Exploring Nepal's splendor

Earthtreks: Climbers preparing to summit a challenging peak note scenic grandeur and anxious moments in their e-mail journals.

(Dispatches from the Himalayas)

November 08, 1999

In late October, a group of climbers led by Maryland's Chris Warner gathered in Katmandu, Nepal, to prepare for an expedition to the summit of Ama Dablam, a 22,584-foot peak in the Himalayas.

As the climbers make their way, children in several elementary school classrooms in Maryland are following their travels via the Internet and e-mail thanks to Shared Summits, a nonprofit educational venture of Earth Treks, the climbing center in Columbia.

Readers of The Sun can also follow the expedition through periodic excerpts from the climbers' journal on the Earth Treks Web site, earthtreksclimbing.com.

Here are portions of recent journal entries:

Oct. 25: Hello from Katmandu! With our team almost together, we spent the day exploring the historical and religious sites of the capital city of Nepal, Katmandu. Highlights included: eating Tibetan momos [dumplings] on the top level of a pagoda overlooking Bhaktapur, creating our own clay pots using traditional Nepali techniques, watching monkeys at play on the Buddhist temple at Swayambu, and shopping, shopping, shopping! Bargaining is truly an art form here in Nepal, and our group of Ama Dablam climbers and trekkers were determined to master it on day one. We bought everything from prayer wheels to Thanka paintings [devotional art], clothes to hilarious wooden masks. -- Adrian Ballinger, guide

Oct. 27: We landed to brilliant blue skies and golden sunshine bouncing off the snowy peaks that surrounded us. I was awestruck. The weather felt like a day of spring skiing. We had to shed layers of clothing before starting. We are now in camp, in the village of Phakding, about five miles along the trail. -- Joey D'Addeo, trekker

Oct. 29: Hello from Namche! Yesterday's hike here was tough; although it was only six miles, we climbed 3,900 feet of vertical gain, practically a six-mile staircase. Namche is built into the side of a mountain in the shape of an amphitheater. Rows of shops, homes, hostels and teahouses set one above the other look out at spectacular jagged peaks. The village is surrounded on all sides by mountains, including Ama Dablam, the mountain our climbing team will attempt to summit in just a couple of weeks. When in direct sunlight the temperature is 60 degrees or more, but in the shade the temperature drops immediately into the 30s. Clouds roll in above and below us at different times throughout the day. -- Joey Cannata, trekker

Oct. 31: Tea? Sukar (sugar)? Meelak (milk)? This is how we are greeted each morning around 6 a.m. in our tents by Furtemba, one of our Nepali staff. It is a wonderful way to start a very cold morning. A typical breakfast is porridge, eggs, toast and, of course, Starbucks coffee that we brought from home. All of our moms can rest easy with the great meals that Tenzing and Lopsang make for us each day. -- Joyce Warner, trekker, Deboche, Khumbu Valley

Nov. 3: We've been flying up the valley, climbing ever higher. The group is very strong and full of enthusiasm; the views are so inspiring. We've left the village of Deboche, crossed the Imja Khola River on a rickety wooden bridge. It swung to and fro, about 50 feet above the rushing river. If it weren't for the spectacular views of the west face of Ama Dablam and the Lhotse-Nuptse wall, it would have been easy to get too scared midway to continue the crossing. Just above the bridge we climbed above the tree line. From this point on we were truly in the mountains. A short distance later we entered the village of Pangboche. The valley opened up and the views of Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Nuptse, Tawoche and finally Everest were awe-inspiring. -- Chris Warner, Lobuche

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