The Dogs of Kathmandu

I think it was the same dog I heard the last time I was in Kathmandu. His bark was strong, store clear, distinctive and continuous. And amazingly enough he was outside my window just like the last 7 times I was here! OK, maybe it was not the same dog but I am positive it was the same one who answered him and the same one who starting to howl at 3:00AM!

As the sun rose, my friends continued to act like roosters plus an accompanying chorus from a few thousand birds and some overly zealous drivers who felt the need to let the world know they were turning the corner with an endless series of short horn honks. As the saying goes, the car horn is the national bird of Nepal!

Breakfast at the Hotel Tibet was excellent. An omelet, some sausage and instant coffee did the trick. We are about 10 minutes outside of Thamel, the tourist section of Kathmandu, so it is bit quieter (however same dogs!), a tad newer and the showers are hot. The biggest difference from my last visit is the availability of wireless Internet however there are still rolling blackouts with no power up to 18 hours a day.

The walk to the stores, shops and restaurants are an exercise in focus. One crosses the streets only at intersections, jaywalking is punishable by getting run over. The scooter is the dominate method of travel, closely followed by the tuk-tuk (a three wheel vehicle type thing) that easily exceed their capacity by a factor of 10. Then you have the random car, van and sometimes the white Land Rover which is usually a diplomat feeling superior as they also honk their horn to let the world know they are very important. Needless to say the only reaction is a long honk back and so it goes.

Word has it the flights to Lukla are running again as the weather has improved. More of our team arrived today and we have a group dinner tonight. Sometimes I feel like I am in the first 10 minutes of a Love Boat episode with all the meeting and greeting. We are just missing the cruse director!

My roommate is Larry and together we ran though our gear with IMG Guide Justin. We pulled everything out of the carefully packed duffles to check and double check we had the right gear for both the trek in and the climb itself. After all the nearest REI is a bit far away from base camp.

Kathmandu under construction
Kathmandu under construction

I am using the same gear I have used for years and most recently on Vinson and Aconcagua so I am good to go. But I did forget a towel and soap so a trip to the local market was on my agenda.

As I walked the busy streets of Kathmandu, I am struck by how little has changed since my first vista in the mid 1990’s. Buildings are still built using bamboo scaffolding tied together with twine. Gravel is created by chiseling rocks. Those rocks are moved in woven cane baskets on the back of mostly men. Beggars line the tourists areas in astounding states of impairment. The roads have huge potholes when there is pavement. The air has a reddish tint as the sun tries to poke through the pollution, haze and dust.

Kathmandu Construction
Kathmandu Construction

And kids still ride bikes like kids do. Mothers carry their babies on their backs. Every form of commerce seems to take place in a roadside store that is the width of a sofa. If you ask for directions, it is readily available with a smile. Even the traffic will pause for the unsuspecting foreigner that looks right for traffic that is coming from his left.

Nepal continues to be a country in various forms of transitions or chaos. The political environment is ever-changing with factions on all sides debating leadership. The rural areas are slowly migrating to the larger cities in search of jobs, and sometimes safety. The Kathmandu area is now about 1.5 million people.

Thus as I fly to the northern part of the county and into the Khumbu area around Everest, I feel like I am in a totally different world. The people are more relaxed, the traffic along the dirt trails consist of yaks and kids late for school. The air is clean and the sun shines brightly. Life seems simpler. But they also have their issues.

The climbing and trekking community brings much needed commerce to these areas. Yes, there are the issues that come with more people visiting a fragile ecosystem but the ability for these people to benefit from the commerce bringing a better life to their children seems to outweigh the issues.

On my first visit, we bought bottled water and saw wood used for heating water. Both contributed to pollution and deforestation. Today, we use boiled or iodine ed water and food is cooked using kerosene or dung fires. Smoke is ventilated outside the teahouses versus the old systems that lead to health issues with smoke inside the homes.

Thanks to foundations like the Hillary foundation, schools have been built throughout the Khumbu and most children receive at least a 6th grade education. Many go on to higher education in Kathmandu.

Yet health care struggles. A couple of years ago, I received an email from a young man in Nepal telling me his mother had Alzheimer’s but there was no help available in Nepal. To state the obvious, Alzheimer’s know no borders, politics or economic status. And the world struggles to meet the human need for a cure.

Moving on; as I made the rounds today, I saw a few noteworthy people in the guiding community, Eric Simonson, co-owner of International Mountain Guides was chatting with Russell Brice, owner of Himalayan Experience (Himex) in our hotel lobby. I asked them about moving their base camps out of the “main town” at the foot of the Icefall. More on that later.

And I had lunch with Phil Crampton and his wife, Trish. Phil owns Altitude Junkies, a small and unique operator based here in Kathmandu.

It seems that the overall climbing numbers are down a bit this year, my guess (not theirs) is maybe as much as 25% from last year. So we can expect to see well under the 537 summits seen in 2009.

Our current plan is to fly to Lukla to begin our trek to base camp on Thursday, March 31st. I hope that dog is not on the plane!

Climb On!


Memories are Everything

Share this post:

20 thoughts on “The Dogs of Kathmandu

  1. Alan – best of luck on your trek to BC. Hopefully all those training climbs of Longs will do the trick. I know you talked to Eric and Russell are they doing another season of Beyond the Limit this year?

    My wife and I watched season and my 5-year-old has asked to watch every morning this week before school. I am looking forward to showing him your pictures as you upload them.

    Best of luck this week.

  2. So far ,so good with DSL! Alan,is that monastery in Kathmandu or Namche Bazaar? Good luck man! Im pulling for you!

  3. hello ALan , as if i was there yesterday (2008) ur dispatches bring back vivid memories of my trip , and to whoever is reading your blogs , you are discribing busy kathmandu exactly as it is – interesting and an eye opener. Good luck with the lukla flight and ill be reading your dispatches daily. Regards to Surin at hotel Tibet.

    enjoy the ride – nick (aus)

  4. Alan – Thanks again for answering my email. I’m watching your posts daily and looking forward to a successful summit story. I have forwarded your blog to my group from Everest Base Camp trek. Get to Lukla safely!! I was in final approach back in 2008 when the plane ahead of us crashed at the end of the runway. We were suppose to be on that flight and got pushed off by the German group. Shook us all up pretty good.

    Anyway best of luck to you and your group!!

  5. Hi Alan… Your descriptions take me back there….remembering everything… and yes.. those famous KTM dogs @ 3AM too.
    Patti sent me her book… Got my purple wrist band… Following you… So Im set… Only thing missing is my mom.
    Hoping you’ll have chances for butter lamps along the way.
    Climb On !

  6. Alan, I discovered your blog last year. Reading your posts brings a smile to my soul. Thank you for taking us on your journey.

  7. I, too, am so enjoying “being there” with you on your journey. Love the dispatches…love the stories…love the stand you are taking in the fight against (and a cure for) Alzheimer’s. We’re all with you in our hearts, thoughts and prayers, amigo. Climb on!

  8. It’s hard for me to believe Kathmandu has a population of over 5 million! I think of Nepal as a very small country with a very small populace. I may know my geography, but certainly not my demographics! Thanks for the eduction. Question: You said this is your 7th climb of Everest (or at least that was implied): Have you made the summit at all? Good luck on this climb, and with safety!

  9. I so much enjoy reading your posts! Your descriptive writing, brings me right along on your journey. I’ve always had an interest in Everest and am an in-home caregiver for 2 Alzheimers s. In doing research on both, I found you! Thank you for all you are doing! I look forward to following you on this journey and those to come!

    You are an inspiration!

  10. Not sure Mauri but the prices have increased by several thousand dollars and of course, the world economy must have impacted some. The commercial teams seem to be slightly down but it feels like there are fewer independent teams this year. I will have a better feeling once I get to BC and count tents 🙂

    Jenn – I DO have earplugs, these dogs are talkers!!

  11. Alan, what do you suppose is the reason for the lower than usual turnout this year for Everest climbers? Thank you

  12. Thanks Alan!! Love the images of Kathmandu, can almost see it myself…..I think that dog’s cousin lives next door to me.

    Maybe need to add “ear plugs” to your gear list? 😀

    Enjoy the ride!!

Comments are closed.