Oct 23 – It’s Okay to Visit Nepal!

I feel as safe as ever here in wonderful Nepal. Even the yaks who carry our large loads of supplies on the trail seem as welcoming as ever. While it is still very true that many many Nepali people are still without homes, the tourist and trekking areas are in very good condition. We are stopped for lunch in a building that was rubble five months ago. A trail lost I saw last April from a landslide now has new retaining walls, a smooth path and rock steps.

When I arrived at Mong La where I experienced the violent quake, the sun was shining with blue skies, and children were smiling and playing. The old stupa was still there, its jagged cracks a reminder of that terrifying day. But indicative of Nepali spirit, the fallen mani stones had been put back in place, and the worn prayer flags were re-tied and flying in the wind.

And unlike that April day, the skies presented a majesty of mountains: Mt Everest, it’s famous plume of snow blowing off the peak; Lohtse, its jagged edges cutting the clouds, and Ama Dablam, its “necklace” serac of snow still on display.

Nepal wants and needs you to come back.

Posted in 2015 Return to Nepal


It’s not like it sounds. A “rest day” just means we stay in the same camp for another night. The climb yesterday from Phakding here to Namche Bazaar was steep and long. At 2200′, this was almost twice the height of the new World Trade building. So a nap today in my tent warmed by the sun would have been wonderful.

But what was better was yet another 1200′ steep climb up the hill behind us to Khumjung Village to see the school built by the Edmund Hillary Foundation. Oh, and of course there was that magnificent view of Mt Everest and Lhotse reaching another 3+ miles above me.

Once back in camp, we gorged on a delicious lunch and did a gear check. Matt, our leader has determined that my boots and gloves needed upgraded, so off to the Namche gear shop we went. A girl can never have too many climbing boots, right? I came with ten fingers and ten toes, and I’m leaving with all of them!

So today’s “rest” really comes when I snuggle into my puffy sleeping bag. Nite all!

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Oct 19 – Rocks in the Clouds

The terminal for domestic flights at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport is packed with travelers this morning, and most of us, those flying to Lukla, are on an hour delay. It is foggy here, overcast there, and cloudy in between.

The idea of flying in this weather reminded me of what Bir Singh, my leader three years ago, had laughed about. It was mid-March and we were all hunkered down somewhere high in the eastern Himalayas, in a fierce snowstorm. I asked him, “What if one of us gets hurt? How would someone come and get us out here?” That’s when he lost it. Spreading his arms up and out wide, he looked up at the sky and said, “Nobody will come and get you. Pilots won’t fly because there are rocks in the clouds!”

There are indeed many rocky mountainsides on the flight path to Lukla. And there are lots of clouds right now. Lukla’s short, slanted 1600′ landing strip is high on a cliff edge, so it’s kind of important for the pilot to actually see it. Instrument landings don’t work. And there’s no go-around.

So I’m happy to wait in this noisy packed old building. I’m in an open room that has has counters for Yeti, Sita, Tara and other carriers. The room has walls that are dirty and crumbly; ceiling fans that do little to provide relief from heat of so many bodies; and the never-cleaned windows give would give the appearance of a cloudy sky even on a bright sunny day.

An hour was enough for the clouds to separate a bit, so we boarded the tiny STOL (Short Take Off Landing) prop plane and headed northeast through mountainous valleys. Our pilot made a perfect landing, having expertly avoided all the rocks in the clouds.

After a few hours’ walk, we will sleep tonight at our first camp in Phakding, next to the Duhd (milk) Khosi (river). I’m not sure if I will have wifi or not, I may for awhile, then I’ll need to email my posts to the (ever delightful and ever-so-smart) Chelsey Dupakoski. Thank you Chelsey!

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Oct 18 – Kathmandu

What a beautiful sunny morning! I think I have this 3-flight 35-hour other-side-of-the-world travel thing licked: drink lots of water, take mini-naps on the plane, walk a lot in airports and suck up the fatigue until at least 9 pm after you arrive; then snuggle into a dreamy bed, follow-up with a hot shower and good breakfast early the next morning and ta-da, life is all good again.

Or, at least it was, until an hour later I got my new mini iPad out to write this first blog. I realized I had never saved my WordPress url, username, and password on the new mini. I spent over an hour guessing and finally succeeded. I sat close to a sympathetic “Oh-No!” face next to me in the garden.

The Summit Hotel is a bit isolated from usual city noises and has beautiful garden settings everywhere (quite conducive to password guessing, I might add). Most people don’t realize that Nepal is the same distance from the equator as southern Florida. At lower elevations, it’s quite tropical- banana trees, mangos, birds of paradise. In Chitwan National Park, a short day’s drive south of here, there’s elephants and tigers.

But we’re not going south. Early tomorrow we’re leaving here, going northeast where it’s much higher in altitude. Where there’s going to be snow-topped Himalaya mountains. Where Kyajo-Ri has been waiting for me since last April.

As always, thanks for reading and coming along on the journey.

Posted in 2015 Return to Nepal

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The Importance of Roots

For the class of 1965, a repost from January, 2012:  I’ve taken thousands of photos of natures’s splendor. It’s impossible to choose a favorite, but this one is special to me. If you follow the trail rom Old Man’s Cave State Park to Cedar Falls State Park, this is what you will see.

When I came around the bend in the trail and saw the tree on the boulder, its tangled roots reaching to the ground, I stopped suddenly and just stared in awe. How long had this huge boulder been here? How long had it taken for this tree on its top to grow into its strong, graceful form? And the roots! Winding down as if searching desperately for something to hold onto, something to connect to from which it could receive nourishment to sustain its life.

What an example for us mortals! As a little sapling clinging to the boulder’s mossy form, winter storms and winds surely had tried to wrest it from the boulder, toss it into the woods, and return it to the earth. But the little tree knew how important it was to have something deeper to hold on to in order to survive. And the tree did indeed find that strength and continued to grow, its roots firmly, solidly supporting its life, protecting it from natures’s storms.

I grew up in these Hocking Hills. My “roots” are here as well, and because I have had something deeper to hold to, I also have had protection from storms–the ones that can rage against the soul.

One of my favorite John Muir quotes seems appropriate for this photo: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

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May 20 – Kyajo

The farthest northern point I could safely go to after the initial April 25th quake was the village of Machermo. There, only two of the fifteen or so stone guest lodges were still standing, and those were crowded with trekking tourist happy to have even a floor on which to sleep I was lucky and had a room with a thin mat on a wood flatbed.

I knew that night that any hope of climbing Kyajo was completely gone. In the context of horrific disaster, the disappointment I felt was slight and mattered little. The night also brought multiple aftershocks. I remember that I slept with my boots on and laced.

The next morning brought clearer skies and an incredible view of the morning sun shining on Kyajo-Ri, which rose nearly 6500 feet above the valley floor where I stood. I gazed toward the pointed top and imagined me finally standing there after spending many early morning hours to get there. I had done so much preparation, I was so close, but it just wasn’t meant to be this time.

“I’m still here, come back again,” was the message I heard. October, after summer monsoons are gone, is Nepal’s other climbing season. So yes, I plan to go back again, this fall I’ve been invited to do so.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

Posted in 2015 Pachermo & Kyajo-Ri

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May 17 – Leaving Nepal

“Seat belt?” I asked the taxi driver, not seeing anything to clip into. “Not necessary” he answered, “just for driver.” Well–okay then.

The drive to Tribhuvan Airport was the usual game of dodgem cars, but I’ve become desensitized to it all, a bit like the cow lying in the middle of traffic, ignoring constant honking horns and near misses. Colorful tents and tarps filled open spaces along the way, ever a reminder that 100,000′s of people have lost their homes and belongings.

The driver, who had told me his home was gone, was nice enough to find a cart for me so I gave him 800 rupees (about $8.08), almost all I had left, as a tip. I was leaving and didn’t need it anyway. He tried to return it, saying he had already been paid by Ngima, the trekking owner, before we left. “It’s okay,” I said, “to help fix your house.”

Waiting in a Qatar check-in line, I looked around the huge open area. For this time of year, there ought to have been tons of climbers and trekking tourists at the airport, but all I saw was a mass of brown Nepali and Indian faces. At immigration, the multiple lines for Nepalese and Indian departures were long. At the sign that said “Foreigners”, there was no one. (It’s always weird to think of myself as a foreigner.)

The officer matter-of-factly stamped my passport, not like three years ago when my visa was expired by three days and pulled me aside. And told me I couldn’t leave the country. And asked me if I understood I could go to jail. But that’s a whole other AnnieUpHigh adventure story. I liked the ka-chunk sound the stamp made – it meant I wouldn’t be going to jail.

After security check, passengers for all flights wait in a holding area. Again, I looked around at the mass of brown faces. Am I the last tourist to leave Nepal? Finally, the loudspeaker announced something about Qatar, and a lot of people got up, so I just followed them down the hall. Sure enough, after a bit of a walk, I saw a Qatar jumbo jet waiting on the tarmac.

Tribhuvan doesn’t have jetways, passengers walk across the Tarmac to stairways positioned against the plane. I paused on the way, to gaze up into the mountains surrounding the Kathmandu Valley, now about a meter higher. The sadness I felt for my beautiful, hurting Nepal was as deep as anything I have ever felt. And climbing the stairway into the plane seemed a harder effort than for any mountain trail I’d ever been on.

The pilot announced we’d be delayed a bit as planes bringing aid supplies were just arriving. Fine with me–I was in no hurry to leave at all.

Posted in 2015 Pachermo & Kyajo-Ri


May 14 – “Her Farm Daily News”

Several women and children slept in the earth bag school building last night, as Mankhu continues to experience aftershocks and tremors. Knowing the building was stable, as well as snuggling with each other provided a sense of safety and comfort. Annie and the other volunteer residents stayed in their regular rooms, confident their middle-of-the-night-dash-outside-to-safety skills remain sharp. Chris, visiting physician has priority, as he will be essential for any of us unfortunate to be found later beneath rubble.

Taking advantage of cooler early morning temperatures, Her Farm women cleared some manure from the cow shed, piled it into baskets and carried load after load down to lower terraced fields, spreading the fertilizer to enhance crop growth. Her Farm women know the value of working together to accomplish hard labor farming tasks. Michaela, from Scotland, carried a (shit)load to help as well. She answers to either Michaela or Mickey Mouse. When she arrived, there was a bit of difficulty pronouncing her name and Mickey Mouse just seemed easier, so it stuck.

Sherry, a volunteer from the U.S. taught younger children lessons in colors, shapes. Even the youngest have learned many English words. Martha and Haley, from the U.K. and Canada plan to complete muddling repairs to the classroom later today. Annie plans to conduct a science class with some of the older children, with simple experiments. Yesterday’s science lesson explained how 200 million years ago Pangea began to separate and India eventually “crashed” into Asia. Hence the Himalaya mountains and continuing earth movement and earthquakes.

Samjhana sang a happy Nepali tune as she mixed some henna to put into her and some friends’ hair. The treatment will add shininess to their already beautiful, straight, black hair. After application, the henna will remain on for two hours, then rinsed out. Later today we might see these strong Nepali women walk through Her Farm, their shiny hair lifted by a gentle breeze, softly flowing with each proud step.

Sunita has arranged a 4-wheel drive to take Annie, Chris, and Sherry back to Kathmandu tomorrow. They will leave ever so much richer for having experienced just a little bit of life at Her Farm.


Thank you, wonderful readers, for being “here” as well. I will update you regarding the Kathmandu situation when I am there. My flight Sunday still says “scheduled”, so here’s hoping all goes well.

Posted in 2015 Pachermo & Kyajo-Ri


May 12 – Instant Awareness

It happened again about 1p.m.. The midday sun is always brutal, so most of us were inside, except for the kids, whose endless play continues regardless. I was in my room on the second floor, nearly asleep, thinking how pleasant the slight breeze was. I had just finished my lesson plan for my version of a geography class later today.

There has been five-six aftershocks if various intensity and duration here in the last nine days, but this one felt different. It just kept on going and it was louder. The building is cement reinforced with lots of rebar. Scott doesn’t build shoddy buildings, and it moved–a lot!

After over two weeks of this, I have near instantaneous awareness, not like with the first one when my brain went all dumb-dumb, unable to reference anything that could explain the strange shaking phenomenon.

Everyone ran out, looked around and did an “inventory” of our Her Farm family. We’re all okay, safely out of the building in case there’s more. In just a few minutes, I read a news post saying 7.1 Does this count as a whole new quake? Two aftershocks occurred while writing this.

Instant earthquake awareness. It’s something you learn quickly without ever having to try.

Posted in 2015 Pachermo & Kyajo-Ri


May 10 – From Sagun to You

Sagun is a special young lady who has written today’s blog. This is her story about the earthquake.

My name is Sagun Subedi. I am 12 years old. My school’s name is Shree Bagbachhala prymary school. I read in class four. My frind’s name is Sanita and Asmita. My favourite subject is English. I live in Mountain Fund. I have six younger sisters. We have seven volunteers.

Every morning thirty girls come for school. Martha teaches class. My mother’s name is Sunita. My father’s name is Scott. My father and mother works hard. They are run from Mountain Fund.

Then the earthquake came. When it happened I was at up house with two little sister. We ran outside crying. Sushilia and Radip saw house broken and the ground moving up and down. We are all sitting on the ground, we were so scared and we call Kathmandu people.

Our neighbour house is broken and they come live in our classroom. We cooked outside and we sleep in the classroom and I am still scared two weeks letter. Our school toilet is broken, I can’t go to school. I am very scared and upset about not going to school. Other people not have food, water and the house is broken, and they sleep outside, which is cold. My friend’s house is broken so they sleep our house.

We have so much work to do. Nepal need so much help. I love Mountain Fund and I love Nepal. Mountain Fund is my home. I want to say to everyone help me, help my friends, help my family, help Mountain Fund, help Mankhu, help Nepal.


As always, thank you for reading. I know Sagun and all the children would like to have comments from you. I promise to read all of them to the children.

Posted in 2015 Pachermo & Kyajo-Ri