[25-28 October 2013]This album covers: Our one day trek from Lobuche to Gorakshep ( 5, 140m) and the Everest Base Camp (5,364 masl), our ascent to our highest point in the entire trek, Kala Patthar at 5,550 masl and the trek down to Periche (4, 200 masl), down to Namche (3,440 masl, and finally to Lukla ( 2, 800 masl).
Trekking to the Everest Base Camp, going through the ‘literal’ highest traffic I’ve ever encountered, I wasn’t very ecstatic. While it was supposed to be the highlight, I was too busy minding the irony of the high altitude traffic of trekkers, the overcrowded base camp, the need to find space to strike a pose and capture the moment, and the crumpled can of beer right in front of people taking EBC pictures. I was too busy posing for my Happy Birthdays for Kahlil and for my mother, taking a pose with Eka and with Mekh, taking pictures, saying prayers, going round and round, watching crows in their funny high altitude flight. I reflect and I think I was too busy at EBC. But the trek to Kala Patthar was different.
After a very cold, gruelling, and very, very, very windy early morning trek up the snow and the rocky rocks and boulders of Kala Patthar, we finally reached the top. The highest point of the entire trek. While Gokyo Ri was much more beautiful and warm, Kala Patthar was cold and windy. We had our faces covered by bacalavas, taking off gloves to take pictures or get a the UPM flag was such a pain, and it seemed impossible to stay on the top much longer. Still I took the requisite pictures, took out the UPM flag, posed with the very near view of Mt. Everest and then we were ready to go. Yet Mekh said we can stay for several minutes and that gave me pause —- standing there, done with all the picture taking and the buzz, I stood at the highest point in this earth that I’d ever be, I contemplated the moment and the beauty before me. I thought of all the mountains I’ve climbed before, and I think of where I am, the very moment. And I gave thanks. I cannot pray and so I started humming, and then I started singing. I didn’t mind who would hear. I sang my praise and I started crying and tearing up. I continued crying as I sang the lines :“ Yahweh, I know You are Near, Standing always at my side. You guide me from my foes and lead me in ways, everlasting. How can I hide from Your love, when I go to the mountains you are there. With Your hand there beside me protecting me from harm….” My church. I pray. And I also recalled, and reflected the steps which led me to this very point.
Looking at Everest from Kala Patthar, I look back on how this journey started. Among my bucketlist of ‘100 things I want to do before I die’ in high school or college, trekking in Nepal of the Everest Base Camp was not one of them. Even as a mountaineer, I never entertained the thought of someday trekking in Nepal. Of course I heard stories of UPM legends in the Himalayan Regions, but I never actually saw myself doing it. I never even saw myself dreaming it. It seemed so remote, so far, so beyond me – as an ordinary member of UPM, lover of the outdoors, perhaps, and adventurer. Then came the exploits of UPM members: Romy Garduce summits Everest and continues with the other six summits. Then came the first Filipina team consisting of Carina Dayondon and two UPM members I knew personally, Noelle, my batchmate, and Janet, one of the trainors when I applied. I felt proud of their feats, and inspired. But not enough to allow myself to dream of actually trekking in Nepal. It took several years of active UPM membership, several climbs with fellow members, that once again I started, and allowed myself to dream. I never thought of climbing Mt. Kinabalu (4,095 masl) in Sabah Malaysia, yet when the opportunity presented itself, I said a hearty ‘yes’ to the adventure.
Then came 2012 when six members of UPM, members I’ve climbed with during UPM training climbs, members I drank and shared stories with, trekked to the Everest Base Camp through Dream Himalaya Adventures. Suddenly inspired, mostly envious, I allowed myself to dream. I entertained the thought that perhaps it isn’t too impossible to dream of tekking to EBC. Perhaps, even if it isn’t in my bucketlist, it is possible for me to pursue. And so I did. I took the chances. I made my choice.
Yet looking back to where it all began or how it all built up —- I came to understand that favourite quote from UPM oldies —- “If I am where I am now, it is because I stand in the shoulders of giants.” It is through icons such as Romy Garduce, Noelle Wenceslao and Janet Belarmino that we come to be inspired. It through older mountaineers, the pioneers, and members who dared to explore and open mountains yet unexplored that other mountaineers, other members of UPM are able to enjoy and experience the summit. It is in the act the six members UPM members who trekked to EBC last year – who dared to dream and pursue that dream, that we are inspired and we come to realize it might be possible for us too.
In our case, it was not only through inspiring us to dream and pursue that dream that our friends from UPM helped us in this journey. They’ve helped us in the logistics, in the countless briefings and tips, hooking us up with Dawa of Dream Himalayas Adventure, doing money wire transfers for us, lending us equipment and materials we lacked ( we have thermal clothes, trekking poles, satellite phone, solar panels, sponsored expedition bags and trekking pants etc.).
And so, looking at Everest for the first time days before and seeing it closer from Kala Patthar, I remember how it all began, and I thank them all. For helping us to pursue this dream and for teaching us to inspire others as we go. As Eka would explain while buying lots and lots of pasalubong in Kathmandu, ‘ Para ma-inspire din sila gaya natin.’ And so we hope to pass this on, and we hope next year, we’d see others also daring to dream and pursuing their heart’s dream. We’d want to see their albums posted too, and to see the happy smiles in their faces. The look of wonder and adventure. I remember what I said to Ate Risa (from my Boss’ office) when she asked if I was enjoying my trek, I said “Sulit na sulit, di ko ipagpapalit sa bagong kotse ito.” And I meant it.
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.
— Nelson Mandela
Rest in peace, you have given the world so much inspiration through the life you lived, the injustices you’ve fought against and the changes you’ve brought. You are a constant reminder of what more needs to be done and how a person has to be the change he/she wants to see in the world.
Join the Commission on Human Rights this Saturday, 7 December 2013, 2PM at the Remedios Circle, Malate Manila, as we join the Lesbians, Gays, Transgender, Queer Community for this year’s Pride March. Let us celebrate diversity and lead the call to promote, protect, and fulfill the human rights of LGBTQ.
This is one of my favorite panorama pics from the trek. It shows the promise and the grandeur of the Great Himalayan Trail, of the Khumbu region. I’d call it, “The Beckoning”. The fulfillment of that John Muir quote, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”. I heard the call, I heeded the beckoning.
I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.