As I sit writing at my desk in Colorado, overlooking the famous Flatirons, I can’t help but be reminded of Nepal. Mountains and open sky – what could be better? But as I watch storm clouds roll in and lightning flash in the distance, I’m reminded that the mountains can take as much as they give. For me, being out there satisfies my thirst for adventure, my need for a physical and mental challenge, and my desire to understand the natural world at an experiential level – getting my hands dirty, quite literally. It’s easy to sit here, in the comfort of the indoors, and forget the hardships of the past year. Yet, the sight of the Boulder Creek makes my blood run cold, as I’m reminded of how I nearly drowned in September. And the sound of a helicopter causes my heart to race, as I remember bodies being long-lined from the Khumbu icefall to nearby our camp.
Having been back a few weeks now, I have told the stories over and over again that I have grown numb to it. What was it like to be at Everest base camp? Terrible. My heart remains broken for the Nepali families who lost husbands, sons and fathers in the Everest avalanche on April 18th. Asman Tamang, one of our team members, leaves behind a young wife and 1 year-old daughter. Why him? Why any of them? Why not one of us?
A month later on Mt. Himlung in central Nepal, what was it like hearing a helicopter in the remote NarPhu valley, coming up the mountain to rescue John? Heart-stopping. What had happened? What is a helicopter doing up here? I feared the worst. At some point in our lives, we are called upon to make tough decisions. Nowhere was that more true than in the Himalaya this season. Stay? Go home? It was a tough call, as our purpose in the mountains was not simply recreation, but conducting scientific research to help us understand the impacts of human activity at the roof of the world. But in the end, lost funds and lost chances pale in comparison to lost lives.
This year, I learned the hard way that one decision can change the course of a life forever. About a month and a half before coming to Nepal, I crashed my bike and nearly broke my back. A few months later, I cut some safety corners when making measurements at Ngozumpa glacier’s outflow channel and nearly paid for it with my life when I fell in the frigid fast-flowing water. To this day, I deal with the aftermath – physically and psychologically. But perhaps these experiences saved my life in the end, as I became more conservative in my approaches to climbing and field science.
Looking at my pack’s broken buckles and worn out straps, tattered trail runners, and weathered field notebooks reminds me of the long hard journey of hundreds of miles that we endured together. I recall the pain of straps digging into my shoulders and hips, the terrible backaches that wouldn’t subside during the day or night, the stomachaches, the unpredictable weather, and the difficult trail and mountain conditions. But I also remind myself that the joy is in the journey, no matter the outcome. Perhaps this is why I keep returning. It is the only way I know how to be happy, if for a fleeting moment. It is the only way I know how to live.
This past year would not have been possible without the support of so many. THANK YOU!
Special Thanks to Major Donors:
Ivan and Luba Horodyskyj; Vsev and Monika Horodyskyj; Dr. Lev Horodyskyj; Wasyl Ilczyszyn, RIP; Dr. Hartmut Spetzler; David Breashears (GlacierWorks); Peter and Susan Zollers; Dr. Arthur and Joan Few; Umbe Oliveira-Cantu; Dr. Patricia Reiff; Dr. Adrian Sheremeta; Stephen Scott-Fawcett; Jeff Daulton; Matthew Hellicar; Ben Diedrich; R Subramanian
Special Thanks to Team Members/Colleagues:
Laurie Vasily, Fulbright Nepal program director
May/June 2013 (Ngozumpa glacier): Sam Ecenia; Ngima Sherpa; Mega Adventures International team
September 2013 (Imja Lake, Island Peak and Ngozumpa glacier): Himalayan Research Expedition team (Dr. Dhananjay Regmi); Ganesh Sharma and Mega Adventures International team; Dr. Daene McKinney; JB Rai; David Rounce; Dr. Emma Marcucci; Dan Zietlow
October/November 2013 (Ngozumpa glacier and Island Peak): Dan Mazur and SummitClimb; Dr. Emma Marcucci; Marty Coleman; Passang Nuru Sherpa; Kami Sherpa
December 2013 (Imja lake, Lobuche East, Cho La and Ngozumpa glacier): Dr. Alton Byers; Novas Media (Yanick Rose, director); Ang Tendi Sherpa; Mega Adventures International team
February 2014 (Annapurna base camp and Annapurna South): Mega Adventures International team; Michael Coote; Radina Kaldamukova; Nima Sherpa
April/May 2014 (EBC, Himlung): Sujan Bhattarai and the whole Himalayan Ecstasy team; Asman Tamang, RIP; Dr. John All; Jake St. Pierre; Chris Cosgriff; David Byrne; Dr. Carl Schmitt
June 2014 (Ngozumpa glacier): Dr. Rijan Bhakta Kayastha; Patrick Rowe; Cecil Goodson; Thamserku Trekking; Chhewang Sherpa; Jo Chaffer; Rakesh Kayastha; David Byrne
Lodge owners, for putting up with all my excess baggage!
Especially: Pasang and Gyalzen Sherpa (Gokyo); Tshering Tashi Sherpa (Gokyo); Tenzing Sherpa (Gokyo); Lhakpa Nuru Sherpa (Tangnak); Pemba Gyaltsen Sherpa (Namche Bazar)
Funds provided by: USAID climber-scientist grant, with the High Mountains Adaptation Partnership; US Fulbright Program; University of Colorado Boulder; National Snow and Ice Data Center; Rice Space Institute; The Explorers Club; Geological Society of America; Rockethub.com sponsors
Other thank you’s for financial and moral support: Dr. Richard Armstrong; Robert Atwater; Dr. Doug Benn; Ulana Bihun; Dr. Roger Bilham; Joanne Brunetti; John Cassese; Mike Davidson; Julia DeMarines; Teresa Garcia; Tommy Gustafsson; Lisa Harris; Rob Hoyt; Dr. Brian Hynek; Colin Johnson; Maida Jensen; Vera Kaikobad; Alia Khan; Benjamin Kibel; Bohdan Kurylko; Nancy Lathrop; Mike Libecki; Jessia Parra Nowajewski; John Pitzel; Diana Pope; Vince Poulin; Bruce Raup; Diana and Nick Reba; Martin Schoernig; Ronnie Schroeder; Ang Phula Sherpa; Mingmar Dorji Sherpa; Drazen Paco Simicevic; Alexander Sokolenko; Amrit Thapa; Dr. Sarah Thompson; Glennda Tingle; Nancy Vanacore; Joe Zamudio