Sunday, April 26th, 1998
From Ali Orton, a Prescott College, Arizona student and C.W.HOG (Cooperative Wilderness Handicapped Outdoor Group) volunteer.
"We have no idea what day it is, nor do we care", said Steve DeRoche. The HOGs have been in the Khumbu now for three full days and are overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and people of the area. We spent our first night in a village called Chapling where in the middle of the night a leopard invaded our camp. If that wasn't exciting enough, one of our horses and a yak quarreled, leaving the horse with a gash in his flank. The horse is O.K. as we are using E'ola liquid silver (a natural antibiotic) to mend the wound. It is very important that we have the horses as they provide the transportation for some of our members. Ike Gayfield and Kyle Packer got bucked off the second day providing quite an entertaining little rodeo for us all. Safe and in good spirits, it was decided that it was better for Kyle to be carried by a porter instead. Both Kyle and the porters embraced the challenge; Kyle trusting a stranger to carry him and the porters enthusiastically building a basket for him to sit in. Kyle says about the porters, "They're always trying something to get me up the mountain - getting on strangers backs and walking up stairs was difficult but they got me there".
Asian trekking has far exceeded our expectations, providing us with nine yaks to carry our gear, three horses to carry Ike, Tom McCurdy and Kyle as well as plenty of porters to cook and help when needed. Our porters are incredibly helpful (many times we have to tell them not to help), being there for Ike to lean on when walking with his crutches up and down the hills or helping Tom push his wheel chair over the rough terrain.
Our major objective is covering the distance, putting in the miles. Everyone is fully aware of the fact that it's going to be a lot of work but we've set a groove now that we're trying to maintain. The anxiety and apprehension of the unknown has turned into a boost of confidence now that we're here and we're doing it.
To back track a bit, we had four days in Kathmandu. If we can survive that, we can survive this trek. Cindy and Lizzy Whittaker and I (Ali) met the HOGs at the airport. Everyone walked out looking dazed and confused. They said it was wonderful seeing our familiar faces in the sea of strange people that were hounding them to take their luggage in hopes of a tip. After trying to manage the luggage that was hastily being loaded into taxis, Steve DeRoche said, "Cindy, you got to get over there because everyone wants ten dollars and there's a lot of them!"
The ride to the hotel was a harrowing ordeal that would rival any Washington D.C. taxi ride, including dodging cows. After a couple of days the HOGs realized that this was the norm of Kathmandu, cars dodging people, cows, dogs, motorcycles and large busses. Tom said, "Although it seemed like a 100 accidents would happen, no one was getting hurt". Tom, Ike and Kyle's wheel chairs got stuck in Bangkok so after waiting 24 hours for them to arrive on the next flight, we braved the streets, absorbing the culture and pollution of Kathmandu.
The trip to the Monkey Temple was an adventure to say the least. A caravan of eight rickshaws with wheel chairs strapped to the back, bumped and strained up the alleys of Thamel. Lizzy left minus a candy bar. A monkey took the liberty of simply walking up and taking it out of her hand as if he'd been robbing tourists of treats for years.
Everyone did excellent dealing with the challenges their disabilities provided them in a third world city. Tom commented, "I became accustomed to the sights. They were nice from the car, a little disgusting and scary in the chair." Sheila Brashears decided to return home after spending time maneuvering around Kathmandu and not feeling up to the terrain of the Khumbu. We miss her as we feel her void in the group but are glad for her and her decision. As Ike wisely stated, "I try to respect my disability and know my ability". It seems Sheila did just that.
Steve had a T-shirt made in Kathmandu that says, "KRIPPLES IN THE KUMBOO" and told us all about it at dinner. We all laughed heartily and decided if you can't laugh at yourself what can you do? This has been our group name ever since and if you see it on an update in the future you know the intention is all in good fun.
So I'll end this update with a few comments from everyone.
Jeff Brandt says, "This whole experience (thus far) has been a whole lot of overwhelming stuff. Its been great, all new. Nothing is what I expected. The group dynamics have been incredible. What we are doing and what this whole thing is about is incredible and I feel lucky to be a part of it".
In reference to the question posed to the group, "How do you feel being stared at?", Cindy Whittaker responds, "I get tired of people trying to figure out what my disability is".
Carla Yustak's take on her experience so far says, "I've done stuff with Tom (Whittaker) before so I had a good idea of what I was getting myself into. I feel part of the group. We all fit in together. The group dynamics are really great. I think we'll all make it to Basecamp. I feel really positive about it".
"It's been everything I've expected and more. If you look beside the poverty of Kathmandu and the area, things have been over-whelmingly positive in attitude and the blend of personalities", says Bob Meyer.
Lizzy says, "I'm just so excited to meet Kyle. I really am happy I'll see my Dad in eight days (at the big party where the climbing team will come down from Base Camp to meet the HOGs). This is really fun!"
Sunday, April 26th, 1998
From Jeff Brandt, Director of the C.W.HOG Program at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho.
The group arrived in Namche Bazar yesterday to begin the acclimatization rest period. The night before heading up to Namche Bazar (elevation 3480m, 11300ft) we had a group discussion pertaining to the itinerary for the next two days. The route from Jorsale to Namche Bazzar is an extremely steep and long hill. The elevation rises 500m or 1500 ft. Our original schedule was to bivouac halfway up the hill. What we didn't anticipate was that all of the trek members would charge the hill with little more than a lunch stop. After a light lunch the members finished the hill and strolled into the town. The members all knew that they had passed the crux of the trek.
This was evidence that the group will be absolutely strong enough to complete the journey up to Everest base camp. Tomorrow we head out to Phunki Teng and then up an easier hill to Tengboche, the sight of the Tengboche Buddhist monastery. After another acclimatization day we head to Deboche, where we will meet up with the Everest Challenge climbing team.
This will mark the start of their summit push, after we spend a night celebrating our combined accomplishments. So far we are all healthy and extremely happy to be in such an incredible place.