Going to Kathmandu

by Bob Sparrow

“If I ever get out of here, I think I’m going to Katmandu”                                                                                                

                        Katmandu, Bob Seger

Kathmandu

Kathmandu

If Saturday’s Air Canada Flight 55 out of Los Angels to Vancouver was on time, I will indeed be ‘out of here’ and in Kathmandu by the time you’re reading this. No, LA to Vancouver didn’t seem like the most direct way to me either, but it actually was the first leg of the shortest (time-wise) that I could find . . . and afford – 26 hrs 33 mins (My back hurt just writing that). From Vancouver to Guangzhou, China (which is about 95 miles northwest of Hong Kong) and from there into Kathmandu, Nepal. Why Kathmandu, you ask? It was a 70th birthday gift from my wife. No, it was not a one-way ticket! Like most things she buys, she got a ‘deal’ on Groupon – a 12-day trip for two to Nepal, which included a 5-day trek into the Himalayas. Not being a hiker herself, she is not part of the ‘for two’. So I’m with my hiking buddy, who I’ve done lots of hikes with, including Mt. Whitney and Half Dome, Patrick “Trail Boss” Michael. He’s a good friend & neighbor, a good hiker with a quick smile and an engineer by trade, so we have checklists for our checklists. We had both been looking forward to this trip for several months, when after we told a 70+ lady our itinerary, she said that she and several of her friends did that same trip last year. We thought, ‘This may not be quite the adventure we were looking for’, so I contacted our travel agent and asked if there was a little more challenging trek we could take. She answered in spades. We’re now spending 8 days trekking in the Himalayas, with a Sherpa guide and a porter (we’re not sure if that’s a person or an oxen) and reaching altitudes of just under 14,000 feet.Pokhara We should have arrived in Kathmandu around 10:30 Sunday night and be flying out of Kathmandu early Monday morning (because we needed some more flight time!) into the city of Pokhara (photo at right) where our trekking will begin that afternoon. Over the next several days we will be working our way up to Annapurna Base Camp at an elevation of 13,500 feet. Annapurna, at 26,545 feet is the 10th highest mountain in the world, but ranks #1 as the most dangerous to climb – it has a summit-to-fatality ratio of 38% (By contrast, Mt. Everest has a 9% ratio). That’s only one of the reasons we’re only going to Base Camp, no fatalities there unless it’s from the dal-bhat-tarkari soup. We’ll also be visiting the beautiful Chitwan National Park, doing some river rafting, taking an elephant ride safari, where we hope to see the elusive Bengal Tiger as well as traveling by ox cart through an elephant breeding camp to our hotel. I’ll be used to the oxen’s pace having driven in LA commute traffic.

Tiger

Bengal Tiger

Nepal is 12 hours and 45 minutes ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (Yes, 45 minutes, just another oddity of this part of the world), so I’ll try to sum up my activities at the end of my day and post so you’ll get it that morning. I’ve read that wifi can be very dodgy over there, so if you don’t hear from me I probably just can’t connect . . . or had a very boring day. We’re crossing our fingers that the monsoons don’t come earlier than expected . . . oops, wait a minute, I just checked the 10 day forecast for Nepal: Rain and thunderstorms everyday for the first week.

It’ll be an adventure!

LOOKING BACK FOR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

by Bob Sparrow

Happy new year 2013 Thank you to my sister, Suzanne for introducing me to the idea of the ‘upside down bucket list’, for it was that concept that has inspired me to look at New Year’s resolutions differently.  Like many, I typically resolve to be a better spouse, parent, friend . . . person and include the requisite increase in exercise and consumption of much healthier food resulting in a painfully slow, if ever, decrease in weight.  Like many, I also have a bucket list of places I want to visit and things I want to do and resolutions always include checking off a few of those items during the ensuing year.  While resolutions and bucket lists look great in late December, reality seems to find its way into the new year and render many, if not most, of our resolutions unattainable.

 So this year, rather than ‘dream’ about the places I’d like to go in 2013, I thought I’d do the ‘upside down thing’ and look back at 2012 and review what I’d done and where I’d actually been.  Then, rather than be disappointed at not doing or getting to the places I resolved to get to, I’d be able to just ‘grade’ myself based on what I’d done and where I’d gone and hopefully put a few checks on that big bucket list.

Twenty-twelve will not be marked in my memory by the many places I visited or the life I led, but rather by the life I lost – the passing inscan0041 February of my best friend, Don Klapperich.  For more than 50 years he was a best friend, a mentor, a singing partner, a moral compass, a confidant, the little voice in my head and so much more.  He was a most talented, intelligent, entertaining and complex man.  He knew me better than anyone and I knew him as much as anyone could.  I miss him dearly.  I regret not spending more time with him, not talking to him more on the phone, not emailing as often as I could have, not going to visit more often.  I suppose it’s natural to now have a better understanding of the tenuousness of life; to better appreciate each day we’re given and to not take those around us for granted.  I don’t know if it’s a resolution, but I will try harder to remember these things – they have become more important to me.

Those who have followed our blog know that I’ve had the privilege of going to some wonderful places this year.  In January I was in Hawaii, on the Big Island to watch the PGA Senior’s golf tournament at Hualalai and then on to Maui to play golf and just watch some sunsets at Wailea.  I had a much too up-close and personal look at ‘senior living’ at my mom’s facility in Sonoma and while I was in the area I hiked through historical Jack London State Park in the rolling hills of Glen Ellen.  I traveled across country on business to Sunriver, Oregon, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Holyoke, Massachusetts and I HAD to return to the island of Kauai to attend a conference.  I lived on a boat in the harbor in Cabo San Lucas for three days while not photo (77)catching a single fish, but I did get to hang upside down at the Giggling Marlin.  I spent a week in our timeshare in Palm Desert for the 18th year in a row and hope I can play another 18.  I revisited the differences between northern and photo (74)southern California as I returned to the palm and pine trees on Highway 99 out of Fresno, and I spent several days not quite 26 miles across the sea on Catalina Island.  I thought I saw John Lennon at the Laguna Sawdust Festival, twice!  I stood at the lowest point on the North American continent in surprisingly stunning Death Valley, and I stood on top of Half Dome in not-so-surprisingly stunning Yosemite National Park.  And I had my annual martini with my Dad in his final resting place at Lake Tahoe.

That’s an upside down list that I may have a hard time topping in 2013.  I feel so very privileged to be afforded the opportunities to experience all that I have in 2012 and I know I was privileged to have such a great best friend for over 50 years.  It was a memorable year in so many ways. I recommend looking back at your year and the only resolution I would make is that in a year from now you’re going to look back at 2013 – make it memorable.

I know I speak for my dear friend and wonderfully talented sister, which she doesn’t often let me do because she can speak so well for herself, in thanking all of you who read our blog and especially those who send us back comments to let us know our words don’t all end up in cyber space.  May you all have an extraordinary 2013.

 

And now a word from our sponsor

Most of you know I’m now working for Zipz Gear, a unique shoe company, but may not know that I am now writing a ‘shoe blog’ called ‘From the Lipz of Zipz’.  You can find the blog by going to our website at www.zipzgear.com.  Feel free to check out the shoes while you’re there.

 

The Ascent of Half Dome – Not Your Average Walk in a National Park

The literature on the Half Dome hike reads as follows:

Difficulty:  Extreme. It’s long, steep at the beginning and end, and more dangerous than most Yosemite hikes. It’s probably the most difficult of all Yosemite day hikes. On the traditional 1 to 10 scale, this one rates an 11.

Insanity Factor: 9 out of 10.  Wait ’til you get to the cables, and you’ll see.

     I lie motionless in my sleeping bag in the still night air listening to the climbers miles away on El Capitan shouting back and forth to each other as they are suspended thousands of feet up on the face where they have clamped their ‘bat hammock’ into the granite face for the night.  My alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m., but I’m already awake.    Although we all went to bed very early, none of us slept very well – we knew we had a big day ahead of us.

      We were on the trailhead at 4:00 a.m.; we gazed in awe at the black sky filled with billions of stars – it is an awesome sight, one we don’t get to see back home.  With miner-like hiking lights attached to our hats, we begin out journey.

      It’s a little over a mile’s hike from where we parked to the trailhead, from there it’s 6.2 miles to the top of Half Dome, our destination.  I attempted this same hike just last year, but because of the late and heavy winter, the infamous cables that must be used to climb the last several hundred feet to the summit, were down, so I could not get to the top.  The bucket list went unchecked, so I returned.

     Early in the hike we get to the extremely vertical granite ‘steps’ of Mist Trail along side Vernal Falls, one of the toughest part of the hike, compounded by the fact that our packs are heaviest with the 3-4 liters of water we are carrying, as there is no potable water along the way.  We reach the top of Vernal Falls and it’s still dark as we head towards the base of Nevada Falls, but after about 20 minutes, we realize we’ve lost the trail.  Scott has a GPS and gets us back on course.

     To me one of  the most beautiful parts of any hike is when you’ve hiked in the dark for several hours and then are able to experience the soft light of a sunrise filtering through the pines slowing bringing daylight to the mountains.  This soft morning light allows us to turn off our ‘head lights’ and enjoy the relatively flat part of the hike and then a gradual incline to the base of the ‘Subdome’.  The trail is relatively free of other hikers, in part because it’s after Labor Day and the tourists are gone, and in part because the recent hantavirus outbreak caused by rodents that infected eight visitors to the park this summer, killing three, has certainly discouraged some visitors.

     We’ve been on the trail for about five hours when we reach the base of the ‘subdome’; climbing the subdome is arguably the hardest part of the hike.  It is a series of very vertical granite switch back steps, the heat of the day is apparent as is the fact that you’re at around 8,000 feet and air is starting to get a little thin.  We take our time and finally reach the top of the subdome; from there it’s a short hike down to the saddle between the subdome and the bottom of the cables and your eyes are on the cables the whole way.  There are about 5-6 hikers spread out at various stages on the cables, which look much more vertical than I remembered.  Perhaps it’s because I know that this time I’m going to have to climb them.

     We don our gloves, which are necessary for gripping the cable and pulling yourself up, and begin the final phase of the climb.  Because of generally fewer people on the trail and our early start, there is no one coming down the cables while we were trying to go up.  They say the cables are at a 45 degree angle, it seems more like 90 degrees.  Under the two cables, which are about three feet high, are 2 x 4s on the granite about every ten feet, where you can stop and rest, which we do.  It’s an opportunity to turn and look down at where you’d end up if you slipped.  You don’t want to spend too much time dwelling on that, so you turn around, keep your head down and your hands on the cable.

     The top of Half Dome is spectacular; at 8,835 it’s not that high, it’s not even the highest point in Yosemite, but the view beats any I’ve seen from much higher summits.  The area on top is surprisingly large, I was told that there is room for 17 football fields up there.  Maybe, but I wouldn’t want to go out of bounds on any of them.  I did crawl on my hands and knees and then my stomach to the edge of the dome to looked over and immediately crawled back.  Patrick, Jeff, Greg and I spent about twenty minutes on top, ate a small lunch and then headed back down the cables – maybe scarier than going up; I tried going down forwards and backwards – it was scary both ways.

       Our return trip was high-lighted by seeing both Nevada and Vernal Falls in the light of day; the water levels were down, but still it’s amazing to just stand and look at these wonders of nature.  Eleven hours and 15 miles later we are exhausted and exhilarated . . . and home.

For those who haven’t seen the video I made of last year’s Half Dome hike, when the falls were spectacular, I’ve put the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=gVBqw7nVz1c