Hiking the Langtang trail in Nepal

I laced my boots in my hotel room in Kathmandu, and stood up. My feet felt indestructible. They were rentals from a trekking shop in Thamel, bulky leather constructions that looked antique. This district was popular with trekkers, a labyrinthine beehive of muddy, splashing potholed streets, sleeping cows, Hindu shrines and vegetable carts. As cars, sport bikes and bicycles wriggled past each other, displays of coloured jackets and backpacks faced off against traditional woollen beanies, pashmina scarves, and leather bags. It was 7am, and time to leave. I brought my huge black backpack, only half filled and strapped down absurdly so that it was almost folded in two. It was heavy, but manageable.

Kathmandu

The official start of the Langtang trek was the small Himalayan town of Syabrubesi, nine hours from Kathmandu by local bus, overcrowded, smelly and with plenty of roof-riding passengers. Twice we disembarked from the bus and hiked for near an hour to the next bus, in places where catastrophic landslide events had destroyed the road. Boulders from football sized to the size of houses littered the slope. I was with Nava, my guide, a young Nepali man who knew the mountain well, my companion for 8 days.dav

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Nepal

Matt squinted as he shielded his eyes from the snow, ice pick in hand. He had lifted his goggles to survey the climb ahead, but the world was a blur of white. Mount Everest seemed to climb ahead endlessly. The swirling blizzard had suffocated the air with snow and shards of ice, reducing visibility to just a few steps ahead. A thick crust of silvery icicles clung to his beard and moustache, and his lime-green hiking jacket was frosted with white. He heard a desperate shout from a hundred steps behind him, the words warped by the storm. “It’s no use!”, his summit team pleaded, “The storm is too great, Derrick is lost!” Matt turned to look at the team, their jackets of orange and blue blurred in the distance, their features obscured by the freezing maelstrom of ice and snow. “I’ll find him or I’ll go to Hell trying!”, Matt spat back with stubborn determination, replaced his goggles, and took a step toward the summit.

Derrick’s camp appeared over the next crest, a collapsing and battered tent on a snowy plateau, being lashed by icy tongues of wind. A soft glow emanated from within, illuminating the tent a faint red through the snowstorm. A hope; Derrick had been reported missing many months ago. Many had called Matt a fool when he first vowed to track him down to the ends of the earth. Matt lifted the tent flap cautiously, allowing wind and snow to howl through the canvas. Derrick sat, cross-legged, watching his compass needle jump wildly by torchlight. His hair and beard had grown long, and his thick mountaineering coat was faded and torn. Without lifting his head, Derrick spoke, unsmiling. “What took you so long?”, he challenged. His gaze lifted from the hypnotizing torch beam, meeting Matt’s eyes for a tense few seconds. A wry smile broke across Derrick’s face, ending the tension, and he held out a hand, meeting Matt’s with a fierce handshake. Their gloves collided with a puff of snow. “Derrick, you son of a bitch, you’re alive!”

My time in South East Asia is almost finished, and i’ve had an amazing time! I’m flying to Nepal in a few days!