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Dhaulagiri Expedition 2002

Hey EverestNews.com,

A few days ago we left Kathmandu to Pokhara.  We stayed in the nicest hotel I have ever seen.  It was absolutely incredible; an amalgamation of Japanese, Western, Thai, and Nepal styles.  We hung out there for a few days, living the luxury lifestyle: hanging out, drinking a few cold ones, shopping, and oh yeah, napping. 

We then went to Jomsom and started getting into the meat of the trek, and boy was it different than Pokhara.  We stayed in a little teahouse that only had electricity when the generator decided to work, and the coldest "hot water" I have felt in a while.  In the middle of this other world there had been erected an incredible resort called "The Jomsom Resort."  A few of us checked it out, and not one single person was registered there.  The economy is suffering severely from the media's reports of the Maoists.  Those reports are so incredibly exaggerated. I feel safer here than hanging out in downtown San Francisco. 

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The following morning we headed to Kagbeni.  This was a sweet hike through a river bead that lasted a few hours.  Kagbeni was a completely different world.  I couldn't believe the conditions these people live in, and all the nicest people I have ever met.  The shop owners were extremely happy to see us just due to the lack of tourists.  Gary and I walked through what seemed to be an ancient ruins, and that is where the people lived.

Today was the day that we got some altitude and I was feeling strong and ready.  Boy did I bonk at about 11,000 feet.  We walked up to Mukinath, which is a Holy place for the Nepal people.  Right after I bonked we ate this amazing meal cooked for us by the Sherpas.  Food coma.  We hung out there for over an hour; eating, hydrating, lying about women, and what seems to be the most popular topic of conversation: digestive tract issues.

After the meal I slowly, very slowly, moved up the trail.  I was breathing hard and put on too many layers and ended up stripping on the trail to cool off.  Finally I schlepped my big butt up to Mukinath.  Once there I drank some water I started to feel good, but we are hanging at 12,000 so I have a bit of a headache.  Wondering around a bit I finally saw the behemoth that my expedition is going to try and climb.  That is a big damned mountain.  The group is re-energized after checking out Dhaulagiri.  Everyone is sitting down, drinking tea and eating cookies; I gotta run. Dan

April 2, 2002

            Today we walk to Marpha, a little later than we had expected but all in the group are excited about changing venues and new teahouses. Marpha is only an hour walk from Jomsom, however, for those suffering from the vile bug that has been infesting everybody's gut, I anticipate a little struggle for some of the group.  Walking from village to village and staying in teahouses is standard fare in Nepal, a trait I am beginning to enjoy after having already spent 74 nights in a tent this year.

Our travels are always on foot and usually only a few miles in between villages.  Each village has a unique and old world flavor somewhat like what you might expect to find if you were to travel back in time to the days of Alexander the Great.  Our group has made many discoveries and purchases of artifacts, antiques, and architecture that are dated as far back as the Fourteenth century.  Here in Nepal where we are surrounded by poverty stricken children, farmers, and artisans of every type each of us has to constantly remind ourselves that it is the twenty-first century amongst the chickens, cows, and horses that run the streets.  It is a different era in Nepal, one far removed from the big business and instant gratification of our American desires and needs...except for the Yak Dance Pub.

Ben Clark

April 3, 2002

            What a gorgeous day.  This morning we pulled our groggy souls out of slumber just to avoid having to listen to the nocturnal Nepalese dogs that bark through the night and were rewarded with the sight of high winds buffeting the very ridge we would be traversing this afternoon.  Sweet!  Not the greatest beginning, but as a climber you learn to anticipate the unknown and then just go with it.

            The group had a fantastic day as our bad weather burned off and the sunshine came out to reveal hundreds of Himalayan Gems as we ascended 3,500' to our next camp, JaKarta, on an acclimatization hike.  The afternoon brought forth a long descent back down into Marpha and we were greeted by the sounds of a Nepalese Archery festival.  These people really know how to have a good time!

            With tomorrows move to JaKarta on everyone’s mind we prepare for an early wake up and a long hard day.

Ben Clark

April 4, 2002

Today signified the true beginning of our climb.  We have finally left the lowlands and teahouses for the tent city we have now erected in JaKarta at 12,500'.  After a long steep ascent we are all excited to finally be at least one step closer to the mountain, even if our step just happened to be a 3,500' uphill slog.

    The amazing part of today had less to do with the landscape and more to do with the culture.  Leaving the village of Marpha was an exciting and emotional experience.  At the teahouse we exited the safety of our gate with the blessing of the owners wife and a Kata, a scarf meaning respect and good luck.  Along the way we stopped at the temple in Marpha for a Puja, a religious ceremony that offered blessings and continued prayers throughout our journey.  Our entire team of climbers came away fighting tears of respect to Buddhist culture and the memory of our individual blessings from the monk in the temple and the friendships we have already forged with the Sherpas accompanying our climb tucked away into our hearts and minds forever.  We are finally on our way!

Ben Clark

Dispatches