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Tag Archives: Khumbu Climbing School

Well now that I have your attention… with either fast and furious music or yummy bits of vegetable adorning rice I’ll take a minute to catch up from our last chat.

Thanks to those of you that are dedicated readers. Your notes are super meaningful. My friends over at Timex prompted me to write and the result after a couple of years has been a most wonderful.

Since the last post – Ouray and the likes – I have been over to Nepal to conduct the seventh session of the Khumbu Climbing Center. Jenni joined me for the last part of the journey, which was very nice. Sam and Isaac managed the house just fine – it didn’t burn down and I don’t think they spent too much time on the X Box. The dogs must have loved being under the care of the boys. Think gravity feeder. Happy is now holding the title of “bacon back”. Not that he knows what it means. Just gotta get him out running and ice climbing.

Ross and I departed Montana for Nepal on the 14th of January, routing through the Tom Bradley International Terminal @ LAX. With the cultural melting pot and gate to Asia this hub seems to be the 21st century’s equivelent of Ellis Island. To an extent. The flight takes 15 hours direct to BKK, with a two hour transition before flight 319 to KTM.

“Mishandled baggage complaining desk.” One certainly appreciates the honesty.

As we flew in the Himalaya defined the northern horizon. Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Everest standing above the adjacent mountains. Somewhere below Everest on Tawoche Renan Ozturk and Cory Richards (Nan & Roti) were steps away from the summit after establishing a new route on the south buttress. They had a great time – running out of water, climbing loose rock and hard ice. Like, what is the point of you don’t suffer, eh?

Check out their cool ascent here:

After a two day stint in Kathmandu we flew to Lukla for the beginning of the trek. Steve Swenson, president of the American Alpine Club, David Weber NPS, Steve Gipe MD, Ross and me trekked to Monjo the first night. While in Monjo we met David, an engineer from MIT who was ice climbing with his wife and friend. He likened our meeting to a Bilbo Baggins gathering in the Shire. With his full beard and twinkling eyes he might just have been a Hobbit.

The range is dry this year, which could equate to a lack of ice. Fortunalty it was very cold and the water that was flowing formed very nicely. Once we took care of the opening ceremony we began climbing and learning the ropes.

This year we moved a bit closer to having the program run by our Nepali friends. The lead instructors were all Sherpa, we filed the Nepal articles of non profit incorporation, changed the name from Khumbu Climbing School to Khumbu Climbing Center (Nepal is very strict in that school may only be used in the traditional educational sense) and began work on the physical building.

Students climbed with great enthusiasm and learned to be safer climbers. All in all we were very happy.

Lila Bishop taught English, which is great as it is the shared language for people who trek and climb in the Himalaya. Thanks Lila!

Climbing on the steep ice of Lapharma. The Sherpas led the pitches, which are WI 5 .

That is Everest in the background. Jenni is awesome!

Taking notes below Ama Dablam, a mountain I climbed twenty years ago. The swell watch is the new analog EAltimeter. It is super cool.

See you : )


March 27, 2008 | Katmandu

Katmandu on a winter’s night is a unique place. People are tucked away in their houses, the aroma of charcoal braziers mixes with the humidity drifting up from the terai. Even with 4 million people in a small valley, there is a hint of the exotic. Perhaps I have read too much Rudyard Kipling and I imagine my self-alive 150 years earlier. With no jet aviation let alone the internal combustion engine mounted to four wheels.

Perhaps this is it . . . my love for nature and the outdoors. I’m perpetually trying to get back to a place and time that is a compilation of my imagination’s best moments. Well,if that is what it is I certainly don’t mind.

I’m in Katmandu for the fifth annual Khumbu Climbing School, a vocational training program for the high altitude climbers of Nepal. The climbers that are with me are here to share their expertise on climbing with the local Nepali people. Our goal is to make climbing (guiding) on the tall peaks safer for the Sherpa – the ones who do the majority of the work and suffer the most of the consequences.

The Khumbu is a special place. The Sherpa people that live in the region are super friendly and have a balance in living with nature. Their villages are within the Sagarmatha National Park – which means they live close to wild places. Land that is arable has been tended for centuries, coaxing potatoes and barley from the sandy soil. It seems the only wildness we find are the high mountains, rising tall above the villages and monasteries. Is it possible that there is actual wildness in these mountains or is it merely a postcard backdrop to a human landscape?

Certainly it isn’t the wilderness one comes to think of in Alaska or Siberia, where human impact is far away and passing when it arrives. But it isn’t the urban landscape that covers much of our delicate planet. Hidden in the steep canyons are tall pine trees, home to squirrels and birds. In the under story one can see the occasional musk deer or if one is lucky and patient a snow leopard. As a climber, the cliffs and peaks call me with their unexplored and mysterious faces and ridges. Here, far above where grasses grow is the stark, desolate wilderness of the high alpine. Trapped in perpetual cold, clad by snow I find my greatest joy being in these high mountains.

Knowing there is wildness, just beyond, in places my imagination can visit and my eyes report upon, is what sustains my drive to be in the woods. The finest moments of my life – from being with my grandfather on the upper Tuolumne River fly rod in hand as a wide eyed six year old to standing on the summit of our shared planet as an incredulous 44 year old – are inextricably tied to the wild. Without it I wouldn’t be who I am.

And if we extrapolate this to the bigger picture, what would our world be without wilderness?

– Conrad