Monday, March 31, 2014

Little Steps

 "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" ~Lao-tzu

How do you reach an altitude greater than 3,000 feet above the highest Rocky Mountain peaks?  Little steps.  Each day, you make small leaps in elevation going 1,000 to 3,000 feet higher.  Each physical step you take is spaced carefully apart, slowly, regularly, conserving energy as the oxygen diminishes from the air you breathe to less than half of what you are used to.  Up and down valleys you travel with these small steps. At first, you are in the crush of those heading toward the Everest Base Camp, but after three days, you turn aside toward Gokyo on the road less travelled.

And as you trek, you walk carefully on cliff edges alongside soaring raptors and wander in the shadows of geological giants, following in the footprints of snow leopards.  The omnipresent sound of bells give warning of approaching yak trains all day.  Yak dung coats your pathway and feeds the fires each night in tea houses providing you some measure of warmth.  Its smell is always present, sweeter than your own body odor after days without water for bathing and showering.

Each night you sleep under heavy blankets in rooms with temperatures indistinguishable from the outside frigid air.  You place batteries, devices and water in your bed with you so that some remains unfrozen for the next morning's hike.  You carefully maneuver through the black ice surrounding the squat toilet as you void the gallon of water you have consumed to prevent altitude sickness.   Your room is lit by a dim solar light which fades as the battery charge diminishes long after you have fallen into a deep sleep.  Each morning's bitter coldness is staved off by hot tea and trekking.   You breathe through your nose and neck gaiter carefully conserving your warm moist air as you take each step.  You nod in greeting to those locals struggling under loads larger than you have ever carried in your life as they move from one small habitation to the next, bringing goods and trekker supplies along the way.  Their steps are large as they carry loads of over 100 pounds to places several days' walk from the nearest road or airport, accessible only by foot or by the all too frequent rescue helicopters.

While the way is challenging, the rewards are momentous. Landscapes of Mother Earth's greatest peaks surround you, engulfing your mind, commanding your eyes, and filling your soul.  Your mind, stretched by the surreal vistas before you, can never return to the same state.  You are forever changed by what you see and what you attempt to comprehend. Each little step has added up to the journey of a lifetime and takes one to heights never imagined before.  As you stand at the summit of your journey, you see that it has been each little step of life that has led you to these persons, this place, this time, this peace.

Posted in Namche Bazaar, Nepal.  Images are of our ascent to 17,575 feet in view of Mt Everest; a typical black ice toilet experience; one of many yak dung fires to keep us warm; and one of many views along the trek.

1 comment:

  1. I'm beyond impressed and in awe-- by the pictures, by the experience, and by you two! I can't even imagine 17,000 feet! My heroes.