10.30.2007

Trekking the same the world over: NYT article on climbing Kilimanjaro

Dhaulaghri: A pretty big 'ontological hole'

"As a certain kind of wealthy Westerner, we dealt mainly in abstraction, in the manipulation of numbers and words, and our daily existences were almost ridiculously comfortable. Here we were attempting to insert a 19,340-foot mountain into some perceived ontological hole in our lives. Helping us would be a small army of Tanzanians. For us, the mountain was a challenge. For them, the mountain was a daily, unmysterious fact of life, pictured on their beer bottles and laundry detergent boxes. It was, indeed, one of their largest employers. But the frustrations and ambiguities of employment were what we sought to abandon.”

The New York Times ran a lengthy article in their "Play" magazine which describes the author's (a novelist) trek up Kilimanjaro -- altitude is the big challenge, the climb itself requires no mountaineering experience. Some of the issues with trekking that I attempted to discuss in the previous post are developed in more detail.

I think that there is definitely a certain absurdity to wealthy Westerners wandering through these poor countries with such a high level of support. There were times I felt pretty silly watching Nepalese porters carry their burdens without complaint with their cast-off gear (our porters looked like they had been outfitted at a Salvation Army store in the US) and the almost universal footwear of choice in Nepal -- flip flops.

Lakpa, our guide in Nepal, had considerable trekking leadership experience and had recently returned from leading a high altitude camping trek (not a climb to the summit) around Dhaulagiri, 7th highest mountain in the world. A trekking party of nine 'clients' required a support staff of over 50 porters, sub-guides, cooks, etc. -- giving some idea of the level of support attached to such ventures.

2 comments:

Ganesh said...

Namaste! Splendid scenes and information from the depth. I was looking for some photos and found your links and I saw all of articles and found very very impressive. I realized that as an American can come and know this much, I am surprised. Thanks for lot of real and unbiased information.

Ganesh said...

Very impressive information as well as beautiful photos. When I saw your blog, I have realized that I have lots of places to explore and lots of things to know, thank you.