Nepal: home of the mountains touching the ceiling of the world. SJ Dodgson MJoTA2014 v8n1 p0418
In 1974, I was at a barbecue less than a mile from where I had grown up, where I was living, where I was continuing my postgraduate studies.
My new young husband (Gavan Schneider, he divorced me 5 years later) was talking with other rugged mountaineers near the back fence, while I was talking with hikers about our honeymoon trip which had taken us in December to the Yorkshire moors. Gavan yelled at me "let's go to Nepal for Christmas!"
I nodded, sounded great! And 4 months later, we landed in Kathmandu for a month of going uphill, and downhill, on the steepest mountains in the world.
Before we did that, before we traveled to Pokhara Valley, we hung out in Kathmandu for a few days, thoroughly enchanted by the beautiful, calm people all around us.
We traveled by bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara Valley, on roads that fit only 3 of the 4 wheels of our bus, and also towards Everest Base Camp. One person started throwing up out a window, and it caught on. Everyone else did too. Roads along sheer cliff faces make me focus on mortality rather than the spectacular views.
We spent Christmas in the Pokhara Valley and on Christmas Day, shared a meal with missionaries and lots of children.
We hired a Tibetan to be our guide towards Anapurna, and turned around after we reached the snowline in this tropical country, because only then did we realize that our guide did not have warm clothes.
We learned that night that because an American man had insisted his guide keep going in the snow, when the guide did not have warm clothes, the guide died. We listened to the American man explain how it was not his fault, because the guide sat down in the snow and took all his clothes off. My first observation of the evil of entitlement.
On the trail, we walked through a village that looked prosperous: inhabitants were Ghurkas who had brought prosperity to their families as they fought for the British Empire.
When we came back to the Pokhara Valley we bought a dragon carpet that I look at every day.
In the years since, Nepal has been rocked by revolution, regicide and climbing to or near Mount Everest has become big business. But it is every bit as dangerous as it was in 1953 when Tensing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hilary dazzled the world with the news broadcast on the day that Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, that they had touched the ceiling of the world.
The 1981 Medical Expedition to Mount Everest led by Dr John West, who hosted me in La Jolla when I first landed in the US; and my colleague Dr Sukhamay Lahiri went with him: but that's another story.