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Memories We Take Home From Nepal

Clients have always told me upon return­ing from the Himalaya that their expe­ri­ence in Nepal was one of a kind. I recent­ly dis­cov­ered that I had only under­stood half of what they meant. 

Mar­la Fenske photo

There are many ways to get where you want to go, but in the end, reach­ing your des­ti­na­tion is only a small per­cent­age of the sto­ries and mem­o­ries you take home. And our sto­ries and mem­o­ries were large­ly thanks to our atten­tive and knowl­edge­able guide, Deana Zabal­do, and her spec­tac­u­lar team of 22 Sher­pas, porters, cooks and yak dri­vers. I can now proud­ly say that I ful­ly under­stand the feel­ings of grate­ful­ness, nos­tal­gia, excite­ment, pride and sat­is­fac­tion that many trekkers before me have tried to convey.

Our star Sher­pa team and guide! Om Kumar, Nan­ga, Dawa, Deana and Mani.
Kay­la Fenske photo

One of those very spe­cial mem­o­ries came from our encounter in Pang­boche with the revered Lama Geshe. This Tibetan Bud­dhist monk, next to his col­or­ful wall filled with signed pho­tos of climbers on the sum­mit of Ever­est, receives vis­its from trekkers and climbers from all over the world seek­ing his bless­ing before they begin their journey.

Lama Geshe. Mar­la Fenske photo

We, too, were each giv­en a chance to offer our dona­tion on bend­ed knee and receive his spe­cial bless­ing of good health and safe­ty on our jour­ney to Base Camp. Although Lama Geshe spoke Tibetan while his daugh­ter trans­lat­ed his bless­ings and words of wis­dom to us, his kind nature and infec­tious smile need­ed no trans­la­tion. Eric and JD even received spe­cial bless­ings for their con­tin­ued jour­ney to the sum­mit of Island Peak, and our Sher­pas received a bless­ing along with a good-natured reminder about not giv­ing up on tra­di­tion­al Bud­dhist practices.

Joan­na Y receiv­ing her bless­ing from Lama Geshe. Kay­la Fenske photo

Our Sher­pa staff, along with the rest of the porters, worked hard­er than any of us thought pos­si­ble. Car­ry­ing loads near­ly twice their size, wak­ing up before dawn to pre­pare the tea and cof­fee to be deliv­ered each morn­ing at our door, break­ing down the cook tent, clean­ing and then run­ning ahead of us on the trail to begin prepar­ing our next meal before we arrived… the list goes on!

Mani pre­sent­ing us with an incred­i­ble veg­gie piz­za in Teng­boche. Mar­la Fenske photo

While rest­ing one after­noon in Ding­boche, we had the hon­or of shar­ing tea with our staff. We learned each of their names, where they came from and what they do in the off-sea­son – many of them farm and raise a fam­i­ly. For these men and women, these 2 – 3 trekking trips each year make up much of their total annu­al income. To share tea and snacks and exchange curi­ous ques­tions was a very hum­bling expe­ri­ence and allowed us a chance to con­nect with these peo­ple who would be shar­ing the trail with us for two weeks. 

Ang Kila (yak dri­ver), Nan­ga (Sher­pa), and Dambar (head cook). Mar­la Fenske photo

Chris and Pam, with the help of our Sher­pas, kept the inter­ac­tions between trekkers and porters alive with the promise of a high alti­tude base­ball game! While trekking through the gor­geous rhodo­den­dron for­est, our Sher­pas detoured off the trail until they found a per­fect sized branch for Chris to whit­tle into a bat.

Mar­la Fenske photo

The Sher­pas then car­ried it for us until our return to Debuche, for the long-await­ed base­ball game. Although many have prob­a­bly only observed crick­et match­es, the gist of the game was under­stood and much enter­tain­ment was had by both par­ties try­ing to keep the ball up out of the val­ley below and attempt­ing to run at 11,800 feet!

Chris C with a Nepali boy he gave a base­ball and cap to. Chris Calcagni photo

Return­ing to Luk­la at the end of the trek, we all gave a sigh of relief. Whether our goal was to see Ever­est, reach Base Camp, climb Kala Pat­tar, or just expe­ri­ence the cul­ture and peo­ple of this won­der­ful coun­try, we all had suc­ceed­ed. And what bet­ter way to cel­e­brate that suc­cess than with a tra­di­tion­al Nepali meal and dance par­ty! As a thank you to our won­der­ful staff, the trekkers had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to serve the deli­cious Nepali dal bhat (a dish pri­mar­i­ly of rice and lentils with chick­en cur­ry and oth­er veg­eta­bles) to our staff as they had done for us on so many occa­sions before.

Dana serv­ing dal bhat to the staff. Mar­la Fenske photo

Fol­low­ing the meal came song and dance, both Nepali and West­ern-style. With the help of some Ever­est beer and sake, the tea­house din­ing room at the Sher­pa Cof­fee Lodge was hop­ping that night as we cel­e­brat­ed a suc­cess­ful trip, our new friends, and lungs full of oxygen!

Every­body dance! Kay­la Fenske photo

Although we were sad to say good­bye to our new friends and leave this amaz­ing back­drop of snow-capped giants, we were all very hap­py to be head­ing towards home. With one more dose of the bustling city of Kath­man­du and an incred­i­ble insider’s guide to the best shop­ping in Thamel (thank you Deana!), we wrapped up our time togeth­er. That night, we enjoyed a cel­e­bra­tion din­ner on a rooftop ter­race and Deana pulled her last sur­prise out of her sleeve – a night­time rick­shaw ride through the now-desert­ed streets of the Thamel dis­trict and Dur­bar Square! What a sight it was to see sev­en col­or­ful­ly paint­ed rick­shaws rac­ing each oth­er through the city, with each of us whoop­ing and hol­ler­ing all the way back to the Yak and Yeti.

Rac­ing rick­shaws through Kath­man­du! Kay­la Fenske photo

Until our next adven­ture, whether it be in Nepal, Asia, or anoth­er con­ti­nent – thank you to my fel­low trekkers and the Moun­tain Mad­ness Nepal staff for an incred­i­ble, unfor­get­table adventure!

The team in Gorak Shep before head­ing up to Ever­est Base Camp. Mar­la Fenske photo

~ MM Oper­a­tions Man­ag­er Kay­la Fenske

Pre­vi­ous Nepal Blog