Year of Adventure with Sierra Designs
Apr 03, 2014
Christina Bruno was the lucky recipient of the Year of Adventure with Sierra Designs
(See what the contest entailed). She trekked through Nepal and summited four 5,000 plus meter peaks with our awesome partner, Alaska Mountain Guides. We are thankful Christina was able to connect with the outdoors and experienced such gratitude with the local people. She was kind enough to tell her story and send the incredible photographs for everyone to enjoy.
Sierra Designs Year of Adventure trip to Nepal was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Trekking and climbing in the Himalayas while submerging myself in the Nepalese culture was a dream come true. Being an avid climber and mountaineer, I could not wait to reach high altitudes and experience the history and enchantment of climbing in the Himalayas.
My brother had the chance of joining me for the first two weeks in Nepal before I went on the mountaineering course. We flew into Kathmandu and began visiting the many temples and museums throughout the Kathmandu valley. The streets of Kathmandu are narrow brick streets littered with small shops on either side with floods of people selling trinkets, preparing for climbs, and observing all the religious statues and artwork that are expressed everywhere.
We explored the Durbar Square in Kathmandu and embraced the mixture of Buddhist and Hindu shrines and temples. We visited the small cities of Bhaktapur, Patan, and the famous temples of Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath, and the Boudanath Stupa.
After exploring the Kathmandu Valley we took multiple buses, stopping to raft giant waves along the way to the jungles of Chitwan National Park. Chitwan has a successful elephant-breeding program and many exciting activities such as canoeing through the jungle in traditional dugout canoes with Gharial crocodiles lurking nearby.
After returning to Kathmandu it was time to journey into the Himalayas with a first step of flying into the city Lukla, which is an adventure unto itself. The monsoon rains had momentarily stopped and there was a small window to catch the flight to Lukla. The airport was crammed with people trying to edge their way onto flights. We had a terrific “Sirdar” who was our porter manager and handled most of the logistics for the trip. He smoothed talked our way onto the first flight to Lukla. The plane ride was exhilarating and terrifying. The weather was cloudy and rainy, the pilot wore huge aviator sunglasses and sat with one leg propped up on the dashboard and continued to wipe the windshield with his free hand to remove moisture that kept fogging up the window which was just a little unnerving.
After our flawless landing on a short steep runway, was as breathtaking as the dramatic landscape. The feeling of awe would be constant during the entire trek. The trail to Basecamp follows long, green steep valleys and ridges. Life on the trail was magical as each new village and teahouse greeted us with kindness and excitement. Our group began to get into a routine: we would wake up around 5:30AM, pack our backpacks, eat breakfast and hit the trail to the next stop. We would hike for 6 to 8 hours a day at a slow steady pace to allow us to acclimatize well and prepare us for our future climbs.
The trail brought us over suspension bridges, through high passes battling traveling yaks bearing large loads and through valleys containing raging water from glacial run-off. Beautiful Buddhist chortens or shrines are spread out through the valley along with Mani wall stone inscriptions that line the path and send blessings from sacred texts to travelers. During our trip we explored various villages and valleys and climbed two acclimatizing peaks, Kala Pattar (18,514 ft.) and Chukung Ri (18, 204 ft.) before roping up to climb Island Peak (20, 305 ft.) and Lobuche East (20, 161 ft.).
One of my favorite experiences was visiting the Tengboche monastery and meditating to the early morning chanting of local monks. Within the ancient brightly colored monastery, their voices and horns vibrated the room, while the view through windows of the ominous peaks, such as Ama Dablam stared down on you.
I could hardly sleep the few hours before it was time for us to begin our climb by headlamp. Each night in the Himalayas I was amazed at the bright night sky; the Milky Way seemed to shimmer within arms length. The stars lit up the night sky as jagged snowy peaks pierced the darkness. Time passes quickly climbing in the dark. Climbing rock in double plastic boots is very awkward; it makes you concentrate even more on your foot placements. I was grateful when we finally hit the snow line and put on our crampons, pulled out our ice axes and continued in rope teams.
The cold hours of the morning began to slip by as I focused on my pressure breathing and the beautiful rhythm of climbing on snow.
We crossed snow bridges and leaped over crevasses and began ascending the final steep head wall as the morning sun began to slide itself behind the waking mountains. Feeling the rays begin to warm my fingers and toes while beautiful colors danced across the snow gave me a boost of energy. I have always loved watching the sunrise on a big climb, but this moment amongst such huge mountains topped them all.
When I reached the summit of Island Peak, I was in total awe and elation. I had always wanted to get above 20,000 feet and after climbing to such heights I yearned to climb even higher in the future. The 360-degree view on the summit was incredible.
Our next mountaineering summit was Lobuche East. This climb would be a little more technical and didn’t see the kind of traffic Island Peak does. We had the stunning base camp all to ourselves. The climb felt effortless to me despite the difficulty. I had been waiting so long to ascend these mountains it felt so natural for me when it was finally happening.
Only myself and three other members out of a group of twelve were able to make it up all four summits. One group member had to be helicoptered out after falling ill. We saw many other tourists out of their element, with severe signs of altitude sickness. The Himalayas are not a place you take for granted.
After the trek back to Lukla, with such amazing climbs and adventures in the Khumbu region, I was quite heartbroken. The high peaks challenged me and allowed me to grow and honor my love of the outdoors. It was such a different way to travel then I had ever before.
The Nepalese culture resonates with my heart. The people were kind, compassionate, and very giving. They made me feel like family and the mountains made me feel like I was home. I have since often been asked the question “How did the trip change you?” I felt a true sense of freedom for the first time. The mountains fed my soul and have left me yearning and dreaming for them again. This was a life-changing trip that I will never forget. Anatoli Boukreev summed it up best when he said, “Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are the stadiums where I practice my religion.”