May 20, 2003 – Khunde: Friends and Family along the Trail

It is always a bit crazy leaving Namche. There are many people to say goodbye to, last minute items to buy, perhaps one more e-mail to send...

We finally got out of town around 9:30 and our first destination was the Everest View Hotel. This old structure was built in 1972 by a Japanese venture. It predates most of the nice lodges in Namche and the concept of maintaining a luxury hotel at over 12,000 feet in the Himalaya seems to have never really worked. All the same, it is a lovely spot to stop and take some tea and enjoy the view.

Girls at Wosho procession. The girl on the right is the daughter of Danu, "OM 2"After leaving the hotel, we walked through the Sherpa village of Khumjung to the Hillary School. Ang Temba pointed out the old tin-sided building that was the first structure built for the Hillary School in 1960. Now there are a number of nice buildings and the grounds here have been the site more of than four decades of quality education for the Sherpas of the Khumbu.

Today, we looked at the work taking place on these grounds for the statue of Sir Edmond Hillary which is scheduled to be erected on May 28, the day before the 50th anniversary of Hillary and Tensing’s ascent of Everest. The statue is complete and has been delivered by helicopter, and the final work is underway on the base on which it will be mounted.

When I arrived in Kathmandu on May 20, Wongchu showed me the Sherpa Mountaineering Memorial grounds near the airport on the way into town. On this site a statue of Babu Chiri Sherpa will be erected this month as well. The statues of both Hillary and Babu were done by the same artist in Kathmandu this last winter.

Kami and Danu are climbing Sherpas I have known for years.As we trekked on from the school to the village of Khunde, Ang Temba pointed out a procession of people who were walking around the village chanting and praying. He explained that this ceremony was Washo, which is a time to ask for blessing for the potato harvest.

Later the procession passed near us and I hear someone call “Wally”. It was an old Sherpa friend of mine Danu, who I had climbed on Everest with in 1989. Another good Sherpa friend of mine, Kami was with the group as well. These guys have returned from expeditions and visits to Kathmandu, Europe and the U.S. to maintain a very traditional life in the village. They were wearing traditional Sherpa clothing. Their small daughters were with the group assisting with the rice to throw in offering and other ceremonial tasks (photo above).

A Lama was along to lead praying. It was a colorful and interesting glimpse into Sherpa life as these photos will show.

Later in the afternoon we visited the home of Sherpa friends and ran into my old friend Peter Hillary. Peter was with his 13-year-old daughter Amelia. I have run into Peter a number of times in Nepal since I first met him when we climbed together on the South Col route in 1990. But this was Amelia’s first visit to Nepal and the Khumbu.

Peter Hillary and Amelia. Peter and Amelia shared a nice dinner with us at our camp. We stayed up talking until past 9:30 - quite late compared to normal trekking schedule.Amelia and her Dad have been traveling the world quite a lot this spring with the various events recognizing the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest by Peter’s father. I remembered, when Amelia started telling stories, that Brent Bishop had also told me of the fun times they had had traveling around the US with National Geographic to promote the opening of Surviving Everest, the film that was made last spring featuring Brent, Peter and Jamling Norgay’s return to Everest in recognition of their fathers’ ascents.

Amelia spoke fondly her travels with her Dad, “Uncle Brent” and “Uncle Pete” (Pete Athans).

Now on the other side of the world, in the village of Khunde, which has always been like home to the Hillary family, Peter Mann, Lloyd Charten and myself enjoyed having Amelia and her dad to dinner in our dining tent. The hours passed quickly in the evening as we shared stories and ideas about mountaineering, politics, history and travel.

Great adventures are always about the people you meet along the way and that is proving to be the case on our journey up the Khumbu Valley this spring.

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