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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Himalayan mountains

Weekend Escape

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With the Wisconsin deer hunting season getting underway on Saturday, I spent the weekend laying low, ensconced in the comfort of our couch and chairs around the fireplace reading about people who were anything but. I had been loaned a copy of Anatoli Boukreev‘s book, “The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest” detailing his account of the fateful events on Everest back in May of 1996.

It was revealing to finally read Anatoli’s version after previously only having been exposed to Jon Krakauer’s descriptions from his book, “Into Thin Air.”

As happens every time I read about what people endure in the death zone of high altitudes, I am dumbfounded that anyone would subject themselves to the insanity.

Reading about the prolonged deprivation they suffered in the high altitude storm while I am comfortably lounging by the fire is mind-bending.

As precious as it was for me to spend time in the Himalayan mountains in Nepal, none of the “death zone” expeditions hold any appeal.

I am satisfied to read the accounts of others while escaping from the realities of being shut in by hunting neighbors and a coronavirus pandemic.

Unfortunately, the outcome for those who lost lives that day back in 1996 always comes out the same, no matter who’s account of the events I’m reading.

My heart breaks for them every time.




Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2020 at 7:00 am

Himalayan Memories

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A dear friend who was a precious member of the Himalayan trek I did back in 2009 recently visited us and left me with her illustrated edition of Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.” I had read this book about the deadly 1996 season on Everest when it was first published but had not seen this version with all the photos and graphics.

David Piper took this shot of me overlooking Namche Bazaar

Thinking I would breeze through and just look at all the pictures, I unexpectedly found myself powerless to ignore the text. After an attempt to skim some of the reading to refresh my memory failed miserably, I gave in and absorbed every last word, at the expense of sleep and a few daily tasks.

I simply couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end.

Of course, the early portions of the descriptions from Kathmandu up to Lukla and then the villages up to 13,000 FT elevation resonate deeply with my first-hand experience and bring a rush of vivid pleasant memories flooding back.

I clearly remember the specific spot Krakauer describes when the rocky path first arrives at a vista with a view of the peak of Everest.

The adventure travel group I trekked with had a tag line that “Everyone Has an Everest.” While re-reading “Into Thin Air” I have found myself understanding better than ever how to apply this thinking more often to everyday life.

It doesn’t need to be some epic accomplishment. Reading the intricate details of the goings-on in a guided expedition to reach the summit of Everest reveals how important each little step is, maybe even more important than the few abbreviated minutes they are able to allow themselves to spend at the top.

As well, the critical value of coming back down after the pinnacle is achieved, which is the only thing that will allow a full realization of the accomplishment.

So it can be in our everyday lives. Each thing we do in an effort toward our goals holds value like the preparations individuals make in an Everest expedition.

It’s not simply the destination, but the journey that should be valued in our day-to-day mini-expeditions.

The journey both there, and back again.



Other Places

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Some days I find solace in escaping within a visualization of a pleasant memory. It’s a version of filling this moment with a moment that I’ve borrowed from another moment.

Today, I am breathing deep and remembering when I stood high in the Himalayan mountains over ten years ago.

That place is a very long distance away from where I live, but it is as close as a thought that I am able to recall at will.

Focusing on such single visualizations tends to discount all the sundry details that came before and after that moment, in something of a selective memory. The effort involved in arriving to that place was significant and tends to repress the likelihood of my ever returning, despite a lingering urge to be able to stand there once again.

It makes the mental return visits all the more precious.

Here’s to enlightenment.

Om Mani Padme Hum…





Written by johnwhays

December 19, 2019 at 7:00 am