Monterey and the Mountains: An Epic Journey to Everest Base Camp

Mrs. Monterey Makes Base Camp (and Higher.) 

Note: Monterey's own Angel Duff trekked to Everest base camp in April, along with the Monterey team. Here's her notes for the adventure.

As I look back after covering 94 miles in 14 days, most of them over 11,000 feet elevation, I can tell you it was an exhausting and exhilarating experience. Everest and climbers have fascinated me ever since I read Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction book “Into Thin Air.” It details the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a storm.

Since then, I’ve watched countless climbing documentaries and I’ve done a lot of hiking, as I’ve become completely enamored by nature and the mountains. I do not have the fortitude or physical ability to summit Everest, but the thought of seeing base camp, where it all begins, was an adventure I couldn’t pass up and thanks to my generous husband, I finally got the opportunity.

Angel makes base camp.

I was lucky enough to travel to Nepal with a renowned Sherpa. Lakpa Rita Sherpa, a native of Nepal who has summited Everest 17 times and was the first Sherpa to summit all seven summits, recently launched his own company Khangri Experience. I first met Lakpa when my husband and I climbed Kilimanjaro. He was our guide on that trip and told us some of his amazing experiences living in Nepal and climbing Everest. If I was ever lucky enough to visit the country, I knew it would be a special experience with someone who is from there and who intimately knows the land and the culture. Lakpa didn’t disappoint.

17-time Everest summiteer Lakpa Rita Sherpa (wearing his Monterey Blackstream field watch.)

When I first arrived in Kathmandu, I wasn’t overly impressed. It’s dirty, smoggy, and full of cars, motorcycles, and people. But the difference between Kathmandu and the Himalayas is night and day. You start your journey by flying to Lukla via a small prop plane or a helicopter. There are no cars and no transportation in the mountains. Any supplies, gear, food, absolutely anything you find on the mountain, is carried by porters, often carrying 50-100 pounds on their back, or beasts of burden such as yaks, donkeys, or horses. It’s a primitive system but the people make a living through these means and do not want modernization to interfere as trekking and mountaineering bring in a lot more revenue than farming. It’s sometimes hard to watch their backs bowed from these heavy loads and not be a little ashamed of what little we carry in comparison, not to mention, how easy our life is in the states.

While mountaineering gives the Sherpa people an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their children, it also puts them in dangerous situations. More Sherpa die on Mt. Everest each year than climbers because they spend more time setting the routes, setting up tents and base camp, getting it ready for the climbers.

Tired but happy. The EBC team at Base Camp.

I think that was one of the big takeaways from this beautiful place. The Himalayas are stunning. It is by far one of the most beautiful places I have had the pleasure of visiting. From the stunning indigo color of the Dudh Koshi river which runs along the valley for miles to the high-flying suspension bridges lined with prayer flags, to the colorful monasteries and prayer wheels, everywhere you look is beauty. And the people who live there, work there, raise families there, and give their life to this incredible landscape is awe inspiring. I found myself thinking that while Nepalese face a hard life, it also is a simple one focusing on family, home, work, and honoring the mountains and its traditions. I am always so grateful to see other countries, cultures, and how people live as it’s a constant reminder to me to remember how fortunate I am, and that beauty can be found everywhere. Namaste.


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