First Days in Nepal

Butter lamps monastery

For when there is no electricity, people use noisy aggregates, which emit terrible fumes. It feels like I have travelled back in time as I have tried to accustom myself to a very different culture, to the poor conditions and to the exotic little curiosities here in Nepal. Despite the living conditions, I warmed to Nepal already on the first day. Each day has been like an adventure.

Saturday night, when I arrived in Kathmandu, I was honoured to attend the Earth Hour in Boudhanath Stupa as a guest of WWF. To my surprise, I was asked to give a speech to the people who had gathered around the candlelit temple. What a wonderful experience! On Sunday we flew to southern Nepal with representatives from WWF, the Embassy of Finland and local media. There we visited Chitwan National Park, which is supported by WWF. We learned about what actions are taken against poaching and we also visited a remarkable village which exploits landfill gas. Spending the night in a jungle in Tiger Tops and waking up and hearing the sounds of wild animals was unforgettable. After waking up and looking through the window, the first thing I saw was a rhino passing by, which was followed by an elephant. Dawa Steven Sherpa also attended this trip. He, as well as myself and Apa Sherpa, who holds the record for summiting Mount Everest more times than any other person, are the ambassadors of Climate4Life campaign: www.climate4life.org. It is an honour to be part of this campaign together with world famous mountaineers and sherpas, the people of Himalayas. I want to thank WWF Finland and WWF Nepal for this wonderful excursion.

Giving interviews for the Finnish radio, which was supposed to take place during the excursion, turned out to be quite challenging. As we were in a jungle, there were some difficulties with the cell phone and satellite reception. Finally, the interviewers got hold of us with a regular landline telephone and you can listen to the interviews by clicking the Media link. The videos from the excursion will be posted on the website in the near future. Photos can be found both from the diary entries and from the gallery.

The drive back to Kathmandu on a mountain road at night was quite an adventure. A car left in the middle of the road blocked the way for hundreds of trucks for hours. All we could do was to sit still in our minibus and hope to get going sooner or later. When the traffic congestion opened up, the trucks started racing the narrow road and at times there were three trucks driving side by side. This resulted in an accident claiming three victims. Suddenly we got pulled over by a gang of 20 men, who insisted on getting a ride on the roof. It was scary but the only “bruise” I had, when arriving in Kathmandu early in the morning, was the fatigue after travelling seven and a half hours.

All the members of our expedition are now in Kathmandu. Today we met legendary Elisabeth Hawley, a former reporter and Everest specialist, who chronicles all Everest expeditions. This 87-year-old lovely lady cast her mind back to Veikka Gustaffson as I told her about my intentions of becoming the first Finnish woman on Mount Everest. Hawley interviews each mountaineer to find out whether they reached the summit.

In addition to our guides and sherpas, the expedition consists of 16 people from around the world. We have very different backgrounds and some are more experienced in climbing than others. One of us is a professional mountaineer, who has earned the title of Snow Leopard, but some of us have never trekked further than to base camp. Among others, there are two doctors, a U.S. Army pilot, two fire fighters, a banker and the first Omani who is trying to summit Mount Everest. The first impression is that our expedition is a combination of very different personalities, who, at least for now, are getting along just fine. It will be interesting to see how we will function, both as a group and as individuals, when we are living together in the base camp for two months.

Some have been preparing for the expedition for years, while others have not been training as much. However, we are all equally excited to climb the highest mountain in the world. Although we all have the same goal of reaching the summit, to me the journey there has as important role as the goal itself. Already when we were having our first dinner together, the conversation quickly turned to climbing and especially to the challenges we will be facing during the summit attempt. However, there is a long way to go and many challenges to beat before that.

The most challenging part in trekking to the base camp (5400m) next week will be adapting to the thin air and staying healthy despite the poor hygiene. Some will be reacting to the high altitude within only a few days and they might have to stop and adapt before trekking any further. Many will suffer from an upset stomach or difficulty of breathing and some may even have to give up before reaching the base camp. The body needs time to adapt to the lower level of oxygen and for that reason it is very important to listen to your body and ascend slowly. It is more than likely that all of us, who are not adapted to the altitude, will suffer at least from headache and nausea.

Most of our gear is already on its way to the base camp waiting for our arrival on around April 8th. Mandatory climbing licenses have been taken care of and we are almost ready to go. I still need to get a few books to keep me entertained at night and some goodies to rouse loss of appetite caused by the altitude. Today I have one more chance to take my mind of climbing as I will go to visit the children of an orphanage supported by Mano a mano.