Into the Himalayas

Nepal.

Each time I would hear the name I would feel as if my life was slipping through my hands, spent uselessly within the boundaries of the familiar, taking with it everything new and wondrous.

Nepal to me was like a distant dream so hard to reach. Where and with whom could I ever get a chance to organize a trip to a place like Nepal?

I love life’s wonderful surprises. After I went to Kilimanjaro on The Right to Climb initiative organized by Omar Samra’s team, I knew a window to the extraordinary had already been opened for me. I cherished the experience and lived with it, knowing that another chance might be just around the corner. But I didn’t realize that it would be literally so!

I read the announcement about a trip to Nepal in November, only two months after Kilimanjaro, and before I finished the sentence I felt a rush of adrenalin run through my veins. I had to see the Himalaya. I picked up the phone and got myself immediately hooked to the trip of my dreams.

No words can possibly describe the magnitude of exhilaration this trip has inspired. Despite all the difficulties it faced, it went well in every way it could. And I was lucky to have my writing angel with me. I wrote whenever I could still keep my eyes opened. And below is the diary I had. But first let me introduce the characters*:

Omar:  Egyptian mountaineer and enterpreneur. He is the first Egyptian and youngest Arab to summit Mt. Everest. With his new travel company, Wild Guanabana, a number of trekking and adventurous trips are made possible and easily accessible to Egyptians. Omar was our “foreign” guide into the Himalaya.

Karma: Our local climbing guide. Karma is a Sherpa climber who summited Everest twice. He was bound with us to Imjatse Himal (Island Peak) to teach me and Amr our first climbing lesson.

Amr: My buddy for the trip. We were on the 18-day version of the trip that was bound to the Island Peak climb in the end. Amr is a charming 26 year-old software engineer who shares my passion for the mountains. His dreams on becoming a climber have no limit. I loved his company!

Hany: Egyptian businessman and diver. Hany had never done any trekking before. This was his first attempt all in the single hope to see Everest, “mark his territory” and go back home.

One, Two, Freak Out!

I guess I took my decision back then to save myself from today. I’m glad I made that decision. I need to throw myself at another mountain. I need to count my steps and look at my boots. I need to wash my ears with the silence and my eyes with the whiteness of the snow. I need to feel and hear my every breath. I need to be free again.

Part 1: The Airport

I was glad to finally get out of the place and breathe some fresh air. 13 hours in this chamber of a terminal were further highlighted by the suffocating passivity I saw in many people’s faces, by the bored routine-scarred faces of the staff who endured the place everyday to make a living, and most importantly by the utter humiliation we all felt for being kept in the dark for such long hours.

Part 2: Sagarmatha Lets Me In

It took four days of waiting, thinking, inventing options and examining alternatives to be able to finally reach Lukla, which marks the beginning of the Khumbu route to Sagarmatha, or Mt. Everest. All I had wanted was to look at that mountain, to breathe in the air that surrounded it, to see its people, the Sherpa whose sharp features had been shaped by its majestic edges.

Part 3: Prayers, Sherpas, Bliss!

Kind, shy, quiet, and with superb physical abilities, the Sherpa make the perfect representatives of mountain people. I could see humility and respect behind the strong jawlines and the sharp features with which they smiled back at me. Spirituality runs in their veins and takes over the air they breathe.

Part 4: For Those Who Stand

We stopped for a brief break on an edge near a large chorten that was placed as a memorial for Tenzing Norgay, the first Sherpa to reach the summit of Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary, and all the Sherpas that followed in his footsteps. The sky was grey and overcast, the summits surrounding us were now at 6, 7 and 8 thousand meter heights.

Part 5: The Mountain Goat

A female mountain goat is what my name means in Arabic. The male mountain goat is teis, a funny sounding word that eventually ended up being used by people to ridicule each other. So I pretty much prefer to use “mountain gazelle” whenever someone asked me what my name meant, which happened often.

 

Part 6: Demonic Faces, Busted Eye, Burned Socks, etc…

I walked with careful feet from one chorten to another. The place was silent except for the sound of the fluttering flags. Some were names I was already reading about in my book, some I hadn’t heard of before. Scott Eugene Fischer, who died in the 1996 disaster, Sean Egan, Hristo Prodanov…

 

*The above were my companions for most of the trip. Others, Caroline, Ashraf, Dalia, Riham, and Sami had signed up for shorter versions of the trip and ended up having to separate in Kathmandu and go on different routes with other guides. The constant flight delays had begun threatening to ruin their trip.

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