Sunday, October 4, 2015

Back in Kathmandu

On the 30th, we began the chore of packing up camp.  First we took down the tents that were non-essential - communications, shower, storage - and packed everything into 30 kg loads for the porters to carry to Samagaon.  This was an arduous task, and I was sad to see our base camp dismantled and our expedition come to a close.  Late in the morning the telescope was packed, shortly after we watched Sherpa from another team push the route toward camp 4, crossing the troubling crevasse that had temporarily swallowed Namgel a few days ago. 

Porters from Samagaon arrived early the next morning, accompanied by some of the seemingly stray dogs from the village.  I tried to give one of them a piece of bacon, but he looked at me like I was crazy.  Maybe he was a vegetarian.  Nearly all of our porters were young women.  Most of the men from Samagaon have traveled across the newly-opened border with Tibet to purchase household goods at much cheaper rates than they can locally.  When we arrived in Samagaon strings of donkeys and yaks strolled through the single "street" carrying their purchases ... blankets, rugs, re-bar, plywood.

Porters claiming their loads
Photo:  Lisa White
I descended the steep, rocky path and arrived in Samagaon before lunch.  I spent the next several hours waiting for all of our loads to arrive.  Due to the shortage of porters, many of them had doubled their loads, eager to make some extra money and to accommodate all of the descending climbers.  These double loads proved to be too heavy for some of the porters, so they temporarily abandoned part of them on the trail, went ahead with the rest, and then walked back up hill to retrieve the abandoned parcel.  This process of course delayed the final delivery in Samagaon.  If more than ten porters are used, a foreman, or Nike, is required.  Our Nike was sympathetic to the situation.  She carried a dirty white puppy with her and she was worried that he would get squashed by a load in the tiny stone courtyard of the lodge, so she put it to work as a guard dog by plopping it on top of one of our barrels.   Unfortunately the puppy didn't comply for long and fell asleep.


Our guard dog and Lopsang
Photo:  Lisa White

In the morning I enjoyed my favorite breakfast, Tibetan bread (which is most like the elephant ears  that I ate as a kid at the county fair) and fried eggs and made my way to the helipad.  Although their frequency has increased since the earthquake, helicopter landings are still a big deal in Samagaon.  In my experience,  they are always chaotic as locals compete for the space of paying customers by stuffing grain sacks of potatoes into any open spot. Occasionally locals will stow away on a heli or concoct a medical condition which requires treatment in Kathmandu.  For this reason, my surly Austrian pilot hid a machete on his floorboard.

Although Nepal is currently experiencing a fuel shortage, the roads of Kathmandu were still disorderly and crazy.  Motorbikes, cars, busses, cows, pedestrians, and occasionally monkeys all move about noisily on their own agenda and pace, paying little regard to anyone else.  At least the stray dogs seem to have enough sense to stay out of the streets.

I sat in my hotel room for a while, still stinky and sunburnt from the mountain, and contemplated things.  Not having to stare at Manaslu made it a bit easier, but I still felt empty.  Although none were this significant, I have missed lots of summits before, but this time it stung more because I felt like I hadn't given it my complete effort.  I felt like I was giving up prematurely.  It's not that I doubted the decision to forego another summit attempt, it was just difficult to let go of a dream that I had worked hard to achieve; I had more fight left in me.  But mountaineering is a gamble and the mountain doesn't care if I've trained for months and made sacrifices, and have more to give.  It has the final say.

In the following days I would learn of several successful summits, and one fatal accident on Manaslu, causing my emotions to swing from selfish jealousy back to sadness.

I don't know of I will return to Manaslu.  My goals for this climb were to climb to 8,000m and to use oxygen; I may set my sights on another 8,000m peak in order to achieve them.

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