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…?
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.
As you may recall from last year, Pangboche is home to Lama Geshe. 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 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.
When I handed the photo of Gene and his family to Lama Geshe, 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 afterwards 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 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.
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 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