Never Say Goodbye                                                                            by Jayant Doshi(A report of t...
cancelled and we were back in the hotel – but this time                                                               soon...
we used lot of time in dining room chatting with other trekkers, or reading or playing cards. This time it appeared we    ...
wake up, pack up, get ready, have breakfast and start walking – and we both always were earlier than the time given.We wer...
reached there just before lunch. After lunch we weretaken to the hiring shop where we were shown the use ofall the items w...
promise. I raised the question that if any one of the                                                                  tre...
way. We decided to start walking to Dingboche without waiting for others as we were not sure when they would becoming back...
path. It was sunset by the time we reached our tea house. The other group was at Dingboche. The guide gave us thenews on t...
entered the little town of Lukla. But the guide and one member had disappeared and we did not know which tea housewe were ...
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Never say goodbye

  1. 1. Never Say Goodbye by Jayant Doshi(A report of the trek in the Everest Region from 2nd April till 15th April 2012)There is a big bill board at the end of any trek in Nepalwhich says “Never Say Goodbye to Himalayas.” When Idid my last trek in 2010 I believed myself, and toldeveryone, that this was my last trek. But when I got theoffer to do the Island Peak trek I could not resist myselfand now I will never say that this will be my last trek. Myvery first major trek took place in 2004 and it was inEverest region – and now after eight years I was doinganother trek in the same region though the finaldestination will be different. This would be my fourthtrek in Nepal, seventh in the Himalayas and eighthoverall - and all undertaken long after my retirement.This time we were collecting funds for helping childrenin remote areas of Nepal to acquire education. stI reached Kathmandu on 1 April and met rest of the group. The group consisted of twelve members from all parts of UK, including one residing in Singapore, but all except myself, connected and knowing each other through Sakha. There were two female members. The youngest in the group had just crossed three decades of his life while the oldest had crossed seven decades and a bit over - and that of course is me. Six of the group were doing Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar – a peak of about 18500 ft height. I had already done that in 2004. So I joined the other six who were doing Island Peak which is a snow covered peak of 6200 metres height (about 20600 ft height). Island Peak is just south of Everest range of mountains. The excitement of doing that height over shadowed the question of my ability to do it. In 2008 I found out that my body did not produce enough haemoglobin, and that in turn would restrict my body to take and store enough oxygen. ndOn 2 April we woke up early, were ready and full of enthusiasm and excitement when we drove to the airport. FromKathmandu airport we had to fly to Lukla in the Everest region which is in the north east corner of Nepal. Lukla is builton the mountains at a height of 2800 metres (about 9325 ft) and is considered one of the most dangerous airports inthe world. If the visibility is poor, if the skies are cloudy and dark or if weather is poor then the flight gets cancelled. Wewaited at the airport hoping to board any minute butnothing happened. Weather in Lukla was not good andflights were not leaving Kathmandu. Until the air linecancels the flights for the day we had to stay available.The small departure hall at the airport had few seats andwas overcrowded with hundreds of trekkers. On my lastvisit in 2004 we hardly saw any trekkers from India butthis time was different. We met a lady who has beendoing trekking in Himalayas for many years and sheencourages others to come and enjoy such trekking. Wespent the day standing around and chatting.Next day we were promised an early flight and wereached the airport quite early. But today weather inKathmandu was not promising with thick black cloudswhich soon turned into heavy showers. The flight was
  2. 2. cancelled and we were back in the hotel – but this time soon after lunch time. Everyone was getting anxious. Our days were running out and some had plans for the return. Discussions took place about alternative options and one option was to take a helicopter. It was decided that if we do not get flight next morning then we go for the helicopter option. But next morning skies looked sunnier and our prospects seemed brighter. However the flight which was promised for 7.30 was changed to 9.30 and then to 11.30 and ultimately at 12.30 we got the call. At last we were on our way. Everyone was ecstatic. The flight took 25 minutes. We were really lucky because we found out later that only one flight took off after ours and rest were cancelled due to bad weather. Lukla airport is amazing. Our 15 seater plane comes outof nowhere from behind the mountains and wheels down on a runway which is half the size of a football pitch. Whilethe engine is running, incoming baggage and passengers are down loaded and outgoing baggage and passengersget on the plane, and within minutes the plane is on its way back. We came out of the plane and went to a tea housefor lunch. After lunch we took out our walking sticks, got our day bags on our shoulders and started our trek. But soonafter we started, the black clouds, which were hovering in the skies, moved in and before we could think, heavy rainpoured over us. We did not get a chance to put on our wet clothes. We were drenched. Our day bags got wet also. Inthe cold weather it is very difficult to dry the wet clothes. The rain came heavy at times, including hail storm and keptraining for most of the time on our way to Phadking which took us about 2 ½ hours. I walked at brisk pace as per myhabit and was ahead of the group most of the time. I was surprised that now telecommunications covered most of theregion and mobiles and internet could be used in this area. I did not bother to find this out before I left. For me, thistrek was the revival of my memories of my first trek.Everest region is very popular for trekking. The region isstill devoid of any modern contraptions - not even abicycle or handcart - and as such air is pure without anysort of pollution. Lodges, which are called tea houses,have sprung up all over the area along the trekkingroutes. The tea houses have basic accommodation withtwo single beds, and toilet facilities, and a large diningroom which is the meeting place for all trekkers, and theonly room which is heated in the evening. I could see thatnow the ply board in bed rooms was painted and floorhad a thin carpet which was not the case in 2004. Sometea houses now provide shower facilities but there ischarge for it and no guarantee that water will be hot orflowing freely, nor is there guarantee that there will beclean cabin or provision for change of clothes. But unlike 2004, all tea houses we stayed in had indoor toilets andshowers. I can remember 2004 when we dreaded coming out in the open in cold at mid night to use the toilet. In 2004
  3. 3. we used lot of time in dining room chatting with other trekkers, or reading or playing cards. This time it appeared we never got much time. We spent some time in dining room some of the days and after dinner went to bed early, We played cards once or twice but mostly we hardly got time. Quite often we were walking till late and as such not much time was left before dinner. I had severe cramps in the legs during the first night but no pains or aches in the body. That night my sleep was disturbed and I woke up early. While others were still to get ready and start trekking, I took advantage of the time to do some stretching exercises. We started our walk at 8.50 and stopped for lunch at noon. We crossed two bridges, and faced some steep climbs on the way. After lunch it was mostly uphill steep climb and quite exacting on the legs. While I managed to stay in front of the group I could feel that I was tired at the end of ourwalk to Namche Bazaar. The last stretch tired me but I did not feel any pains or aches in the body. But the tiring daymeant that I slept well and woke up fresh in the morning.We woke up to see a thick blanket of snow outside. From the windows the tree branches, leaves, roofs and groundwere totally white and looked beautiful but in my mind I knew we have to go out in that snow. But the relief was thattoday was our day for acclimatisation and as such wewere to stay in Namche Bazaar but we still had to goout and climb some hill to get used to the altitude.Morning walk was cancelled due to bad weather.Instead there was demonstration and talk on how bestto use the sleeping bag, how to tie shoe laces, use buffetc and some of the hints were very useful. Afterwardswe all walked in the local bazaar and did someshopping. After lunch we went for a walk to Sangbocheat a height of 3850 metres which was 400 metres climbfrom where we started. It was a good walk thoughweather was cold and windy. Though it was partlycloudy we did get a glance at the Everest peak andsome other snow covered peaks. On our return theguide for Island Peak came to check our gear. Herejected almost everything I had and which I had usedin the past trekking to similar heights and cold temperatures. Other participants had similar experience. The guide was24 and to me he seemed not experienced enough to take on such a difficult trek. After rejecting many items he neverbothered to find out if the participants had replaced them as he wanted.On my first trek on this route in 2004 we were only 2 but the guide believed in discipline. We got less than an hour to
  4. 4. wake up, pack up, get ready, have breakfast and start walking – and we both always were earlier than the time given.We were twelve this time. Even though we were given two hours to get ready, we always were late by at least half an thhour. On 7 April, we left Namche Bazaar for our trekking. Some of us had to get some items from the shops but reststarted to walk at 8.45. At first there was gentle incline but it got steeper as we went along. Later we walked down into a valley and crossed a bridge. We stopped for lunch followed by steep climb which was quite strenuous. My genetic problem which does not allow my body to produce enough haemoglobin resulting in my body craving for oxygen at altitude started affecting me and I was out of breath on steep climbs. We would see hundreds of trekkers on the way. When the path is narrow and sloping we had to wait for the people coming from the top, and at times the wait would be quite long. Unlike 2004 every porter seemed to have a mobile in their hand – some talking away and some listening to some music. In the mountains and especially in Everest region, normal day starts with blue skies and sun shining and by noon the clouds start descending. The skies soon get a thick cover of dark clouds and windforce brings a chill in the air. After a few days of cloudy skies, thstrong winds and rain or snow now and then, we woke up on 8April with blue sunny skies and had beautiful sighting of snowcovered peaks surrounding our tea house. There had been somesprinkles of snow during the night. Our walk started down a trekwhich had become slushy and slippery. Some of us kept slippingand the walking sticks saved us from falling. I must have slipped afew times. One person slipped and fell on his buttocks. Fortunatelythere was no injury, but I always had fear of slipping and injuringmyself. But the gradual descending path gave way to open flatgrounds.It was still clear sky and very sunny. We had our lunch in the opensurrounded by mountains, valleys and streams. It was wonderful. Ittook seven hours walking to reach Dingboche, our stop for thenight. It was the worst tea house we had so far. There were nolight except in the dining hall, toilet seats were missing and overallthe standard was very poor – but I slept well. Our tea house wassurrounded by lovely peaks and I took opportunity to take somephotos. Today the two groups were splitting. Every one expressedgood wishes to others. Six were going to Everest Base Camp andKala Patthar while we six were going to Island Peak. For ourgroup, destination today was Chukung. It was pretty cold when we
  5. 5. reached there just before lunch. After lunch we weretaken to the hiring shop where we were shown the use ofall the items we would be using for the Island Peak. Theitems were tried on and then each one of us was giventhe crampons, helmets, harness, hooks, ropes and theaxe. We carried all these back to our rooms. We were tocarry these in our day bags from next day. The items werebulky and quite heavy, and we were to carry these fromnext day till we complete the Island Peak, if we were tomake it.In our itinerary it stated that after Chukung we will spendone night in tents in Base Camp and then one night atHigh Camp before we attempt Island Peak. This wouldhave been more logical and practical way of doing it. Theguide said that there was no High Camp and he wanted us to go to Base Camp very next morning. We objected andultimately it was decided that we stay one more night at Chukung to get a chance to acclimatise. While the tourcompany which organised the trek did a good job, and provided a good guide for the trek, it seems that the guideselected for Island Peak seemed immature and inexperienced. While rejecting most of our gear he did not bother tocheck if we had acted on his advice. When we left for Chukung he did not bother to check if each one was wellprepared. He never gave any instructions or encouragement or talked about the difficulties. Next morning the weather was misty and cloudy and it snowed also. We started our walk to climb a hill which was 5300 metres high. Assuming it will be warm during the day I did not take warm clothes. I realised soon that I was not properly dressed for the weather. As normal I struggled walking uphill though it was not that bad. I made to the top. We rested for a while and had some snacks. But when we started walking down I felt odd in my stomach and got some curious feeling in the body. For once I struggled walking down. I trailed right behind the rest and just managed to get back. All these days I was normally ahead of rest of the trekkers and kept ahead all the way whether it was uphill or downhill. But for once I felt that it was a struggle walking. I trailed farbehind rest of the group. My body felt frozen and on my return I got into my warm sleeping bag and lay there for sometime. I developed a minor headache and felt uneasy in the body. I took some pain killers. I slept well but the headachelingered whole night. I woke up with a cold and a lingering headache.We got up and prepared ourselves for what would be the critical 24 hours. First we walked to the base camp. It was asimple very gradual ascent but even there I struggled to walk. The walk I had day before seemed to have affected me.The funny feeling in the stomach, lingering headache and the cold seemed to have sapped my energy. I found itdifficult to breathe on very moderate inclines also and I had to keep stopping every now and then. We reached thebase camp. I lay down in the sleeping bag to rest myself– and thinking about it now this was unusual for me asafter very long days walking I always was still fresh. Itseems my body immunity and resistance were affectedby whatever happened during the last 24 hours. I got upfor lunch. After lunch we were given training in the use ofthe harness and the ropes on the slope of a nearby hill.After the practice we tried to sleep but could not manageto get any sleep. We were called for dinner at 6.00 p.m.We were to start our trek to Island Peak at 1.00 a.m. Wewould be getting our breakfast at midnight. After dinner afew questions were raised with the guide. It wassuggested that he should arrange for a third guide andhe agreed that he will do so. He never acted on his
  6. 6. promise. I raised the question that if any one of the trekkers decides to turn back then how will he come back. And his answer shocked me. “He has to walk back himself to the base camp.” How could he be so irresponsible in his attitude? When the trek is planned the first question is always what happens if someone needs to go back and the answer is always that a porter or a guide will accompany the person. Our porters were available and the guide only had to ask them to accompany us till snow line and the porters can bring the returning trekker safely back to the base camp. But the guide did not want to listen. I went to sleep but my mind was disturbed. My sense of direction is poor and I know very well that if I had to return, especially in the dark, I would easily get lost. Andwe were to walk in the dark for 6 hours. If I get injured during the trek or if I fall sick it would be understandable but if Iwere to get lost in the mountains I would become laughing stock and my family would never forgive me. Duringtrekking guides make sure one is in front and one at theback of the group so that no one gets lost. And this guidewas telling us to walk back on our own. I shivered withthe thought.We woke at midnight, got ready and went for breakfast.Unlike other guides, this guide did not bother to check ifeveryone was properly ready, that they carried all theequipment we had hired and did not give any talk orinstructions. We six trekkers started with the main guidein front and the other one at the end. But unlike otherplaces where we start walking slowly and follow in oneline, this guide made a dash and within minutes he wasout of sight. I had to increase my pace to keep up withthe rest. We had hardly woken up from half sleep, wehad no chance to stretch or loosen our limbs and thisspeed walking affected my breathing. We just hadbreakfast, and I guess my body could not cope both digesting the food and do speed walking. When we did MrKilimanjaro the guides insisted and made sure we walked very slowly – one step at a time and the whole group wasmade to stay together. Here the guide was not even bothered to see if others were coming behind him or not.At the very first incline I struggled and I had to stop. I knew from past experience that I would be able to walk but I alsoknew that I will not be able to keep up with the rest when it comes to uphill walking. Also I had that fear in my mind –that vision of getting lost in the mountains. At some stage if I found it difficult to carry on and if I was to decide to turnback, would I be able to find my way back? And if I got lost what chance I had of surviving? The guide expected us towalk back in the dark, where there were no proper tracks to follow and the whole area was littered with rocks. On thespur of the moment I decided that I did not want to take that chance – and I told others that I was turning back. Frommy walking ability I knew and I was confident that I would have been able to walk for hours – and made at least to the snow line. But the fear gripped me and I panicked and decided to turn back. This was not the time to complain or talk to the guide, or ask others to wait for me. I came back and got into my tent. I slept but not too well. Early in the morning I could hear voices and I knew at least two of others had returned. I did not come out of the tent till 10.00. I had my breakfast. The other two came out after a while. They had turned back after about 3 hours of walking, and they had problem finding the base camp. One of them tripped and slipped several times but avoided any injury. They were almost lost but luckily saw the tents from a distance and found their
  7. 7. way. We decided to start walking to Dingboche without waiting for others as we were not sure when they would becoming back. We left base camp at noon. We returned our mountaineering gear at Chukung and continued our walkto Dingboche. It was a long walk. On the way we saw posters of a trekker lost in the mountains, and asking forinformation if any one saw the person. I got thinking. It could have been one of us. The thought brought shivers. Howcould the guide be so reckless and irresponsible to suggest that we had to return to base camp on our own? Therewas no need for him to even suggest that as two porters would have willingly accompanied us. The tour companyshould take appropriate action on this issue to avoid such a thing happening to any other group of trekkers. The tourorganiser, through no fault of his, would have had sleepless nights or perhaps blamed himself for life, if something hadhappened to any one of us.The porter and one of our members had walked faster and we two found that while we could see Dingboche, we couldnot find the right path. However, when we seemed lost or confused, the guide came looking for us to show us the right
  8. 8. path. It was sunset by the time we reached our tea house. The other group was at Dingboche. The guide gave us thenews on the way. One person had kidney problem and was flown to Kathmandu. One other had some heart problemand he decided not to go any further and one of the ladies decided to stay behind. Other three made to the Everestbase camp and climbed Kala Patthar successfully. They were lucky as they got very clear skies and a beautifulsighting of Mount Everest and other peaks. We had lost two days at Kathmandu airport but we decided to catch up with the lost time by walking longer in the last three days. Next morning we started our long walk to Namche Bazaar. Other three members of our group caught up with us. Only one of the three made to the top of Island Peak. Other two reached up to snow line. The guide, who checked our gear and advised to change our gear did not check his own gear. His shoes were split and he could not do the Island Peak. The assistant guide went up but it was his first time. Naresh Chauhan who made to the top of the peak literally helped the assistant guide to climb up the Island Peak when the guide should have been helping the trekker. If we failed to make Island Peak them amongst many reasons the time allowed to do it needed to be longer,and the immature and irresponsible guide could be blamed for the fiasco. We walked for almost eleven hours to reachNamche Bazaar.Next day our walk to Lukla also took eleven hours or more. Like the first day it rained later in the day. There weresteps that led to Lukla and we felt a sigh of relief that we were near the destination. But the steps seemed endless.Every time we felt that we had reached the top, we saw more steps which were concealed round the corner. We musthave climbed up the steps for more than one and half hours and it felt so tiring. We heaved a sigh of relief when we
  9. 9. entered the little town of Lukla. But the guide and one member had disappeared and we did not know which tea housewe were staying. We went into a few tea houses before we found the one we were staying at. Before dinner wecompleted the formalities of saying our farewells to all the porters who would be leaving us and gave tips on behalf ofthe group.We all made it and were in high spirits after an almost successful trekking trip. I was disappointed but at the same timehappy. I had no body aches and pains during the trek and I rarely needed to crash down after a long day’s trekking. Ido not think I felt so good even on my very first trek eight years back. I felt satisfied with my performance and in mymind felt that I could still manage another such trek. After spending a day at Kathmandu I said my farewell to all myfellow trekkers and thanked them for accepting me and giving me so much respect.Walking in the mountains with valleys and rivers and greenery and snow covered peaks is just wonderful. The air ispure. One is cut off from the world. There are no distractions and no work to worry about. After doing 18 and 19 daysof trekking this one seemed very short. Every one carried out months and months of training for the trek – I did not doany special training. But it gave me great satisfaction that I was not in any pain, did not suffer any body aches, did notneed to rest after a long days walking, and I managed to stay in front most of the time. I guess my legs could musterenough strength to do another trek.IContact jubhai@aol.com and all reports on www.jayantdoshi.yolasiite.com)

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