IN THE SPRING of 2017, my father and I went to Nepal. We spent 20 days exploring marketplaces and trekking Himalayan mountainsides. Our trip included an attempt to summit Mt. Parchamo whose North Ridge sits 20,298 feet above sea level. The pictures below tell the story of our adventure and give a glimpse into the beautiful country that inspired this collection.
In 2008, I travelled to India to pay homage to a friend's grandmother who was near the end of her life. I fell in love with that part of the world and when approached by my dad to travel back east, I jumped at the opportunity. He'd been to Nepal in 2013 to attempt a summit of Tharpu Chuli. It was on that trip where he befriended a sherpa named Ang Norbu and kept in touch with him via email after the trip's end. In 2015, he learned the sherpa's home was destroyed in the earthquake and decided to help raise money to rebuild his friend's home. This trip was not only about climbing Parchamo, but also visiting the Thame Valley to see how Norbu and his community had rebounded after the disaster.
Our guide, Skip Horner, coordinated the trip with a Himalayan expedition team. The first two days were spent peeking into temples and marketplaces in Kathmandu--but on day three, we flew into Lukla to start our accent. It should be noted that Lukla is one of the most dangerous airports in the world to fly in and out of. The runway is short and the mountains surrounding it are vast. Our small plane offered few comforts, but within 30 minutes we landed safely and started our three-hour trek to the first lodge in a town called Monjo, 9,200 feet in the Dudh Khosi Valley.
Sometimes I think there are two types of people: water people and mountain people. I am without a doubt a water girl. However, these 'ole sea legs served me well in the Himalayas and as it turned out, I was a pretty good climber. Not long into the trip, I earned the nickname Ballerina Billygoat for the way I would move over the rocks and up the crooked paths. I felt surefooted and strong which was an unexpected gift. Bless the mountain gods for their help navigating those muddy, rocky trails.
After a tough five-hour trek to Namche Bazaar, we rested and acclimatized at 11,300 feet. It was our last stop at a lodge and for the remainder of the climb, we'd sleep in tents. The first stop out of Namche was Thame. It took a while to find Norbu's home, but when we did, his mother welcomed us with tea and ceremonial scarves. Though we couldn't understand each other's language, gratitude prevailed and radiated within those four walls.
Namche Bazaar is a divergence point for those heading to Everest--they go one way, those heading to Thame go another. Very few people visit the Valley, but even fewer travel beyond its borders. Leaving Thame marked a point of no return for the group. There was no going back, just one way and that was forward, deep into the Bhote Khosi Canyon. The trek was split into two days. Five hours to Thongpo at 14,000 feet, another five hours to Ngole, a rocky slope that spilled out into the bottom of the canyon and rested at 16,500 feet. The trek was hard and cold, and every step was calculated. The farther we pressed towards the canyon, the more gray and masculine everything became. As the color drained, so too did the soft lushness that marked the first few days out of Lukla. There were no showers, no bathrooms, no comforts outside of eating, sleeping and reading. Staying warm was a challenge. My water bottles froze overnight and the condensation from my breath left tiny snowflake crystals on my sleeping bag. Even the yaks slept with blankets on their backs.
When the time came to decide who would continue on to the Tesi Lapcha Pass at 18,500 feet to complete the climb of Parchamo, I smartly declined. I knew that Ngole would be my last stop. To continue meant learning a host of alpine climbing techniques which was totally out of my wheelhouse, despite my newfound hiking prowess... We'd be roped into the side of a mountain, crampons on, slowly and meticulously climbing an ice wall to the summit. My dad, who suffered a knee injury early in the trip, also decided to stay back. As it turned out, David, Skip and the rest of the group who went forward were unable to continue because of a storm that whipped through the Tesi Lapcha. It created a vertical, 90 degree wall of ice that made the summit insurmountable. With heavy hearts, they turned around and met us back in the Thame Valley.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't run down the mountain--because I literally ran down the mountain. There was no containing me. I craved life again. I wanted lower altitudes, women, children, spring blooms and a shower. There are over 30 varieties of Rhododendron in Nepal and I wanted to inhale all of them. I craved color and warmth, the songs of birds and the deep boiling bells that tolled at the monasteries. I wanted the autonomy that came with choice, free from group settings, itineraries, and the confines of white and gray landscapes.
We spent our last days back in the city. I went off on my own and got lost in marketplaces that sold textiles, findings and beads, collecting the trinkets that comprise this latest collection. Everything used in the initial launch was carried on my back home from this beautiful country and each piece is imbued with a memory collected along the way. I don't know that I will ever go back to Nepal, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to experience the culture there. There are so many places to see in one's lifetime, and I'm thankful that Nepal was one of those places for me.
If you are interested in purchasing any of the pictures from my trip, they are available for sale. All profits will go to Snehas Care, an animal welfare charity in Nepal that protects dogs from torture and cruelty, and provides professional medical and humane care to injured, sick and abandoned dogs. While I was struck by the immense beauty of this country, I was equally taken by how neglected and sick so many of their strays were. Of all the faces and places that remain with me, theirs hold a special place in my heart. For pricing, please email me at Rebecca@RebeccaDolber.com.