MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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April 6, 2011

Adventurous Season in Nepal Begins!

Our first Everest Base Camp Trek of the season is underway! We've got quite a few great trips lined up in Nepal this year. With four scheduled Everest Base Camp Treks, two Island Peak climbs, a Khumbu Icefall expedition and an Everest View Trek, which is great for trekkers with limited vacation time. Gaspar Navarrete, a favorite Ecuadorian guide, will be joining forces with guide Deana Zabaldo later this month for an Everest Base Camp Trek, followed by an Island Peak climb with a father-son team. We are all very excited about the great treks ahead of us! Check out the adventures of the current EBC trip, as both Deana and climber Chris Underhill sent us a great update of the trip so far!

29 March 2011

Mani stone.

A journey doesn't always begin as expected. During orientation in Kathmandu, we went around the room with introductions. I am always impressed by how many people say they have spent 10, 20, 30 years dreaming of a trip to Everest Base Camp. Now here we all were together, thirteen clients and myself, full of adventure, hiking boots and warm gear...ready for the trail! We were ready to fly, sitting in the shoddy domestic airport since 5am waiting for a flight to Lukla, gateway to the Everest region. No flights were leaving though. The Khumbu winter has been unusually late in departing this year, and Lukla--one of the most dangerous (and exciting!) airstrips in the world--has been covered in clouds off and on for the past few weeks. No trail for us that day. Travel anywhere, but especially travel in Nepal, requires a healthy dose of flexibility.

We waited all day in the airport to no avail. The rain and clouds in Lukla did not abate. I juggled itinerary plans, last-minute hotel rooms, and flight rescheduling, and we all returned to the comfort of the famous Yak and Yeti hotel for an extra night in Kathmandu. One of Nepal's most common phrases is "Kay garnay?". Literally "what can you do?", it's so ubiquitous because there's always some reason to say it here! Weather in Lukla is terrible, again? What can you do? You wander out to explore the temples and shops of the city, and hang on to your optimism for tomorrow.

The next day we were lucky. Our staff pulled strings to get us on the very first flight of the morning, so we were at the airport at 5am, luggage piled up on the scale, checking the weather reports for Lukla. Fate was smiling on us, and the weather cleared. We soared over mountains, circled around twice for staggering Himalayan panoramas, and dropped in to the short Lukla airstrip before 8am. We easily made up the lost afternoon and were right back on track for our trek. Lucky, indeed. Nepal is an unpredictable place, which is part of what keeps it interesting!

Interesting landscape on hike from Lukla. Deana Zabaldo photo

31 March 2011

Today, we arrived in Tengboche and went to visit the area's largest monastery. Ornately painted in colorful pink, orange, yellow, green, and blue, the prayer hall is filled with images of the Buddha, chanting monks, and a thin veil of incense. When the deep tones of afternoon prayers had ceased, we were ushered into the private quarters for the monastery's head lama. In Kathmandu, we bought prayer flags to string at Base Camp and at Scott Fischer's memorial, but the flags must first be blessed. The lama chants and throws handfuls of rice in his small wood-paneled room as we sit on carpeted benches and squeeze against enormous copper bowls.

Scott Fischer Memorial. Mark Ryman photo

When the rites are complete, he blesses each of us on our journey with a thin red thread to tie around our necks and silky white blessing scarves around our shoulders. We duck our heads through the gate, step back out into the meadow of Tengboche, and head off to our warm teahouse, ready to head further up the Khumbu valley in the morning.

Dingboche, Saturday April 2nd

From Chris Underhill, Phoenix, AZ:

It is difficult to refrain from saying, "Look!", "Look at that!" as you pass yet another OMG moment, as the scenic views you have only experienced on YouTube or Google, appear before your very eyes. This is only at 14,000 ft. Imagine the delights on approaching base camp--our (and many others') ultimate destination. Mountain Madness has ensured our safety, "guaranteed" (well almost) incredible morning weather for hiking and photography, and orchestrated a group of Sherpas, porters, cooks and yaks that take care of our every need.

Although this is a teahouse trek, we bring along our own cook staff and serve-up in the comforts of the lodges, ensuring the best possible food and hygiene. Deana Zabaldo photo

Step aside! Deana Zablado photo

Imagine: breakfast is served, and then as we struggle for oxygen up the trail, the kitchen staff pass us enmasse and we find the kitchen set up at our next stop, lunch awaiting us... Though sometimes we encounter a yak-train, and guess who gets the right of way on the trails? Stay tuned for more...