A Pilgrimage to Chomulungma

Chomolungma

Chomulungma is the Tibetan name for Mount Everest and means Holy Mother

Why do men climb mountains? I am sure those of you who have an interest in the outdoors have heard this question and the reply "Because they are there!" Mountains have always fascinated me and this answer does not do justice to the mountaineer, there is a lot more to why people climb mountains. Why, did I even think of attempting Everest base camp and what did I get out of it? April 2010 I turned 50, age has never really been an issue for me, but in the prelude to my 50th birthday, friends who had already crossed over, hyped up the issue of turning 50 so much, that I actually started believing that life after 50 was going to be different and that there would be so much that I would have to give up and stop doing. I decided that I had to do something different, something challenging to prove to myself that birthdays are just a number like the years that pass and it is the person as always who makes the difference in everything.

Confidence came from the fact that it would be my son Samir, who would be organizing and guiding the trip. Also that he had full confidence in my abilities and encouraged me with no reservations. My husband had his reservations and in all fairness to him rightfully so. However, never one to prevent me from pursuing my interest, was willing to make a pact, that if the doctors cleared me physically then it was up to me to judge my own abilities and not put myself and others at risk on the actual trip. My younger son added his support, but unknown to me at the time had issued a warning to his brother, "Better bring Mom back in one piece".

"Better to be in the mountains thinking about God, than to be in church thinking about the mountains!" - Ace Kvale

I have always felt this way, it is very hard to describe the beauty, the majesty and the sheer overwhelming joy that one experiences when one is in the mountains. Every moment is a photo opportunity, ever second is a thrill where you feel life coursing through you, the only reality is the might of the creator who made you and the insignificance of what and who you really are.

People who climb mountains, attempting to summit peaks do not do so just because they are there. In truth it is a reflection of their life. "Men go back to the mountains, as they go back to sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up, as did men of another age, to the challenge of nature. Modern man lives in a highly synthetic kind of existence. He specializes in this and that. Rarely does he test all his powers or find himself whole. But in the hills and on the water the character of a man comes out." Abram T. Collier

The Dudh Kosi

As I walked mile upon mile along the banks of the "Dudh Kosi" the "River of Milk" so called because the rapids churn the water making it white, like a river of milk. The river always in sight, sometimes on the left sometimes on the right; at times close enough to feel the spray and chill, at times looking down upon it from a tremendous height; making its presence felt by the number of times one crossed over it on suspension bridges that literally take your breath away. It was like walking the river of life, the ups, the downs, the tough parts and the easy stretches but every moment to be treasured and remembered for the beautiful threads that are woven together to make the tapestry a treasure.

Tukla Pass, Memorials to Climbers

Our assent took 9 long days, mountain peaks are never crowded. Why? Because it’s hard work. Not very many people aspire to climb mountains. It’s lonely and you have to leave everything behind to do it, giving you a lot of time to reflect on all the things in life. The challenges are many; you have your own physical abilities, altitude, cold, wind chill factor and the hours of being alone with just your thoughts for company. It’s a strange thing about climbing mountains. It’s often much easier to climb up than back down. Once you’re up, you may never get back. That’s the reality and the price you may have to pay for climbing mountains. There are many dangers but funnily enough those never cross your mind on the ascent, the single minded focus is to reach your destination. Most mountain climbers who die are lost in the descent because when you are climbing up you can see where you are going, but when descending you often can’t see what is ahead. The scenery on the trek was amazing, every day brought a different kind of terrain, from thick coniferous forests to, dense pine trees, open flat stretches of shrub which looked as though they had been specifically landscaped, Rhododendron forests and areas that looked as though they belonged to the stories of ‘King Arthur’ or ‘Lord of the Rings". At the pace that you trek there is enough time to spend looking at the scenery and enjoying ever moment. Sometimes making the view an excuse to stop.

Everest Base Camp 3rd October 2010

There were times when you questioned your sanity in actually paying to do a trip like this!! Though there are a lot of people trekking along the trails each one is focused on conserving his energy for the next lap and conversations with fellow trekkers generally happens only at the ‘Tea Houses’. The local people though not overtly friendly were very respectful and courteous. We reached the base camp on 3rd October 2010 and the raw beauty of those towering mountains and the magnitude of the whole trip actually leaves your mind blank and numb. The ultimate meditation; the mind is devoid of thoughts, only the feeling of satisfaction, achievement and a thrill so great, that is almost terrifying. Added to this is the fact that you can actually hear the Kumbu Glacier cracking and feel the tremors under your feet. The dichotomy of Everest base camp is that you actually cannot see "Chomulungma" all your see is the Nupse, Lodse and the Kumbu falls, all of which in their own right hold you spell bound. Each one of us wanted to just be in the moment and share the moment with those closest to us.

Kumbu Glacier

Coming back down from a mountain is always tougher for so many reasons. Once you have climbed a mountain and reached the peak, you definitely have a reluctance to leave. There’s no inspiration in going back down, whereas there is a certain drive, almost a spiritual inspiration going up and you’ll risk anything to reach the top. But going down? It is very hard to turn ones back and start the descent, mixed feelings, you carry the happiness of achievement, in essence you have enriched your life and you are looking forward to being on your way home to the people who love you and who you love but there is a deep sadness, because you have been touched by the hand of God for those moments, a feeling you want to make last forever, but can only be carried in a memory, till the next time you climb a mountain.

 

 

By Christine D Patham