Rendezvous with Sāgarmāthā (Everest)


Just returned from a 19-day Kailash-Manasarovar Tirth Yatra (pilgrimage).

We flew to Kathmandu, Nepal, got pinned in the midst of a mob-military firefight at the Nepal-Tibet border, and dashed across the Tibetan plateau. Here land cruisers go off-road, over hills, down valleys, through swollen streams, and over crumbling embankments. Five days later when we reached Manasarovar – the highest fresh water lake at an altitude of 15,000 ft, I was blabbering sick. High fever, body aches, and the ubiquitous high altitude-associated symptoms: chest ripping cough, persistent headaches, nausea and blurry vision. Throw in an asthma attack for good measure. And we were only getting started.

Loaded on medications, I hiked the 54 km parikrama around Mount Kailash, over three days. We climbed up to an altitude of 19,200 ft, where every two steps forward would leave me gasping for precious oxygen. We slept in tents at over 17,000 ft, where taking off my shoes required a 5 min recovery; and rains and bone chilling winds our constant companions. The return trip was equally treacherous. Did I mention, we did not shower after leaving Kathmandu, till we returned back.

On returning to Mumbai I lay sick at home. After two days of aiee’s ministrations I barely made my flight back to Boston. When airport security confiscated my toothpaste, hand lotion, lip balm and perfume at the airport, I was unfazed and casually planned on spending another day without these luxuries. It feels good to be home, in my bed and my bathroom.

It was the most exhausting and physically trying adventure ever. I’d rather do a few more marathons – including training in sub-freezing weather. Thankfully, this is once in a lifetime yatra. But wait till you see mind-boggling vistas I captured. Frankly, I’d want to go again.

Rendezvous with Sāgarmāthā (Everest):
In Kathmandu, we stayed at the palatial Shankar Palace Hotel and did a bit of sightseeing. The first morning, we took a Buddha Air flight to see the Everest Mountain Range. Here are a few pics taken from the window of the Beechcraft jet flying at ~ 25,000 ft.

En route to Sāgarmāthā, we pass Gauri-Shankar (7,134 m; 23,405 ft) resembling the traditional seated Shiva Parvati form.
pics of Gauri Shankar Mount Everest by Arun Shanbhag

The southern view of Sāgarmāthā (Everest) on the right. The ridge-like “Nuptse” and “Lohtse” peaks seemingly spread a protective cloak in front of Sāgarmāthā.
pics of Sagarmatha Mount Everest by Arun Shanbhag

From the cockpit: As we reached Sāgarmāthā, the pilot banked sharply left and started the return trip. During this maneuver, we were only a few miles off Sāgarmāthā, the closest I’d get to the tallest peak on earth.

pics of Sagarmatha Mount Everest by Arun Shanbhag

Next on the Kailash Manasarovar Travelogue:
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

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