The Rest Of The Rest Of Everest – Episode 123

I think everyone on the trip had their own personal “OMG!” moment at some point. Some of us even had several of them. The arrival at Tengboche and subsequent time spent there was most certainly one of my two big emotional goosebump days. Sadly, I did a pretty poor job of enunciating how I was feeling in the commentary for this episode, but hopefully I’ll do a better job here. This was the day that what I was doing really sunk in, the day I really let it sink in.

Everyone has some natural fears or nervousness before a major event like this. Having had some major travel drama in the previous trip I took, I was extra paranoid about what might go wrong. This was the single biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life, perhaps the biggest thing I’ll ever do, and I was absolutely terrified something would come along to screw it up. Paranoid? Me? Nah…

In my case, it did come very close to not happening. When I lost my job back in February, I was suddenly staring at a frighteningly low bank account balance and not much hope of finding a new job any time soon. Given that I was two-and-a-half months away from needing a month-long vacation, the likelihood of there being anyone willing to accommodate that schedule was pretty slim. Extra poor chance given the state of the economy and weakness of the local job market.

So I thought long and hard about things, and sat down and wrote up an email to Jon Miller to tell him that I would not be making the trip, and hoping he’d be able to find a last minute substitute so that I might be able to get at least some of my money back. If nothing else, even if I ate the trek registration I’d be able to get the price of the plane tickets back. Not to mention saving the roughly $2,000 in gear and supplies I had yet to buy.

Obviously, that email was never sent. It sat in my Drafts folder for days while I went back and forth on the decision. Ultimately, I knew backing out and missing this trip would be a decision I’d regret for the rest of my life. Who knew if there would ever be another opportunity like this, and if I’d even be in a position to take it again? For me, when all is said and done, I’d rather look back on my life and regret the things I did, rather than the things I didn’t.. So off I went!

Tenchboche Monastery

Back to fear of the worst… In the case of one participant the worst did happen, so those fears are not always unjustified. We ended up short one person (Catherine) when she fell and broke her ankle right before the start of the trek. The morning of her flight out, if I recall correctly. Man, talk about a heartbreak. See, this is the very kind of thing I was so paranoid about!

Even after arriving in Kathmandu, there were still those lingering fears and doubts. Part of me was still waiting for something to go wrong and screw the whole thing up. (And, as you’ll get a hint at in the next episode, something almost did end up ending the trek for us!) It wasn’t until I arrived that night in Tengboche that I finally let go of all that anxiety, and just swam in the reality of it all.

I sat down on a little wall near where we entered the grounds of the monastery and just took it all in. The stupa next to me, the monastery itself on the other side. Some monks playing ball off in a field nearby, Everest off in the distance. The sounds of prayer flags flapping in the wind and the familiar jangling of yak bells. This was that magical moment. I was really here. I made it. I’m doing this! Oh. Em. Gee.

I couldn’t think of a single moment in my entire life up to that point where I felt as happy and filled with sheer joy as I was at that exact moment. So I sat. And I cried a bit. Happy tears, overwhelmed by what I was surrounded with. I did it. I made one of my dreams come true.

I took some time later that night to break away from the group and just wander the grounds by myself. No other trekkers, no cameras, just me. I took the time to have my own little moment there in the Himalayas, that bit was just for me. From then on, it didn’t matter what happened. My experience could have ended that night and it would have been complete. Now, the trek could truly begin.

Watch this episode.

(Images from The Rest Of Everest podcast are © 2003-2010 TreeLine Productions.)


  1. Thank you for showing us your heart by sharing this, John. I, for one, am very glad you decided to go on the trek with us. I’m happy to call you a friend.

  2. Yes, very well put, John.

    When I look back on that trek, I think it is one of the most successful and professionally- and personally-fulfilling ventures I’ve ever had a hand in organizing.

    But really, none of those feeling come from the fact that “we made it to Base Camp.”

    Truly, what I feel was most “successful” is the fact that everyone was able to have their own version of your experience in Tengboche.

    I began producing The Rest of Everest because I wanted to share my experiences in that part of the world from our 2003 expedition. My wife and I have talked endlessly about the changed person I returned home as after those 2 months in Tibet. Luckily the changes were all positive–especially good because they were also all profound!

    We all have events in our lives that we can look back on as watershed moments. The 2003 expedition was certainly one of them for me. And ironically, I wasn’t even climbing the mountain!

    The Rest of Everest has grown out of my need to explore and try to understand exactly what it was that happened to me out there on the moraine for all of those weeks. Luckily I was in the position to have dozens of hours of video documentation to piece the transformation together with. I’ll always feel fortunate to have visited Everest the first time while already nearly a decade-deep into my chosen career as a videographer/filmmaker.

    Because of the fact that the expedition lasted for nearly 2 months, I can look back upon my time at Everest in 2003 and feel like your “Tengboche Moment” happened to me as well—but lasted consistently for weeks at a time. Very powerful, indeed!

    John, I think I know exactly how you felt in your “OMG” moment, but I don’t know if I can totally verbalize that feeling. That’s why I started the podcast. I may not be able to describe it exactly in words, but I can SHOW it to everyone and hopefully inspire or help others to have similar experiences themselves!

    When the idea for the workshop trek entered my brain in early April, 2008, I thought to myself, “wow, this could be huge.” Not because it could be a successful business venture, but rather because I knew it was an opportunity to directly facilitate others to have a similar experience as my 2003 journey.

    I knew that there would be a bunch of people on the trek who were there because they were diehard fans of Chris Marquardt’s “Tips From The Top Floor” and that would be a lot of fun as I am truly one of them! But I also knew there would be a few participants who would be joining us because they had totally connected with what I was saying and doing through my show.

    As far as I can remember, this blog post is the first time you’ve expressed the fact that you almost cancelled your participation in the trek. As I was reading that I was grinning from ear to ear because I know that there was no way you were NOT going to be there with us. Personally, I don’t feel any of that was in your control anyway.

    John, you were the FIRST person to register for the trek/workshop. Yes, you lost your job not long before the trek was to start, but you had actually paid the ENTIRE workshop fee immediately upon being offered a place on the team instead of putting down a 50% deposit. So, it was already paid-in-full!

    Keep looking at the events leading up to your arrival in KTM and I’m sure you’ll find coincidence after coincidence that helped to make the trip possible.

    Dude, they weren’t coincidences!

    From what I was able to get to know about you it seems like the past few years you were unknowingly preparing yourself for a trip to the Himalayas. The trek seemed to be a confluence of so many aspects.

    I’m just glad that everything worked out and you were on the team. Having you along was a huge part of why the trek meant so much to me. You always seemed to “get it” and that was very cool for me because it constantly reminded me that what i’ve been doing with the RoE is having a real, positive impact on viewers lives.

    Thanks for that.


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