Adventure in Climbing in Nepal

Our speaker today was Richard Durant, both an electrical engineer and an attorney who represents Southern California Edison as his career. Richard focused on some serious training in preparation for this trek. He hiked the Mt. Wilson Trail everyday at 4:30 a.m. for three months with a backpack and accomplished the routine in four hours, up and back. Six years ago Richard climbed Mt. Rainier, at an elevation of 14, 441 feet, and Mt. Adams, at an elevation of 12,280 ft (known as a Stratovolcano, potentially active). Both are located in the state of Washington. He presented a fascinating adventure of trekking in Nepal. His group flew from Katmandu to a tiny airstrip in Lukla eastern Nepal, aka, Tenzing-Hillary Airport and landed on a 1729ft long runway. It is considered the most dangerous airport in the world due to, not only the length of the runway, but there is a 9,000 foot cliff at the end with a straight drop off. It can get fogged-in at the drop of a hat so that even helicopters can’t see it.

The elevation at Lukla Airport is 9,334ft. The official name is the Tenzing-Hillary Airport after a Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest. It is the place where most people start their climb to Mt. Everest Base Camp. On this trip the group experienced beautiful weather and so after an initial gear-up and planning meeting they began to trek. Your trekking starts after breakfast at mountain lodge. You cross a long suspension bridge over the Dhudh Koshi River, which is originated from Khumbu glacier. From there the trail moves to a steep staircase through the pine forest. After about a half hour of steep walking you will see Mt Everest (8848m/29029ft). The trail ascends until you reach Namche Bazaar through the alpine forest. The Namche Bazaar is the getaway of the Everest Base Camp trekking. The stay is typically two nights to acclimatize. This small town has a few shops, tea houses, even a small Internet Café.

Yak’s are used to help carry much of the heavy supplies but you have to make sure you stay out of the narrow paths that they use, they are a pretty wide animal and have been known to push trekkers off the trail. In addition Sherpas usually accompany those who trek as guides and are known for their mountaineering expertise. There are many hazards along the way so one must be very careful where to step and how to step. Rocks, ice, and even an occasional crevasse all had to be recognized along the way.   There are only two ways to cross a crevasse, one being to jump over it or if it is too wide, build a ladder, with ropes for handrails, it is also good to have some type of webbing on the ladder as well. Richard’s group included two physicians and one paramedic by chance, but at least it was comforting to know they were available in an emergency.

On their final descent the group left at 2:00 a.m. to ensure they could make it in one full day. They arrived at 3:00 p.m. to find the entire area socked in with dense fog. Waiting for the fog to lift meant no flights in or out of Lukla so they began walking out until a helicopter could come to rescue the group at lower elevation. Trekking through ice fields, snow, rocks with dangerous twists and turns and back again is a great accomplishment. Richard and his group now have this amazing memory to share and we at Arcadia Rotary thank him for sharing his experience.

(Pat Dolphin)