Farewell to Kathmandu, Hello to the States, and stepping back into my daily footsteps in SoCal


I decided to change my flight to one day sooner and travel back to Hong Kong with Martha to take advantage of an 8 hour lay-over to see the city. Martha lives in Hong-Kong and graciously offered to be my personal tour-guide. Before heading to the airport, the three trekkers met for our final meal together: breakfast. Martha and I bid Daniel farewell as he was getting excited for a day touring Kathmandu and visiting a music festival that evening. I was eating bread and water, and still not doing so hot in the absorption aspect of my GI system. I was feeling weak, but knew I had a 24 hour journey home ahead of me, where most of it I could sit and rest and let the airplane take me.

Checking-in at the Kathmandu airport felt very “normal”. It had ticket counters and conveyor belts, and airline representatives with make-up and uniforms; the most “order” I’d seen in the country. We were upgraded to first class, boarded the plane, and stepped out of an emerging country and into the luxuries of our first world lifestyles. I tried to stomach the gourmet food on the short flight to Hong Kong, but ended up losing my cookies as we descended to land in Hong Kong. Apparently flying out of Hong Kong to Kathmandu or from Kathmandu to Hong Kong doesn’t agree with me. I’ve never been sick on an airplane before, but both of these legs I was grabbing for the motion-sickness bags and seeking the toilets. Not due to motion sickness, but I think exhaustion (in my unexperienced physical being) setting in.

Despite feeling weak and tired I went along with the 8 hour tour of Hong Kong, with IMG_4324motion sickness bags within easy grab off the side pockets of my backpack. We walked the financial district, went to the top of the finance buildings, looked out over the bay and appreciated all the land that has been expanded to put more skyscrapers on land, took a double decker bus to the “beach town” of Hong Kong and dipped my toes in the South China Sea, sat at a cafe, and made it back to the airport for take-off.  As soon as I boarded my flight bIMG_4329ack to the USA, I was no longer nauseous
or vomiting. I guess me and Hong Kong just don’t agree. I slept a good majority of my flight back to the States. Ate very little and drank water. Once landing at LAX I called my Aunt and went to stand at the curb with my big duffle bag and day pack. Getting picked up at the airport by my Aunt was such an exciting feeling. I was home. And someone was waiting for me!

I spent the first 3 days at my Aunt and Uncle’s house resting, trying to eat food, rehydrating. It was great to be wrapped safely in their arms and home after being out on the trail. I enjoyed catching back up where I left off with Natalie and sharing a meal with her family.

Then I did what I do best. I went home to the mountains. I drove up to Mammoth for the IMG_4350rest of the week and snowboarded, slept, ran, relaxed, let the trip sink in, embraced the pending return to western societal structures and procedures, and again tried to work on eating. I will tell you it took more than 2 weeks for me to start absorbing food, I lost more weight during my travel back to the States and adjustment back into work than I had in the Khumbu. Happy to say, all is well now.


         It was amazing how my tongue had changed it’s preference in food. I didn’t want meat. I wasn’t hungry or thirsty. I could go on very little water, where normally I’m a >100 oz/day water drinker. When I returned to the candy jar at work, it didn’t taste good :(. The food in the Khumbu was not “healthy”. It was processed white bread, American “cheese”, high preservative food for storage on shelves. But we were eating to sustain our activity level, and the body craves what the body needs in my opinion when you are day-in-day-out expending large amounts of calories. Your body feels what you eat. So you tend to make smarter choices. Or I guess, I do. That’s the runner in me coming out. I never was one who restricted what I ate, but I would feel it on my tempo run if I ate greasy fries the night before. You start craving the foods that fuel your workout, fuels your lifestyle.

The dynamics among the trekking group, our porters, our nepalese guide, and the local people who housed us along the trek demonstrated to me how important clear communication is; and leaving passive emotions out of situations to minimize charge and needless escalation. The trekking group was composed of strong personalities, great characters. It was important to keep perspective, understand where each person was coming from and the experiences that have shaped them prior to stepping on the trail in Nepal. I focused on staying calm, not feeding the fire; trying to re-establish objectivity, goal, and intent, in order to move past any situation or disagreement. My goal: keep the amazing experience for all it was close at heart.

I embraced myself as an observer and gained insight by seeing peoples’ behaviors. It helped me identify my own insecurities and anxieties, and embrace them for what they are, and not discount them as irrationale or obstructive.


The Burke-Khang ladies: Thanks to Daniel, we all reunited in San Diego less than 3 weeks after returning from Nepal for a Holiday Party


Jenna and I enjoying the holiday Cheer 12/2015






Looking a little different in San Diego than in Nepal

      I’ve been asked if I had a big revelation or spiritual awakening experience while in Nepal. I would consider myself a pretty spiritual person. In my normal day-to-day, I spend a lot of time by myself and working out, which allows time for my mind to explore thoughts and opinions. I didn’t have a huge ah-ha moment or calling in any direction. But my steps along the trail firmed my stance of my own two feet underneath me. It calmed my worries of “where I am in my life vs. where I think I should be.” I put false time-dependent expectations on myself about at what age I should have been married, have kids, own a house, be financially informed with investing. And I was much more comfortable with where I am and who I am. That these expectations have little to do with age, but rather to the timing of when my path crosses these milestones. My insecurities of friends, family, patients asking me if I am married, if I have kids, if I’m where “I should be for my age”, dissipated and washed away with the passing clouds in the Khumbu. It felt good to let them go and let the air carry them away from my conscience. It will all happen when the time is right as long as I keep the doors open to the aspects of life I value.

Moments of culture shock:

My Aunt said my car needed to be washed, so I took my car to the carwash in the valley. I sat down on the bench to wait for the attendant to clean my windows, vaccuum my car’s inside, and dry the exterior. I watched an elder couple come sit next to me, barely engage in conversation with each other, and then do a full walk around their vehicle before pointing out spots along the car exterior to the attendant, expecting him to rub away the spots their eyes noticed. I watched, I didn’t feel much emotion about it. I just thought, ‘how silly.’ And made a note to myself to never walk around my car and point out the imperfections of someone else’s work. Go home, get a towel, rub away the spots yourself. Plus there will probably be more spots by the time you get home, so it will fill your time. Ha!

Returning to work. My first day back at work I walked in thinking I’d blend in. I walked into my work’s pod and excited voices and faces met mine. It made me happy to hear that I was missed. I didn’t think my coworkers would be so expressionable. I have to say it made me feel happy to return to my workplace. It was a fresh feeling. Then my work-day kicked off, where my last minute with one patient is the first minute with the next patient. How can I be at two places at once? When can I have a quiet moment to let my mind resolve my thoughts? How can I do 3 things at once? These are things I enjoyed riding on before my trip. Now I was feeling like I was floundering to keep up. I was distracted by the noise level in the gym, the number of people talking at once, and how conversation was moving very quickly and questions were phrased very directly. It felt offensive. It made me want to run away. This was my culture shock. My own workplace. In Nepal conversations flowed in the direction people offered. Questions were often indirect or about an experience, not about the person specifically. In my line of work, all questions are patient-centered: asking personal details to understand a patient’s situation. The questions are direct, quick, and structured to get a colorful picture in a short amount of time. I struggled to talk quick enough, to think quick enough, to be willing to be structured by the ticking minute-hand


My parents visited SoCal 12/2015 and dined with my Burke-Khang family

on the clock. I vow’ed to keep the warmth of conversation in the Khumbu alive in my workplace and be willing to sit and listen without directing another question. Let the patient take the conversation in their direction, instead of sticking to my professional line of questioning. It has been very enjoyable to give patients more room to breathe. AND, to give myself to breathe 🙂

So…what’s next?

Well I put in a full snowboarding season with many long weekends up in Mammoth and


Sun Valley, Idaho

travelled to Sun Valley, Idaho and Whistler, BC this season. I tackled terrain that last year was unthinkable and have made my home mountain more accessible. I overcame some self-limiting fears. I returned to being escorted on Chair 23 to being able to ride it solo without any anxiety attacks. I went off the top chutes of Mammoth and each weekend went back to the same scary spots to go down them again and learn their turns. I Go-Pro’ed many runs and incorporated them into vision desensitization rehab for patients. I recorded a podcast for the professional association of my occupation. I travelled to meet my best friend’s baby girl for the first time. I jumped back in.


Visiting my faves in New York, this is normal for us.


Whistler, BC

Now snowboarding season is coming to a close. I am 6 weeks into training for my first half ironman triathlon.  9/11/2016: Santa Cruz 70.3. Come on down to the race course and cheer on all the athletes. It is a distance that feels big. Mentally I need to be disciplined with my physical training, structured to balance work, sport, and play. It feels great to be back on a training schedule. I thrive in the discipline. Right now my body is responding really well. It feels like each day I’m on “fresh legs” as the workouts switch among swim, bike, and



run. The training philosophy is similar to hiking: do the workout, but save some energy in the tank as another work follows a few hours later.  This is a new way to train for me. Yes, my sciatica is still there, but it is very mild and localized. My goal is to complete this race injury free. So I am listening to my body. Stretching. Food prepping. Listening to my body during workouts and before/after workouts. Training to compete, training to push on another day.

Stay tuned to the theme of this blog: when a runner swims. On a chillier note: Confirmed shark attack 5/30/2016 where I do my open water swim training. A 52 year old ironwoman was training for an upcoming ironman race 7/2016 in Canada, she is lucky and survived…the mental game in open water just got a little more twisted….for now I’m sticking to the pool.

Keep the challenges coming, make sure they fulfill my values.


Visiting G’ma in Michigan 5/2016, recovering from a broken hip.


Smiling for the camera, 3 generations, 5-2016


Getting ready for our generations picture with my G’ma, Mom, and Me in Michigan 5.2016


Discovering this picture of my Dad and Me, haha, circa 1986












Family in my Michigan house


Gina and Me, I miss her in SoCal!


Grandma, Me, Great-Aunt, and Mom, 5-2016

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Leaving the Khumbu, re-emerging in city life of Kathmandu


Shortest runway in the world, the end is a cliff-edge. Downhill, up, up, and away!


      I woke up and re-packed my duffle bag for the last time. The trekking group had one of the first flights out of Lukla this morning and the weather was clear.  I was groggy. I was tired of always being late, and this plane I did not want to be late for. Our porters walked with us to the airport, we said our awkward good-bye’s and thank-you’s. Spending day-in and day-out with the same people on the trail, naturally you think you would exchange information and keep in touch. But there was a politeness and a line that was drawn where as a westerner I was trying to respect that this was a “job” for each porter and that they were private about their personal lives. They never missed sharing a smile, but it was what the westerners were offering by way of story or expression.

       I thanked the porters for carrying my excessive bag, but for my own comfort reassured them that I had used every thing I had asked them to carry. We got in line for security. This includes dropping your bag off to get weighed to keep track of how much weight will be loaded into the airplane; then file into respective lines for male and female. A woman asked me what country I was from, I said “America”, she wrote with a pencil on a lined notebook “Amerika” and my name from my passport. This is how they keep track of who gets on each plane. Your ticket does not have your name on it. Just the plane number and airline name. No time, no boarding number, no seat, no personal designation. We walked out onto the tarmac, watched a few planes land, load, and take off…and then it was our turn.


Loading the airplane, ready to fly back to Kathmandu

      I was eager to get back to Kathmandu, but really was ready to depart to the States. We had to circle a few times before landing in Kathmandu due to clouds and the plane was starting to make me queasy. The plane cabins are not pressurized, and although I was just coming from altitude I was feeling uncomfortable with the plane motion. I think my motion had been slow and on my own two feet, exclusively for 18 days. My system was getting overloaded on the airplane. We landed and I bolted for a bathroom. Which, in Nepal, is not always easy to find. Martha saw the panic on my face, she grabbed my arm and started asking people where the bathroom was, she walked me there and stood guard as I walked past 3 men to a back-hut and an open door bathroom. Thank goodness for Martha, who was tuned into my quiet demeanor and picked up on my need for someone to act and help me out. I felt much more relaxed after my pit-stop and joined back up with Logan and Daniel. Martha did all the talking.

      We made our way back to the Yak and Yeti, 5-star hotel in Kathmandu. We said goodbye to our oh-so-tolerant Nepalese guide Logan as he safely returned us to where we started.   I thanked Logan who dutifully walked beside me silently, when I wasn’t feeling well with each step feeling like more work than I wanted to be doing. He had shared about his family, where he lived, and his experience as a guide in the Khumbu region. I knew our lives were very different, and felt very lucky to have shared the trail with him. We were the same age and it was remarkable how different our lives have weaved.

      Daniel, Martha, and I walked into the hotel and immediately reunited with Kathy, my same thread sister, who was big-eyed, sitting having breakfast for one. Kathy was med-evac’ed from Burke-Khang advanced base camp 2 days prior due to High Altitude Pulmonary Edema. She was congested, looking defeated, and really wide-eyed. This trip had the most ups and downs for Kathy. I was excited to see her, despite the circumstances, and we came together as a group to bring some life and laughter back to Kathy before she headed back to the States. I listened to her account of progressing from Burke-Khang base camp through the glacier climb to Advanced Base camp, to the helicopter ride out, to the medical treatment in Kathmandu, to the resting solo at the Yak and Yeti. Then it was time one of the things I perseverated about while on the trail: my first luxury shower in 20+ days.

      I hadn’t seen myself in a full length mirror since before setting foot in the Khumbu. I also was way too excited to shower and feel pressurized, warm water on my skin to think to look in the mirror before showering. I washed my hair 3 times, shaved twice, and left my face sitting under the water spray for longer than I thought could be enjoyable. Afterwards, I stepped out of the shower and was shocked by what I saw in the mirror. All my bones were showing. My muscle mass looked dwindled. It wasn’t sickly but it was startling to me. After putting on my travel clothes, that had been stored at the Yak and Yeti while I was trekking, I started working on hydrating. I boiled water, put my iodine pills in the water, and waited the hour until they were ready. I was jittery. I was unsure of what to do first. I think I knew that my body was going to start adjusting away from the simplicity of the Khumbu and might have a bit of an adjustment period ahead.

Daniel, Martha, and I ventured out into Kathmandu, first with the same tourguide we met before our trek, then on our own. The streets were bustling as it was the dawn before a festival. In Kathmandu, a festival is always on the horizon. There are  many buddhist god’s that they are


The streets were packed with pedestrians, motorcyclists, and vendors

celebrating. The gas shortage was still extreme, but some petrol had made it to the streets and cars and buses were stacked up in traffic jams. It was all very overwhelming after the silence on the trail and the only congestion was letting a yak train go by to ensure your own safety of not being accidentally bumped off the side of the trail. We went to the Monkey temple and walked around playing the role of tourists, which was much less tolerable after being on


Looking out on Kathmandu from atop the Monkey Temple

the trail for so many days. Kathy and I stayed polite, but shared our disinterest. We went to Durbar square, which I learned there are many Durbar squares; it means city center. We had lunch in a building I felt as though was unregulated and ready to crumble at any moment, and we sat on the patio on the 3rd level. I was still sticking to my vegetarian diet and careful to drink only bottled liquids.


The Monkey Temple (it is nicknamed that as it is over-run by monkeys)

   After saying goodbye to our tour-guide and bidding Kathy farewell as she headed to the airport, we went shopping, Kathmandu style. I wanted to buy a sleeping bag that stuffed small, Martha wanted to go to a bookstore, and Daniel was up for the cultural immersion. I was happy to be back in Kathmandu, it meant I was heading home soon. I was not phased by the friction among personalities of our trekking group at this point. I was happy to be walking slowly, taking in the streets, having my travel companions to enjoy the city with, and stepping out of storefronts for a breath of air as needed. We wanted to see the famous Durbar square we’ve been seeing in the media since the earthquake with all the destruction. It was a 45 minute walk, but we all agreed to walking over taking a taxi or bus ride without a nepalese tour-guide caring for the details. As we went to walk in, we were stopped and asked to pay a tax as tourists. This was the last thing I was in the mood for. To be shuffled around an open-air city-center gawking at ruined buildings by a tour-guide and be required to pay to look at the buildings was not on my list of things-to-do. I talked Daniel and Martha out of it. My head was full, the busy streets, walking shoulder-to-shoulder and brushing through the motorcycles was getting to me. I wanted to go back to the hotel…I wanted to sit and eat. We had been plucked out of the Khumbu this morning and now were around more than 3.5 million people negotiating for food, colored chalk, and candy offerings, carrying guns, and honking at every thing. I was over-stimulated.


Durbar Square near our lunch spot, bamboo poles stabilize structures damaged during the earthquake earlier in the year

We found a quaint, quiet restaurant near the hotel and sat down for a “fancy” meal. I knew this would be pushing my fragile stomach’s limit. I was craving food outside of my vegetable fried rice, veggie Ra-Ra, hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal, and grilled cheese sandwiches. I ordered a veggie pasta. It tasted delicious. It was made with oils and had seasoning on it. AND that was the end of my stomach. I tried to ease it in nicely to more nutritious food, but it let me know it was in charge. That night, I had a hotel room to myself. The first time in Nepal I slept without a roommate. I made the room as dark as possible, I tucked myself in tightly to the sheets and put all the pillows around me, and I slept like a rock. At first I didn’t know what to do with the quietness. I had come accustomed to my bear of a snoring roommate, and kept searching for the sounds that had become familiar. Once I fell asleep, I was asleep.

It was ironic that I left (unintentionally) Mary’s letter as the last to be opened. She was the one who lifted me up when my feet fell out from underneath me in undergrad. She complimented me sincerely and in a way that touched me deeply. She made me feel special and celebrated. She shared 2 quotes from her favorite books:

‘A Prayer for Owen Meany:

If you care about something,

Your have to protect it.

If you’re lucky enough to find a

way of life you love, you have to find

the courage to live it.’

‘Tell your heart that fear of suffering is

worse than suffering itself. And that

no heart has ever suffered when it

goes in search of its dream’

From Shelly: ‘I Have found that if you love life, life will love you back.’


The Tiny doors and the narrow streets. If you can fit your motorcycle down it, you can do it. The stories on these buildings had ceilings that even I would have to duck to fit inside.

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Last day on the trail, off to an unexpected start



All together at the lodge in Namche…before we lost each other…only to find each other again on the trail.

Been down this road before

Being flexible and agreeable for the sake of the experience is 100% worth it. But a tipping point exists. And today, mine was met.

Our guide defines what time we hit the trail, time of breakfast, and whether bags need to be prepped before or after for our porters. Simple, right? Not one of these times has been met by our trekking team. Disrespectful? Not in our best interest? Does it matter? One of the languages-of-love I closely identify with is time. When someone gives me a timeline or structure, I work to follow it, abide by it, discuss relative to it. It sits as fact to me. To a fault of frustration.

I have had extra time to enjoy the view from each lodge’s entrance. Waiting. I try to take the time to share an extra smile with the locals or our guest house staff. To look wondrously at the mountains and hills around. But the tension is often palpable in the dynamic of 2 porters, 1 nepalese guide, and 3 trekkers.

Today, we had a few shops we wanted to stop in on our way out of Namche. Yesterday I bumped into guide Logan outside an office, he remarked at the time, “have to get permit.” This morning he said, “meet me where I get permit.” I believed this to be the same location. I was in error, as he meant the gate check area below Namche on the trail. We called the lodge, Kristine in Seattle, Himilayan Guides Nepal, and finally connected with Logan, who had headed farther south on the trail. Daniel was lost to the wind; Martha and I headed back down to meet Logan. Then Logan had to go retrieve Daniel. This felt stressful to me. Martha and I conversed and defined our responsibility was to reconnect with our guide and communicate clearly. Not to round up the trekkers.

I was frustrated at how late we were leaving Namche, knowing that we’d be hiking in the dark back into Lukla. I didn’t like not knowing where every one in our group was. But I was only getting more frustrated and mad trying to remediate where Daniel was. Martha and I turned down the trail together, making a pact to stick together today. I had enough alone time on this trail and was seeking some connectiveness. I stopped along the trail for a pee, and then couldn’t find Martha. I was so frustrated at the time, but it is comical how on the same trail that leads to the same place 3 trekkers couldn’t manage to keep their act together. I told Martha where I was going to go off to pee. I wasn’t going to leave the spot I had communicated. Logan and Daniel caught up and were fast to say, “Nah, she went ahead.” The quick disregard and attitude for a group-mate (can’t call this group a team anymore) made me really sad….more waterworks. I felt like I had just had this amazing journey across the Khumbu and wanted to feel connected to the people who were step-by-step in the same locations as me…but instead we were falling apart and running back to our own individual lives, forgetting each other and losing any meaning that may have fleetingly existed. Martha had in fact gone ahead and seemed shocked when I walked up with Logan and Daniel. Each (wo)man for (her)himself. I was so frustrated and felt like I had placed trust in the wrong hands. I just cried and stayed silent. I was retreating and putting my own walls up. I had much preferred the open airways, carefree nature, and conversation of earlier on the trail.


Last view of Everest as walking down the trail away from Namche

The views were now looking back over my shoulder. Indication of snow grew less and less. My surroundings became green, running water visible in many directions. My eyes were on my footing and reading signs on buildings as I passed by. The light was weaning; head lamps came on and the final 45 minutes were in the dark. Not the experience I would have preferred, but pole pole to stay safe.


Crossing the same suspension bridges, what goes up must come down.


The lights in Lukla welcomed us back, pitch black outside of the store front signs

I ate my biggest meal in days/weeks as my appetite is returning at lower altitudes. I packed and repacked my bags for one last time.

We fly out of Lukla back to Kathmandu in the morning. Hold onto your hats on the world’s shortest runway.

At dinner I inquired about the climbers. Logan stated he was in text communication with Purba, climbing sirdar, and a summit wasn’t looking reachable. I am eager to be in touch with the climbing team to hear how their journey has been coming along.

Michelle: “Wherever you go, go blue!”

Jess: “When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.”

7 notes form Aunt Paula and Uncle Tom:

1:Surviving and living your life successfully requires courage. The goals and dreams you’re seeking require courage and risk taking Learn from the turtle, it only makes progress when it sticks out its neck.

2: We all have dreams. But in order to make our dreams into reality, it will take an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.

3: “In every single moment, there is significance. Wonder is sprinkled all around us.” -Flavia

4: Today well-lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

5: Delight in the Day

6: Inspire everyone around you

7: You can, will do it, don’t quit.


Walking and turning my last Mani-Wheel of the trail

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A solo day on the trail


Deboche to Namche

We had an early morning start to visit Tengboche Monestary, which had a richer appearing inside decorated with wooden buddha structures and ornate carvings compared to the Monastery we saw in Phakding. A ceremony was not currently going on, so we poked around a bit and then headed back on the trail. We could crisply see Lhotse and Mt. Everest from atop the hill. My eyes are drawn more to Lhotse’s peak. 


From the front steps of Tengboche Monestary, it was a cold morning and we were eager to keep walking on the trail.

Onward to Namche. Instead of coming over the top of the hill from Khum-Jung we wrapped around the hillside on the “lower-road” with beautiful views stretching up the valley with Ama Dablam, Lhotse, and Mt Everest; and down the valley along the river leading us back to Lukla. Every day we walk farther away form our hard efforts up the region and head back to the little plane that delivered us safely to the Khumbu region.


Looking back up the trail towards Mt Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam

Most of today I was walking alone on the trail. I feel our group separating, time alone is more desired than together as we come closer to the end of our time on the trail. I passed very few people today, and most were locals carrying food back from Namche. I notice the locals’ shoes. One girl was wearing small wedges, 2 big straps in the front, open-toe, and socks. I couldn’t imagine these shoes were very practical on the trail or in the villages, was it just all that was available to her? Another girl passed in black ballet flats with white polka dots. My heavy Saloman hiking boots appeared grotesque and excessive next to her ballet flats. But my feet would not have willed continued steps in ballet flats. I kept looking out across the expansive valley, sad to be headed away, but also noticing creeping thoughts of home responsibilities. I was wishing for conversation on the trail, wishing for our whole team to be walking together again.

My head cold has headed south to my chest; today I felt fine with the ups and downs of the trail to Namche; but now sitting in the lodge, I feel spent and dry in my throat, rattling in my chest, and a cough. The cold air has taken it’s toll; I covered my mouth and nose too late in the game. I noticed my seasoned teammates were covering their mouths from the dust of the trails from the very beginning. Now I know why. The “khumbu” cough that most trekkers return home with.

I knew the name of the lodge we were staying at in Namche, but no idea where it was located. I walked to the lodge we stayed at on the way into the region and politely asked the owner for directions to the other lodge. I thanked him for his hospitality earlier in the trip and updated him on our climbing teams whereabouts, to the best of my knowledge. After a much needed meal, sitting in the lodge with the sun pouring onto me through the window, I headed down into Namche to buy some Mani-wheels, yak bells, a map, and gifts. I bought Mom a singing bowl; the shop owner played many different size and colored bowls for me, before I decided on a pink one. I still would like playing cards with the different locations around Nepal, to remind me of pronunciation. Gifts are always a tough buy, especially when the sights here are what make the trip, not the things. Maybe the pictures I took can turn into more meaningful gifts: calendars, canvas, inspirational cards.

I returned back to the lodge’s kitchen for dinner and felt loneliness creep in. My two trekking teammates were no where to be found. The dining area filled with groups and excited, happy chatter. I was sitting with my book and my soup, wondering why I was sitting there alone. It got the best of me. Especially as Logan, my Nepalese guide, kept coming over to me and asking me where Martha and Daniel were. Why was I not with them? I had no answers. I shrugged my shoulders, holding back the tears, and kept reading my book. It was a lonely meal. I was tired and happy to be sitting still, hearing the conversations around me, but feeling very separate from them. I opened letters from home and wrote in my journal. Trying to savor the simplicity, solitude. I went to sleep that night knowing that the trip was coming to a close…in a bit of mourning over leaving the trail but eager to be back around familiar faces of friends and family.

Caroline: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take your breath away”

Aunt Linda and Uncle Steve: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” “Families are like fudge-mostly sweet with a few nuts” -I love the comedic relief!

Shanna: “Do or do not, there is no try”- Yoda. “I am an all powerful, amazon warrior, not just some sniveling girl. So no matter what I think I need, you know I can’t possibly have a need in this world.” -Ami Difranco. “Well behaved women seldom make history.” -Laural Thatcher Ulrich.

I missed Shanna-Benana’s wedding while on this trip. One reality of life not experienced for the chance at another. I hope her day was filled with Shanna-moments and lots of laughter. I am grateful for the added Shanna time when I visit Kansas and Missouri over the years.

As I look at my journal from this day, it is clear that I was tired. I was feeling disconnected from my team and the journey. I was welcoming the upcoming return home.

I am hoping for more sleep tonight and geared up for a long day from Namche to Lukla.

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Lazy Morning


We trekked back below the tree-line today and are leaving the snow-peaked mountains farther in the distance


We enjoyed a lazy morning knowing we only had a 3 hour walk today. We all were a little restless last night and craving some extra sleep as we had a windy, cool walk down from Gorak Shep. We ordered extra food, sat in the sun, and silently enjoyed the simplicity of the morning. I think we all were feeling the looming return to city life and were grappling to stay put a little longer. We wanted modern showers, enclosed non-drafty bedrooms, and safe drinking water. And we wanted no task but to walk on a trail, look up at the snow-peaked mountains, and listening to the wind. We were transitioning from one to the other, and we weren’t quite ready for it.

Today is Daniel’s birthday! We celebrated by presenting a card from the whole team at


Daniel’s birthday outfit polished off with accessories of a Happy Birthday balloon and necklace

breakfast, a balloon which quickly became an accessory for his birthday outfit, and “Happy Birthday” necklace that Denise and Paul brought over from the US, passed it around before the trekkers left the climbers, and I stowed away to await his birthday!

I tried a gas-powered shower x 2 today; ironic to write, but no hot water. Pipes are frozen, so no shower :(. Funny how it was such an effort to prep for the shower and that I was more disappointed for the energy I spent organizing a shower bag and getting out of my long-underwear to chatter my teeth outside the shower hut in anticipation of a cleansing shower; to then turn back around and don clothes without clean skin or hair. My hair became a novelty to me on this trip. I’m one who washes my hair daily, sometimes several times in a day due to frequent workouts. So experiencing the change in my hair as grease set it, it started to hold shapes, and the feeling of unwashed hair was entertaining. I had to laugh and stay lighthearted about it, otherwise I would have been disgusted by myself. Sometimes you cannot remove the westerner, despite being far from the west.

Today my stickler-for-time self gawked at my useless energy expended yesterday being frustrated by derailing from the schedule. My language of love is time. And when time has been expressed, and the expectation I put on sticking to the time is not met, frustration builds. Self propagated. An internal storm that no one wants to touch with a 10-foot pole. Today time was moving slowly and no “set time” had been vocalized. Yesterday, a personality trait that serves me in western society (admittedly it doesn’t always serve me there either), crept in and brought negativity to a situation that had no need for it. It’s good to identify your faults, reflect on the behavior that resulted, and try to quiet the nonsense in the future. This will be a necessary task from October 28, 1984 until my last breath on earth. And I hope to be introspective enough to keep checking in. Daily discovery…daily growth…daily faults. Life and the circles we make.


Frozen glacier turns into rushing water

Kerry sent: Psalm 95:4: In whose hands are the depths of the earth, the Peaks of the mountains are also His. Psalm 19:1-6: The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Isaiah 40:31: but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

She comments to connect with my group, have time to reflect, be silent, and be present. I think this sums up what the trip has been.

Leslie sent some inspirational pictures and quotes. “I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”  “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”   “The best view comes after the hardest climb.”


Leaving Dingboche with an arch with ornate mandala painted on the ceiling, keeping the negative/unpure energy outside it’s boundary.


On the ceiling of the above arch, such vivid color in the remoteness of the Khumbu region.

Our walk to Deboche from Dingboche started with a stop at Snow Lion Lodge to pass along a note from Paul and Denise to the owner, Mingma, who had provided private residence and wash tubs for laundry to them,when they were here in a previous year to climb Everest. Mingma was up in high town so I left the note with a worker at the lodge. The local peoples’ faces light up with any story of a relationship or previous visit to the region. Return visitors to Nepal is a compliment to their culture.


Martha pointing out our first tree we came across, oxygen saturation is improving in the air!

Today’s walk led us back to the tree-line, back in damp air, and on an “altitude high.” It is amazing to think I’m still >12,000′ but feel easy and breezy like sea-level.

The hike down feels like a steeper reverse grade than our walk up the Gokyo Valley; I think we did it right 🙂 We talked with 2 gentlemen who were headed up; thinking of doing our reverse trek; Cho La Pass would be more challenging in their direction. I believe the second  portion of the hike was a steep grade that I’d much prefer traveling up than down. They both were packing crampons, which would help; but one was already feeling altitude sickness at Deboche and age was probably not on either of their sides.

We are back in weeping willows, green, damp air, and the sound of rushing water in the river conduits. It reminds me just how desolate and inhospitable our surroundings were 2 days ago.

We passed a fallen suspension bridge. Logan, our Nepalese guide, identified that it fell 2


Nepalese Guide, Logan, joining the celebrating of Daniel’s birthday

years ago when the rock wall gave way. No one was on the bridge (hopefully) at the time.

We played cards (Hearts) for Daniel’s birthday, ordered him an apple turn-over with chocolate, sang him “Happy Birthday”, and kept the day pointing at him. He was great at bringing a smile to every one he passed on the trail throughout the entire trip, but especially today in his american flag spandex, captain American hat, and number 1 balloon.

Tomorrow we head to the “famous” Monastery atop Tengboche cliff-edge and continue on back to Namche. The journey feels as though it is coming to an end as we quickly drop altitude. Back to hospitable climate, paper-products accompanying dinner (napkins), water more readily available, and gas powered showers. I had my 1st shower since my birthday today! Devine to have clean hair 🙂

One foot in front of the other, safely back down.


Grand mountains surround destruction in the small villages, still working to rebuild after the April 2015 earthquake.


More time looking around the towns on the trail back down, many families are still living in tents as their homes haven’t been rebuilt since the earthquake. 

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Highest Altitude and heading back down towards my day-to-day life



Hiking up Kala Pattar and heading down Dingboche

Early morning wake-up call via my iPhone, as my watch has frozen in time; no waking it back up. Target, it did well. The decrease in atmospheric pressure must have been the culprit. But my watch was stuck at a single time, date, and repetitive button combinations didn’t change the display. Weird.

Bundled up, ready to trek to the highest altitude of my trip. Starting from Gorak Shep and up the short, but steady uphill of Kala Pattar. The actual height is listed different everywhere you reference. I believe it is 17,500’; but the sign at the top said 5562m, which is 18,248’. High. My highest point was every step I’d taken from Dole on up the trail. Every step was a new record. Every step was a step.

The plan was to head up early, 6:00 departure and come back down for breakfast before continuing down to Dingboche. At 6:15 Martha and Daniel were ordering breakfast and I was feeling my head cold congestion, eager to head up before getting too cold. 6:40 we headed up the trail. I stuck to the plan and was waiting to eat breakfast until after the hike.

My breath was labored, I was congested. Logan suggested I start slowly. Martha and I started hiking up, my pace was slowing quickly with my breathing being work. Martha asked if I was ok, I said, “yea, just congested, cold, and short of breath.” She gave me a quizzical look and said she was going to go up ahead, but suggested I stay at my current pace. I inquired as to why she was looking at me funny. “Your lips are blue.”  Oh, ok then….I’ll stay at this pace. I took some quick, short breaths and then worked on long slow breaths, taking one step at a time as my breath allowed.

Three-quarters of the way up I started feeling very woozy, like my head was hanging onto my shoulders by a 2 foot string and was gently lifting up and behind me, like a balloon sailing behind the child holding it. I started to have R hemisphere visual changes. I have experienced this once before after a really hard track workout during marathon training. I went to sleep since looking at TV and books was extremely annoying and woke up with it gone the next morning.

   Interjection: Many of your eyebrows are lifted with the expression, “what?!” Yes, I am a physical therapist who treats people with neurologic conditions. I am very aware of what this visual change could be. Almost too much. And yes, the advice I give my patients is if they have any type of neurologic change they immediately report to the ER and do not wait. I am a hypocrite. I do not follow this advice. Discredit me how you may, stop reading if you must, write me off as a physical therapist. It is me. Any physical pain, abnormality I immediately go into “watch and wait” mode. Ok, unclench your fists, put down your phone that you want to call and yell or lecture me, and read on.

The sensation I experienced was as if a hashtag, yes the same as on Instagram and twitter, was quickly pulsing in my upper right quarter of my vision; making it impossible to see what was there unless I turned my head to put the visual focus in other parts of my eye. Think of the test at the eye doctor where you look at a center black dot and they ask you to push a button every time you see a pulsing blip of grey/black in your periphery. That kind of image. Anyways, I didn’t like that this was happening. But I also had experienced this once before after exerting myself heavily and being physically and mentally fatigued. So, the situation was presenting itself similarly; except I was still exerting myself. I slowed down, I stopped and enjoyed the view of Everest as the sun was coming up shining on her face. I was hungry, thirsty, cold. My water tube to my camelback was frozen, I kept trying to suck on it to warm it. It wasn’t working. My vision was getting more bothersome. So, I sat down. I picked a good rock to sit on, in the sun, and started working on thawing my water-tube. Rubbing it between my hands, rolling it, sticking it in my jacket under my armpit, moving it constantly, twisting, turning, breaking up the ice. I caught my breath. Logan caught up to me. He asked if I was ok. I said I was trying to get my water to thaw and that I was taking my time. He and Daniel sat with me until I was ready to continue on. I had some water, Probar chews, breathed, let the sun warm me. My hashtag vision dissipated, but now my left peripheral vision was coming in black like an ellipse. But, I had water and was feeling significantly less woozy and lightheaded! One foot at a time, stopping to breathe often. Martha was sitting atop, waiting for the rest of the team to join her.

Upon getting to the top at 5562m, Martha welcomed me to the top of Kala Pattar and asked how I was doing. I was out of breath. I smiled at her and tried to talk, but I couldn’t get my words out of my mouth. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, but jibberish was coming out of my mouth like a word salad. Neuro-change. I put my index finger up to indicate, ‘give me a minute’. I sat down next to Martha, drank some water, and within a minute or two could talk normally. Fumbling over words a little here and there, but having a brain connection between what I wanted to say and what was coming out of my mouth. At that moment, I was not alarmed. To be honest, what could be done about it besides to stop the exertion, breathe, relax my body, hydrate. There is no MRI/MRA machine, there is no doctor to put his/her stethoscope to my heart and lungs, no blood pressure cuff, no transportation to a higher level of care, except for a helicopter ride out of the Khumbu. To be honest, I didn’t think of any of this. I thought of, let me sit, breathe, and rest for a minute. I’ll be fine. Call it whatever you may. Invincibility, naivety, stupidity, practical. I am not someone who typically gets up in arms or panics very easily. I typically take things in a decent stride and keep a level head. It has served me well to date. I sat at the top of Kala Pattar, took in the sights of Mt. Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, and surrounding peaks. The sun was beating right on the mountains and the skies were crystal blue. It was beautiful! I took a picture with my Michigan fan flag and enjoyed the rest. It was a lot of effort to get up Kala Pattar, despite the short distance.


Smiling at the top, normal vision, and talking like a human


Top of Kala Pattar, Mt. Everest rising behind. The glacier leads to the Khumbu ice fall sloping up on the left side of the picture.


Looking back towards Gorak Shep and the direction we came up the valley.


Happy Trekkers: Martha, Daniel, and Myself with quite the view atop Kala Pattar

We returned down the trail without any issues besides being hungry :). We had breakfast, or rather I had breakfast and my fellow trekkers had lunch. Then we headed down away from the Khumbu glacier from Gorak Shep to Dingboche. We passed by Lobuche and “The Pyramid”; an Italian funded research facility on seismic activity, air quality, and water and soil composition. We took a tour and talked to the scientist who was manning the facility. They work in shifts, like a 3 week shift and then someone else comes and relieves them. It was very interesting. They also serve as a makeshift pharmacy and have many medications that may be needed for altitude sickness or emergency care. They had posters lining every wall of their published findings. I would have loved to stand there and read each one, but back at home when I didn’t have the mountains surrounding me. I was eager to be outside, on the trail, staring at endless peaks, and having the thin air rushing on my skin.

We walked along the hills from Lobuche towards lunch at Tuklah; we passed thru the memorials for those who’ve lost their lives on Everest. When we came over the crest to see the memorials scattered along the hillside, prayer flags in bunches and stringing some IMG_4205IMG_4203memorials together, it was quieting. Clouds were passing low through the valley and made it mystical. I walked through many of them to read the stories of the climbers. I literally walked right up to Eve’s memorial without knowing it was hers. Ironic to come across it so quickly. My imagination was darting with each person’s placard giving a brief story of the timing of his/her death or a quote embodying who the person was. I couldn’t help but think of our climbing team and be eager to hear an update from them at the next lodge. One thing rang true: these people all died doing something they loved, they dreamed, they pined over, they prioritized in front of every thing else in their life during the time they were in the Khumbu. There is a sense of calm to that. A sense of someone following their own passion, directed in their own footsteps, that lead them off this earth. It was sad thinking of all the “what ifs” and the “what and who was left behind?”. I can’t help but think the deaths that occur in the Khumbu are harder on those who are farther than arm reach from their loved one and feel the distance as a disconnect to their passing. It would be hard to grieve without seeing this place. The beauty would speed up and solidify the grieving process.


Selfishly I grieved a lot of things while in the Khumbu. Not deaths. Ideas, missed opportunities, lost friendships, distant relatives. It was peaceful. It closed the unrest to many chapters. It is ok, how it is.

After stopping in Tuklah for a bite to eat, which I still didn’t have an appetite from the higher altitude of Gorak Shep and our hikes to Everest and Kala Pattar, we walked along the hill edge with damp thin clouds coming up the hillside. Ama Dablam sneaking thru the IMG_4206clouds periodically and I could see the river rushing down in the valley. The glacier ice has
turned to running water. There are people living along the hillside, small communities with stupahs and buildings marking civilization. We walked out of the harshness of winter and glacier to rural civilization. It marked the beginning of the end to me. Somber. I didn’t want to be walking away yet.

Now in Dingboche, we are the only people in the lodge and I am eager for an early night. We did yoga, while being watched closely by the lodge owners and staff. Enjoying the easier breath, but still able to push into lightheadedness pretty easily when starting to flow through the yoga poses. It was as if we were on display during our yoga sessions in the Khumbu.


Walking towards Dingboche; Stupas reappearing, civilization is returning

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Warning to the reader: this may be underwhelming to read. But the pictures will make up for it 🙂


Looking up the glacier towards a normally sprawling base camp. Just the flags marking the site and a few day hikers up from Gorak Shep like myself.


Still fighting my head cold. But my body fatigue is much improved today. I think I’m recovered from the physical exertion of the Cho-La pass and starting to push this head cold out.

We walked to Everest Base Camp, taking our Burke-Khang jackets with us for video and photo ops to thank the company who sent us jackets to wear on the expedition.


Everest with a backdrop of clouds. On top of the glacier before descending down to base camp and the khumbu ice fall (far left)

We walked on the far side of the glacier from Gorak Shep to base camp. It was amazing to see the hanging snow seracs and watch the aliveness of the glacier. Bright blue shines through the snow masses. The glacier pops, cracks, slides, moves, breathes, evolves. I kept stopping and staring up in awe. Everest was visible the entire way until we crossed down onto the glacier and walking up to the Khumbu ice fall. We sat at the lowest point with glacier water running by; glacier on both sides. I enjoyed a cliff bar and a pee, and then headed back. Ha, yes, it was as simple as that. It was so bright with fresh snow all around and the sun beaming down. I was covered from head to toe to keep protected from the intensity.

The climbing season is closed this year, which means base camp is empty. The only signs of previous camps are plastic tie-downs fallen between rocks. The climbing teammates have been telling me about the sea of people, tents, and life at Everest Base Camp. This is not the experience I had, as the only people in and around base camp are my fellow trekking teammates, other trekkers coming up from Gorak Shep on a day hike like we are, and people enjoying an aerial view on helicopters. No one is on the mountain. No one is at base camp, camp 1, camp 2, camp 3, camp 4, climbing over Hilary’s step, or attempting a summit. The peace and quiet persists since the Pumori avalanche following the Nepal earthquake in April 2015. I feel extremely lucky to be here in Nepal and experiencing Everest Base camp in this light. This is how I can relate best to it. Not as a bustling city of experts, hopeful climbers, and people residing for months holding down the fort. I relate best to the solitude, the quiet, the sun shining on untouched snow, my footprints being solo on the glacier, the beauty of the surround untouched. This is how I was meant to experience Everest Base Camp. Timing is everything and I wouldn’t ever will a catastrophe to clear out EBC or have thought to plan a trip to Nepal because of the earthquake…it just worked out that way. And I am grateful that it did work out this way. Because it was simple, it was quiet, it was serene, it was powerful, it was beautiful, it was me and it.


Base camp and me.

We watched 3 avalanches, small but sensing the power from afar. The sun was warm and snowfall from several days ago continues to melt in the sun. The avalanches you heard long before seeing them. Typically I looked up higher on the mountain than where the avalanche originated from. It was perfect blue skies and low wind all day; I was breathing heavy and kept stopping to take in the sites, up and around. It never got old.


The glacier talks

Upon climbing onto the glacier to reach base camp I wanted to continue to Crampon Point. This is where the Khumbu ice fall meets base camp and my seasoned climbing teammates had recommended I venture to. I am not sure exactly where the “point” is, but Logan, our Nepalese guide, took me off the shoe tracks across the snow-covered glacier down to the “river” glacier bed. I was a little nervous to step thru some ice or worse in a crevasse, but put my trust in Logan and hopped over a small crevasse with the help of Logan’s hand with my hesitant over-calculated steps. I took a picture of the crevasse, which you could thankfully see the bottom of less than 2 feet below!

Scrambling back up the glacier my legs felt like lead if I walked up too fast, or if the grade was steep enough. This slowed my roll, stepping at a pace to keep my breath. Welcome to altitude. But what a treat to walk along the Khumbu glacier, across the ice fall, and sit alongside for a snack. Who has sat in solitude, listening to the water run through the ice, having a snack at the base of the Khumbu ice-fall. Everest was not apparent in the clear blue sky from the base of the ice fall, but farther up the glacier it’s summit slivers over the closer ridgeline.

After returning to Gorak Shep, I took a snooze to music to keep kicking this head cold. Sitting here now with Masala Milk Tea, the sun setting on Lhotse and Everest peaks, the adventure feels like it is starting to slide down towards going home.


Two cards from Andrea and Ben instructed to open near Everest base camp. Ben’s says “Hi” and that my view must be pretty amazing; currently looking out the lodge windows with the sun setting on Lhotse peak and Everest. The sky turning from blue to purple and the mountains from white to bright pinks and oranges.

I liked Andrea’s reference to my blog: “this is what happens when a runner hikes”

As a runner I learned to put my head down and keep going. I learned to breathe in the moments of pain and to look forward to the next minute because it will feel better than the current if I’m hurting. Perseverance. How to take care of yourself and to listen to your body….which I know I failed at over and over leading to an over-use injury…but I still learned a lot and was successful to wake up and enjoy the sport the next day. Running and hiking have many parallels. And slowing down the speed to keep my head up and looking around a little more to my surroundings in SoCal’s 6 Peak Challenge has been a wonderful past 6 months, surmounting to this sight.

Al Lopez: “if you ever feel overwhelmed, never give up!”

Looking back on my journal I see that others anticipated the feeling of being overwhelmed more than I did embarking on this trip/adventure. New vs. overwhelming. Over-whelming good vs. bad. So many tangents to a simple thought. I was overwhelmed when I felt crummy with my cold…I was over-whelmed with feeling bad and had a hard time still looking up and around to enjoy my surroundings. I was over-whelmed when I saw the trail fallen away and people using a rope to navigate an icy ledge on the Cho-La Pass. I was over-whelmed when I knew I was going to have to leave the region and walk down instead of up. Eh, more like not ready to leave…but would I ever have been?


Walking back to Gorak Shep, away from Everest Base Camp. Feeling the end is closer than the beginning now.

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Wishing I was not doing exactly what I signed up to do!


Walking from Dzolong to Gorak Shep, below the snow line on a dirt trail. Relatively flat, slow climb. Thankful for the easy terrain.



A trying day in the Khumbu.

With >10 hours of sleep I still felt side-lined by a building head cold. My body is tired from yesterday’s long day. I’m taking Tylenol severe flu/cold to try to curb this cold. We walked 5.5 hours from Dzolong to Gorak Shep. My body was resisting, every step felt like effort, my shoulders were sore, and my congestion was present. I was trying to keep my heart rate low to help fight this cold instead of additional stress. I didn’t get a headache today; 3rd time above 16,000′, 1st without a headache even with a head-cold gives a good sign of acclimitization.

Tears are flowing easily, discouraged by not feeling well, amazed by the effort put forth yesterday, and the day-in/day-out walking, cold, and enormous views. Today was beautiful with Lhotse, Ama Dablam, and Pumori, giant peaks as far as the eye can see. We passed through Lobuche and reconnected with Switzerland friends we met from our walk from Dole to Machermo. It’s funny how faces on the trail start becoming familiar.

I was silent most of today; frustrated in my head by not feeling well. Martha hung back with me. Logan walked alongside me at times. About an hour after lunch I started feeling slightly less fatigued, but still pole-pole.


My attempt to smile along the trail when feeling low from a head-cold. I took this picture because I knew that later I’d want to remember this part of the trail, since I wasn’t enjoying it enough in the current moment.


Up at 5100m at Gorak Shep we reconnected with the internet. Daniel received an email from Paul and Denise; we wrote back sharing the tale of Denise’s crampons and gators over Cho-La pass. Paul and Denise shared pictures of John’s helicopter out of Burke-Khang base camp due to back pain. That leaves 5 climbers and news that Sid and the Sherpa team nearly completed fixed lines up the first steep ascent to Camp 1; they are moving along towards the summit of Burke-Khang.

Best part of reconnecting with WiFi with access to 3G network is a call home! Just thinking about it makes me cry. The Khumbu is making me an emotional sap. Day to day trudging


The view outside the lodge at Gorak Shep, the sun setting on the mountains made them appear on fire. “Everest on fire” is the middle small sliver of a peak, appearing smaller than the others due to our location. In the fore-ground you can see the Nepalese Flag indicating the helicopter landing site. Here was the view I called home alongside, feeling fatigued, sick, and overwhelmed. Laughable now, but real then.

on, pushing thru a tired body, talking thru a doubting mind, looking up and breathing in the thin air and taking in the sights. It is all overwhelming. In a good way. But different than at home. Here the minutes are long, the space is expansive. Living in this space is plentiful and you can let go, stretch your legs and arms, and have nothing push back. No time constraint, no responsibilities breathing down your back. It is overwhelming…and possibly because it is so simple.

My tears are not fear or doubt; although both have presented themselves; it is an expression of stepping outside my comfort zone, my day-to-day box, and enjoying the moments of spontaneity, flexibility, fear, discomfort, etc.

I guess I should have kept an envelope from Ben and Katie saying “open when feeling overwhelmed”. Not sure I identified that emotion when among the big group; the emotion was filtered and expressed in conversation with so many people around.


Hiking along the glacier that will lead to Everest Base Camp

Thank goodness for Andrea’s card: Open when having a hard/tough day. A infinity charm of strength taped to a card with many quotes…I smile that many of these quotes I’ve read earlier on the trail in other people’s cards.

 “Failure will never over take me if my determination to succeed is strong enough” -Og Mandino

Or, there is no other choice/option; i.e. descending with rope and crampons.

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

Today I didn’t feel like I wanted to go on from Lobuche to Gorak Shep. I knew I would, but the feeling of fatigue, mental check-out, and wishing I wasn’t doing exactly what I signed up to do was frustrating and discouraging. My energy was as low as my feet, my positive morale was visiting with someone else, and I was left feeling crummy. One foot in front of the other.

“To struggle and to understand. Never the last without the first. That is the low.” -George Mallery

Yep, that sums up today.

    “People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” -Sir Edmund Hillary

Accomplish or finish? Or what is the difference? Finish what you start. IT is the same line. Accomplishing is stating above and beyond or an emotional connection to it. May be that’s what I need to accept and identify in myself; fulfillment thru an emotional connection to the tasks I deem important to me. Reddening my heart and softening my self-perspective.  (I read this in my journal now and say “Wow.” I have brought the Khumbu journey home with me and am working on embracing emotions instead of bottling them up, turning the lid tight, and turning my back on them. I was taught at a young age to stop crying in “x” amount of minutes, wash your face, then come out and be a part of the family. It was the way I lived… I continue to grow and identify gut-instincts that may not be serving me. Feeling an emotion and validating it is an important part of being human. It is how we connect. It is the willingness to be vulnerable. It is important to feel, let yourself feel.)

    “Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” -Swami Sivanarda

Small acts of today: stopping on the trail to breathe a few extra breaths, to keep my heart rate low, stopping more often to breathe in life.

From Jacky, “The greatest wealth is health”

It’s my most wealthy way 🙂

From Erin, “She believed she could, so she did”

Beautiful card…I can, and so I do. This quote is one of my mantra bracelets I wear every day, and although routine and on my wrist daily, it is pointed to see it written for you.


Looking up trail, almost to Gorak Shep, our last stop before Everest Base Camp.

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The day I faced my own fear, Cho-La Pass

Dragnag to Dzong-La via Cho-La Pass


IMG_40974a.m. wake-up call; 8 hours of trekking ahead to pass from one valley into another.

Fingers frozen, one step at a time. I had no idea what was in store ahead! Logan and Garrett had both said it would be a long day, but that’s about it. The first long uphill was motivated by moving towards the sun and hoping to revive feeling in my fingers, toes, and nose. It brought me back to my Michigan winter years, walking to the bus stop in winter, numbness running through my fingers and feet and barely awake. The crisp air cutting through my pants layer. So funny how walking in winter can be chillingly similar no matter where in the world you may be!

Pole-pole; breathing deeply and trying not to sweat as the temperature sat below freezing. At the top of the first climb the valley floor opened up beneath. I looked ahead to see trekkers crossing the valley and looked behind to see trekkers setting out with their headlamps. I enjoyed basking in the sun and drinking H2O, resting until Martha, Daniel, and Logan came up the trail. Prayer flags and stupa sit at the top, an added layer of peace to sit amongst.

The ground is completely snow covered and besides the two feet width trail, the snow is IMG_4089untouched. As the sun is warming the snow slick spots surface. I walked with my right foot in the powder next to the trail and my left foot sliding along on the trail. The trail was gentle rolling, so crampons would have been over-kill, but yak-tracks would have been nice….too bad I didn’t have any. At the base of the valley I eyed the vertical in front of me marking my trail to climb up the other side to pass over the range. I let out a laugh. The first climb was laborsome: this one was going to be outright taxing.

The sun was shining on the opposite side of the valley. I was watching porters come down the shaded trail with huge bags on their backs amazed by how they weren’t sliding off their feet and out of control. I was pushing/stomping my feet into the trail to try to find footing. Digging my toes of my shoes into the trail as much as I could, my heels free floating away from the trail due to the steepness. Ice would slide me back. Numerous times I put my poles down and crawled up the steep grade on all fours; some foot steps I couldn’t step up to, purely didn’t have the strength. I fell once twisting to slide on my bottom; I fell only a short distance but a solid reminder of the steepness and could-be consequences. A big gulp, fresh breath in and out. I wasn’t even on a rocky mountain face, I was on a well-traveled path that had been snowed on, with melting and freezing pattern to make a slick trek uphill. Thank goodness I didn’t have any edges to fall off of. I kept my head looking in front of me and pushed on. I made it to the top and thought I’d find a reprieve, but instead I was scared to death by what I saw. Ok, scared to stiffness and a halt is more accurate.

A steep decline where the trail had fallen away with a glacier lake and crevasse sitting 30-


Trail fallen out, glacier lake below, people standing around waiting. Logan saying: “We are going!”

50 feet below. No one was passing and I couldn’t tolerate looking down. There were 50-75 people sitting at the top, every one seemingly waiting. Waiting for what? I sat down amongst them to wait for my teammates. I collected my nerves, drank some water, ate an egg. Meanwhile a rope was fastened to a rock and people began walking down with assistance from the rope. What!? How is the rope going to help me? My own grip is supposed to make this safe? I watched people wrap the rope around their bodies and ease the rope from behind their backs. I watched people seemingly rappel backwards without a harness. I watched and sized up I was the inexperienced one. Watching the hesitation of others was stirring my nerves. I started looking for my crampons in my bag…I needed to do something. I need to have as much contact with this mountain side as possible to be willing to rappel. Correction: not rappel, hold onto a rope and walk side-ways down the fallen away trail. Don’t look down.

I was getting bothered and angry. I was mad that Garrett wasn’t there; my sense of security in this country. I was wondering if he knew we would be coming in contact with this, but sensibly decided there was no way he could have…and he would have recommended that we bring yak-tracks and crampons. At 4 a.m. I had last minute decided to throw my crampons in my day-pack as a “just-in-case”. Denise had told me, if I would need crampons, it would be for the Cho-La pass. My fellow trekkers were without them. When Logan arrived with Daniel I was in a fluster. I told Logan I needed to put my crampons on. He replied “not necessary.” I said it again, “I need to put my crampons on.” He repeated “not necessary.” I started fuddling like an idiot with them, as an inexperienced trekker who had only put them on once back in Newport when Denise had shown me how to lace them up. Logan came over and bent down in front of me. I looked at him and said, “I need my crampons to be able to do this.” He started tying them on my boots and eased his approach towards me.

I started to cry out of fear. I hushed my cries by consuming my hard boiled egg. Dry yolk mouth doesn’t let you cry. Martha came up over the side of the climb and said, “what is going on?” All I could say: “take a look for yourself.” Martha and Daniel gave me reassuring hugs, Martha pep talked me with a strong voice that this is the way we are going. One step, 2 breaths- long and slow. Logan was below holding the rope and blocking the route of a fall down into the lake – a deathly distance below. Logan talked me thru one step at a time.


One step at a time, the top portion looked way more scary from my perspective than the camera’s. Logan guiding me down the rope, talking me through step-by-step


Then I turned the switch back and the same terrible sight sits below the switch-back: a snow-ice wall, where the top part was mostly rocks. Trekkers, guides, and porters were using the same rope for the people coming down from above as the people coming down below.


Second aspect, looks a little more how I felt. Notice the inexperience and lack of ability to  lean back onto the rope.

I waited until a human wasn’t latched onto the rope above me before starting down the lower section. This was not favorable to the other people waiting behind me, “go! go!” came my way. I ignored it. I knew better than to get on a rope that someone else was already on; when neither are harnessed and the inexperience of most of us on this leg of the trail could compromise ourselves and others. I was not putting myself at risk of falling into a glacier lake 40 feet below because someone behind me was impatient. Stay in the moment, stay in my head, stay true to my gut instinct.

Again porters and guides stood stabilizing the rope and offering human resistance, a visual barrier, and encouragement. I got down and cried again. Out of relief and out of fear.


Left to right: Logan, Daniel, Me, and Martha. You see my face: “I am not happy, I am crying, and I am smiling for this picture, but I don’t wanna!” Right after we got down from the rope, safely and in one piece as a trekking team.

I was scared and uncomfortable with the degree of “unsafe” I had to accept. I had to do it. We couldn’t go back the other way. It was just as unsafe descending the icy trail I had kicked my toes into for the last 2 hours; and this is the way to cross the valley to continue our trek towards EBC and Kala Pattar. Yes, I am a sheltered human being. But really, aren’t we all?

Once we walked around the glacier lake, I sat down on a rock and untied my crampons. I was still shaking. I was still teary eyed. Logan put my crampons in his day-pack, sat with me and let me relax my nerves. As a group we started smiling and laughing again and basked in the sunshine that was now warming the day.


Now that the impromptu rope descent is done, we can head onto EBC.

We walked along the snowy valley and I thought the hard work was done for the day. And for the most part it was. We came to the top of a rock wall, which I quickly grasped we had to descend. I could spot the trail into the village across the valley floor at the bottom of this rock wall. I began butt scooting when foot holds weren’t located. The rocks were wet in spots with melting snow and the sun was passing behind the cloud; each step was focused to reduce risk of injury. I gladly stepped aside when footsteps came up close behind me to minimize risk of someone else’s mis-step injuring me. It was a long day with a treacherous trail, and I just needed to complete this aspect.


Basking in the sun and enjoying a peaceful walk after trekking uphill most of the day.


Final trail into Dzong-La, looking back at the mountains we just descended along the rock face, if my memory serves me right just left from the middle of the picture.

Cho La pass is the easiest in the Khumbu region, can you imagine if we had taken Shangri-La pass at 19000 feet, as originally planned. (After the fact: Logan admitted that Cho La pass was not the easiest, he told me this fib on the trail to encourage me that it was doable and frequently passed by most trekkers in the region…and it worked at the time. I was relieved to later hear from him that it was not the easiest. It did not feel easy.)

After crossing a muddy valley we came upon Dzong-La. I was tired, hungry, cold, and feeling run-down. I snoozed about an hour after some tea to let my nerves go from the day and to hopefully will away a sore throat and sneezing that crept in during the descent. I hope the chilly air today isn’t taking a toll.

Logan said today’s trail was the most difficult of the trip and Kala Pattar is easier. I am happy and relieved that today was the most difficult trail: it took me to my edge of expectation in Nepal.

I left envelopes from my brother and his wife with our climbers for feeling overwhelmed, weak, or homesick. I would have opened the overwhelmed one today on the trail, but luckily now I sit in a warm lodge feeling worked but satisfied to have persevered thru. Was there another option?

Quotes opened today:

The Silverman’s: “You only live once…but if you do it right, once is enough!”

Jess: “The cure for every thing is salt water- sweat, tears, or the sea.”

Eric: “Is the juice worth the squeeze? You’re darn right”

Janet: “To uncover your true potential you must first find your own limits and then you have to have the courage to blow past them” -Picabo Street

Being aware of your limit keeps you safe. Blowing past it is calculated; calculated risk and with a strong intention. I can’t say I blew past my limits, but I definitely enjoy the challenge.

Looking forward to dinner and BED!


Smiling again, for real this time.

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Halloween in the Khumbu



Halloween celebrating at preliminary base camp, when will that ever happen again!?

We celebrated Halloween last night over dinner. Kathy and Daniel brought their first meeting story to the Khumbu with jail inmate outfits, Paul with a blinking red nose and rainbow clown wig, Denise with bunny ears and a tail, Sid wore a monkey hat, Martha a zebra hat, and Garrett a cookie-monster hat all supplied by Daniel. I wore Kathy’s plastic elf ears with glasses and a large nose. It was hilarious as the skin tone was similar to mine; instant old man status. We couldn’t stop giggling and my nose kept dipping into my soup!


instant old-man status

   This morning I packed my bags somberly as I’d be leaving the team :(. My sense of security lies with Garrett, Denise, and Paul; and I will be walking away from them. Breakfast was quiet. I discovered Jack and Jill Hazelnut spread at dinner last night, the perfect sweet tooth fix. I thought a spoonful sounded good this morning to sweeten the somber feel, but then my stomach wasn’t up for much of anything.

 I went into Jewish-mother status that morning at a loss of what else I could do to make the situation better (for my own emotions). I gave Sid a bag of my cashews, almonds, and peanuts; lightening my porter’s load and hopefully leading to quicker consumption. I gave Garrett a bag of HoneyStinger waffles as he got excited for one earlier on the trek. And I gave three envelopes from Ben and Katie labeled for “tougher moments” along the climb for them to open as needed. Their days will be more physically demanding than mine.

 I cried at the drop of anything. Bill and Garrett called a circle sharing words of a dynamic, enjoyable tam and wishing the trekkers a good journey. Bill announced the probability of this


Our circle of trust: and me hugging it good-bye

being his last alpine ascent and his favorite dynamic in a team to date. I was a wet noodle already. Each trekker shared some words and I just said “I can’t talk ‘cus I am crying.” Garrett offered a big down-feather filled hug and Denise and Paul I held onto tight. I thanked them for the opportunity of the trip. Hugged Bill and he told me he would miss my laugh and he loved me, which shed additional tears. I thanked Sid for his role as our guide.  Nick congratulated me on a big trip at my age and what a wonderful way to spend my time. John hugged me and recalled my dirt clodding and I thanked him for trekking alongside of me. I told Kathy I was bringing her and her grieving every step of my trek. She told me my positive energy and attitude was rare and special.

  I am not sharing these sentiments to pat myself on my back, but to share the positive expressions that the Khumbu freed. And share the uplift that these expressions brought to my life. The emotions were raw, real, and pure. And easily expressed. Something I strive for in my OC lifestyle and miss on a daily basis, but happy to have experienced it in the Khumbu.


Climbing team and hiking team outside the mess tent at preliminary base camp


Waving bye to basecamp and the climbing team, a reluctant step.

  I cried my way out of base camp and broke-down frequently from the 5th Gokyo lake to the 3rd. We stopped for tea and ended up having lunch from an insistent tea lodge “mom”/owner.

The altitude made me very woozy and a bit panicky walking back down from 5000m to 4900m from base camp to Gokyo. I didn’t know if I wanted to sit or stand, I focused on breathing deep and slow but my eyes kept darting around, not quite sure what to look at or what I am looking for. My appetite was squashed, but I didn’t want to insult the tea mom who was keeping track of peoples’ expressions upon eating the food.

  The lodge we stayed at in Gokyo was packed and a trekker was in a manually pumped barometric chamber awaiting medical evacuation. It was eery and real to see someone not coping with the altitude. My empathetic response heightened my panicky feeling and headache symptoms and I had to divert my attention from the barometric chamber to feel better myself.

As we left we shared many namastes and the “team mom” chased after us up the hill with extra candy bars for our journey. The pureness of my smile for her simple act of kindness still smooths over my face.

   The glacier’s cracks, watching rock slides, and walking over and thru it as it undulated up and down mesmerized me! After the last 2.5 days of gentle snowfall the single track path was slippery. The steepness required patience


Pole, pole..steep slick steps

and forward leaning to keep from sliding. We stopped many times along the glacier to follow the sound of rock slides and cracks. I also had a high pee on the glacier, I guess a unique experience many don’t stop along the way to experience ;).


Quotes I opened today:

Kelly and Tracy: “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

     “It’s good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

    “We’re all capable of climbing so much higher than we usually permit ourselves to suppose.”

    “The first thought that goes through your mind is what you’ve been conditioned to think. What you think next defines who you are.”

     “If you allow yourself to grow a little each day, you can never sell yourself short.”

Yes, yes, and yes! And Tracy reminded me not to forget the beach! The warmth of the beach will be welcomed after the colder nights at Gokyo, base camp, and here at Dragnag. Warm water bottles to tuck into your sleeping bag are genius!


   “Don’t walk behind me, I may not follow,

     Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow,

     Just walk bides me and be my friend.”  – Albert Camus

  I remember coming across this quote in high school and it resonating with me.


  “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” -A Einstein

  Busy body = me. Balance for a busy body is even busier :).

Foyette Cruz:

 Living in the moment

 Limitless in how far you can go

 Always think positive and YES, CAN DO IT attitude

 Reach the stars and Mars!


  “Challah” and poem “The World At Large”

 The expression of challah flashed Walter’s face in my memory. The poem has a sad connotation, feeling lost, disconnected, scattered.

Sarah: excited to celebrate upon my return to California and identifies the qualities of braveness and strength in the endeavors of my trip.

Kari: “You have come this far, don’t give up now”

  The climbers journey is just beginning, but that does mean mine, other Trekkers, is finished. Our days are getting longer and harder with continued elevation gain….and the highlights of Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp are still ahead!

Stacie: “Dance as though no one is watching you, Love as though you have never been hurt before, Sing as though no one can hear you, and Live as though heaven is on earth. -Souza

  I can definitely take this advice; to be less inhibiting and filter less. This trip made my heart feel less black. My professional heart is red and over-flowing, but my personal heart is guarded, reserved, and strong-armed. This trip kept me vulnerable and simply enjoying personal relationships. Fulfilling and satisfying; now can I return to my day-to-day and keep a vulnerable heart?

Aunt Marsha:

 “I love you and am very, very proud of you.”

 I am lucky to be her “extra daughter” and feel her arms wrapped around me, all the way here in Nepal.

And I opened a Happy Halloween card from Aunt Paula, Uncle Tom, Elizabeth, and Julia.

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Setting foot to Preliminary Base Camp, Burke-Khang


Ngozumba Glacier leading us along the Gokyo Lakes to basecamp


And now it begins

   I laugh now reading the title I journaled for the day. Because it was as true as it could be!


Gokyo Lake 3, morning of depature; last full group shot before Jenna and Bud head back to Kathmandu

  This morning we left Gokyo-Ri after a rest/snow day and saying goodbye to Bud, who is heading out on a helicopter evac due to worsening flu-like symptoms and Trekker Jenna who is heading to volunteer in an orphanage outside Kathmandu. Our group’s dynamic shifts….but we march on. It was a quiet breakfast listening for the helicopter blades slicing the thin air to pick up our friends.

   Walking from Gokyo-Ri to preliminary base camp started with low clouds dropping snow sprinkles. Today was the first day I truly had to stop to breathe. We are up at 16,500 feet! My head feels heavy when exerting myself, but the headache subsides with deeper recovery breaths and some Advil. I am happy with how my body is responding to the altitude. This is definitely uncharted territory for me. I was thinking on the walk that swimming may have been good training for thinner air, as you push your swim stroke to breathe every 3+ strokes when you could breathe sooner. My muscles burned a little today as well, signs of decreased oxygen in the air.


Evaded a yak-a-mattack, just popping a squat here!

 I kept my head down hiking in silence and without seeing my teammates for long periods of time…we all spread out quite a bit on this hike. Not sure if it was the looming proximity of the start of the climb, or losing a climbing mate due to flu-like symptoms, or just the peacefulness of snow falling and clouds breaking into sunny skies. I was quite lightheaded but determined to get where I was going, I’ll rest then.IMG_4493


Walking over the last slope and spotted base camp, and Martha snapping my picture!

When I walked over the last slope and spotted the prayer flags and bright tents of base camp it brought tears to my eyes. Also seeing the number of porters, Sherpa, and support staff that were at base camp who had made it homey well ahead of our arrival. Base camp was so big! It spread wider and longer than any tea house and had NO walls to contain it. It was magical! All these tents and space for our team. A stupa sits high up above camp with prayer flags running from 3 directions. A cook tent sits near the entrance to camp, mess tent with carpet, electricity via a generator palmed far enough away to not distract conversation, and flower bouquets on the two far corners with a string of flowers running along the ceiling. Tailgate chairs with added cushions. Fancy! And lots to be dragged up the mountain! 


Preliminary Base Camp for all her glory!

  We sat down to soup and lunch. My head was heavy and I felt a bit anxious. I was in my head and didn’t have much energy to converse with my dining mates. But I sat and enjoyed orange and ginger tea, mentos, a spoonful of hazelnut Jack&Jill spread, and relaxed. After this trip I feel like I’ll be enjoying more tea and not as averted to ginger. We have tea at least 3x/day while trekking! Side note from home: I have been enjoying tea in the morning and sometimes to wind down in the evening, and it always feels like a treat!

 I’ve been rationing my milk tea much better to avoid a sugar high and crash and insomnia partially due to my bladder yelling at me!

   After lunch, which we were also spoiled by fresh vegetables, we had a Puja ceremony. This is a


Puja ceremony

traditional ceremony prior to sleeping at the base of mountain to ask the Gods for safe passage onto the mountain. All the offerings, which include bottles of soda, candy bars, cards with deities on them, hiking gear, and are blotted with yak butter. A lama leads the ceremony. We had Mickey Mouse Sherpa lead the ceremony. He is a lama, but left the position to be a Sherpa and be on the mountains. His name comes from his circular shaped sunglasses. He will climb with Bill and they compliment each other’s seniority and duration of time alpine climbing.

   During the Puja ceremony I kept looking around in awe of my teammates, the Nepalese people supporting the expedition, and the mountains. It was peaceful. It seemed like we were momentary guests, as the food you eat is carried with you and life is not sustained off the current ground. I started feeling a bit of fear for departing tomorrow, saying goodbye for now and walking away from the climbing team before they even begin. Fear of the unknown. Fear since my lack of experience results in an inability to grasp the concept and demand of the task ahead for the climbing team. I have ZERO climbing experience. I have hiked a fair amount in my life, but I’ve never laid down a tent, slept, ascended and repeated. I’ve worn a climbing harness once to repel a 30 foot wall in the Negev. My feelings of uneasiness were the result of not knowing. So I kept them to myself.


Mickey Mouse Sherpa on the left, Garrett in the middle, Sid on the right, Stupa with offerings and Puja ceremony in the midst. Straight beyond the Stupa is Burke-Khang hidden in the clouds.

    The porters had set-up a tent for each person hugged against a hillside (well a snow covered mountain-side). When I heard that we’d each have our own tent my head started swirling with “I don’t want to sleep at 16, 500′, in below freezing temperatures, in the dark, by myself!”. Luckily teammate Kathy had the same thought and we offered to share a tent. Phew, I wouldn’t be up listening for yak hoof steps all night wondering if I would be trampled in my sleeping bag.

   The sun went down, we all sat around the mess tent table, which had a heater underneath keeping our feet close to melting temperature. Again, utterly spoiled and amazed that a generator and electric heater made it up the trekking trail. We didn’t want to leave the table because a) it was cold outside; b)this was our last night as a trekking and climbing team together; c) it was cold outside; and d) our tents were on the snow. I found some solace while walking back to the tents to see them all joined together by rope. We were tied down to the ground and to each other. There was no risk of being blown off any mountain-side at preliminary base camp, but I was happy to see the practice and the thought of us all still together.

    After my last visit to the hole in the ground for the night, I hunkered down in the tent with Kathy. It was so cold, but neither of us said anything. Instead we slept in all our down clothing (Kathy and assumingly the rest of the climbing teammates had far more down clothing to choose from: down booties, down pants, higher feather count jackets and sleeping bags….their loads more than doubled when they received their climbing gear bags at preliminary base camp…it was like christmas for them unpacking and rediscovering what they’d brought with them), put our hot water bottles in our sleeping bags, and naturally loaded up a movie on my iPad to distract us until we fell asleep. In good “Rebecca-fashion” this didn’t take long at all. I just was hoping I wouldn’t wake up in the night for a bladder call….I did NOT want to have to put on boots, walk in the dark to a hole in the ground and show my fanny to the cold, cold night. Luckily, I got my wish 🙂 A little dehydration maybe went along with it. 🙂 Unfortunately for Kathy she was up and down all night, which she had been getting accustomed to along the trek. She showed me it could be done, but I was glad I didn’t have to do it….the fanny in the cold night along-side Gokyo Lake 6, ha!


I got this!


The golden picture: Burke-Khang upon arrival into base-camp. The clouds came in quickly after this shot and I didn’t see Burke-Khang again. Snow saturated mountain straight back in the middle of the picture. The team would be climbing up from the ridge on the right and plan to summit the peak pointing to the sky!


 I opened a quote from my brother and Katie labeled “open at the start of a day”: “Each fresh peak ascended teaches something.” -Sir Martin Convay

   I’ll be eager to hear the teachings, thoughts, and reminisces of the climbers after their return. My “first ascent” will be Kala Pattar and each step I’ve made >12,000ft is a new highest altitude for me!

“Enjoy the fruits” from Bernie

      The people I’ve met: teammates, porters, Sherpas, cooks

      The culture with turning mani wheels clockwise, walking to the left of stupas and mani-stones

      The views near and far with every step

“The longer I live, the more that I see, the more I have come to believe. We are here for each other.” From Cait

  I would put this quote back to Cait; she showed me what being s good friend means. She showed gestures freshman year in the dorm that made me feel cared for and exemplified being thoughtful. I strived to learn to be a good friend, like she is.

“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly.” EH from Kimie

     Falling teaches you to get back up and man if you fly, it is the highest moment and feeling of exuberance. Bryce sent along motivation: accomplishing is the result of setting a goal or placing an intent on an action. Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, over a lifetime.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions” -Dalai Lama

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” -Abe Lincoln from Carey Franks.

   Pretty fitting quote in Nepal with Dalai Lama as closest to being Buddha. Many missteps and slippery slides on the snow covered narrow trails yesterday and today. Your two feet can plant underneath you and you should have the enjoyment of riding on top of them. Standing firm intermittently,

Ahh, Maxine! “Going to the mountains is going home” -John Muir.

    One of my favorites! This quote welcomes me to mammoth all season as it is on a side at the edge of town.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as Sunshine flows into trees. The wind will boo their own freshness into you, and the streams their energy, while cares will drop away like the leaves of autumn.”

   It has been very peaceful here. Being among nature is always peaceful….but to the degree of this trip solidifies that where I am now, is where I should be, and I’m doing alright.

   No rush to the next chapter or the “should do, should be at” of societal pressures.

Galina and Len: polka dot away my day, my dear

” Hafiz

Even after

All this time

The sun never says

To the earth

“You owe me”


What happens

With a love like that

It lights the



Give your strong suit, whole heartedly without thoughts.

The most harmonious relationship, will build stronger as a result.”

“We will meet at the finish, just like we always do.” -Uncle Dave

  Brought tears to my eyes. We have shared great times together in LA, Vegas, and running races. We have similar interests, but individual in our own ways, and at the end, we always meet at the finish. I carried you in my pack and looked up to the sky wondering how your hike and adventures were going. I can’t wait to get home to share and swap stories!

Now off to sleep in a tent at 16,500ft, snow falling, and a hole in the ground for toileting needs….


Ngozumba Glacier

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Snow brings a rest day at Gokyo Lake 3/Gokyo-Ri

Visiting mammoth brings peaceful, plentiful moments that bring me back to Nepal and letting my mind wander along my blog.


Snow started to fall as the sun set the day before, and continued to fall throughout the night. Garrett offered the opportunity to wake up before the sun and hike up Gokyo-Ri to watch the sunrise. I didn’t have to conserve energy for an upcoming climb and was adamantly practicing saying “yes” to the opportunities that present themselves to keep escalating my experience on this trip. So at 4:45 I peeked out the window, saw the snow falling, pulled on my snow pants, glasses, jacket, and boots to meet guide Logan and porter Rham who were the lucky two who would take us up the trail. With snow falling the narrow path would be slick and difficult to walk up in the dark and control out steps coming back down. Logan made the call that it is unsafe to go and we’ll wait until the snow slows. I climbed quickly back into bed and fast asleep.

  Snow continued to fall all day. The whole team decided not to push up Gokyo-Ri as health was of the upmost importance and unnecessary risks prior to greeting Burke-Khang were not in the equation.


The path we came in on the day before, Gokyo Lake 3

“Not all those who wander are lost”- JR Tolkien, sent from Big Sis Kathi Wu.

       Having vast interests and curiosities is not a lost or unfocused soul, but rather is and is with purpose. Feeling at peace with what I enjoy comes easy. The imbetween time and down-time is what can be unnerving and unsettling; enjoying the quiet moments continues to challenge me. Instead of wandering up Gokyo-Ri we walked around “town” to the other tea-houses, visited the bakery, and hiked to the top of the Zumba (not the accurate name, but what I journaled, was actually the Ngozumba) glacier. It was “cool” to see the cracks and ups and downs of the vast moving/alive ice.

“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport”, sent from former coworker Becky S.

    I put forth everything and thoroughly enjoyed reading and studying throughout school…..now I can put forth the effort to tell the stories between my passport passes. This trip has been liberating in showing my mind that it “is not that big of a deal.”  Wait wait, don’t roll your eyes and exclaim “but it is!”….let me expound. The fact that I can handle the adversity of solo travel, fluid schedules, not knowing and planning all the details, the unknown. No anxiety attack, no overwhelming emotion. Keeping one foot moving in front of the other.

    In the past I’ve experienced, self identified, anxiety attacks and exhibit avoidance behavior when feeling stressed and overwhelmed. It is not a pretty part of me, but it is me. I never felt anxiety, so never thought they were anxiety attacks. But as I’ve learned more about interpersonal and intrapersonal (yea I made that word up…learning myself) skills….I see that I didn’t know how to feel a lot of emotions, but they’d express themselves physically when starting to bubble over. So, the last month leading up to the trip I was starting to feel some anxiety about the length of travel ahead of me; the great unknown of everything my eyes were about to sink into, and the need to trust the strangers making this trip every step of the way. Hearing the reservations of friends and family added to my uneasiness, but hearing the support of friends and family and knowing my good friends Denise and Paul would be there and have been to the region safely before soothed my nerves regularly. It had been several years since my last anxiety attack, so was kind of thinking I was due for one. Nine days into the trip I was feeling the strength of not having experienced anxiety and feeling calm and connected to the people, the place, and the simple moments.

“Keep calm and Go Blue. Be afraid of nothing.” “You have within you all wisdom, all strength, all understanding”-Eileen Caddy. Friend Lynn Bush stated she learned this from me and a coin of “positivity.”

    All wisdom will take some years. Strength will get stronger with each step, and understanding will grow with meeting new people, hearing their stories, and appreciating the zig-zags that lead to crossing.  Again I get taken aback by the things people are saying to me. It is true you don’t always know the impact you have on others, for good or for bad. But hearing the positive feedback that I succeeded at contributing to someone’s recovery with a steady dose of strength, wisdom, and understanding is all I can hope for professionally.  And I am the most guilty of not being able to accept a compliment or allow myself to acknowledge my own successes…but put some time under your belt, letters from home, and you sit in positive thoughts and feel empowered!

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” Dennis Watley from friend Stacey.

       Gratitude for the simpler moments of today. Snow day if you will. Grace for the conversations that stir from simple moments. Love for the space around me, the time to enjoy it, and shared with my teammates.  Coming back home this was my task to myself. I waiver and fail regularly, but also pull myself back to these values. It’s a cliche in the world right now: attitude of gratitude, but it is my value and challenge. To not forget how good I have it, and not to discount that, but to be lifted up by it.

“I am… For what you put after them shapes your reality. Define your own epic shit and keep adding onto it….piling it on.” – from friend Eileen.

  I am. And I am piling 😉

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” From friend Lauren Wray

   Definitely stepped outside a few comfort zones preparing for this trip. Between long SoCal hikes solo and with friends, trying different gear, spending $$$ on new gear, mentally prepping for the adventure. And after returning from my trip, Lauren exemplified this quote by moving to Jerusalem with her husband for a year! I am excited for their adventure and living abroad opportunity! Saying yes, when yes has a lot of questions around it.

“What is life but one grand adventure” from Erika and Alex.

   Erika identified two milestones in our friendship: grad school and San Diego marathon. Both were marathons and thank goodness for an amazing friendship with Erika. Today of all days exemplified to me that even adventures have slow days to allow things to sink in. Mental and physical rest. We had days in our marathon training program that scheduled for rest. I can’t say we had any rest days during grad school, but we made some so we wouldn’t be living in Southern California but have vitamin d deficiency like a Michigan winter child ;). But identifying that rest is important to succeed. I embrace resting in the literal sense: sleep. But actively choosing rest and allowing myself to rest will build a healthier life…and will be key in my next adventure.

The last letter opened for the day from Nina:

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” -Maya Angelou

   Yes ma’am.

Rest day comes to a close….and let me tell you….I would crave this day until my return to the US and seeking down time in Mammoth. The real journey is about to begin….


Rebecca phone home, Nepal snow handprint to Detroit snow handprint

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A Birthday in the Himalayas


Birthday trek from Machermo to Gokyo

I’ve been crashing back down to reality…or at least my current reality….for a few weeks now. Starting to feel the weight of things that don’t matter on my shoulders. Sensitive to the cut-downs and negative verbal and non-verbal language that jeer towards me. A circle of spiraling negativity. It is ugly. It hurts. And it is my moment.

I take a deep breath…well really many. And the weight lifts briefly. The perspective returns fleetingly. But I’m losing my grasp on my own perspective. The irony of that, is as thick as my skull.

There are a few things I experienced while in Nepal that brought emotion back into my life, let me feel raw moments, and gave me the space to sit with them. Currently I am seeking the space to sit with my negative emotions and less than fulfilling perspective. I’m seeking, but haven’t laid it to rest, instead stuffing the emotion down my throat and swallowing to return a pretty smile that every one expects to see.

Being honest is being vulnerable. Being honest in a non-personal, public space is a cop out. But I wanted to precede my blog entry with the not-so-fuzzy moments that bring an image of real, human, relatable, and not-perfect to those who may view your life as peachy-keen. Relative to most “yes”, but relative to me I can still feel down in the dumps from time to time. I hope this encourages one less critique in your day: whether of yourself or of someone else. Show compassion and caring, even to those who seem put-together on the outside. Every one has a battle they are fighting, and who am I to judge big or small.

October 28th, 2015:

The morning started with a “Happy Birthday” rendition from the team and a “Happy Birthday” necklace to sport along our trek from Machermo to Gokyo. I went out to bask in the sun after breakfast before we hit the trail as the temperature continues to drop.


Denise and Paul brought me the gift of “bling” to Nepal


Passing by the 1st Gokyo Lake with carnes/rock statues

That is when the day shifted. “She is dying,” is what I heard from behind me, I turned to walk towards my new friend who’s heart was breaking in front of my eyes. I held her, stood with her, and cried with her. She had simply called to check-in with her mom when her mom’s last breaths were expiring. I know energy is felt and rights of passage exist. But the timing, the immediacy, the natural part of life that passed within our embrace was overwhelming, loud and silent, rich but empty, lack of control, acceptance of what is. To hear Kathy’s immediate reprimand of herself for being a “shitty daughter” and feeling guilt for being so far away all hit close to home and had me in tears throughout the morning. My heart tugged with Kathy’s broken heart. We walked away from Machermo believing that her mom is now seeing what Kathy sees, most beautiful of all.

The walk to Gokyo had emotional moments, tear stained cheeks, and empathy and compassion for Kathy’s situation. The sun stayed up warming us as the wind swirled around us with colder gusts…reminding us of what lies ahead.


2nd Gokyo Lake; blue skies, glacial lake water…remember this picture for the next blog entry!

IMG_4034I took some moments of solitude to still celebrate my  31st birthday with letters from family and acknowledge some happiness for life in a day marked by a death. I wrote very little in my journal about what I saw or my surroundings. I was caught up in the emotion of the day. I wrote the quotes from the letters I opened and commented briefly on them:

“Climb on Heart” from Aunt Paula, Uncle Tom, Elizabeth, and Julia

Your heat is what keeps you climbing the trails When the minutes get long the heart beats harder, makes the trail more definite and the intention deeper. Your heart makes you climb, but even more so…on.

“Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn’t know that so it goes on flying anyway” from my Dad.

This quote is how I think of the comments “I can’t believe you hike alone”; “How do you run that far?”; “I don’t know how you do it.”  It is as simple as: ‘cus I don’t know that I can’t or shouldn’t be able to.  Not the same as invincible or disregard for safety or well-being. If anything I respect the fragility and definiteness. That’s why I live and breathe for today. And I may work a lil’ harder ‘cus I’m not aerodynamically designed.

“Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success”- Swami Srananda; from my Grandma with the help of my Mom

Success in in the eye of the beholder. Success could be brushing every tooth. Calling your grandma once per week. Matching your jewelry to your blouse. Watching your friends’ kids to allow a date night. Big or small. As long as what you are acting on; make it intentional and in harmony with your heart, mind, and soul.

“You must do the things you think you cannot do”- Eleanor Roosevelt; from George.

I don’t quite do this. I do what I think I can do. I just credit myself or am willing to push my mental fortitude farther towards what I “can” do.  I think of “bigger” projects but don’t have the long-term planning strategy or adherence. May be a “cannot” be patient and strategize long-term planning is a “must-do” for me. I get scared of failing and limit myself, digging my heels in, crossing my arms, and say “no”. It’s called being stubborn, and ask around…it is my strength and one of my flaws.

“Try to be the rainbow in someone’s cloud”- Maya Angelou; from George.

Finding the optimism, positive, inspiration in all situations. When someone can’t see thru, feels extra weight on his/her shoulders (me currently), is lost from his/her path, help bring the light, the out, to journey on.

“When you reach the top of the mountain, the breeze you’ll feel is God’s way of congratulating you for such bravery.” From Jennifer.

The breezes are such a breath of fresh air and ease the heart from trekking uphill. Today we were plodding on.

“Mental toughness, fierce determination, and iron resolve are the only hope.” -Bill Burke; from my Mom. She made a bracelet with this quote stamped into it, I immediately shared it with Bill who was touched by the sharing of his words between me and my mom.

I wrote nothing after this quote I don’t think I had the emotional energy to keep journalling at the end of the day. It had been extended out to the air of the Himalaya, embraces with my teammates, and dropped on the trail with salty tears.

Reading this journal entry is enough to pull me back up from my bootstraps. And to refocus my energy, intention, and perspective. It is darn easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month. As a non-confrontational person I let things build inside. I don’t often let them out. And from time to time, it is important to yell out from the mountain top, let the energy escape into the air, refocus, and act intentionally. Wish me luck, as tomorrow is a new day, and every one’s struggles are real.


The happiest people on the trail: our porters. Who all JUMPED at the chance to take a picture with the birthday girl! Eager to celebrate and cheer.

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Climb Every Mountain

Auntie Linda sent the lyrics to the Sound of Music’s “Climb Every Mountain.” This was on point considering the trekkers and climbers have been singing the tunes and lyrics to Do-Ray-Me, 16 going on 17, and many more. So I have been instructed to sing loud, proud, and high pitched from family. Can’t ignore that!

“If it is to be, it is up to me”

I picked out of my lime green bag another letter, lucky for me it was also from family. Aunt Libby and Uncle David sent kind words of admiration for how I conquer life, not just live it. And consider me a role model. My eyebrows shot up. To read these words from my Aunt and Uncle. To not know how my life is being observed by family members. To see that my actions have impacted someone else, without me knowing it. It is humbling. It is motivating. My life is my easel and guided by my own strokes. I don’t often feel as though these are seen by others. And this doesn’t make me feel bad or sad, this doesn’t shadow my action. I am fulfilled by the empowering idea that my own actions motivate and feed my own fire. But when I hear that it also motivates others; it truly sends me to the moon. I think my life is pretty quiet and simple. I think I go under the radar most of the time. I’m sure the negative affect people in my life, but hearing that the positive do, is all I can hope for. And this allows for a deeper, fuller breath. A moment of joy, satisfaction, meaning.

“It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had” -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

Not sure I can say I know I have a limited time, my life seems endless, as I think life should feel. But each day I am reminded by the people who cross my life professionally that it is indeed not endless. Self-preservation sustains my own invincibility and timelessness…glass half full, not empty, I guess. But it doesn’t mean I’m any less grateful for each day, moment that passes, or person that I have the opportunity to interact with.

Today we walked from Dole to Machermo; mostly along the hillside with more peaks


Sun-bathing: Nepalese style (photo credit: Paul Fejtek)

coming into view including Cho-Oyu, which is climbed from the Tibetan side and closed for climbing this autumn season by China.  It was an easy walk with cooler air brushing and rustling my jacket. The sun is still intense and I enjoyed sun-bathing “Nepalese style”: fully clothed, while sipping lemon tea. I’m embracing trail life as I wash clothes in an outside bucket and settle into cards and music for the afternoon.

Our group is now complete as climber Nick met up with us this evening. Daniel is suffering from GI issues and obvious dehydration. It is frustrating to be the outsider seeing what he needs, but hearing him reject food and water because of how he feels. Each person makes their own bed, and you can’t necessarily “educate” someone to do what is right for them. Ignore the pun; but gut instinct guides each person’s path. And you hope they can look outside themselves to what will satisfy another day. If not….a helicopter awaits to transport them back down the mountain to lower altitude and medical care.


Denise and Me outside the lodge with an amazing backdrop (photo credit Paul Fejtek)

Tomorrow we head to Gokyo and have another acclimatization day. At this point in the trip I’m eager for a restful night of sleep. As we climb to higher altitude my sleep-apnea roommate is singing new tunes that she is unaware of, but I am acutely aware and starting to feel the fatigue.

My intent, in honor of my Aunt and Uncle’s reminder, is to live each day to the fullest, climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, until you find your dream. I am ready to celebrate my 31st birthday in Nepal trekking to Gokyo.

SpO2 85%, HR 48


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Dole via the “Stairway of Death”

As I creep to higher altitude my sleep comes in chunks. But there is plenty of time for sleep, just awake for a few hours with the sounds of snoring and restlessness. But each morning, I awake feeling rested and rejuvenated. Gotta love the mountain air, it just does that to you!

We kept the yoga sessions alive in Khum-Jung before heading out to Mong-La and then onward to Dole. Kathy told me we would be ascending the “stairway of death” today. Not sure what to think, but I didn’t need to, because I’d experience it TODAY. “Short-cut?” Is the famous statement of our Nepalese guides. My response: “sure” as I look back at my teammates. It was a steep cliff-side climb with rock slates serving as steps, narrow and shear drops. My eyes were ahead on the next step only. When turning in the direction of the drop-off, I would look out across the expanse with both trekking poles planted. My fear of heights can freeze me in space….and I didn’t want to freeze here…it was still the beginning! I was following Nepalese guide Rung-jee and the team slow and steady- pole, pole- behind.


Starting to ascend the “stairway of death”, that’s me leading the group looking back at the camera…both poles firmly planted! (photo credit: Paul)


Here you can see the slate rocks forming steps, Bill is seasoned at looking out at expanses and steep drops and looks very comfortable here, note hands in pockets. My head was staring straight ahead at the next rock slate 🙂 (photo credit Paul)

IMG_4015Beautiful views of hanging ice/snow serac and jutting peaks towards the sky kept me out of my fear of heights and enjoying the moments in time.

The details are fresh. The experience is raw. Raw in a sweet tooth manner.

P1080394As we headed towards Dole we diverted from the normal Everest-trek path and headed up Dudh Koshi Nadi and the Ngozumba Glacier instead of the Khumbu Glacier. The trail was lush, water rushed down the glacier river, and many streams fed into the rushing water. The air was dense, which was a surprise at higher altitude.

I enjoyed this hike, but also my well-travelled teammates were enjoying a new area of Nepal. Guide Garrett had not been on this part of the trail, despite his 20+ visits to Nepal. I enjoyed the level playing field that day, we all had eyes wide open taking in new views and terrain. The lifestyle of a guide is intriguing and daunting, but I was more interested in what Garrett did on his time off the mountains when not guiding climbers and trekkers.  There is a normal person mixed into an extraordinary person. I learned he guides ~8 months/year on the highest peaks in the world. Imagine working 24/7 in some of the harshest climates promoting safety and responsibility for and of climbers. When not on an excursion he is setting up the next trip and enjoying life in Seattle at local restaurants and coffee shops. We talked about Mountain Collective pass and ski resorts; agreeing that Snowbird is a good resort and a good schooner awaits at Grumpy’s in Sun Valley. It was refreshing to peal back a layer from one of the top international guides to a 38 year old who is passionate about exploring the land. Relatability is a basic human motivator.


USC colors on the Mani-Stones welcomed us to Dole

You can find familiarities and connections when being open to conversation. I will be the first to admit, I guard my conversations depending on what role I’m playing: practitioner to patient, CI to student, friend to friend. Vulnerability is not my strong suit, but I continue to pursue it on a daily basis; motivated before and after Nepal. If you want to connect and enrich the meaningfulness of a relationship: acquaintance, casual, friend, colleague, girl-friend, mentor, mentee, daughter, niece, cousin, granddaughter…vulnerability deepens the experience.P1080402

“Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.

“You are so much stronger than you think you are.”

“The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human” -Victor Hugo

“This mountain, the arched back of the earth risen before us, tim ade me feel humble, like a begger, just lucky to be here at all, even briefly.” -The Provence Cure for the Broken-hearted

“The real work of an expedition begins when you return” -Louise Amer-Boyd

From my journal: “The last two quotes really resonante with me. I am humbled by the expansive and massiveness of the great outdoors, as well as, the elevation hey reach up to touch.. I am enjoying every breath and definitely am aware of my expedition being applied change my day to day upon returning home. To apply the change I desire”

What change was I specifically addressing…eh, I don’t think it was specific. It was general. It is keeping the opportunity open. Taking a singular breath and refocusing my intention of applying change to reach my goals or desired outcome. Living with intention and meaning. And knowing when to let go, laugh, smile, and breathe. Let it be.


An opportunity to breathe and let it be.

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Namche to Khum-Jung

Today motivated me to blog. Why? Because I was huffing and puffing walking up to the ski lift at Mammoth. What this means? My high altitude adventure is creeping into the past temporally. My high altitude conditioning that was a major bonus to the trek is wearing off. A somber moment. As entities slip into the past. I can choose to keep aspects in the present, but the time is in the past.

So let’s bring it back to the present:


Denise and Me at the entrance to the village

10/25/2015: 10 hours of sleep, yoga session in the morning, and ready to leave Namche Bazaar to head towards the mountains we sat and enjoyed from the Everest View Hotel. I’m half way around the world….correction: I’m on the other side of the world and ironically and fittingly my left side of my body is feeling tighter than my right…..the opposite of my American norm. Ha! This made me smile quite a bit during the yoga session. Walk with me here: you know yourself better than anyone else, you have your “normal” and typical. There was nothing typical about this trip, and my body followed suit. As a physical therapist, as a intuitive person, and as me; this all went against the grain. I sank in during our morning yoga session to enjoy feeling tension release in my L piriformis, scapula muscles (working really hard to not get technical here), and allow my back to stretch into flexion. Breaths of fresh air and beauty.

    We switched back on a trail as lower clouds rolled over the mountains with breaks for beautiful views of Ama Dablam and Shangri-La. 


And Martha and I photo-bombed Denise and Paul taking a cute picture with Shangri-La in the background.

Bill organized a tour of the local hospital in Khum-Jung, Khunde. The facility was bare-bones. An US machine, X-ray, less-than-sterile operating suite, and a freezer/fridge filled
with medication for pain, antibiotics, and altitude sickness. A baby was born that morningIMG_4012 and the mom was eager to head back home. If an expectant mother requires a C-section, she is carried down on a stretcher or flown by helicopter to Kathmandu; financially the former is more common. I can’t imagine all the steps and rocky terrain, while an expectant mother is in labor. I couldn’t help but be acutely aware that the “lucky” end up at the minimalist hospital supported by Canada. My fellow trekker asked if a lot of heart attack patients were seen at the hospital. The doctor politely said no. The trekker was shocked. I knew exactly what that meant. Those suffering from cardiovascular issues most likely didn’t survive a walk or carry to the hospital, but hopefully died peacefully surrounded by family in his/her home. The realities of an emerging county and living along a trail. Bipedal transportation; which is seen as a luxury and leisure in American culture, but is the way of meeting basic needs of building shelter, transporting wood, buying food and clothing; and collecting water; not clean water for my GI system, but clean for a Nepalese GI system. I wonder what the daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly over-head costs of running the Khunde hospital are…

I walked away from the hospital with a bit of a heavy heart. The excessive product, service, and resources I function in and with during my day-to-day job. The expectation my patients have when they receive care at the hospital I work for. I am grateful to have the resources I have access to at work; but often people expect it rather than express gratitude for it. The Khunde hospital would probably reject some of the resources saying “there is no need for that.” Need, want, benefit, lucky. And on and on…..

  We walked from the hospital to the school. The kids who attend are lucky to receive an education that can help them adventure on to Kathmandu and have access to resources that may advance them to a job outside the Khumbu region. I watched some local kids spit on both their palms and hang from the monkey bars! You remember doing that? Ahh, I loved traversing across the monkey bars, trying to swing one arm at a time and skip a rung or two. When is the last time you hung from the monkey bars? Then a see-saw, and a slide. Ahhh, some jovial smiles and relating to the smiles in childhood pleasures shared between Khum-Jung, Nepal and Farmington Hills, Michigan.

IMG_4007Jakey-Poo sent the quote “Be Present”. This trip has been nothing but. The peacefulness of walking down the narrow walk-ways away from the Khunde hospital, sharing the craft of french braiding hair with an on-looking Nepalese girl and giving her some of my hair-ties. Similarly “the One and Only” reminded me, “When walking, walk. When sitting, sit. Above all else, don’t wobble”. -Buddhist Koan. Ignore the noise and focus on what you’ve chosen to do. Every day we make choices, some seem routine, some seem big, some seem small…but how lucky to have the choice. Be grateful for the choice.

From my journal: “The noise is minimal here; I’ve chosen to not access the internet so far. I am sitting and sitting. Walking and walking. Eating and eating. Sharing conversation and thought. Thought: If the Nepalese people visited London, Paris, or New York, what would they think or feel? Of the advanced society that exists away from their home. Would they be inspired? Mad? Angry? In disbelief? They know nothing else as they haven’t seen or experienced outside their country, their means….but what if they did?”

Onward to Dole!

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Either these are special soles or special souls over-come soles. Namche Bazaar and first view of Mt Everest

After falling asleep listening to rushing water in Phak-ding and starting to learn what colored waterproof sacks held what supplies for ease of unpacking and packing each night, we were ready to head up to Namche Bazaar. Rifling through my colored waterproof organization sacks would prove to be an almost daily event tackling my big bag. I started reorganizing my colored sacks by activity or time-of-day needs rather than by categories of items. The funny things you do and learn while hiking 🙂
The hike to Namche Bazaar was a steady uphill with many rock formed steps laying the land. It made me think of my training hikes: Mt Baldy via ski hut, Gorgonio, and Mt. San Bernadino all rolled into one. My fellow Trekkers had shared that the last ~2 miles were a steep climb into town. I walked with American co-guide Sid and chatted about outdoor hobbies. As we switched back on the trail I was noticing some Sherpas climbing straight up the mountain off trail bypassing the switchbacks. I decided those individuals were probably part of our climbing Sherpa team, ha! Sure enough it was our climbing sudar Purbah, the expert in charge of the climbing portion of our group’s expedition. Next thing I knew we were at the check point to access Namche and the hill has been passed without awareness that this is “the” hill. So far so good!
I was still enjoying the slow pace of eating, after all I am on vacation! In my typical workday I eat breakfast on the run, either while walking to work or imbetween drying my hair and putting on make-up. So on this trip we sat, conversed, enjoyed each other’s company, let a conversation evolve, and tasted the food we were eating. Some of our group wanted to eat and go, so I tended to be the last out of the lunch spot. This particular day the group filed out while I was in the bathroom line, yikes! And at this point it was still resembling a western bathroom so worth waiting for in my novice eyes.
So long-legged guide Garrett set the stride to get me back up with the group. I noticed how my eyes were daggering the ground since we started the trek in Lukla. Aware that a mis-step could end the journey and putting a little more attention on my surroundings to ensure continued reciprocal stepping up the trail! Now I just stepped where Garrett stepped and fell in rhythm. My mind relaxed. The people I traveled with are experienced mountain climbers. Although your safety is your own responsibility on the trail it was reassuring knowing my immediate friends were surer footed and familiar in Nepal. And whatever they recommended I took as fact and good as gold. For those who know me, I am definitely not that trusting in my day to day life. I engage in conversation over a comment of fact. I investigate the who, what, where, when to make my own decision on whether I believe something to be fact. In Nepal I was stripped of any expertise or authority in decision making. I trusted my teammates and followed in their footsteps and recommendations. It’s partly why this trip was so liberating, to follow and not lead. To absorb the surrounding views, sounds, and not feel the responsibility of problem solving. The only problem I had to avoid was coming head to head with a yak on a suspension bridge! Mission accomplished 🙂
I digress….catching back up to the group got my heart rate going, leaning into the hills, poling to propel up and forward. The travel from LA to Nepal and our first few days in Kathmandu were pretty stagnant. It felt great to get moving!
The suspension bridges we passed over were more sturdy than I had imagined. They had cable reinforcements longitudinally and fencing on both sides. They didn’t rock and sway requiring a strong grip. They just got a little longer and a little higher as we continued up the trail. Listening for yak bells and eyes ahead kept me calm and comfortable passing on the bridges.
Everyone’s moods were light in Namche. Our more experienced team members were warning of early altitude sickness signs and pushing for hydration as we start sleeping at higher altitudes. The first of two evenings in Namche on the hike up turned into Bill playing Les Miserables’ songs on his cell phone and us singing along to “Master of the House” and “On My Own”, comical to travel so far and be brought back to your roots growing up. We started hearing the mastermind creativity of Daniel as he sang well known theme songs with song writing specific to our group. We all laughed without filter or hesitation. I shared more deep rooted uninhibited laughs that night than I probably have in years. Sad, but true. And I wrote in my journal to keep allowing the laughs to be uninhibited for the remainder of the trip. Smile wrinkles welcomed on this face 😉
I also continued to feed my sweet tooth with milk tea and was reminded that night of need for moderation! My SpO2 was 90% and HR 76 that evening at dinner. I was quite surprised as I did not feel any added strain or discomfort from altitude but both numbers were off from my normal. SpO2 typically greater than 96% and HR in the high 50’s when sitting, relaxed. I’ll blame the belly laughing.
The following day was an acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar with a hike up to the Everest View Hotel. After a sleepless night due to too much milk tea, hearing my roommate Cheyne-Stokes breathing at altitude, snoring around the lodging (the walls are particle board), and Daniel rehearsing Sound of Music from 4am onward, I opened a letter from my brother and his wife that said “open when feeling tired”. I opened this around 6:45am, long day ahead. The quote inside was: “You need special shoes for hiking and a bit of a special soul as well.” -Terri Guillemets. I am always pleasantly surprised how my energy finds itself in the mountains. And this quote brought me back to our porters who are wearing flip flops, crocks, ballet flats, and jeans. Either these are special soles or special souls over-power soles!


Denise and me at Everest View Hotel. Just to the right of Denise’s head is Everest encapsulated in a cloud.

As we hiked to the Everest View Hotel we were looking out at some of the world renowned climbing mountains. I had to ask guide Garrett to point out each peak and state the name for my GoPro video as my eyes were not familiar with these mountains and could not identify exactly which mountain is Everest, let alone the others. The video is still one of my favorites from the trip as Garrett points to the different peaks and scans from left to right across the valley finishing at co-guide Sid standing next to me, with Sid self proclaiming himself a “mountain of a man.” He definitely proved his proclamation later in the trip with the climbing crew!
We spotted 2 climbers on the final approach to the summit of Ama Dablam. Such small specks against the white sheet of snow. I could have sat along the trail watching them for the rest of the day! The air was noticeably gaining crispness and losing the humidity of Kathmandu, Lukla, and Phak-ding. Looking out at Everest I was feeling awe to be looking at it as a physical entity with my own two eyes, but I didn’t feel any emotional connection and actually was drawn by my eyes to the sight of Lhotse more than Everest. Shh, don’t tell anyone.


My own 2 eyes (well fine, 4 eyes) captured on Mt. Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam. Mt Everest has two line appearing clouds coming off to the right side of it’s peak, Lhotse is the first peak to the right of Everest and Ama Dablam is the snow peak directly above my sunglasses.

We sat outside in the sun and enjoyed a high tea, pee, and cha-cha dance performed by Kathy and Daniel. She wanted to document how coordination in the Cha-cha changes as she moved to higher altitude. The flatness of her dance floor changed more than the preciseness of her well-trained moves. But they were sure out of breath and lightheaded at the end of the performance!


Western Guides Garrett and Sid, Left to Right with Tenzing statue and Mt. Everest in the backdrop. Strike a pose!

Walking back to Namche I stopped off to see the statue of Tenzing Norgay, the Indian origin Nepalese Sherpa who summited Everest for the first time with Sir Edmund Hillary, who was first will be a never ending debate. Next to the statue I was treated by a friendship statue between Nepal and Israel holding two rocks from 1) the top of Mt Everest and 2) the depths of the Dead Sea. Pretty cool site to see and coincidentally my mom bought me a bracelet with water from both locations that she gave to me when visiting in December, after the trip.


Friendship Statue between Israel and Nepal



The afternoon was spent walking through the Namche Bazaar market and visiting shops of local flavor and all the hiking, climbing gear you would need to weather the trail ahead. It amazes me to see all the produce and products and think it all was walked up here on the backs of porters or yaks. It’s a lot of stuff!
Namche sits in a bowl shaped area looking out over the ravine we walked along from Lukla. I love the fall of the mountains as they rush down to the river’s edge, looking out across the ravine you see the diagonal lines of the mountain sides criss-crossing as long as the eyes can see. One of my favorite views, lucky to be found many places in the world. Looking up the valley ahead from atop Namche my mind is excited to get on the trail and wondering what my eyes will feast on ahead. I noted in my journal that the air will be getting cooler and less desirable to be still in. Good thing this is a walking trip!


Namche, bowl-shaped looking towards the ravine leading to Lukla



My second day in Namche had an exclamation point of a warm shower, my first on the trail, and I noted in my journal it may be the last for a while, ha. Bud advised me that if a shower is available to buy or use, take it….you don’t know what is coming ahead.


Namche sitting along hillside

I tucked my toes into my sleeping bag, boiling water in my Nalgene toasting my sleeping bag and feet, and fall into a deep sleep as my eyes synced to Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam today and my mind acknowledged that cooler temps and less comfortable accommodations lay ahead.





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Lukla to Phak-ding: rushing glacier river, green hillsides, damp fresh air

So let’s start on the trail 🙂

I’d say trekking is the composite of the trail, walking on two feet, the people you meet, the interactions you have with the outdoor environment…and the indoors too. Not just your two feet plodding along. Sending up mud clods to John hiking behind me 😉

I googled it: trekking is a long arduous journey, typically on foot.

So, let’s start the trek!

Upon getting to Lukla we helped the porters identify which bags were to stay with us on the trail, vs. which were heading up to Burke-Khang basecamp for the climbers. Bags that included ice axes, down one-piece puffy suits….think like little kiddie pajamas, climbing boots, and climbing helmets….stuff I didn’t need, but they sure did for once they started their arduous climb. Lots of shifting of gear, many unfamiliar faces as our porters, sherpas, and cook staff that I’d later re-meet at base camp were organizing who’d be with us as we trekked to base camp vs. who was going straight to base-camp to start setting up, starting figuring the route to the


Load the Yaks! 14 Yaks took all the gear to set-up base camp and the climbing equipment for Burke-Khang

mountain, and on the mountain. We sat down to breakfast, which truly is a blur to me at this point. It was a blur even when I returned to Lukla 16 days later. Until I saw a picture of me sitting in a tea-house eating breakfast in Lukla I would have denied that it happened. So many new places, people, and experiences to take in that some were being left to the camera to document. After breakfast we headed across the archway that signified the beginning of the trail in Lukla and then crossed the threshold and the hiking permit check point identifying the start of the real journey.

As we walked along the main street in Lukla, I saw little shops carrying toilet paper, Pringles, Snicker’s bars, Kleenex, Pop…you know the essentials you may have forgotten or ran out of on the trail. I learned about the flag poles with Tibetan prayer flags that are situated on the trail,


Tibetan flag pole, stay left!

which you always should walk left of if safe to do so to respect the flags and to keep safe passage along the trail. Similarly mani-stones, or prayer stones lined the trail when coming up to a village or leaving a village and again you should stay left of them. So there would be trails on both sides of the mani-stones depending on your direction of travel on the trail. I took some extra ups and downs traveling around these mani-stones…but if it was to add to the lamp of safe passage, I’d keep rubbing the right way…or left I should say!

I noticed early on the trail how damp the air was. You could smell the green of the trees, grass, and hillsides. And to my ears’ enjoyment I was listening to a rushing glacier river, Dudh Koshi Nadi! The entire way the first day to Phak-ding we walked along the glacier river and crossed over it via suspension bridges. It was so nice to hear powerful rushing water and set my eyes on the ice blue color. SoCal’s drought earned an exclamation point to me at that moment as I couldn’t recall the last time I heard rushing water to this degree.

Phak-ding sits at 8563 feet and Lukla at 9317 feet. So our first day was grossly downhill! The first mile or so out of Lukla was stone steps down. I


Steps leading away from Lukla towards Phak-ding. Can you smell the clean fresh air?

computed to memory that this would be the end of the trail…a long stair-case up to Lukla. I had anticipated the suspension bridges as rickety with spacing I could fall through if I wasn’t careful. They were less intimidating than I imagined. They were reinforced with cables running longitudinally, fencing running along the lateral sides, and steel or metal plates running closely together on the bottom. I still kept my gaze forward the first suspension bridge, but as time went on I could glance around and enjoy the view while keeping pace on the bridges. I wrote in my journal that evening:

“It seems as though my imagination dramatizes a lot of unknown experiences, increases emotion. The flight from LAX to HKG, the flight to Lukla, suspension bridges. All of these experiences have been calm and invigorating without a negative hint of fear or anxiety.”

An applicable thought to life after Nepal, keeping my lessons alive and applied. These aren’t rocket-science or light-bulb bright….but when you have the time to think about them, let them sink in, and offer the energy to adapt behavior it can be liberating, refreshing, and rewarding.

Upon crossing my first suspension bridge we arrived in Phak-ding. This is


Bill and me; fast friends and a mentor I’ll keep close to my heart. After this picture I crossed my first suspension bridge!

Bill’s favorite village along the trek. It was beautifully painted with buddhist symbols, art, and dotted with mani-wheels. John, fellow trekker and climber, had visited a Monastery above Phak-ding the last time he was in Nepal. I went with him that afternoon to visit the Monastery and was welcomed into the sanctuary to observe a ceremony. The monks were chanting their prayers and turning individual papers tied between two cardboard pieces holding the words to their prayers. They laid out a carpet, poured milk tea (my Nepalese crack), and said “ok” to video and pictures. Then I got to sit amongst them and listen to a ceremony that few get to see, let alone be in the midst of. I smiled at the offerings of bagged candy and popcorn to the buddha. What a different way of life. A chosen way of life as seen by the community. The first born son of a monk family automatically goes off to a Monastery. Seen as an honor, but I wonder if free thought has led to an eldest son choosing not to stay in the Monastery. And how would that be accepted or rejected? An agreed honor by a large community may not be an honor to an individual. So many empathetic, sympathetic, and respecting emotions. But can’t help my mind from wandering and wondering.


Monastery with ceremony, notice bags of candy on the right as offerings.

I finished my journal entry this day with “Il bel far niente” an Italian quote sent to me by friend Alyce reminding me of “the beauty of doing nothing.” So far on the trip I was enjoying the beauty of leisure meals with good conversation, something lost in my American workday and solo breakfasts and dinners. I noted in my journal to “work into the moments of nothingness.” 

“‘I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I Just wish that He didn’t trust me so much’ -Mother Theresa. I relate this quote to my calmer demeanor than expected with unknown experiences…keeping it simple to enjoy the beauty. Un-clouding the drama, fear, anxiety, or negative emotion. One step in front of the other, head up to enjoy my surroundings”


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Culture Shock in the Unexpected Place

Life after a trip of a lifetime…ha. I hadn’t thought about that aspect.

I returned to work on Tuesday. I can’t say I was thrilled to be stepping back into the 9-5 routine, but it was inevitable. At least for now. I was moving slowly getting out of Mammoth Monday, snoozing the Tuesday alarm, and the lack of emotion felt Tuesday morning. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm hugs I received stepping back into the gym. It felt welcoming and home-y and reminded me that the people are who bring you back to work day after day.

I noticed myself being less aware of the content of surrounding conversations in the gym, across the desks in our PODs, and my coworkers conversations with their patients, on the phone, or to each other. I noticed sound and words, but not the content of them. I usually can’t tune out conversations and am aware of many things going on around me. Now I was tuned into my conversation, but hearing sounds around me, seeing people walking in multiple directions, and the volume of people around me. I was sensory overloaded! Walking one foot in front of the other, often alone for HOURS on the trail, occasionally smiling at a hiker going the other way or saying Namaste to the passing porter…and when meeting back up with fellow hikers sharing our sentiment about the trail. It was a simple way of life…and I enjoyed it and was now seeking it!

  1. The busyness of my visual and auditory surround at work

The second aspect that hit me was how quickly and direct people were talking: patients, caretakers, families, coworkers. The questions were very matter-of-fact, almost cold seeming. Much of the language had an accusatory tone.  EEK….it felt ugly. I sat in on a meeting my first day back to work and I was shocked at how quickly each person was presenting his/her point. How each sentence never was completed, but rather rushed into the next sentence…so the thought had to be concluded instead of heard. Each person’s viewpoint was already concluded before the conversation began…the conversation was to each other, not with each other. A check mark was completed.

2. The speed of conversation, thoughts, and being 3 steps ahead of the current moment

This environment used to energize me, I would strive to be on top of it all. Now I want to back away, look people in the eye and listen to their sentences, enjoy how they are expressing themselves, and support the space to finish a thought. That’s my idealistic moment.

I am sure somewhere between my sensitivity walking in Tuesday morning and my demeanor leaving on October 16th, I’ll settle back in. But I hope I can encourage the expression of thought and talk with my patients, coworkers, and families and not revert back to talking to them. The nature of health-care is always more work than there is time for…but I’m going to try and dig my heels into the longer side of 8 minutes instead of rushing through 8 minutes 🙂

Each day this week I felt myself falling back into “routine”. But conscious awareness will hopefully keep me from falling back into all of my routines or all of the routines of the “culture at work”.

I came home to a few letters in the mailbox intended for Nepal. So I let my mind hop back across the pond and read the letters and quotes. I did this daily in Nepal. I brought over 70 letters with me to Nepal from friends and family, who I promised I wouldn’t open them until on my journey. Each day I embraced the familiarity of the names on these letters, the thoughts of the people I care about swimming in my head and applying their quotes to my current day. I used the quotes and words of encouragement to shape my daily journal. Commenting on the day’s hike took on a growth opportunity personally by exploring how each quote applied to my perception of the day and larger to life.

So, let’s start in the beginning!

My car was packed with my belongings traveling to Nepal and also up to Mammoth after my return to LA. I drove up to my Aunt and Uncle’s house in LA, dropped off my car and loaded my bags into Natalie’s car. We headed off to dinner to catch up before she dropped me off at the airport. I was grateful for a send-off from a good friend, it was a few hours of laughs, talking about life and love, and altogether taking my mind of the pending journey. TNatalie and Me at Airporthis was welcomed after weeks of to-do lists and concentrated errands, to stop and enjoy conversation with a good friend. She even helped me carry my heavy duffel bag to the check-in desk!
My bag was 22-24 kilos….eek. As a novice hiker, I definitely “over-packed” to experienced standards…but I wore every thing I brought and was happy for the layers and variations in jackets, socks, and hats I had. And my bag was NOT the heaviest in the group 🙂

I was surprisingly content being sedentary on my 15 hour flight to Hong-Kong. I slept the majority of the flight. I still was quite zombie-esque for the majority of my 11 hour lay-over in Hong Kong. I was not feeling confident enough to leave the airport and explore Hong-Kong. Instead I walked around the airport, found deserted sections (not quite The Terminal status, but unused gates) and fell asleep across the seats. I’d wake up as people were filing into the seats for upcoming flights and move along to another section. The Hong Kong airport has water dispensers where you can choose the temperature of the water: cold, luke warm, or hot. Sensitive to different cultural preferences. Cold water for me 🙂 About 5 hours into the lay-over I decided I couldn’t stick to my


Hong Kong Ramen


snacks for sustenance and ate some ramen, airport style. This may have been my downfall. After waking up sprawled across some airport seats with 30 minutes before my expected departure, I jumped up and started walking quickly to the updated gate…my legs felt like lead and my body was wondering what I was doing at whatever hour it was and without sleeping in a bed for over 27 hours, ha.  I had stayed pretty subdued since leaving OC, and finally felt a little relief that I was on the segment of my travel that would take me to my final destination. My stomach started cramping as we were taking off and I spent the rest of the flight in the small airplane bathroom expelling my Hong-Kong ramen. Not a way to start your trip, with no nutrition, dehydrated, and with all my rib and back muscles sore. Eh, I guess this is why you train…so hiccups don’t derail you.

Arrival in Kathmandu, baggage comes around the carousal, roll my cart out to the crowd of taxi drivers, family and friends of arriving passengers, and my designated driver holding a “Madison Mountaineering” sign. This sign had gold beams shooting out from it, I spotted it in the crowd and smiled from ear to ear. Here’s where my responsibilities felt like they disappeared. I had placed my trust in Garrett and his company to take care of me in Nepal and now I was under his company’s care. I met my fellow trekker Martha who had flown in on the same flight and we headed off to the Yak and Yeti Hotel.

We arrived in Kathmandu on the night of one of Nepal’s main festivals. One where the streets were EMPTY and every one is home with their families. I didn’t see a single car or person walking around from the airport to the hotel, which I was told is the opposite of normal. Laying down in the hotel’s bed was the greatest feeling after being reclined but not horizontal since sleeping in my bed in OC.

I woke up the next morning feeling pretty refreshed. Martha and I meandered down to a buffet breakfast and met up with the rest of our group. Every one gave welcoming hugs and I looked around at the food not sure what to test my stomach with. The food was all familiar food, I just didn’t want to repeat my experience from Hong Kong to Kathmandu. Bread and water it was.

I had a gear check with Garrett after breakfast. I unpacked my duffel on the bed and walked through all my gear with him. What a way to get to know someone! I ended up leaving behind my Mammoth knit ski hat, a rain coat (‘cus I had 2 other water proof jackets), and clean travel clothes. I acknowledged my “excessive” clothes, but he encouraged me to bring along what I packed. As a group we took a tour of Kathmandu visiting two world heritage sites:

and visiting an art school that explained the mandalas and the bare bones of Buddhism. I was soaking it up and eager to learn about the culture and country. As we walked into the area of Pashupatinath a wood pallet with a dead body heading to the cremation blocks along the river crossed my path. The jet lag and empty stomach probably contributed to a visceral pull back to the site. I watched as they started the ritual of shaving the eldest son’s hair to prepare him to light the mouth of his mother on fire. Welcome to a different world. I took pictures with my new friends who conduct prayer ceremonies along theIMG_3924 river…or may be collecting money from tourists, we’ll leave the jury out on that one. At Boudhanath Stupa I walked clockwise in a complete circle turning all the mani-wheels; purifying the soul. I’ll turn as many of these as I can before heading up the trail to have as many good fortunes stored up as I can. We visited an art school and learned about the Wheel of Life and Mandalas of wisdom and meditation. I’m now on a hunt for a mandala symbolizing meditation.


Maniwheels or prayer wheels encircling Boudhanath Stupa

We came together for a group dinner at one of Bill’s favorite restaurants in Kathmandu. This was the first meal that I ate and enjoyed in Kathmandu and decided veg was the way to go for the rest of the trip.

Team Dinner Kathmandu

Family dinner in K

We had an early wake-up call to catch one of the first flights from Kathmandu to Lukla. The domestic terminal was quite a different experience than the international terminal.
Small stands representing each airline had scales behind them where we passed our duffels, then back packs. Pat down security lines for men and women….a call of our flight, and then walking out onto the tarmac to board a bus that drove us out to our plane. Circa 19-a while ago.IMG_3929 One IMG_3935person can climb the steps onto the plane at a time. No seat belts, no partition from cabin to cockpit, and no pressurized cabin. A tray of cotton balls and hard candy came around as we taxied to take off. I will say it over and over again, that our weather was consistently perfect. Our little prop plane didn’t experience turbulence and clear skies welcomed our landing at the Lukla airport. An airport famous for turning flights back around due to cloud cover, plane traffic only in the morning due to clouds coming in early afternoon, and a “committed” landing as Bud, a climbing teammate who is a pilot, explained as we approached the landing strip. At a certain distance there are no other options, with mountains on both sides and at the end of the runway, there is no turning away from the landing if something was to happen….you are committed to land the aircraft. Our pilot yelled “hubba hubba here we go” as we landed and out we hopped to the cooler air of 9000′. My transportation from here is my own two feet.


Denise, Paul, and Myself under the arch that marks the start of the trail through the town of Lukla and beyond!



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Noticing the quality of western toilets, buying make-up, reintroducing a western diet

I am in one piece, sturdier and healthier after the Khumbu trek.
I journaled daily while trekking and realized that my journal and my blog are very separate entities. None of you would be interested in reading my journal, but my blog hopefully takes you on a journey through my eyes.

My eyes were wide open and often overwhelmed from October 19th-November 10th. The enormous ridgelines, vastness of valleys, rushing glacial rivers, and lack of people as we walked farther away from Lukla never got old. I’d be walking and just stop in my tracks and glance over my shoulder, or square my shoulders to the view and take it in for a few extra breaths. It was refreshing every time. Invigorating with every advance up the region, conclusive with every step back down away from our high points to the sky.
My trekking days were leisure and relaxed while walking with the climbing group up to Burke-Khang base camp. We stopped often for tea, lunch, and picture opportunities. When the trekking team departed from the climbing team our days got a little longer and less leisure without tea stops or as many picture stops.
I was spoiled rotten with the clear skies and views of Lhotse, Ama Dablam, Mt. Everest, Choy Oyu, and Burke-Khang. I continued to see Everest as I walked down past Namche. Our first supposed glimpse of Mt. Everest on the way up the Namche trail hill into Namche Bazaar was a tease as cloud cover blocked the viewpoint. The spot has become famous, meaning lots of people stop there and take a pit-stop. From a sanitary and business perspective there is now a “toilet” facility and someone collecting money to use it, ha! When your main source of income is from tourism, the country has adapted to maximize on basic western human needs…a “toilet”. In quotations as this term is loosely used. Kathy, climbing teammate, defined a toilet rating scale to be used along our way. 5 stars indicating a western toilet with an attendant handing out mints, mouth wash, and cotton squares….this does not exist in Nepal. 0 stars to the stop you invent along the trail. We had more than a few laughs describing some of the surprising situations we encountered while managing our input/output.
No my trek was not all about using the bathroom. But the simplicity of this trip brings you back to your basic needs. Food was cooked by tea houses along the trail. Each menu I opened to study and make an educated decision. Each menu was the same! Especially as we walked further up the region, less options were available. My food decisions for each meal:
Breakfast: hard boiled eggs and either porridge or muesli with or without Apple. I stuck to this regimen religiously, no need starting the GI tract on the wrong foot each morning, go with what you know!
Lunch: veg fried rice, rara soup, or tomato soup and cheese sandwich. As it got colder, soup was always welcomed, the taste of the soup went from resembling tomato to broth that was deep red…not sure from what.
Dinner: veg fried noodles or veg fried rice, rara soup
My finicky stomach was fine on these foods, and I wasn’t going to start experimenting. One night in Namche we were served a fixed meal, which was yak steak. More likely buffalo steak. I ate it with a smile and was grateful it sat well. My body was craving salt, which rarely happens. But the higher we went in altitude, the harder to stay hydrated, so the more salt I took in to try to absorb more water. And yes, “rara soup” is good ole ramen noodle soup. Delicious on the trail, especially when some vegetables were mixed in. Exciting choices, I know. I was surprised to see fresh apples pretty high up the trail. Remember, I was eating to live, not living to eat on this trip…maybe living to eat when I get back to the states 🙂

The tea houses were always excited to see our group roll in, more so when we were a big group than the 6 in the trekking team. Our beds ranged from beds to wooden slabs with foam or a cushion on top. All the way up to a tent with a foam pad at base camp. I was comfortable every night of the trip tucked into my borrowed sleeping bag. As we got to cooler temperatures I added a silk liner and switched to heavier long underwear. I am happy to report that I slept in my clothes and down jacket only one night: base camp tent camping. Too cold to think of changing out of my clothes and the possibility of having to get out of the tent in the middle of the night for toileting would require redressing all those layers. So they stayed on. I learned a craft on this trip that I wish I knew growing up in Michigan in a house that the heat would magically get turned down to “too cold” at night. Boiled water in Nalgene bottles thrown inside your sleeping bag! There were nights I would wake up too warm and have to take one out! Every night our guides and support staff dutifully collected our multi-colored assortment of Nalgene bottles and filled each with boiling water. It was yummy to warm up my sleeping bag before jumping inside! Conversely, in the morning I would stuff my clothes for the day into my sleeping bag to warm them up before going through the routine of changing out of my sleepwear. It made the process much easier!
Water…..water, water, water. As an individual who drinks >100 oz of water per day and who trained for this trek by loading my backpack with extra water for weight…I had a hard time letting go of all my extra water. The second day from Phak-ding to Namche I carried 4 liters of water. My teammates lifted my bag and said “oy” or “I’m glad I’m not carrying your bag”. I was still in training mode. It took Garrett, our guide, telling me that I didn’t need to carry extra water to get me to knock down to 3L. Still considered excessive by most of my team. Most days I emptied my hydration bladder of 2L while on the trail, along with tea stops. On shorter days I would forgo the Nalgene bottle which added the 3rd Liter.
Finicky stomach = me being anal about treating my water. The water in the Khumbu is not safe to drink for a westerner who is used to purified and chemically treated water. Our water was always boiled to help kill bacteria. On top of boiling the water, I was dropping in an Israeli water purification pill, of unknown chemicals, that required 30 minutes of sitting time prior to consuming. AND I was treating the water with a Steripen, which is a UV wand that you swirl in your water for 90 seconds per liter. Triple treatment. My two boiled Nalgene bottles that kept me warm during the night, were treated with the Israeli purification pills during breakfast, followed by the Steripen before being dumped into my hydration bladder for drinking along the trail. I would then fill one Nalgene with boiling water before setting out on the day’s trek. Upon arrival into our next location I was only 30 minutes away from treated water for teeth brushing or drinking. I may have been carrying more weight in my pack than my comrades, but it worked for me and I managed to stay well hydrated during the days.
My hydration was more difficult at nights as you inevitably played the cat and mouse game of having >10 hours available for sleep time, multiple awake segments each night due to acclimatizing to altitude making you pee more often, and the walls are made of particle board and inevitably someone is snoring loudly. Most mornings I woke up with a very dry mouth and eager for water.

So that covers food and shelter. Coming from the cushy lifestyle I am accustomed to in Newport Beach, where my bed could fit 4 of me and has enough cushion for an 800lb man, I was surprisingly very comfortable in the Khumbu. I hadn’t given much thought to the accomodations prior to the trip, which made it easy to roll with what presented itself. Also, each night I was very tired, which made falling asleep easy. I was happy to have some form of walls to protect from the outside elements. And altogether I was just thrilled to be there, so no electricity in the room for a light, or a door that didn’t quite close, or a snoring hall mate was just part of the experience!
The hardest adjustment has been the the airplane travel. On my way from Hong Kong to Kathmandu and conversely Kathmandu to Hong Kong I got sick on the airplanes. I wish this on nobody. Having to rush your aisle-seated row-mate, cram into a airplane bathroom to dry heave and be sick is miserable. And repeatedly is exhausting. I am going to tack these experiences into my stress response category. Happy that I was affected in the beginning and end of the trip, but not along the way on the trail. Put the girl from Michigan on a plane to travel around the world by herself and something is bound to express itself. I’ve bee back since Tuesday afternoon, and my stomach is revolting the complex foods. I am still eatting hard boiled eggs and cereal for breakfast, but not able to hold in foods for lunch or dinner. I have no interest in rara noodles, fried rice or chow mien, left them in the Khumbu. So for now, laying low in LA letting my body adjust back to the time zone and ease into western food. Everyone is wondering about how much weight I lost. Per the scale I dropped 5lbs along the trail. But my clothes are very loose and I’m interested to see how my body composition changed. I recognize I lost a fair amount of muscle mass in my upper body. So we’ll see next week when I return to Newport and take my body composition testing.

I realize this post is not what you’ve been waiting for. You want the stories of walking to base camp and sleeping alongside the glacier in a tent, climbing Kala Pattar, and visiting Everest base camp, what and when altitude affected me, what surprised me, what challenged me, when I broke down, and all the amazing pictures! I promise you they are all coming and they all were an experience of a lifetime. This post is what rolled off my head first. The basic needs, the aspects we don’t have to think about in western society in a thriving nation. But these are the things that sat at the forefront of my brain in Nepal when I was depending on my own two feet to take me up a valley, across a pass, and down the adjacent valley. To keep me moving through a bustling emerging society in Kathmandu. All systems were important and they were driving my moment to moment that allowed me to enjoy and take in the beauty of this trip.

If the pictures below don’t come out, I’ll republish shortly!










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Ready to join a new team

No this NOT in reference to my Michigan Wolverines…

Today has been about familiarizing myself with the electronics I’m bringing, making sure batteries and spares are ready to go, and downloading movies, music, books, and podcasts to enjoy the time on the airplane and acclimatization days. Funny how a trip centered around my feet on dirt and snow trails has me updating all my electronics at the last minute. Partly as I haven’t been doing this for the last 6 months because I’ve been on dirt trails logging miles on my legs.

The time difference between LA and Kathmandu is 12.75 hours. My first leg of the flight is to Hong Kong, where I arrive at 5:45 in the morning local time. My Uncle suggested to take every opportunity to sleep. I was hesitant with the suggestion, but now thinking that will be my best bet. A 15 hour flight may not all be for sleep, but I will be more comfortable sleeping on the airplane than in the Hong Kong airport. I have a 12 hour layover in Hong Kong before boarding my flight to Kathmandu. Kathmandu is 2.75 hours behind Hong Kong and a short 3 hour flight. Sleeping on my first leg of travel and trying to stay awake from Hong Kong until arrival in Kathmandu will be a long day, but will hopefully help me switch time zones. No idea how this will go, but it will go, that is for sure.

Many of you asked me if I will see comments on my blog during the trip, or how to be in touch. I will most likely not be posting during the trip, but writing and will catch up posting upon returning. Bill will be updating his blog regularly and posting pictures, feel free to leave comments for the team on his blog! Here is the team bios so you can “meet” each of us and follow the journey. http://eightsummits.com/bill-burke-blog/mountaineering/burke-khang-climbing-team/ Don’t be surprised when I stop appearing in the pictures as they start climbing. Remember, I’m part of the trekking team, and we will leave the climbing team around day 13 to head over to base-camp everest, hopefully up Kala Pattar, and then back towards Lukla. My itinerary can be found here: http://madisonmountaineering.com/first-ascent-nepal-2015/

I feel very lucky to be included in this trip. As you can tell by the bios, the team is stacked and very accomplished. I will be absorbing their energy and adding the delightful energy of a newbie. Opportunities come across your path that you can make a million excuses why not to jump at them….money, time, risk, the unknown, solitude. But realizing that these are just excuses, and by grasping the opportunity, saying yes, and hitting the trail to preparation with both feet has, for me, re-defined meaning, purpose, enjoyment, happiness, hopefulness, and relating. For this, it is the 100% right decision for me. And I can’t wait to make my way to LAX tomorrow to transition from my trail of preparation to my trail of doing.

I feel your energy and have an entire stuff sack of letters, quotes, and thoughts from my friends and family. I am so excited to take you all with me and to embrace the power of words along the way. Especially since these words tie me to you. I would not have the confidence to be willing to jump across the pond without the grounding of what and who is my day-to-day life. My only hope is that I’m not brought to tears every day by them 🙂 Or maybe that is my hope…to feel and to breathe.

Namaste 🙂


Posted in Hiking for the Soul | 1 Comment

When a runner swims…and a physical therapist takes vacation….and a write has writer’s block ;)

I madly worked all week to get my patients’ charts ready for a 1 month departure of their primary therapist. I had a running to-do list at work and was ticking off item by item. I closed up shop by setting voicemail forwarding to my supervisor’s phone, poor guy, ha. And setting my email alert for “out-of-office” reply. Punched in my PTO for the next 20 days of work to keep the paychecks coming while I’m away. It was weird to think, I’m all caught up and I won’t be dictating another report, faxing another evaluation, or meeting a new patient for more than a month. But I’ll get over it quickly 🙂

This week had 1 more trip to REI to buy some more stuff sacks. I packed and re-packed my duffle bag, that is now the right size, 3 times! I had to familiarize myself with what was in what stuff sack and how things are moving together in my duffle. Sounds crazy, well maybe it is, but imagine having someone clean up your entire house/apt and put items in different drawers and organizational spots around. You’d have to poke through your own place a few times to locate every thing. My duffle is my apt. for the next month 🙂 Except this one is not color coordinated or polished:

Stuff sacks

I’m kind of mind numb right now. I have so much I could share, but it’s not flowing. Here’s some tidbits; hopefully some more fun-to-read commentary after a good night’s rest.

-Tuesday: I had my last workout at the12, the gym I’ve been consistent at since April working on putting on some muscle mass. I did my last Bodyfit testing to see how a month hiking at altitude changes one’s body composition. I’m leaving the States with:  101.0lbs of lean body mass, 126.8lbs body weight and 55.8lbs of skeletal muscle mass. Body fat percentage of 20.4%. A little nervous to see how much the skeletal muscle mass and body fat percentage decline over the course of the trip. Here’s an after-workout shot:Last workout at the12

-Tuesday: took extra photos for visa/passport/permit pictures for just-in-case along the way

-Wednesday: had a 5 year recognition lunch at work and caught up with old co-workers from inpatient, swam to stretch out my back (stress? I don’t know, but it feels tight)

-Wednesday: Tracy was a saint and typed an inventory list of EVERY THING I packed in-case my bags get lost

-Thursday: last REI visit for stuff sacks

Kimie's sweets-Friday: wrap up at work and get a sweet send-off from coworkers….and now non-creatively rambling. #basecamporbust

When asked if I’m excited and ready, my response is: yes and yes. I just want to be at LAX and boarding the plane. I am not getting too high energy yet because I have a long flight to stay chill. I’m looking forward to a long swim in the morning, some Michigan football in the afternoon, Go BLUE!, a beach walk and dinner, and then a restful night before heading up to LA on Sunday. Feeling very calm after a loaded brain of crossing “T’s and dotting “I”s to leave work feeling resolved.

Time to let my brain shift gears to an adventure of my lifetime!

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The storm is brewing, less than 1 week until the giant leap across the pond

The reality is starting to sink in. In an amazing way.

In less than one week I will be heading out on an adventure that I have been prepping for over the last 6 months, and committed to in the last 4 months.

I have had polka-dotted moments of emotions, but over-all a sense of calm regarding the trip. But the wind is shifting and the moments of emotions are gaining endurance.

Last week I was busy scratching off to-do lists, making new ones, putting on crampons and gaters over my Sperry top-sliders at work, and sorting my calendar to organize all the errands and car trips in the most efficient way possible. I visited Best Buy for the first time in years and bought the accessories for my Go Pro: 64MB memory card and an extra battery. I am looking forward to playing with my new gadget on the long plane flight. I will be  happy to have something to play with and figure out the ins and outs. Speaking of plane flights……

So my flight got cancelled. Oh yes, this happened. Cover your mouth, you may scream:

I was trying to call China Eastern’s LA office in good-ole Pasadena all last week to select my seats for my return segment that had been rescheduled due to an earlier cancellation. I called on 3 separate occasions on 3 separate days with long holding times that never ended with a live person. Friday at 4:00pm my “holding” phone call got answered! YES!

Paperwork put aside for <10 minutes. “I am calling to select my seat for a segment of my flight rescheduled by the airline”

“May I have your ticket number” I report my ticket number. “Your flight has been cancelled” ……My chest, neck, and face start feeling warm. My left arm reaches overhead and my hand rests on the crown of my head. “Excuse me? What portion of my flight has been cancelled?”

“Our airline has discontinued service to/from Kathmandu until November 13th, can I rebook you for a November 13th arrival?”

“Ummm, no…..no that will not work for me…..Are you helping your passengers rebook on other airlines”

“No, I can book you on a November 13th flight”

“No, I need to be there on October 20th. I called today to select my seat for a segment of a flight, and you are telling me all segments are cancelled? When was it cancelled AND when was I going to be notified by the airline that my flight was cancelled?”

“The cancellation happened today and you would have been notified in the next week”

“I am leaving next week.”

Needless to say my head was spinning. I was at work. I needed to attend to this flight situation immediately. I needed to. Or else I would have felt doom and questioned if this trip was really meant to be. Not an option in this go-getter, optimistic mind. I politely asked how to receive a refund for my entire airfare; the agent indicated to do it online and gave me my order number. I packed up my work “stuff”, closed down my computer, filed my charts, and skedaddled out of work on a bee-line to my apartment.

“Where are you going?” Inquired my coworkers. “I gotta go, my flight to Kathmandu just got cancelled!!!”  “WHHATT?!?!?!?”

On my short walk home I called my Dad 3+ times without an answer, called my international traveling friend Maxine, and yelped “travel agent”…before opening my apartment door, turning the fan on my face, and opening my laptop. Luckily I remembered the other airlines I considered when booking my original flight.

Less than 1 hour later I had secured a flight on Cathay Pacific with less stops, equivalent travel time, and a cheaper price. Yes the timetable isn’t ideal…but honestly….beggers can’t be choosers 🙂 And..I have a flight.  I….have….a……flight.  Huge sigh of relief. My head is spinning. Gotta get refund, gotta get refund. At this point, my lovely easy-to-reach LA office of China Eastern is closed. I search the website for other local numbers to call; I call the assumed LAX office and am placed on hold and disconnected 5 minutes later. I call the “customer complaint” phone number and leave an awkward message on a voicemail that I’m sure will never be listened and responded to. AND then……I’m back calling China through a 1-800 number. An agent answers in Chinese, I greet in English. She asks me to talk slower. I say, “I am.” All in all, my local LA office has to refund my ticket, not the website as my lovely LA office told me to do. These people are not only easy to get a hold of, they also provide accurate information. Guess what, at this moment. I don’t care. I have a ticket 🙂

My head is pounding, I’m sweating in this California heat wave, and I have an hour and a half to change gears to social-Rebecca for Friday night celebrating a friend’s birthday. What do I do….lay down on my foam roll, open my arms, and breathe. Positive self-talk for handling the situation and not losing my mind. Then gulp about 32 oz. of water and continue to lay there and breathe.  Let’s hope the next hiccup can be managed as quickly….’cus there is always another hiccup.

Really, that happened.

Saturday morning came quick as I headed back to Mt. Baldy with Mendy. Last hike in SoCal before heading to Nepal. Breaking in my new pack I bought the weekend before and still trying to coax my feet to like my hiking boots. Mendy likes Register Ridge; which is the shortest but steepest route to the top. So up we went, breathing hard and quickly drenching in sweat. With another 90+ degree anticipated at the beach, I was happy to escape to the mountains for reprieve. Compared to earlier in the summer the hike up required less standing rests to catch my breath or let my heart rate calm down. We got to the top energized and shocked at the warmth that still enveloped the top of the mountain. After my customary laying down on the job at the top of the mountain, eyes closed, relaxed and content, we snapped a picture: Mt Baldy 10-10-2015 and started the decent via Ski Hut trail. Last time we hiked this route I didn’t have trekking poles and borrowed one of Mendy’s to limit the skidding and sliding down loose sand and rocks. This time I kept my poles in front and worked on staying low and wide. Mendy instructed me on how to better utilize the pole’s straps to support my body weight through the straps instead of my hand grip.

Silence enveloped me. No to-do lists to cross off, no errands to run, no trains of thought trailing off to other trains of thoughts. Silence. Me. One step in front of the other. My head started thinking through relationships with people in my life with thoughts of the trip darting in here and there. Then I’m starting to feel shaky…..starting to feel foggy, slowing down my cadence, being more careful with my foot placement.  But not wanting to stop. Then…down I go. I tripped/mis-stepped…I don’t know. Ouch, I felt my knees give a little cry. And it was enough to get me feeling a sense of internal pain. Not physical pain…but emotional pain.

You know me, I am the steadfast one. I may mouth off a bit here and there, but I’m even keeled. I show a smile 24-7 and I’m easy to laugh and get excited. Negative emotions don’t sit around very long. And here I was, overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. I couldn’t express it, I couldn’t figure out what I was feeling or why. It was an emotion.

“Are you ok?” I said “yes”, but was covering tears with my sunglasses and hesitating to move forward on the trail. “Are you sure you are ok?” Water-works. The cringe of your face and the tears start to shed. A supportive hug and then more release of emotion. I don’t know what this is, I don’t know. I was shaking, I was not putting words together well, I was crying and trying to stop. I was a mess.

Took some breath, heard the calming words of a world traveler who had experienced emotions before his trip, and ate some sugar. I continued down the hike, first pretty slow and deliberate. I cried a little here and there. And then picking up pace, but still being a bit clumsy. Mental over-powering physical.

I still can’t pinpoint where this “storm” came out of. I identify I was a bit hypoglycemic, but did the physical pain, as minute as it was, allow the emotional pain to rush in? And what was that emotional pain? I was pretty quiet, just sitting in the feeling the majority of the car ride home. It was a feeling of sadness. I could only express an irrational insecurity of not being missed while I am gone, away from my day-to-day routine and not being noticed as missing from the space I share with friends, family, and coworkers. It is a very sad feeling. But why did it creep into me?

I have been receiving numerous letters every day in the mail from people who have brought and bring meaning into my life. There is an outpouring of support and daily people are asking about my trip and sharing in my excitement. So what was the root of this?  This trip is “big” for me. It would be “big” for a lot of people…but it is not very “big” to others. The rush, rush, rush…managing my time while working full-time to prep with gear and prep with physical and mental workouts, dealing with the hiccups that land on my ears, and continuing to push…I think it just finally pushed back.

I am happy to feel these emotions. But to be honest, the sadness that I experienced during that hike was like losing a family member or the end of a chapter of my life. And it hit me out of nowhere. A very meaningful conversation came from this and my heart ached for the rest of the evening, despite going to a curling game and winning. It was deeper set than that.  I just don’t know at this point.


More of those moments to come in the near future I am sure 🙂 And happy to feel them, experience them, and work through them. They will be what builds my energy and changes my being.

Following in daily fashion: Sunday! I woke up, pretty calm, rested, and low energy. I went to the pool to stretch out after the hike up Baldy. Then returned home to an inevitable to-do list. I sat down to organize my next few hours and was shocked at how short my to-do list was.

1) Return hat and shirt at Dick’s Sporting Goods

2) Exchange duffle bag and buy locks and trek pole cages at REI (yes, this is the third exchange of duffle bags…they’ve been too small! AND I hadn’t been back to REI in an entire week thank-you-very-much!)

3) Home depot for batteries and to buy a light bulb.

This is it?! Can it be true? Wow…alright. So instead of plotting the shortest route to each location and keeping myself only looking at items on my to-do-list. I leisurely drove to the stores, smiled and shared an extra pleasantry with each cashier, and looked around the stores at what caught my eyes. Leisure errand running, if you will.

Then, the plans I’ve been waiting MONTHS for. Getting to spend the afternoon and evening with my Aunt and Uncle! It has been so long since the three of us spent time together. Between my hiking and weekend travels and their around the world excursions to be with family and friends, it has been far too long. I was all smiles from the moment I set out on the-405 for their home and long after I returned home late last night. Their home feels like my home. It was my home for a short while, when studying for my PT boards after grad school. And to be back under their roof and with their arms around me; I felt loved, supported, and nurtured.

Coincidentally my Uncle is setting out on a hiking adventure two days before I leave for mine. I can’t wait to get back to share stories, pictures, and hear and provide gear feedback.

I finished my weekend out with submitting my travel visa application via the Nepal immigration website.

What is left to do:

  1. photo booth for extra passport size pictures
  2. update ipod shuffle with tunes worthy of this adventure, clear my iphone of all current pictures
  3. pack pillow case and trash bags
  4. Awaiting Burke-Khang Snow Jacket expected to arrive Wednesday, teammates have been sharing their positive feedback with each other via email re: the Lukla brand jacket
  5. Pick up Go-Pro and 3-in-1 tripod, selfie stick and hand holder Thursday from coworker
  6. Get cash for the trip
  7. Receive shipment from Amazon for solar charger and battery pack
  8. Eat, sleep
  9. Visit with friends before departure
  10. Get snowboarding gear together (Mammoth opens November 11th, the day I hope to land back in the states….we all know what that means!)

Life is beautiful!

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Hold onto your hats, T minus 2 weeks!

As I sit here on Sunday night, gearing up for a week at work…I can’t believe how quickly the last two weeks have gone. I knew that once “a month away” hit, the rest would fly. But really…I’m just trying to catch my breath!

This weekend was a gift left and right. I was scheduled the day off work on Friday, for working the previous weekend. In normal Rebecca fashion I woke up at 5:00a.m.; but I made myself stay horizontal. My mind and my body have been running on over-drive with work, driving around SoCal on the weekends to hike at some higher elevation, and gather and buying gear I will need for the trip. I had been feeling a little run-down and took the opportunity to doze and catch up on podcasts. Any one still feeding their “Serial” addiction with “Undisclosed”?

So then the day began…take a deep breath and hold onto your hats: a) dropped off 2 packages to return to amazon at UPS store (failed packs), b) talked to pharmacist and dropped off prescriptions at Walmart for my “I hope I don’t need any of these” medications for Nepal, c) visited Trader Joe’s for environment-friendly shampoo/conditioner/body wash all-in-one and impromptu lunch, d) CVS for first-aid needs (and I bought floss for the first time in my life….I come from a family of dentists and dental hygienists…always get the stuff for free!), e) Salon for eye-lash tinting (more on this below), f) Bed, Bath, and Beyond for travel size things and steri-pad for toothbrush, g) REI (for the 2nd time in less than 24 hours) for the little things: small towel, compass and thermometer, stuff sacks, etc. and h) Road Runner for Superfeet to make my boots slightly more friendly to my feet.  Phew, yea…it was more work than my typical day at work! But you can see how detail-oriented my “to-do” lists have been. They spread between my brain, scraps of paper in my car and around my apartment, and digital lists on my ipad and iphone. When I think of something, I write it down. My brain is running in many directions (as this blog post exemplifies perfectly), and I don’t want to make more trips than I have to. Prime example: I visited REI on Thursday night, Friday afternoon, and Saturday morning…happy to report my Saturday trip only cost me $5.40. When my yearly dividend check comes from REI, I will have my own personal Christmas! My productive day was followed up with a quick walk in Crystal Cove park in my boots, enjoying watching the sunset and the clear views of Catalina Island and Ranchos Palos Verde. I am trying to walk in my boots every day at least for an hour to keep my feet encouraged to accept that THIS IS HAPPENING. My feet still are whining for my cushiony running shoes. But remember, I’m stubborn…on both fronts, ha!

Saturday I reintroduced myself to my road-bike. I started riding at 5:30a.m….yes, I am crazy. My friend joined me from 6:00-7:45; and I rolled back home after 43.5 miles and 3 hours and 18 minutes on the bike. Slow, I hear some of you saying…fatigued out my quads and was trying not to cramp for the last 5 miles. The result of not being on my bike very often. (I see your head shaking and hear your exhale of disgust, Dan!) But it felt great and I stayed coastal for the majority of the ride enjoying the wind in my face and feeling the sun rise on my back. After laying on the floor for 40 minutes listening to audio of the Michigan vs. Maryland game (Go Blue!) and feeling my quads release, I put myself together for a little relaxation with friend Tracy.

I felt a sense of mental quietness after being so productive Friday and wanted to enjoy sitting at a restaurant, eating, and sharing good conversation. So we found an outdoor patio in Los Alamitos, I ordered a Bloody Mary and Tracy ordered a beer, and we sat and ATE ourselves full. I can’t tell you the last time I sat at a restaurant during the middle of the day eating and drinking with no time-frame restricting the relaxation. Ahhh, much needed and appreciated.

Although I woke up at 5:00a.m. willingly; I did have a curling match slated to begin at 9:20p.m….so mandatory veg session was up next, where I actually fell asleep for an hour or so. Then it was back off to REI and Dick’s Sporting Goods before heading to curling. REI hasn’t started calling me by first name yet, but I had to stop as the duffle bag I bought Thursday night demonstrated to be TOO small for the amount of stuff that will be accompanying me to Nepal. Dick’s, or Big Dick’s as my dad and I called the store in Michigan, was for a new running hat. I misplaced my favorite white running hat, and it was rubbing me the wrong way that I was going to have to get a new one. Naturally, I picked up a light colored long-sleeve athletic top to reflect the sun during the trek. Curling: WE WON! And nice to be back on the ice! Finally some sleep..zzzzz.

Today/Sunday: this was going to be the Nepal So-Cal residents Mt. Baldy hike day! But…rain and snow in the forecast resulted in a cancel. I was bummed to not spend some time with the people who I will be step-for-step with in 2 weeks, but having a day to rest and organize was welcomed. After a morning swim, I started putting together my first-aid pack and pulling out all my clothes that could make the trek with me. Tonight will be taking the packing list and setting aside the minimal clothing. I was able to pick up a Steri-pen, electrical plug converter, and more drugs I hope I don’t have to use while in Nepal from my recently traveled friend Mendy. (Nothing illegal…over the counter stuff for those who just raised their eyebrows) It is very comforting having a friend who was recently in Nepal and who has been helping guide me on what to buy and how/when to use it.

My living room is turning into my staging grounds and I am finding that things like the water and self-purification products and snacks will take up more room in my bag than clothes. Which also means my bag will continually get lighter as the trip goes on! Full disclosure: I won’t be carrying it, a very nice porter or yak will be 🙂 Thank you sir or animal ahead of time. My feet, back, and mental disposition thank you dearly!

Can you tell how all over the place I am? Even this blog I can’t edit and write normally. Bare with me. I’m sure it is still entertaining.

Back to the eye-lash tinting. I am sure many of you did a double-take when you read that. Who would care about the color of her eyelashes when traveling to a third-world country? Rebecca? How selfish, right?

Here’s my thoughts: I have no problem going au-naturale and usually spend my weekends without make-up on in sports clothes doing my thing. I take less than 45 minutes to get ready most mornings: including making 3 meals (yes I’ve been eating 2 breakfasts and a full lunch lately to ramp up my metabolism). I am going on a trip of a lifetime. And when people who know me see me without any make-up on, I often get asked, “are you tired?” My eyes will be making most of the mental images of my trip in Nepal, however, there will be pictures that I want to document the land WITH me. A blonde hair, fair-skinned face with white eyelashes and eyebrows turns into a washed out face in pictures. So let my self-consciousness sing out from the mountain tops, but I want my eyes to be visible in these pictures!…And how can I do that? Pay a beautician $30.00 to tint my eyelashes, and wahlaa, genie rubs the lamp, wand sprinkles pixie dust; and my eyes will be visible in these pictures, I can leave all make-up at home where it belongs, and make my “weekend” get-up last all 24 days of my trip 🙂 So Cal 6 peak Challenge

Concurrently while writing this blog I did an online purchase of the snack foods that will accompany me to Nepal and my all-time favorite chapstick that I can’t go to any cold environment without: Waterman’s!

As scattered as this blog post reads, I’m feeling really calm (new since Saturday) and excited. I have two weeks left and have every thing on my list accounted for. I have plans for normal social outings all week and have time to let the things that flew out of my mind without making it down on paper or digitally to fly back in. My coworkers are being helpful in stirring my excitement by keeping a daily count-down and I’m ready for the numbers to turn into single digits! Weirdly ready 🙂

What’s left to do:

Apply for Nepal Visa: <2 weeks before arrival date

Buy batteries for all my electronics and solar charger to rejuice said batteries

Visit a photo-booth to take a few more pictures that can be used for visas, permits for back-up purposes if needed (anyone want to have fun with a photo-booth?!?)

Borrow gaters and crampons from Denise

Pick up Israeli water purification pills from Mendy

Update my ipod shuffle with new music

Stuff my duffel bag and fill with trash bags for rainproofing (yes recommended from my very experienced mountaineering friends) and strategically pack my carry-on pack

Pack pillow-case for tea-houses (example of a digital list, ha)

AND…most importantly, make sure every letter has made it into my bag. Thank you for all who have sent your letters, I CANNOT wait to open them while in Nepal 🙂

Have a wonderful week and one deep breath together …….in…………..out……………….Namaste

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6-pack SoCal Peaks, complete

Friday morning had a 4:05 a.m. wake-up call. I admit, I couldn’t set it to 4:00, 4:05 just sounded so much more agreeable, ha!  The tricks we play.

IMG_3858My head still in a cloud (of sleep) and my breakfast in my cup-holder, I set out to pick up Christine and then continue on to San Gorgonio. We talked about this hike more than a month ago, well really last winter when skiing/boarding on Mammoth. Christine submitted for the hiking permit and I started reading the trail map and accounts online.

In MY summer 2015 fashion, I set out with my hiking boots on my feet and my trail running shoes in my pack. I tried a new pack with a wide, padded hip strap. Christine generously kept readjusting my pack throughout our long hike as I just couldn’t quite make it feel comfortable. It is currently re-packaged in a box to be shipped back where it came, ha. Eh, will keep trying to find the right pack, not so sure I will find it before October 19th take-off.

We started the hike at 6:50a.m. after watching a bear climb the side of the mountain we were about to start on and noting that the temperature was already in the upper 70’s at the trailhead, and expected to be 99 degrees by mid-day. We were happy to start climbing to cooler temperatures and avoid the heat of the day. We crossed a wide rocky divide where Christine notified me that a man died as he was swept away in a flash flood 2 weeks ago. Wow. It was as dry as bone, I couldn’t imagine rushing water over these rocks.

“First switch-backs, here we go”. Vivian Creek trail welcomes you with a bang, you start climbing right away. Less steep than Register Ridge and the start of Dragon’s Back (look at me comparing to other hikes like an experienced hiker ;0) ). But still had me huffing and puffing and my stomach started gargling as blood shunted to prioritize my heart, brain, and muscles. Christine seemed excited to document my journey with pictures at every sign we passed. I knew I was in for a 18+ mile hike gaining 5800+ feet. And the rest I was open to my eyes and my legs seeing and feeling out. My agreeableness to pictures waivered as we climbed higher.

The first switch backs were short and sweet. Then we had a long, easy walk along the river bed, where I searched for signs of water.  I kept trying to consume small bits of food every hour and we took a 15 minute sitting rest after 3 hours. We hit round two of switchbacks and were treated to the sound of stream water and a waterfall, and enough shade to keep us comfortable. We stumbled upon the final part of the trail, “this is the badass part” states Christine.

The “bad-ass” portion was not short, it kept going. I thought I was getting to the top of it and then it opened up to another peak beyond it, a hidden summit if you will. I just kept my feet stepping one in front of the other. I looked up to try and spot Christine who was powering up the trail like a champ. I was hungry and feeling slightly deflated by the minimal exertion resulting in heart pounding as we were above 11,000ft. It messes with your mind. You have to be careful not to become too self-critical and downplay your “physical capabilities.” You acknowledge the elevation gain, the amount of time you did it in, and you keep taking one step at a time. Self-critique and demoralizing talk while hiking IS NOT productive. I’ll blame it on hypoglycemia 😉


A snapshot into my mental state at the top of the climb is captured by Christine asking me, “do you want to take a picture at the summit with the sign, or find shelter and eat?” My response: “I want to sit and eat.”

At that moment I didn’t care that I had just hiked uphill for 6 hours, my mind was foggy and my feet were achey. That is the truth. So I sat down, I started in on my lentils and an apple. Then I started lightening my mood, I passed my apple core off to a squirrel eyeing me closely and started navigating the small and medium rocks/boulders to the summit. Christine offered a celebration beer and we shared it while setting up for our summit photo shoot. When you hike for that long…and have that much longer to safely get back down, a beer is to be shared. If I had a full beer at that point, I would have had to sit still at the top for too long waiting to get my head back on straight. Time is sensitive, especially with the sun is setting at 7:30pm, even with it being a “super-moon”.



As we headed down the length of time prodding on my feet started talking to me. I started thinking of my trail runner shoes. I gave in and switched into them for the long, flat portion along the river bed. I took the time to let my feet move freely in the air before pushing them back into shoes, laid on my back along a fallen tree to stretch against the weight of my pack, and closed my eyes to re-group. Our breaks became more frequent, my steps became shorter. Fatigue was present. The light was changing, and the temperature was rising as we descended from higher elevation. We had to keep putting one foot in front of the other to avoid having to pull out our headlamps from deep in my pack. Christine was more aware of this time crunch than I was. She was pressing on and waiting for me from time to time. We got to the last switchbacks as the sky was bright orange and the sun was starting to set behind the mountains. I switched back into my hiking boots to make sure my ankles were supported and my grip on the dry loose trail maintained under a fatigued body. We arrived at the car in the dark, but we happily crossed the rocky divide with enough natural light to be sure-footed and safe. Phew.

6:50 a.m. until 7:35 p.m.  San Gorgonio. Complete. 6-pack SoCal Peaks during summer 2015, Complete. Hiking boots tolerated for 10 hours. Hydration sustained. Trekking poles comfortable.

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Next step…..in front of the last 😉

Left to do for Nepal

Square away check-in Duffel bags and day-pack

Water purification system

Re-stock snacks and keep seeking low glycemic index food sources

Clarify and resolve flight change

Superfeet cushion orthotic for my hiking boots

and find the best hat for practical use and that will look cute in pictures 😉

Next hike:

Mt. Baldy with the SoCal crew of our Nepal group, Oct 4th

And if you all think I keep pretty even keeled…..you’ll be happy to know that when I was asked Saturday night how long until I leave for my trip? I looked at my calendar and vocalized “3 weeks”, as my heart started pounding, my stomach turned over, and I had to stand up instead of sit still. Ha, as if I hadn’t answered “4 weeks”, just 7 days earlier when asked the same question. Let the excitement build!

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