When I was a kid, My mom always told me the three most important things you can say are "please," "thank you," and "I'm sorry." She learned from her mother, and her mothers mother.
After years and years of diligent practice, I more fully understand and appreciate the full meaning of her teaching; never expect or feel entitled, be grateful for all the gifts life gives you and when you are wrong, be humble enough to admit imperfection and make amends. These are lessons I use almost daily, but none more so than on this trek. There was a certain humility and particular understanding involved in it, that you just don't get overnight.
I made it to base camp. It was a long slog of a trek up and down and up and down again through a gnarled mess of rock chards.
Glacial ice travels up and down the mountain season to season, creating an utter headache of a climb down to the camp. Boulders amidst landslide laden smaller rocks 2ft wide were strewn about kind of like a tornado had hit. There was no rhyme or reason to where they were laid out, they just existed where they were and you were either going to suck it up and scurry down fast or you were going to trip doing it.
It's physically and emotionally exhausting to focus on climbing there without falling into a crevasse or putting your foot in the wrong place, and tumbling down into the ice. I mean, the yaks and horses were obstinately disobeying their herding Sherpas, that's how dangerous it was. They just knew it was a horrible idea, haha.
Once on our way down onto the glacier, a horse on hire (a man who's hired to ride his horse quickly for help) was rearing and whinnying because it didn't want to go where the rider was directing. It reared up several times as we watched clutching the side of the mountain. You're just standing on a path that's pretty much a patch of broken down granite and sandstone about 2ft wide with landslides all the time. We all knew if that Sherpa fell off the horse, that was it. And it's evident by the numerous memorials everywhere why this place is so dangerous.
It's a beautiful thing though. As dangerous as it is, just the feeling of the endeavor and the concentration involved and the love and patience you have to have for yourself to make it down that last stretch. Like the last 50ft to the finish line or the last perfect spike of the ball or walking for the first time again after surgery. It's exhausted, but delicate and free. There's not many things in life like that.
If you know me well enough, you may have heard me on more than one occasion say simply, "I'm exhausted." I mean, it's EXHAUSTING sometimes to continually challenge yourself. And intelligent people need challenge--we absolutely crave it.
The beauty of our relationship is I'm not different from you. I mean, who doesn't get tired of taking care of themselves physically, or emotionally for that matter? Who doesn't want to escape sometimes? It's an arduous labor-of-love process--balancing. Taking care of yourself and others is hard work but like that climb down into icy tundra, it felt good when we got there.
So, coming back down off the mountain we followed our same path home to The Nest at Lukla.
Sometimes I hear people comment on familiarity with an air of negativity, but I ignore it. Ultimately positive and negative are superimposed stories we tell ourselves and the familiar path is never the "same" path.
As we started the trek back, It reminded me of all those times my sister and I walked home from school when we were little. Sometimes hot summer heat scalded our shoulders when school was about to end, sometimes we'd be trustingly slushing through snow in our boots. It didn't matter--the route was the same and we knew the nuances and where to have fun.
That's how our hike back was. It was the culmination of 80 miles of slowly moving forward, only this time we knew the terrain going back. We knew where to have fun; the Ritz at Namche, as we so euphemistically named it, had hot showers and a flushing toilet. Even now I'm laughing just thinking about how happy we were to be back in "low" elevation at 11,300ft.
It wasn't like Kalapattar, where we eagerly attempted summit before the sun rose to the tune of -10 F only to return to find our sleeping bags had already been packed. Those mornings, you wish you had a down suit or at least maybe a yak to cuddle with. But there was hot coffee and a spectacular view in our memory. I'll really never forget how miserable we were and how happy that hot coffee made us. : )
Anyway, back on the trail, I started noticing the little things. The scenery started to blur and I started photographing the minutiae; the silhouette of the tree on the river, the little girl with her puppy, the way the boulder had been shaped by the river running over it.
I've been doing private physical therapy and personal fitness for so long now, it's funny how sometimes you have to get away from it and do something different to remember why you fell in love with it in the first place. Walking back was still hard, but the little moments let me fly down the mountain. Oh how life will always surprise and delight you.
I'm really happy to be coming home and I hope you enjoyed the physical and emotional journey I've (attempted to, haha) shared. See you all back in Chicago, always happier and healthier.