Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Luck of the Lama

Today was a very special day for our team and one that we will all likely remember for the rest of our lives. Before starting our hike from Namche in the morning we made a stop at the Sherpa museum to see climbing artifacts and photos chronicling the history of the "Tigers of the Snow" dating back to the early 1930's. Tenzing Norgay Sherpa is the most celebrated of the "Tigers" after becoming the first to successfully summit Mt. Everest along with Edmund Hillary in 1953.

After lunch and a consistently steep hike up apprx. 2,000 vertical feet from the Dudh Kosi river, we arrived at Tengboche, the site of our most memorable experience referenced earlier. Among his many other accolades, our guide Dawa Gyaljen Sherpa, mentioned in previous posts, also happens to be a full-fledged Buddhist Lama. For those of you who have already read "Steps to the Summit" you may recall in Chapter 8 - "Is There a Lama in the House?", Dawa was also the Sirdar (or head Sherpa) in charge of our 2010 climbing expedition. Yes, this is the same Dawa (with 6 Everest summits under his belt plus many more summits of other 8,000 meter peaks) leading our current trek, and we are extremely privileged that he was available to lead our team.

Anyhow back to Tengboche, where we are now, it is the site of the largest Buddhist monastery in the entire Solukhumbu region. Dawa made special arrangements with the head Lama of the Tengboche Monastery for a personal and exceptional blessing. By the way, this Lama is third in rank (by title) to the Dalai Lama, so his blessings are the real deal. After various formalities one by one, each member of our team approached the Lama and bowed down presenting a ceremonial kata scarf. After a series of spiritual chantings the silk katas were placed around each of our necks and we were officially blessed. All of us walked out of the monastery feeling incredibly lucky and privileged ...and perhaps a bit closer to "enlightenment"...so we have that going for us.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Progress Towards Everest Base Camp

Greetings from the bustling Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar at 11,300 feet. We arrived here yesterday on Easter Day after an all-day hike gaining approximately 3,000 vertical feet in altitude from the village of Phakding.  The day before was our exciting landing at Lukla on the 1,500 foot long airstrip carved into a mountainside at a 12° slope. Although we had some turbulence and crosswinds on the approach, the air was calm during touchdown making for a smooth landing.

This morning here in Namche we hiked approximately 1,300 vertical feet above the village in order to aid in our acclimatization to the altitude, and also to get our first views of the mighty Mt. Everest!  Fortunately the skies were clear and we were able to fully appreciate the impressive grandeur and majesty of the peak and the other Himalayan giants such as Nuptse and Ama Dablam.  Seeing the highest mountain in the world in person for the first time was truly an awe inspiring experience (and a bucket list item) for all of the members of our team. It was just exciting for me and Denise, especially while pondering the concept that the last time we were here four years ago we were actually standing on the summit of this great peak.

Given the enormous tragedy of Friday's avalanche that killed at least 14 and likely 16 Sherpas, it still remains uncertain whether climbing from the south side will resume this year or not. This is a very difficult dilemma and an emotionally charge debate. There is no clear-cut answer to the decision to halt climbing out of respect for the fallen Sherpas or to continue because perhaps that's what they would have wanted the rest to do? There was a big meeting at base camp today and our guide Dawa, as a board member for the Nepal Mountaineering Association, attended a separate meeting here in Namche in attempt to come to a resolution. We're not sure what the media back home has been saying about the situation, as many times their facts are inaccurate, so if you're interested in reading a detailed account from an excellent authority please take a look at Alan Arnette's blog post from today:

Signing off for now, all is good with the team and tomorrow we head to Tengboche.

Friday, April 18, 2014

News from Nepal

Our second day here in Kathmandu greeted us with some tragic news in the morning. We learned there was a terrible avalanche that came down from Everest's West Shoulder in between Camp 1 and the top of the Khumbu Icefall. Our guide Dawa Gyaljen Sherpa happens to be on the board of the Nepal Mountaineering Association so he was an important part of the communications chain as reports began flowing in about how many people were involved in the avalanche. At first we heard 5 Sherpas were killed, and as the news came in throughout the day we learned that 13 Sherpas were killed and 3 were still missing. This is an unprecedented tragedy on Everest with so many killed in one devastating event.

While Dawa and Nabin managed the flood of calls, we got out of their hair and toured some of the famous temples of Kathmandu. First was the Swayambhunath or Monkey Temple, followed by the Boudhanath, the largest and most significant Buddhist monument in the world. It was fitting for us to visit these immensely spiritual sites while our minds were still absorbing the fact that so many Sherpas had just lost their lives. Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families and loved ones.

At 5:00 am tomorrow local time, we will begin making our way up to Lukla where we will begin our trek towards Everest Base Camp. This will be an exciting flight as it always is landing at an airstrip that the History Channel named #1 on the list of the 10 Most Extreme Airports in the world. Along with the fun & thrill of the adventure, there will also be a somber tone in the air as we get closer to the region where this morning's tragic avalanche occurred. Please be assured however that there will be no avalanche danger whatsoever along the trekking route we will be traveling. It may be a few days until we are able to post again but will update you on the progress of our Everest Executive Challenge as the journey continues....

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Greetings to You From Kathmandu

The Everest Executive Challenge is underway and our team of John Parmentier, Mark Short, Tom Adcock, Adnen Chaabane, and Denise & I all made it safely to the other side of the globe to Kathmandu.  We weren't entirely sure if Tom and Adnen would make it as they elected to fly Malaysian Airlines, but after several connections and 30 hours of flight time, they emerged from the Tribhuvan Airport arrival terminal with big smiles and a Nepal stamp in their passport.

After getting settled at the historic Yak & Yeti Hotel (which was a bit like a homecoming for me and Denise as we have stayed here on our two prior trips to Kathmandu) we had a brief team meeting and then ventured out to the Thamel District:

Walking the streets of Kathmandu is always an interesting experience with so many new sights, sounds, and smells for the mind to assimilate simultaneously.  It's also a bit of an adventure, especially crossing Durbar Marg Street.  It's somewhat like the old video game Frogger, for any of you who might appreciate that reference.  We all made it across successfully and are back at the hotel getting ready for dinner (Nepal is 12 hours and 45 minutes ahead of U.S. Pacific time) and we are looking forward to touring some of the famous Buddhist Temples tomorrow and then re-packing our bags for our flight to Lukla to begin our trek on Saturday.  Stay tuned for more updates...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Everest Base Camp Here We Come!

In less than 25 days, on April 15th we will be boarding a plane headed to Kathmandu and the excitement is palpable for us and the members of our Everest Executive Challenge team.  It's hard to believe four years have passed since we were last in Nepal and had the opportunity to hike through the stunning Himalayas and had the good fortune to stand on top of the world.  Our journey to Mt. Everest Base Camp will commence during the height of the Everest climbing season and we look forward to sharing our past experiences in this magical land among our intimate group of six CEO's and business executives (and with you as a reader of our blog). Not only will our Everest Executive Challenge be a grand adventure, it will be a leadership retreat "a higher education" up to 18,450 feet, and also a philanthropic mission benefiting the Challenged Athletes Foundation.  

We invite you to explore the pages of our new Step Outdoor Adventures website to see among other things a detailed itinerary of our Everest Base Camp trip.  Also please enter your email address in the box on the right to subscribe to our blog and keep updated on the progress of our group.  Be sure to respond to the confirming email you receive after subscribing in order for updates to be delivered. Thereafter you will only receive an email when a new post has been made.   

Recent group training hike to the top of  Mt. San Jacinto

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Going for Gold

WOW, so many emotionally charged events have taken place here in Africa since our last blog post. Sorry we have not updated you since then but after we said our sad farewells to our team at Kilimanjaro Int'l Airport, they boarded their flight home and we flew to Nairobi to climb Mt. Kenya. We were on the mountain for the past three days and now with Internet connection again we are finally able to share the most exciting and memorable part of the entire adventure (and that means a lot considering how many exciting and memorable experiences we've all had).

On September 12th after our final day on Safari we headed to the bustling city of Arusha for the long-awaited race chair presentation. As we pulled up to the Ilboru Safari Lodge we were pleasantly surprised by this lovely venue where the lush garden area had been transformed in to a proper celebratory setting. The owner graciously hosted food and drinks for all 40 of us. The group consisted of nine athletes, the leader of the Kilele Foundation, our CAFrica team as well as local media representation. Seeing these athletes entering the garden filled us with the same enthused anticipation that a kid feels on Christmas morning.

One by one they filed in and we greeted them with handshakes and hugs. We could see the excitement in their eyes. After introductions we said a blessing and expressed our gratitude for this enormous event to finally come to fruition. Some of us spoke a few words and then it was time to try out these race chairs. The athletes jumped in the chairs and took them for a test drive. Their competitive spirit shone through as they raced each other and their gigantic smiles from ear to ear told the whole story. Many of them have their sites set on the Boston Marathon 2013 and the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio was a hot topic among them. With the help of this equipment it would not surprise us to see some gold medalists come out of this fit and determined bunch.

Our hearts were filled with gratification and a bit of sadness when we had to say goodbye to our new friends. We look forward to seeing what their future brings and we are thrilled to have the honor of giving back to these most-deserving athletes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Life and Death on the African Plains

Swahili proverb: Kuishi kwingi ni kuona mengi. - To live long is to see much.

And WOW did we see much during our last few days here in Africa! Yesterday we drove to the Tarangire Safari Lodge perched on a hill overlooking expansive plains filled with wild game animals and a river meandering through the picturesque setting. Everybody loved the luxury tents complete with full sized beds, running water, electricity, and even hot showers. Definitely not the kind of tents we were living in for eight days on Kili.

After settling in to our accommodations we hopped back into the Land Rovers and went on an afternoon game drive that none of us will ever forget in our lifetimes. Not long after leaving the lodge we came across a fresh kill. A lion and her juvenile cubs were just beginning to feast on a zebra they had taken down. As we snapped photos of this incredible site, we noticed one of the young lions was pulling on something that appeared to be the zebra's tail or leg.

Upon a closer look we realized with a fascinated horror that the lions had killed a pregnant zebra and they were pulling out the baby zebra by the head! It was quite difficult to watch but we eventually realized that this is simply the way of life in the sometimes harsh world of the animal kingdom. Our safari guide told us he had never seen anything like this before himself and told us we were lucky to witness this event. I'm not sure if lucky is the right word but we are indeed privileged to be here on this continent and share this amazing learning experience with such a great group of friends. Thank you for allowing us to now share this with you, our friends back home, and we wish you all a long life of seeing much.