were the words we wrote together that night that became my vision. I read them every day in my iPhone to help inspire me to meet my ultimate goal. On Sunday, we made our trek to Base Camp. I would finally be able to change my cover photo standing in front of the yellow sign! I could have changed my vision to “I arrived in Base Camp inspired.” Unfortunately due to a not-so-fun case of altitude sickness, the other words did not apply, but the great news is I made it to Base Camp, and I was extremely inspired when I rounded the corner and the rest of the group was cheering me loudly yelling “way to go Jeff!”
We started the morning at 6 a.m. and went half way up Kala Patthar which is best known for 360 degree views of the Everest region. We stopped first in Gorakshep which is at 17,000′. I discovered my breaking point is at that elevation. We continued up Kala Patthar and got our first up-close view of Everest, the peak in the background directly above me.
The scenery in the early morning is breathtaking.
We descended and had lunch before our three hour trek up to Mt. Everest Base Camp at 17,668′. That’s when the headaches started getting worse. The more we ascended, the worse they got, and then the dizziness started. A porter took my backpack and I had fallen behind the group. I drank liters and liters of water. We stopped for rest when the guides said they should take me down. It was such a balancing act between my health and achieving my goal. We decided to go a little further and see how I felt. The view of Base Camp from an hour away inspired me to keep going, very very slowly.
I had a guide and a porter with me to make sure I was okay (phenomenal care from G-Adventures, my expedition group). When I heard my group cheering me on, it was the biggest thrill. I stopped and took it all in. I made it!!!!
We descended back to Gorakshep and I was in bed by 6:30. Our group was scheduled to climb to the top of Kala Patthar early Monday morning, but I decided to err on the side of caution and stayed behind. We are heading to lower elevations later Monday morning. I am hopeful that I can soon add those missing words to my Base Camp vision!
Next stop…lower than 17,000′! Namaste.
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Day 9: Dengboche/LaBoche
Namaste from 16,200′. One more day until we arrive at Everest Base Camp. All three of my wishes were granted today…good health, my knee was well braced and held up well, and the weather was amazing as you will see from the pictures! I’m gonna keep my comments short and let the pictures speak for themselves. Of course, it has nothing to do with being tired!
How could I ask for a better backdrop with my friend Keith.
This is a memorial for Scott Fischer who was featured in the book “Into Thin Air”, which the movie “Everest” was based on.
Ahhhh…home sweet home for the evening. We are leaving for Base Camp at 6 a.m., so hopefully tonight brings much needed sleep!
Next stop…Mt. Everest Base Camp!!!
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Day 8: Dengboche
Today was both the best and worst day so far in our journey. We are at an elevation of 14,500′ in Dengboche. I went to sleep last night freezing cold at about 7:30 pm. I woke up at 1 a.m. with a splitting headache and was having a panic attack because I couldn’t get enough oxygen. It sounds like this happens to a lot of first timers at high altitudes. This lasted most of the night. For the first time, I was nervous about not making it up the mountain to our destination. When I got up this morning I did everything I could to get the altitude sickness under control and decided to go ahead and do the acclimation hike. Our second sunny morning thus far was my motivation! Boy, am I glad I did! We ascended up a mountain about 1,000′. There were six of us that decided to go up another 250′ on our own. I actually felt great and was thrilled I had conquered my first altitude sickness! Thank goodness I did, or I would have missed the most amazing views I have ever seen that I’m thrilled to share with you. Enjoy!
I cannot begin to tell you how surreal it was standing on this mountain surrounded by two of the highest six peaks in the world, and we could not even see Everest. It was literally a 360′ view of the most awe inspiring beauty you could ever imagine. It made the challenge well worth it!
As much as I love going downhill versus uphill at these high elevations, that’s where most injuries occur. Unfortunately, I slipped and twisted my knee on the way down. I’ve been icing it and found something the Nepalese call “Ninja Cream”. I hope it works, because the next three days are the toughest in our journey.
This afternoon was free for acclimatization and rest. Unbelievably, we found the longest pool table I have ever seen under a dim lamp in the village. I doubt I will ever play pool at an elevation above the peak of Mt. Shasta ever again!
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Day 7: Tengboche/Dengboche
Today we trekked close to ten miles to Dengboche. Each day is getting more challenging as we climb higher. We are now half way to Everest Base Camp and should be there Sunday hopefully. Since I grew up in the shadows of Mt. Shasta, it has always been on my bucket list to climb that peak someday. The elevation of Mt. Shasta is just under 14,200′ and I am writing this from an elevation of 14,500′! I still hope to climb Shasta in the next year or so if possible. Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating with us. Although we are trekking under some of the most amazing mountains in the world, we cannot see them due to clouds and fog. Each day I am hopeful that the clouds will disappear and that my lungs and legs will hold out! Early this morning we did see some sun for a bit as the mountains tried to peak through the clouds high above the river.
All along the trails, we pass mani (Buddhist prayer) walls and mani stones. You are always supposed to pass the walls on the left if possible.
Here are some mani stones with signs of an avalanche in the background.
I had to take this picture. I’m wondering where the yak school is?!?
Ahhhh…the moment I look forward to most every day…seeing our tea house in the distance which means the days trek is almost done. By the way, that’s not a full beard in this photo! I’m wearing a buff to keep the wind and yak dust off my face.
We will stay in Dengboche for two nights. Tomorrow we will do an acclimation hike to about 15,500′ and back down. Then the real fun begins the following day. Wish me luck! My body will need every positive thought possible over the next several days.
I am hopeful that I can get this update out today. There is no Wi-Fi or cell service so I need to buy a satellite Wi-Fi card. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it works okay! The rooms get smaller and smaller the higher we go and the nights colder. We are all fighting over the one wood stove with another group and are watching the snow fall outside. I keep reminding myself that I chose this over going on a warm tropical vacation!!
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Day 6: Namche Bazaar/Tengboche
We said goodbye to Namche Bazaar for good this morning. I ended up there one more night than planned since the rest of our group was delayed a day. The weather today was certainly not as good as yesterday which makes it challenging for good photos! Here’s the view of our tea house from the hill above as we leave.
We trekked almost 10 miles to Tengboche. We hiked from the top of one mountain range down to the river, crossed a hanging bridge, then climbed 2,000′ in the last two hours to the top of the next mountain range. Each step takes us a little closer to Mt. Everest Base Camp. Even after climbing straight uphill the last two hours, we ended up at a lower elevation than we started this morning! That will soon change as we will end up at an elevation of more than 14,500′ tomorrow.
We are officially half way to Base Camp tonight, although the second half will be much harder than the first half because of the altitude. I am always amazed at what we might see around each corner. It makes the challenge worth it!
Pringles taste so much better when you see what it took to get them to you.
When we arrived at Tengboche, it started raining pretty hard. We had the opportunity to visit a Buddhist monastery and listened to the monks chanting for awhile. It was such a unique experience and so peaceful and serene.
So what do you do after a day of trekking in cold rainy weather?! Fight for the wood heater in the tea house!
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Day 5: Namche Bazaar
What a beautiful day in Namche Bazaar! We woke up this morning to this amazing view.
Today was another acclimation day to adjust to the altitude. For some reason it seemed to affect me much more today. We went on an amazing hike up to the Everest View Hotel at 12,800′. When we got back I slept for 4 hours. Hopefully that will help.
This was the first clear day we had and the first opportunity to see Mt. Everest! This is me being “safe” with Everest in the background.
Let me share with you some of the beauty we saw today as we hiked.
Tomorrow we continue on our trek to higher elevation. We climb 2,000 feet at the end of the trek which should be “interesting”!
Thank you all for your encouragement and great comments. They help tremendously! Namaste
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Day 4: Namche Bazaar
Happy Monday! Today was an acclimation day. Chris and I took a great trek up to a village called Khunde at 13,000′ and back down. Our group had just trekked in so now we are all back together! I thought I would share some pictures of some of the beauty we saw. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get a glimpse of Everest yet due to the bad weather.
The mountains are trying to break through the clouds. We got a little snow last night.
Syangboche Airport is an unpaved airstrip serving the area. The airstrip is the closest airstrip to Mount Everest and Everest Base Camp.
We trekked to the quaint village of Khunde which was badly damaged in the earthquake.
We had lunch in Khunde with a delightful man, Sonam, who is rebuilding his restaurant and lodge destroyed by the earthquake. Go see him if you ever go to Khunde!
Majestical Namche Bazaar as the clouds lift.
I hope you have a wonderful Monday and week!
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Day 3 Phakding/Namche Bazaar
Happy Easter from Namche Bazaar, Nepal! Given that Nepal is primarily Hindu or Buddhist, there are no signs of our traditional Easter holiday on this trek. We said goodbye to our host at this quaint little tea house where we were the only guests!
On Sunday we set out to face our first major challenge in the trek. It was still only the three of us. We found out our group’s plane was grounded again due to smog so they would need to take helicopters which were not cheap. Our destination is Namche Bazaar, a decent size village 2,700′ higher than where we stood here! You can barely see our destination from this point.
Day 2 of the Everest BC trek is known for being very difficult. We started with a somewhat leisurely three hour stroll up and down at 8,500′. Here I am hiking toward a stupa.
Our first part of today’s trek was followed by a grueling three hour vertical climb that ends at over 11,200′. We were climbing straight uphill the entire time the last three hours. They say this will be one of the more difficult days. Unfortunately, the last thing on my mind was to take photos during the steep part of the climb.
I have to admit at times I questioned my sanity of doing this trek, but I pushed the thoughts away. I kept saying to myself, “You can do this.” Of course I said it in my head, not out loud because I could barely breathe! At this elevation you get about 67% of the oxygen at sea level. 18,000′ should be interesting!
The experts say to get ready for this trek you want to train hard and trek slow. Our porter, Lakpa, is a young tiny Nepalese who has made this trek hundreds of times. He is the nicest young man, but we did have a tough time communicating. We finally got him to understand that we wanted to trek more slowly! The best thing you can do to minimize altitude sickness is to go slow and easy. Or as the Nepalese say…bsatari, bsatari, or steady, steady.
It was amazing going through the little villages the first half of today’s trek. They live such simple lives, but work so hard. There is no form of transportation up here except for their legs and an occasional horse. We pass Nepalese children dressed in their uniforms on their way to school. They will sometimes walk five miles to get to school. Everyone seems to be working and small children are playing.
We passed this monk with his prayer wheel on the way up.
After a brief lunch to give us the energy needed, we headed off to the “fun” part of the day. I really had no idea what to expect. We crossed one of several hanging bridges. Fortunately, the yak crossed after I did!
As we entered the Beyul Khumbu Park which is considered a sacred area of the Sherpa’s,there is a great sign with five rules of the park which are also good rules to live your life by.
As we started climbing, Lakpa pointed up and said we are going there now! He pointed to the top bridge, then to the ridge high above the bridge. We hiked up and crossed the bridge (after the burros were off) and then the fun really began!
So I have to apologize, but it was at this point that my camera never came out of my pocket again until we reached our final destination. But you will be happy to know it was all because I was focused on safety! Oh…and also breathing.
At long last…we rounded the corner and there was Namche Bazaar, which was just a small blip on a big mountain six hours earlier!
Once we got to the village, we still had to climb up to our tea house which was near the top of the hill.
I was so ready to change into fresh dry clothes and anything but heavy boots…but still no clothes. Once we got settled, I walked down to a little store and got the deal of the year…a North Face fleece jacket, North Face fleece pants, and a North Face cap, all for $28!! They sell a lot of knock off brand name clothing, but they were still just as warm!
After dinner, another early night to bed at 8 p.m. During dinner a porter dropped off our bags that he carried several hours from the airport. Yea!! The rest of the group all made it out of Kathmandu, and should join us sometime tomorrow after they make the long grueling trek we made today. It should snow here tonight.
I hope that your Easter was wonderful. More tomorrow!
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Day 2 Kathmandu/Phakding
Greetings from the Himalayans. Well they said be prepared for an adventure! I woke up on Day 2 at 3:30 a.m. We headed to the airport for a 6:15 a.m. flight to Lukla to begin our trek. I am trekking with friends Keith, John, and Chris. There were not enough seats for two people in our group so they pulled Chris and I out and put us on a different flight. Due to heavy fog we left about 3 hours late. The flight into Lukla was amazing. The sole runway is nestled in between huge mountains. One end of the runway is 197 feet higher than the other end and the plane lifts off just before the cliff.
We waited for the other plane to arrive with the rest of our group. We watched a French film being made, watched new trekkers start their journey, wandered through the little village of Lukla, and waited. Ten hours after waking up, we finally ate breakfast. Thank goodness we finally ate. By 3 p.m. it was obvious our group, with our guides and our bags, weren’t coming. They arranged a porter for us and the three of us started our trek alone. We checked in without our permits that our guide possessed; they let us continue! We trekked 2 1/2 hours to Phakding through pine and cedar woods following the Dudh Kosi, the river that flows down from the Himalayans.
We walked across our first hanging bridge. It was extremely well constructed but nevertheless I realize I still have a fear of heights!
Nepalese life in these small mountain villages with no roads is so different than ours. They all work extremely hard yet they have so little. What they do have are big smiles, huge hearts, and lots of pride. It really makes you realize how good we have it and how much we take for granted every day.
Another lesson to be learned.
We arrived at our first tea house. Our sleeping room consists of two twin beds with a mattress on a piece of plywood. Since we did not have our sleeping bags or Thermarest, they gave us a ton of warm blankets!
We were the only guests at the tea house. We sat around the wood stove, ate dinner (I had to try the yak steak), and went to sleep by 7:30. Our first night in the Himalayans was pretty quiet, and I need sleep for a big climb to Namche Bazaar on Easter! We will ascend more than 2,500′ to an elevation of 11,300′. We spoke to our friends who were back at the hotel in Kathmandu. They are hopeful they can fly out in the morning and catch up with us in two days. In the mean time the three of us will trek on and pray our clothes (and group!) eventually catch up with us
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DAY 1 Kathmandu
Greetings from Kathmandu, Nepal! I arrived in my hotel in Kathmandu early this morning about 26 hours after leaving San Francisco. Although the room was sparse, I was never so happy to see a bed at 2 a.m.! I’m guessing in two weeks I will be saying the same about a hot shower.
I spent this morning organizing and checking my gear for the trek. This afternoon I walked around Thamel, in the center of Kathmandu. I can best describe it as manic confusion, but everyone seems to go with the flow. It’s crowded, dusty, loud, and full of life. Thousands of people browsing shops and restaurants mixing with non-stop horn-honking cars and motorcycles on very narrow streets with no stop signs or lights! Felt a tad more risky walking there than up to Base Camp.
The power goes out often in Nepal and this picture I took might explain why!
We met our fellow trekkers and guides tonight. Seems like a good group. We leave to catch the flight to Lukla at 4:45 am so I’m calling it a night.
The trek begins!
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Travel Days to Kathmanu
Today marks the first official day of my Journey to Mt. Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Trekking up to the base of Mt. Everest is one thing…getting to Kathmandu is another! I flew out of San Francisco this morning (Wednesday) on my first 16 hour flight to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Here I was worried about accessing Wi-Fi in the Himalayans…there’s no Wi-Fi on this plane, so I will send when I can next obtain a Wi-Fi connection. From Abu Dhabi I will fly to New Delhi, India, then on to Kathmandu, Nepal. I estimate that my total time in the air will be about 24 hours…but who is counting? For the last 20 years I have turned into an AMEX “reward point hoarder”. I kept saving the points and never knew why. As I sit here in my Business Class “pod” reclining in my large seat which will eventually turn into a bed, I now realize why I hoarded those points forever! My greatest fear getting ready for this trek was, “Will my lower back hold out for 24 hours straight on three different planes before I start hiking?!” I am worried no more.
This will probably be my longest update over the next two weeks since I have 24 hours to kill and am not yet thoroughly exhausted from trekking at high elevations, so please bare with me. I have been asked many times if this trek was on my “bucket list”. Honestly, less than four months ago I had never heard of an adventure like this and probably could not have even told you which country Mt. Everest was in. Climbing Mt. Shasta has been on my “bucket list” since I grew up there, but more on that later. Since the first World Series win in 2010, my good friend Keith Haag and I have made it a tradition to attend Opening Day of the San Francisco Giants each year. Keith called me in early December to tell me he could not go to Opening Day this year because he was doing this 15 day trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp. I had to ask him exactly what a trek was! He explained it to me and then attempted to tell me why I should go with him. I gave him every excuse in the book, all of which he already knew I was going to utter. He ended with…”Oh Jeff, I get it…on December 31, 2016 you’re going to look back and say, wow…thank goodness I worked those two extra weeks earlier this year. I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t.” He then told me he would forward me the information if I wanted to look at it. He might have added something about me being a “wuss”. I didn’t have to look up that word. I have to say thank you to Keith anyway for opening up some life changing doors.
The email from Keith came and I did open it just for kicks. In fact, I read it several times over the next two weeks…but failed to tell him cause I hate pressure! I was actually getting excited about the thought of going, but thought there was no way I could be in the shape I needed to be in three short months. I watched the movie “Everest” with my family and had to explain that if I went, I would only be going to the beginning of the movie (the foot of Everest). I talked to a good friend Sam Kader, who was also my personal trainer, about the possibility of going on the trek. He told me about a gentleman who he met who had attempted to become the oldest American to climb Mt. Everest. Sam said he would try to set up a meeting between us. I met Jim Geiger who is 70 years young, but looks like he is a tad younger than me. Jim attempted to summit the highest peak in the world in 2014 but his record setting attempt was cut short by the ice avalanche that tragically killed 16 Sherpas. Everyone was later pulled off the mountain.
After meeting Jim, I decided that I did not want to go through another New Year’s Eve saying to myself…”I am so glad I worked so hard last year.” Don’t worry…I will always continue to work hard, but Lesson #1 here is this…”There is more to life than just working hard. Don’t have regrets.” I believe one of the worst things we can do in life is to one day wake up and have regrets that we should have done something we did not do. This can apply to anything. As we get older, it sometimes seems as if it might be easier to wait or to make excuses. At what point do we run out of time, good health, or excuses?
So I committed that day to do the trek and Jim agreed to be my personal coach! I think Keith fell over from shock when I told him I had booked the trek. Jim and I hiked our first hill that he refers to as the “training hill” a couple weeks later. I thought I was in okay shape before, but I wanted to die by the time we got to the top. Even though I thought I would collapse, when we got back to the bottom I told Jim I wanted to do it again. He was pleasantly surprised. Jim told me that he would normally like for someone to be able to train for six months before doing this trek, but ten weeks might be possible. Lesson #2… “If you’re going to commit to climb a mountain, no matter if it’s a physical or metaphorical mountain…fully commit to it, do everything possible to get ready for it and never give up.”
So the training began! Lots of climbing hills and mountains (sometimes at 5 a.m.), leg and core strengthening workouts in the gym, Paleo meals, coaching sessions with Jim, equipment purchases, chiropractor and physical therapy appointments with Don Freeman (who happens to be training himself for a 200 mile endurance run), and a lot of positive self talk. Which leads to Lesson #3…”Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and your aspirations.” When someone questioned why in the world I would do this, I decided to just move forward. Who has the time or energy for the negativity? I cannot express my thanks enough for the positive comments and emails that I have received from so many of you over the last several days. Lesson #4…”Positive words and thoughts can make all the difference in the world to someone.”
My son Seth is an avid runner and has trained a lot with me over the last couple of months. Having his positive nature beside me on the trails has helped me immensely, as has Christopher telling everyone how cool his dad is now. I have to admit it felt pretty good last week when he told me he was losing his affectionate nickname for me…”fatty daddy”. Seth and I climbed Mt. Diablo together about a month ago with Jim. Jim pulled me aside and told me, “Jeff, my friend, you are ready for Mt. Everest Base Camp.” He affirmed that the dedication and hard training was paying off. At the same time, I personally did not feel I was quite ready yet and I did not stop persevering. I had dropped almost 20 lbs., was feeling stronger than I have in a long time (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), but I knew I still had a lot of work to do. As I am sitting here in my airplane “pod” (love that term)…I go to Nepal with confidence but also with some apprehension. Lesson #5…”No matter how confident you feel about something, being a little nervous and humble is okay…it helps keeps you focused and keenly aware.”
Although I feel like I have been flying for a while, I realize I still have 18 hours flight time left! I watched “The Big Short” a bit ago. I highly encourage watching the movie to gain some insight about the “events” that greatly contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. I had the opportunity to hear Michael Lewis (author of “The Big Short”) speak a few years ago at a Commonwealth conference. Very eye opening indeed.
I promise that my upcoming posts will be shorter and more about the awe-inspiring beauty of the Himalayans and the adventures that lie ahead! As I have trained for this journey, I have already learned so many valuable life lessons. I know the next two weeks will teach me so many more. I thank you for joining me in this journey and I hope and pray that some of the lessons I learn and share will also benefit you…just as I have learned many lessons from so many of you.
Today’s final lesson, #6…”If there is something you have wanted to do, do it now. Don’t wait. Don’t have regrets. We never know what tomorrow may bring. You can do it!”
Next stop…Kathmandu, Nepal!
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Happy Spring! As you receive this email, I am preparing for the adventure of a lifetime! On Wednesday, March 23, I will be flying 24 hours from San Francisco to Kathmandu in Nepal. From there I will be joining three friends on a 15 day Himalayan trek to Mt. Everest Base Camp. We will be joined by eight other trekkers, a guide, and Sherpas and yaks to assist with our gear. This is certainly a new type of adventure for me! Reaching the foot of this majestic mountain that represents the top of the world will probably be one of the greatest achievements in my life. There will certainly be times where we’ll be pushed to our limits both physically and mentally, but each day will be rewarded with the most spectacular scenery and sense of pride of being one step closer to our end goal, the base of the top of the earth.
Over the years, I have always encouraged clients and friends to try things "out of the box" or out of their comfort zone. It was time to take some of my own advice! I have been fortunate to train with Jim Geiger, a local mountaineer who attempted to become the oldest American to actually summit Everest in 2014. Jim has helped provide the coaching and inspiration to attempt this amazing adventure!
I thought it would be fun to take you on my adventure if you wish to follow along! Although trekking is a great way to disconnect and lose yourself in nature, I am hopeful that there will be stretches when I have Wi-Fi available to be able to share some photos and keep you updated as we ascend to higher elevations.
As I have been training for this journey this year, our good friend’s 3 year old daughter, Alicia, was diagnosed with childhood leukemia on February 7 with no prior warning. Alicia and her family live in El Dorado Hills. She has a twin sister (Ashley) and a big brother (Nathan) in kindergarten. Sweet little Alicia has been bravely enduring a much greater trek here at home than I can ever imagine undertaking in Nepal.
I would like to dedicate my upcoming Journey to Mt. Everest B.C. to Alicia through a support system of family, friends, and community, called Alicia’s Hope. Alicia’s Hope was started to support Alicia’s family in any way possible, especially with mounting medical bills. In my upcoming trek, I will be ascending to an elevation of more than 18,000’ at the peak of Kala Patthar. I would love if you would join me in pledging any type of support to Alicia’s Hope…whether it be $1, $5, $10, or more, per 1,000’ that I ascend, up to 18,000’!
For example, I have made a donation of $180, which is equal to $10 per 1,000’ of the 18,000' that I will ascend. ($1 per 18,000’ = $18, $2 per 18,000’ = $36, $3 per 18,000’ = $54, $5 per 18,000’ = $90, $10 per 18,000’ = $180)
Below is a link to the Alicia’s Hope Facebook page which has updates on Alicia’s progress and how you can help support Alicia if you wish. A Go Fund Me account has been established for the family and I have also included the link below. Thank you so much for supporting me as I dedicate my trek to this precious little girl.
Alicia's Hope Facebook Page
Contribute to Alicia’s Hope
I hope you are able to follow along on my Journey to Mt. Everest B.C. and I look forward to sharing stories, pictures, and videos with you upon my return!
All my best,
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