Initial Reflections On Everest Trek 2009

I’m home now, have had a night sleeping in my own bed, showered in my own shower, had to make my own tea in the morning, and generally begun to shift my brain back into the western world. I’ve had a little time now to reflect back on the trip, and wanted to share a few thoughts. More detailed postings excerpted from my text journals on the trip will be coming up, but this is my 10,000 foot view of my 17,000+ foot adventure.

Most interesting to me is how different the experience was from the expectations. The things I thought the trip would be about quickly faded away, and so much more of a deeply personal experience replaced them.

Before leaving, it was all about Everest. Once there, the mountain itself became almost irrelevant, and it became about the people. Less about the Himalayas, and more about the people that lived there. The people we would meet on the trail, and in the little villages scattered throughout the region. They were so much more interesting, their lives so much more compelling than any big pile of rock and ice could ever be. The mountain became the catalyst, the hub around which the real experiences spun.

Up front, I was all pumped up about getting to be a part of two of my favorite podcasts. But that too quickly faded as I began to know Jon Miller and Chris Marquardt as the men they are, and the friends they would become. With Jon, he stopped being the guy who I knew only from The Rest Of Everest, and became the friend I shared a tent with. He became the guy I stayed up way too late every night chatting with, and the guy I slowly and groggingly greeted every new morning with. Our morning update recording ritual became less about producing content for the show, and more about spending a little more time with a new friend. The camera became the catalyst.

With Chris, I learned so much more than I’d expected. It wasn’t about the mechanics of photography, what I learned about ISO and shutter speed and composition, and all the rest of that stuff. It was what I learned about the creative spirit itself, and how to tell the story or what you were experiencing, rather than just taking some random photos. About how to see those important little moments amid all the grander things that enveloped us, the little things that really told the story of the experience. Just because you have the camera with you, doesn’t mean you have to filter your whole adventure through the viewfinder. Live the experience for yourself, and let the camera capture what it may.

The participants themselves went from a collection of Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts, to a group of real people. People who, in spite of whatever conflicts may have occured over the course of the trip, I now consider friends, every one of them. There are some who I’ve made a much deeper connection with, people who I just know I will see again, but I wouldn’t hesistate to use the word “friend” to describe any and all of them. They were the real heart and soul of the experience. Without them to share the trip with, it would have been so much emptier of an adventure. They gave the whole thing depth, and soul. So many other sets of eyes to see the world around us through. It is the memories of times spent and shared with them that will endure, the trek was merely the catalyst.

As much as I loved Nepal, and Everest, and the whole region. It all takes a back seat to those personal experiences and connections I made. The country, the mountains, those will always be there. I can go back and see them any time. It was the people that made this a once in a lifetime experience. They can never be duplicated, that part of the trek can never be repeated.