Paul Pottinger’s Adventures from the Top of the World

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Closing a Circle

Everest 2016  •  April 2

Spectacular scenery and clear skies at the time of our departure from Tengboche this morning.  Chilly air soon became warm, and we made good progress.  In fact, I had to strip off my merino long underwear, to the delight of everyone.  I still think there is a market for quick-release long johns… why does no one agree…?

Tengboche is chilly in the shadow of Ama Dablam.
Tengboche is chilly in the shadow of Ama Dablam.
Once sunshine hits, the plateau is warm and inviting.
Once sunshine hits, the plateau is warm and inviting.
Yiorgos and Susan.
Yiorgos and Susan.
Jerry geared up for the walk.
Jerry geared up for the walk.
Rafa and Tania.
Rafa and Tania.
Bob and Nicky.
Bob and Nicky.
Roger is raring to go.
Roger is raring to go.
Kim, Eddie, and Siva champing at the bit.
Kim, Eddie, and Siva champing at the bit.
Bidding adieu to our tea house.
Bidding adieu to our tea house.
We move like a herd across the plains.
We move like a herd across the plains.
Down into the rhododendrons.
Down into the rhododendrons.
Indoor cook smoke is a huge concern here... the buildings sometimes leak smoke through cracks in the roof, without a meaningful chimney.
Indoor cook smoke is a huge concern here… the buildings sometimes leak smoke through cracks in the roof, without a meaningful chimney.
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The collapsed bridge… still here.
Teresa captures my monkey-business shenanigans on the collapsed bridge. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
Teresa captures my monkey-business shenanigans on the collapsed bridge. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
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Our crossing of the river, below Ama.
Looking back at Tengboche in the distance as we approach Pangboche.
Looking back at Tengboche in the distance as we approach Pangboche.

The trail descends gently from the monastery ridge through rhododendron forests to the Imja Khola river.  From there, it climbs gradually up to the village of Pangboche.

A mani stone along the trail to Pangboche.
A mani stone along the trail to Pangboche.
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Entering the green and spiritual oasis of Pangboche.
Thamsierku rules this section of the valley. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Thamsierku rules this section of the valley. (Photo: Justin Merle)

As you may recall from last year, Pangboche is home to Lama Geshi. He is an internationally renowned Lama, a keeper of Buddhist knowledge of the highest order.  Climbers always visit him to seek his blessing before proceeding higher on the mountain.  Last year we enjoyed meeting him and experiencing his chanting and prayers on our behalf.  I have kept the sungdi prayer cord he tied around my neck that day, and am wearing it now.

A mani wall on the trail below Ama. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
A mani wall on the trail below Ama. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
My garb is intended to protect me from the sun... but another benefit is that it hides my sadness as we approach Pangboche, while I think of my friend Gene Peterson.
My garb is intended to protect me from the sun… but another benefit is that it hides my sadness as we approach Pangboche, while I think of my friend Gene Peterson.

A year has passed.  And, so has my friend Gene Peterson.  Gene was my mentor, colleague, role model, and friend.  I was terribly saddened when he died of cancer.  He was incredibly supportive of me.  Medical doctor… PhD… MBA… Anesthesiologist… Director of our quality improvement department… world traveler… family man.  I can never thank him enough for his kindness and endless good cheer.  One small gesture would be to seek the Lama’s blessing, and to carry his portrait to the summit.

Pangboche, home of Lama Geshi. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
Pangboche, home of Lama Geshi. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
Lama Geshi, a wise and kind man. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
Lama Geshi, a wise and kind man. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
No one is more excited to see the lama than Kim.
No one is more excited to see the lama than Kim.
Lama Geshi's smile is infectious. (Photo: Kim Hess)
Lama Geshi’s smile is infectious. (Photo: Kim Hess)
I receive a cord from Lama Geshi... it is tied next to the one he gave me last year. (Photo: Justin Merle)
I receive a cord from Lama Geshi… it is tied next to the one he gave me last year. (Photo: Justin Merle)

When I handed the photo of Gene and his family to Lama Geshi, he studied it carefully.  I explained, with the assistance of Lopsang as interpreter, that Gene had been a very good man, a healer, and an admirer of Buddhism.  He chanted rhythmically, solemnly, and sprinkled it with holy water, and explained that he would return as a good man in a future life.  I am not a spiritual or religious person, but I could not stop crying.  Wearing my sun gear helped to somehow shield me from my grief, and to contemplate the transition from sadness to peace.  I think this closure will not fully happen until I make the summit.

The photo of my friend Gene and his family that Lama Geshi blessed today. I will carry it to the summit.
The photo of my friend Gene and his family that Lama Geshi blessed today. I will carry it to the summit.
Lama Geshi inspects the photo of Gene and nods in approval.
Lama Geshi inspects the photo of Gene and nods in approval.
Lama Geshi exhorts us to carry this card to the summit, to speed our safe passage from the mountain goddess.
Lama Geshi exhorts us to carry this card to the summit, to speed our safe passage from the mountain goddess.
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Pangboche from above.
Potatoes drying in the sun. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Potatoes drying in the sun. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Shomare in the distance, our lunch break place for the day.
Shomare in the distance, our lunch break place for the day.
The trail leading towards Pheriche.
Looking back at the trail leading towards Pheriche.
Onwards!
Onwards!
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Nicky and Bob rock.
Which is more awesome: Ama or Emily? Emily.
Which is more awesome: Ama or Emily? Emily.
Soaking up the rays at a break. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Soaking up the rays at a break. (Photo: Justin Merle)

The trail from Pangboche leads to the village of Shomare, where we stopped for lunch.  The weather changed from blazing sun to fog and light wind, which was perfect for keeping us cool as we hiked above treeline into rolling meadows. 

Justin is infatuated with my appearance on the trail. I think this impersonation is pretty good!
Justin is infatuated with my appearance on the trail. I think this impersonation is pretty good!
Kim Hess shoots my better side.
Kim Hess shoots my better side.
My closeup... (Photo: Kim Hess)
My closeup… (Photo: Kim Hess)
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Rafa having a ball.

The trail went higher and higher, eventually culminating in a sort of pass circa 14,500 feet.  From there, an easy descent to Pheriche.

We are now well above treeline.
We are now well above treeline.
Ama Dablam's visage changes as we march past her.
Ama Dablam’s visage changes as we march past her.
Yak on the move. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
Yak on the move. (Photo: Teresa Hagerty)
A stupa with Everest in the background.
A stupa with Everest in the background.
Down from the "pass," our day's high point, towards Pheriche. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Down from the “pass,” our day’s high point, towards Pheriche. (Photo: Justin Merle)
Pheriche emerges from the mist.
Pheriche emerges from the mist.
Bob says we need to go that way.
Bob says we need to go that way.
Lopsang, Mingma Tanzing, and Nima. Awesome.
Lopsang, Mingma Tenzing, and Nima. Awesome.
Porters pull into Pheriche with our kit. Yes!
Porters pull into Pheriche with our kit. Yes!

We were pleased to stay in the same tea house as last year… It had been heavily damaged in the quake, but was refurbished and is now in fine form.  In fact, I am staying in the same room that Blake and I shared last year.  The common room is warm, the beer is tepid, and the chilly chicken is spicy.  It feels good to be back.

Word of the day: Ethos

10 thoughts on “Closing a Circle

  1. I am so touched by your moving story about Gene. What a loss for his family and friends. It’s a wonderful tribute to carry his photo with you to the summit. Godspeed. Xox

  2. I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend Paul. It’s amazing that you can carry his photo with you to the top. We are thinking about you achieving your goal every day. In the meantime, keep marveling at the incredible beauty all around you! Love you.

  3. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. What an amazing part of the world filled with beautiful people and scenery. The McLoughlin’s are following all of you, especially Roger ( Hi Dad!) from Baltimore, Maryland and are cheering everyone on! Enjoy and be safe! XO

  4. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful photos and observations, Paul! It brings back memories of grand vistas and rancid yak butter infused breakfasts. Enjoy your adventure.

  5. Thank you for sharing such wonderful photos and your story. It has been great to follow all of you, especially my husband Roger! But, please, don’t let him eat the rancid yak butter mentioned in the above reply!! Stay warm and continue to have a fantastic journey. I would love to meet you all sometime. Jill Pomainville xo

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