Kanchenjung was one of those rare true escapes from the world. There were six of us. We had 21 days away, cut off from media, internet and phone connection. We walked up through the valleys and made our way slowly towards northern base camp at Pengpema, which reaches 5140m. The valleys were exceptionally beautiful and also filled with leeches. I hate leeches. It was a dance between trying not to dilly-dally while still spotting them and flicking them off before they found skin. I definitely erred towards the side of dilly-dally more than making speedy progress up the slope.
Early on we made the mistake of squeezing in what probably should have been two days of trekking into one. It was a killer day. 11 hours of walking (more accurately described as scrambling) up hill, ascending about 2000m altitude before coming back down 600m for our night spot. I was devastated to be losing so much of our hard-earned progress with the decline – Blair got to hear about it. It was harder for poor Jenny who had slipped on one of the dodgy river crossings early that morning and proceeded to march through the rest of the day (and 18 days ahead) with a fractured wrist. She took it like a champion. Love that girl.
Did I mention the some of river crossings were really scary? Kanchenjunga is a remote, unfrequented trek. In Nepal that means dodgy trails, the proper bridges are few and far inbetween, and there are plenty of landslides to cross. Sometimes we resorted to all fours. Luckily I was taking most the photos in those moments and as far as I know wasn’t documented crawling (Glen?). Catherine wasn’t so lucky. I included the photo only because it only shows how hardcore we are all were – thanks Catherine!
There is something about being cut off from media for real – like no discipline required – even if you want to, there is actually no reaching the outside world. Instead of staring at our phones, we found ways to talk and laugh – a lot of laughing actually. It was more undivided attention from Blair and Glen any of us might have ever had. Most days we walked for the first half or three quarters only – which left the other part for cups of tea and some great deep-n-meaningfuls. We resolved a lot of life’s questions. Especially about love and what lies ahead. Thanks to Jenny’s discontent towards small talk and excellent endless list of deep questions to draw from. Those questions got me through some hard moments. At one particularly dark point, at the end of a seemingly endless day, I had to tell Jenny it was not a good time and she had better take over the talking after she asked me what had inspired me during the past year. I had no inspiring thoughts – nor could I remember ever having had any, such was the darkness of my mood and the soreness of my feet at that moment.