from Namche to Thyangboche
of the Khumbu
that got us there
Lukla and Phakding
Between Namche and Thyangboche
Photos by Peter Potterfield, © 1997 The Zone Network. All rights Reserved.
A Walk on the Weird Side:
The Trek to Mount Everest
only a few hundred people on the planet have the inclination,
time, resources, and drive to attempt an ascent of Mount Everest, the
trek to the highest mountain on earth is a different story.
Anyone with three weeks, a couple of thousand dollars, and a twisted yen
for adventure can participate in the mind-bending walk through the
outrageous landscape and funky reality that is the Khumbu trek. Know
going in that this is not a wilderness experience. But it is a deep
immersion in an exotic culture, spiced with a polyglot international
scene of climbers, trekkers and hangers-on that will linger in memory,
whatever happens. And everybody' s trek is different. Wind-swept
monasteries, surreal vistas, a friendly indigenous population, strange
travelers, debilitating dysentery, dissociative reactions, and
potentially lethal hypoxia await all those who make this famous journey.
The trek can be a lot of fun, but it can challenge one in unexpected
ways. While I was in Thyangboche, a distraught trekker at the end of her
rope approached Alpine Ascents International guide Wally Berg for
advice. Berg is the quintessential Khumbu old hand, a three-time Everest
summitter and trekking guide who has made the journey to Everest more
than sixteen times. The trekker was sick and worried, weakened by intestinal
problems, shaken up by the psychological strain of an extended
pilgrimage on foot in a completely strange environment. In the dark
confines of the teahouse, Wally's advice to her was succinct, even
harsh: Deal with it you're trekking to Everest, and you're responsible
for your own well-being. Make your own decisions, press on or turn
around, but don't look to others for answers to the questions you're
finding about yourself.
Like all adventures, it's
a voyage of discovery, with an uncertain outcome.
That particular trekker turned around. Most people on the Khumbu trek
have a great time, and many come back for a second dose. Some die of
altitude sickness, some get so sick they can't go on, some decide it's
not for them and turn around at Namche Bazaar. Like all adventures, it's
a voyage of discovery, with an uncertain outcome. But if you love
mountains, it will be a journey you'll never forget.