Day 3 of Climb

sunrise over camp

We woke up to a brilliant morning, sunrise at 4:45 am. The sky was clear then progressively developed that hazy look that when you are away from Toronto you know is natural and not smog.

We did a fair bit of up and down but overall lost 1000m elevation today. Camp is in a local schoolyard. The kids were playing volleyball around the tents and watching all the commotion and chaos. Dale gave his pencils, erasers and his spare books to the school. There are 79 students who attend the school, they attend till they are 16 then it is a two hour walk to continue their education. As a result the majority don’t.

Gastro has hit the team with Helene, Juri, Dave, Michel, Yanick all succumbing. The day progressed quite slowly.
At one of the small villages we came through, two young men were playing a Nepalese guitar and drum. We started dancing. It reminded me a bit of the dancing I did at Suneet’s wedding. The next town along had a holy shrine. It is nestled at the top of a hill leading into a deep valley carved and terraced, stone retaining walls, the whole way down 1000m. All of the work is done by hand. Dale and I visited a local woodsmith who takes whole logs, hand cuts, planes and then creates furniture.

dancing Nepali style

Further along a Nepalese woman was sitting on the retaining wall holding her hand out. At first I thought she was begging, but that is very rare in Nepal. It turned out she had a very nasty cut to her thumb. Manu and I stopped to try to help. One of the Sherpas translated while another tried to clean her wound with a stick! She sat there, patiently, while I took tweezers and pulled all the dirt out, poured peroxide over (not a peep) and then sponged with more peroxide to clean it. The stoicism was incredible. We got her all bandaged up with the usual instructions and headed further along, only to find a young boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old if he’s a day, also with a cut. When I cleaned his wound he just looked at me with huge brown eyes full of innocence and trust.

The path wound down inexorably to the valley (damn we lost a lot of altitude we had fought hard for the day before). It is well maintained, rock steps, alternating granite, mostly with retaining walls that look incredibly old. The whole day was dotted with encounters with the locals as most of their homes open onto the path. You could hear Nameste (hello) echo all through the canyon.
This path, the Jiri to Lukla path, is the path that Mallory took on one of his three epic expeditions to Everest.

Tomorrow we start up and up and up and up…..


path to the valley

The Team

Charles – preivously was the anchor for the National (in French) Telejournal – prior to coming to Decouverte where he has been the host 15 years!! Major influences – Carl Sagan, Michaelangelo. Favorite song – Hotel California, Ne me quitte pas

Helene – Exec Producer i.e. Charles’ boss. 16 years at Decouverte. Favourite song – Les copains d’abord, Satisfaction

Both Helene and Charles are baby boomers who started training 3 months ago with the goal to climb Mera.

Manu – our guide – outdoor instructor, teacher, guide, filed tester for major gear, specializing in European Gear e.g. LOWA, Vaude. Favourite song – Back in Black

Michel – the MD – a laughing machine; Head of Heart Failure at the Montreal Heart Institute. Major interest in this trip is the impact of various growth factors and endothelial function on acclimitization. The project is being conducted from Institut de Cardiologie de Montreal, Universite de Montreal, CHUM – Hotel Dieu, UHN. Favorite song: Beautiful Day

Jani – just graduated from McGill, major interest in public health and humanitarian aid. Crazy for skiing; musician – piano/cello. Favorite song: quand on a que l’amour, Billy Jean

Raph – UBS man, from Switzerland but now heart and soul in Canada……Favorite song: la-haut sur la montagne

Michel – camera man, retired since 28 and works for pleasure – enjoys sailing; Yanick’s slave. Favorite song: One

Dale – 9 year heart recipient, hero, firefighter, Peg’s husband. Favorite song: anything covered by Marginal Donors

Julie – completing Masters in Kinesiology, trainer for Helene, Charles, Michel, Raphael, Yanick! Favorite song: Stairway to Heaven

Yanick – mountain goat, director of the film HDTV on Mera, indefatigable. Favorite Song: Thunder AC/DC

Dave – 11 years courtesy of his brother (apparently he thinks you have another one) living kidney transplant recipient. President of Canadian Transplant Association. General fixer upper, mechanic, bus repair, generator repair, locator of beer (anywhere). Favorite Song: crashing cars, walk this way

Heather – the other MD, blog writer and photographer, send all complaints to Dale. Favorite Song: Rock n Roll (Led Zeppelin)

We had an interesting day – we lost 600m of altitude and gained 900m. Path was populated by many locals, goats cows. We passed one large village and many small ones. As you pass by the locals say hello, invite you in, tea, sit in front of the fire, rest. They are so friendly. The kids follow us around especially Yanick, fascinated by the camera. Helene has given out a few dozen pencils as rewards. The rain came in after lunch in a big way, a real down pour. we were completely drenched but dried out in a teahouse. Am in another teahouse now the team is sitting around drinking tea and relaxing the rain is pouring.

The major concern for all of us is whether or not this is the start of the Monsoon. If it is it will have a major impact on our plans. Don’t know yet but will update as we go.


Michel the morning man

Finally on trail!

Altitude: 2282m, Temp: 17 degrees give or take, Humidity: high

The bus ride from hell is finally over – 9 hours to do 100km as the crow flies – up/down/up/down/around/around/around…….sheer drops 1000m; no guardrails, single lane but two lanes of traffic (truck/bus/donkey). Honking is the predominant mode of communciation, not lights or blinkers. The buses were packed with them standing 30 deep on the top. At one stop the door opened and so many people came out we thought it was a portal to a different place.

We had lunch at a local drive by – one item on the menu – dal bhat (see photo) – there is a lot of trust involved – but it was delicious.

the chef

We had rain on the way but the light stuff that actually cools you down so it really wasn’t a big problem. We did just shy of 3 hours to camp, arrived in the dark but camp was already set and the tea was hot. The children came out from the homes to meet us and talk. The path is packed dark earth with rocky bits here and there, up and down like the dreaded mountain goat.

The moon is out 3/4 full.

We met our Sirdar today – Sarki – he is the big boss in charge of all the Sherpa and porters. To become a Sirdar you need years and years of experience, as a Sherpa with lots of hiking and climbing. Sarki is 48.. We also met our lead Sherpa today. The term means from Khumbu region. A Sherpa has technical and climbing experience, we have 6 Sherpa. We also have one cook, 6 kitchen boys, 35 porters. All total approximately 1000 kg to go camp to camp.

The population of Nepal is approximately 28,000,000. The average life expectancy is 47 years, with leading causes of death being related to infectious diseases. As you pass by villages and see poverty mixed with such peace and serenity it is clear this is a special people.


Dale with his game face on

Charles at our lunch


Typical crowded street in Kathmandu
An absolutely beautiful day dawned in Kathmandu – was up at 5:30 to wander the streets. Picked up a couple of cappuccinos from a hole-in-the-wall place – better than Sta___k’s. Perhaps that was just the environs!

We wandered from top to bottom of the district known as Thamel. Largely full of locals with their wares, selling for tourists, hikers and each other. Then made our way down to Basantapur a bit more central and home to the previous royals – who moved to the new Royal Palace prior to the 2001 massacre. We saw the temple for Kama Sutra (I studied that quite carefully, looking for tips), then went on to see the Virgin’s palace (no sex for life). The buildings throughout had Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu features all amongst each other. We had an excellent guide, a social worker in a previous life, who taught us much.

Nepal itself, wedged between India and China, is largely Hindu but with a significant population of Buddhists (used to be in the majority). The name itself is thought to derive from Sanskrit – meaning ‘ at the foot of the mountains’.

There is a significant election due to happen here on May 28th to determine the fate of the monarchy. I am glad we will be out in the mountains when it happens.

Dave is a magnet – there is no doubt about it – absolutely magnetic. He would walk ahead and all the local peddlers would follow in his wake……for as long as it took for him to buy whatever they were selling. We would follow about 10 paces behind, unhindered.

Charles and Yanick arrived today so now the team is complete! We leave town tomorrow early am for Jiri – 70 km away and an 8 hour bus ride. Dale is taking gravol. Dave is taking beer. I am taking my camera.


Dale at a healing post

For sale

man’s best friend

Many faces

pondering life at the temple

tough day on the rickshaw

From Nepal – just landed

Well, what an incredibly long day we had yesterday/today – Dale wins the prize: 6 flights in 48 hours…..we landed at Delhi last night at 1 am.

Today we waited to board our flight to Nepal…..temperatures about 38 degrees in Katmandhu – ohmygod

Magic, though, when we got here: chaotic city, friendly people, not as hot as expected, but humid. Saw some 8000m peaks from window of the plane. As we came in to land the mountains around the city seemed big but we know they are only baby ones!

Jani joined us in Montreal – just passed her LMCC’s and off to Vancouver to start family medicine – interested in humanitarian work – has cut her teeth in Rwanda and Venezuela. Raphael also joined us – UBS man – has been over 6000m on Cotopaxi.

Dale’s thrilled as the beer only comes in 1 L sizes (I am turning a blind eye Peg and Stella – though only for the first one).

Met our guide Manu – took us shopping, bartering and then to a great dinner Pad Thai – it is 8:45 pm here and the place is still hopping. Dave has found a bar with live music – we’re going to stop by, but not till after the climb.

Thanks very much to Swiss International Airlines – we had great flights over – smooth all the way.


The Mission to Nepal

Check back soon – Blogging will begin May 12th 2008!

Dr. Heather Ross, Dale Shippam and a team of enthusiastic individuals will be heading to Nepal and the Himalayas to climb Mera Peak.

Mera Peak is one of the most popular of Nepal’s 18 “Trekking Peaks”. From the trekker, the walk from Lukla through the Sherpa country of the remote Inkhu valley is an unforgettable experience, offering superb scenery, and abundant wildlife – including rumoured sightings of the legendary yeti.

About 700 foreign visitors climb the 6654m Mera Peak each year, an achievement which requires mountaineering skills and a special permit from the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

The altitude of Mera Peak is 6654m. Above sea level, Mera Peak was an almost overlooked mountain to the east of the main Khumbu trekking trails. It is situated in the Everest region in a remote valley.

When one stands upon the summit, spread before you is an unbelievable panorama of peaks such as Mt. Everest, Makalu and hundreds of other beautiful mountains.