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‘SHERPAS & SNOWMEN':


A RETURN TO EVEREST, NOVEMBER 2003


'We know now that the hills are beautiful and not to be feared'.














In late autumn 2003 I was able to make a further return visit to Nepal. This was a solo trip to the Everest (or 'Khumbu') region. The aims of the journey, apart from reaching (perhaps) Everest Base Camp, were to visit some of the Sherpa villages of this area and to try and gain some idea of how change has affected the area. There were also remote valleys to trek and viewpoints to find. The main part of the trek would end at the monastery of Thyangboche for the Buddhist festival of 'Mani Rimdu' - a major event of dance and festivities spread over three days. There would be a chance to visit old Sherpa friends, in particular Nawang Nuru Sherpa and his sister Dawa Yangjee, with whom I had trekked in 1985 & 1992. The Khumbu is the traditional home of the Yeti or 'Abominable Snowman', and whilst there is little chance of meeting this elusive creature there was no harm in looking.


Our visit to Nepal starts, as always, in Kathmandu, before we fly to Lukla, the airstrip for Everest. We then trek up the valley of the Dudh Kosi, before climbing to the Sherpa 'capital' Namche Bazaar. From here we make an all too brief visit to the village of Thame, before visiting Nawang in his home village of Khumjung, where the saddest of news awaits us, and then continue upstream to Gokyo and the high valley beyond where, after the easiest of climbs, we get a stupendous view of Everest. On the way we visit the lovely Machermo glen - this is traditional 'snowman' country. Moving nearer to Everest we visit the Sherpa villages of Phortse, Pangboche and Dingboche, often following minor tracks on the hillside, and are rewarded for our labours with magnificent views of the mountains. We move down into warmer country at Thyangboche and enjoy 'Mani Rimdu', before dropping back to the foothills and our flight back to Kathmandu. During our trek we will have seen villages almost unchanged by the arrival of tourism, whilst others have changed beyond recognition.


Nepal stands at a cross-roads with 'Maoist' terrorists causing havoc in many of the remoter parts of the country and a political 'establishment' that seems unable to see the problems that the country and people face. As I write this in April 2004 the situation is very confused and I wonder if the 2003 visit will be the last one …