Memories: Trekking the Himalayas

 

As a child, I wasn’t much interested in taking risks, especially physical risks. I never climbed mountains, shot a gun, raced a car, or jumped off roofs. Those activities were for crazy people. I much preferred playing it safe, protecting my physical well-being as a matter of course. I looked both ways when I crossed the street, probably at a very early age, and have no scars from touching a hot stove. I’ve never broken a bone or even sprained an ankle.

But at the age of 54 and 50, respectively, my husband and I decided to go on a trek in Nepal. I was thrilled and terrified about the thought of sudden winter storms, washed-out bridges, freezing cold, falling into an “eastern toilet,” dysentery, and other maladies that could show up on such an adventurous (and dangerous) trip. With my husband’s encouragement, I decided that if we prepared well, we’d be fine.

We bought good hiking boots and for two months prior to the trek, took long uphill walks. We were already in pretty good physical condition from working out regularly. I read about the Nepalese culture. We signed up with a Sierra Club trip (where we had to become members and then promptly left the organization on returning home) and had a skilled guide. We had to carry 20-lb. backpacks, but the porters carried everything else. (We were instructed to limit our duffel bags to 40 pounds, and we did.) The weather was cold but we had no snow, and we had plenty of warm clothes and sleeping bags. We had to cross over a rushing stream by way of a log, leap over a breach where a bridge was gone, and wade through a freezing cold stream. (Okay, at 110 pounds, I was carried over by one of the Sherpas.) And the only one who got sick was my husband who ended up with pneumonia and had to walk 15 miles the last day of the trek. He toughed it out with flying colors.

The entire trip was an incredible lesson for me. I learned that when well-prepared, I could meet physical demands beyond my own expectations of myself. I learned that I could overcome fear when I prepared well and simply opened to the overall glorious experience of being in the beauty of the Himalayas, enjoying the Nepalese people, and most importantly, trusting myself.

It was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Susan Quinn: It was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.

    I’ve heard getting high will do that.

    (Insert rimshot here.)

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: It was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.

    I’ve heard getting high will do that.

    (Insert rimshot here.)

    Well done! ;-)

    • #2
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    My getting up from the couch and going to the fridge to get a 12 ounce beer fails in comparison to your trek . . .

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    My getting up from the couch and going to the fridge to get a 12 ounce beer fails in comparison to your trek . . .

    I don’t know, @stad. It depends on how many previous trips you made to the fridge!

    • #4
  5. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Stad (View Comment):

    My getting up from the couch and going to the fridge to get a 12 ounce beer fails in comparison to your trek . . .

    Good beer doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

    • #5
  6. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    My getting up from the couch and going to the fridge to get a 12 ounce beer fails in comparison to your trek . . .

    Good beer doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

    Your statement is self contradictory . . .

    But I did drink a half-liter of beer in a Munich beer hall once.  It wasn’t cold, but reasonably cool – and delicious!

    • #6
  7. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    My getting up from the couch and going to the fridge to get a 12 ounce beer fails in comparison to your trek . . .

    I don’t know, @stad. It depends on how many previous trips you made to the fridge!

    Based on the closeness of the fridge, calories consumed greatly outnumbers calories burned.  My wife wants me to get more exercise, so I’m thinking of moving up to 16 ounce cans . . .

    • #7
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Susan Quinn:

    The entire trip was an incredible lesson for me. I learned that when well-prepared, I could meet physical demands beyond my own expectations of myself. I learned that I could overcome fear when I prepared well and simply opened to the overall glorious experience of being in the beauty of the Himalayas, enjoying the Nepalese people, and most importantly, trusting myself.

    It was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.

    Yesterday on Rouvy somebody posted a 175 mile virtual bicycle ride in Nepal with video, so people can ride it with their smart trainers. It includes 29000 of feet of climbing, and has an average grade of 3 percent.

    Nothing of that difficulty, or even close to it, has ever been posted there before. I don’t know that anyone will ride it, at least not in one shot.  The person who posted it is well-respected on Rouvy, having already contributed a lot of fine rides with good video; otherwise he might be hooted off the platform.   

    I sampled a few points of the video and have to say that what it shows of Nepal is not exactly what I would have expected.  There were roads, and they looked rideable. I doubt that I’d ever go there, but it made me more interested in Nepal than I’ve been before. Don’t know that I’d try what you did.  I don’t like carrying things on my back. What you did is impressive.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    It includes 29000 of feet of climbing, and has an average grade of 3 percent.

    Thanks for your kind words. What does “29,000 feet of climbing mean”? He didn’t mean 29,000 feet elevation, did he? (You’d need oxygen for that!)

    We only climbed as high as just over 12,000 feet. On the way up that section, we had to stop about every 50′ or so to catch our break. Recovery didn’t take long, and the brain would say, we’re good to go–and then after about 50′ more, we’d have to stop. Just not a lot of oxygen. The guide also did a great job of acclimating us to the altitude. We didn’t hit 12,000 until we were in a few days. I’m so glad we were in good shape!

    Most of the terrain we walked looked pretty desolate. But nothing beats the Himalayas!

    Edit: I just realized you said “virtual ride”; still it doesn’t include oxygen deprivation!

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    It includes 29000 of feet of climbing, and has an average grade of 3 percent.

    Thanks for your kind words. What does “29,000 feet of climbing mean”? He didn’t mean 29,000 feet elevation, did he? (You’d need oxygen for that!)

    We only climbed as high as just over 12,000 feet. On the way up that section, we had to stop about every 50′ or so to catch our break. Recovery didn’t take long, and the brain would say, we’re good to go–and then after about 50′ more, we’d have to stop. Just not a lot of oxygen. The guide also did a great job of acclimating us to the altitude. We didn’t hit 12,000 until we were in a few days. I’m so glad we were in good shape!

    Most of the terrain we walked looked pretty desolate. But nothing beats the Himalayas!

    Edit: I just realized you said “virtual ride”; still it doesn’t include oxygen deprivation!

    That means a total of 29,000 feet on uphill segments of the ride. Any downhill segments are not included in that calculation.  Even at that there are significant differences in the way various bicycle computers or routing programs (including Google) calculate it, but it gives an idea.  I’ve done 104,000 feet of climbing on my trainer so far this year, in about 1850 miles of riding. No way am I going to tackle 29,000 more feet of climbing this year.  A couple weeks ago I did 2555 feet of climbing in 13 miles in a virtual ride out of Death Valley; that night my knees were stiffer than after anything I’ve done this year, even though I have climbed that many feet in a day of real riding out in Wisconsin this year. Last year I rode the Death Valley route in real life in the reverse direction (downhill)  although I still had to do considerable huffing and puffing to get from the Nevada side to the top edge overlooking the valley.

    The contributor rode it at the high altitude of Nepal; maybe he was somewhat acclimated from other mountain rides he’s done. But that Nepal country looks like it’s in a class of its own.  The contributor is also quite a bit younger than I am; looks like he’s maybe in his young 40s.   I don’t know that he really rode the whole 175 miles in one go.

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    That means a total of 29,000 feet on uphill segments of the ride. Any downhill segments are not included in that calculation. Even at that there are significant differences in the way various bicycle computers or routing programs (including Google) calculate it, but it gives an idea. I’ve done 104,000 feet of climbing on my trainer so far this year, in about 1850 miles of riding. No way am I going to tackle 29,000 more feet of climbing this year. A couple weeks ago I did 2555 feet of climbing in 13 miles in a virtual ride out of Death Valley; that night my knees were stiffer than after anything I’ve done this year, even though I have climbed that many feet in a day of real riding out in Wisconsin this year. Last year I rode the Death Valley route in real life in the reverse direction (downhill) although I still had to do considerable huffing and puffing to get from the Nevada side to the top edge overlooking the valley.

    You are awesome, dude! Well done!

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Yesterday on Rouvy somebody posted a 175 mile virtual bicycle ride in Nepal with video, so people can ride it with their smart trainers. It includes 29000 of feet of climbing, and has an average grade of 3 percent.

    Substitute a motorcycle and I’ll try it . . .

    • #12
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Stad (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Yesterday on Rouvy somebody posted a 175 mile virtual bicycle ride in Nepal with video, so people can ride it with their smart trainers. It includes 29000 of feet of climbing, and has an average grade of 3 percent.

    Substitute a motorcycle and I’ll try it . . .

    Whether your memories are Rocky Mountain high or you went to Katmandu, do add your own post to December’s theme: “Memories.” Sign up soon, before the days are all taken!

    • #13
  14. J Ro Member
    J Ro
    @JRo

    Susan Quinn: I learned that I could overcome fear when I prepared well and simply opened to the overall glorious experience of being in the beauty of the Himalayas, enjoying the Nepalese people, and most importantly, trusting myself.

    It was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.

    Sounds wonderful. Where did you go?

    • #14
  15. Mendel Member
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Hi Susan,

    Great post! Was this trip recent? Which trek did you go on (I’ve never been to the Himalayas myself but know about a few of the major treks)?

    • #15
  16. Mendel Member
    Mendel
    @Mendel

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    It includes 29000 of feet of climbing, and has an average grade of 3 percent.

    Thanks for your kind words. What does “29,000 feet of climbing mean”? He didn’t mean 29,000 feet elevation, did he? (You’d need oxygen for that!)

    Edit: I just realized you said “virtual ride”; still it doesn’t include oxygen deprivation!

    When I was a teenager in NH, an ultra-fit hiking friend of mine decided to do a different sort of “virtual Everest” by hiking 29,000 feet of vertical (29,000 up and 29,000 back down) in one day. Unfortunately, the highest peak nearby to us was only about 2,000 feet high, so to achieve his goal he had to run up and down the thing 15 times! Apart from the fact that 29,000 vertical feet in one day is insane bordering on physiologically impossible, the thought of going up and down the same wooded trail 15 times while suffering like that was enough to make me feel ill.

    • #16
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Mendel (View Comment):
    Was this trip recent?

    Twenty years ago.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Mendel (View Comment):

    Hi Susan,

    Great post! Was this trip recent? Which trek did you go on (I’ve never been to the Himalayas myself but know about a few of the major treks)?

    Gee, @mendel, it was 20 years ago! Okay, so I dug out my photo album which lists the places we visited over two weeks. Sorry I don’t have a map: Kathmandu, Bakhtapur, Pokhara; the trek began in Jomson, Kala Gandaki, Kagbeni (where we at at the Hotel Shangrila), the lower Mustang (near the Tibetan border), Mukhinath (12,400 ft), back to Jomson, Marpha, Tukuche, Ghasa (with washed out bridge), Dhaulagiri, Tatopani, Beni, Pokhara, Royal Chitwan National Park, and I think we returned to Kathmandu from there. We then went to Thailand for a few days, where my husband rested with pneumonia and I wandered Bangkok.

    The pictures are glued into the album–it was before digital. We must have duplicated a few photos before I put them in the album. The OP photo is our Head Sherpa, Balakaji, at the lower Mustang area.

    • #18

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