How everything started
Hi, I’m Georgia. I wrote the words above on the day before I climbed Cho La (5.360m), the second pass of the Three Passes Trekking that was organized by Rugged Trails in March 2023. Only two weeks before, on a beach in Thailand, I had the glorious idea of following my inner voice telling me to go to Nepal and do something that would help me get closer to my feelings and myself. Back then I didn’t know that I did it for these very personal reasons, for self-development. It was more like Ok, I can’t go back to Europe now, I feel like an adventure. I won’t tell you that I did it without being prepared. Somehow I was, I guess, all my life. I grew up hiking and skiing the Austrian Alps, and my family has discussed Himalaya expeditions on our kitchen table since I can remember. I ran the Berlin half-marathon in less than two hours, completed more than 50 ski tours during the pandemic, and was in the middle of a wonderful but (excuse my English) mind-f***ing yoga teacher training. When Nirajan from Rugged Trails suggested female solo trekking the Three Passes, a medium to challenging trek, that includes Renjo La Pass, Cho La Pass, Kongma La Pass, the Everest Base camp, and the 5.550m peak Kala Patthar – all supported by a local guide and porter – I naively thought: easy! So just in time for peak season, I arrived in Nepal with a backpack full of bikinis, summer dresses, yoga pants, and no idea what I got myself into: the biggest adventure of my life.
What everything feels like
"I can finally feel my heartbeat again after having lived for years without noticing, ignoring my heart. I’m thankful for my lungs perfectly distributing the thin, ice-cold air through my body. It was so much fun going up the second pass: Cho La (5.360). It required technique and curiosity, shutting off my thoughts and relying on my own strengths – oh, and crampons on the way down, we had to cross the glacier. I felt so strong, playful and so so proud when I arrived on top – was this the same woman that cried on the first pass? The same person that takes life so seriously? So much that she has a hard time enjoying the good life without feeling like she needs to suffer for it in return?"
I won’t lie, I’ve suffered a lot for the rewards of my adventure. Waking up to -17 degrees Celsius in your room is no joke. At that time in Gorak Shep, the last village before the Everest Base Camp, at 5.140m above sea level, I (luckily) had no idea that it was this cold. All I knew was that the water bottle froze just like my toothbrush and face cream. Early, already on the very first day of trekking, I realized that I need a clever strategy for surviving the Himalayan nights. I came up with a sleeping system that would save me: three layers of clothing, gloves, scarf, head, sleeping bag, two yak blankets, my beloved hot bottle, and my proudest invention: my thick gloves over two pairs of socks on my feet. After having made it through the nights, every morning the coffee made me suffer but I refused to not have one – my last connection to what I used to call reality! Interestingly, hiking for eight to ten hours every day didn’t bother me either did the fact that there was no hot shower. Not washing my hair in twelve days only made me suffer in theory – in reality, I couldn’t care less. Mostly, I didn’t take myself too seriously anyways. I mean compared to all the hard-working Nepali people on the mountain and the magnitude of nature all around me – who am I to complain about bad coffee or the frozen face cream on my frozen face every morning?
How everything turns out if you turn off your ego
I think I stink even though I’ve been washing my feet every day :). It has been snowing a lot this afternoon and evening. The forecast says there will be more snow overnight. This means that it’s possible that we can’t do the third and last pass tomorrow. Normally, this would drive me crazy. Uncertainty, not following the plan, defeat. Not now. The last days I hiked up to Kala Patthar and the Everest Base Camp (5.364m). What a magical place! At the base camp, I had the intense feeling of déjà-vu, of having been there before. I felt every human emotion ever experienced: excitement, fear, pure happiness, deepest grief, and sadness. So whatever happens overnight: my ego must not be louder than nature.
It was still dark when I looked out of my window on the day we were supposed to go up to the third pass: Kongma La (5.450m). The community room of the Oxygen Lodge in Lobuche was already busy when I had my usual breakfast (müsli with hot milk and the last pieces of dried mango I brought from Thailand) and it still wasn’t clear how this Sunday would turn out: pass or no pass? Indra, my fantastic guide, waited until I had finished my “coffee” to announce: “I took a decision!” I was so excited – I think I forgot to breathe – which is really not advisable on 5.000m. But before I could faint he said: “We are doing the pass! The snowfall was gentle last night. We will be able to find the way over the glacier up to the top and make it down 1.100m in time until the next snowstorm hits.” At this point, I shut down my brain, gave Indra a high five, took my backpack, and stepped out into the crystal clear, cold morning air. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I knew the last two weeks and two passes trained me for this. I could trust myself, my body and mind, my porter and guide.
Why everything makes you high
It’s Sunday and I’m doped! Endorphins have been rushing through my body for hours. With a big smile, I’m sitting here at the oven, high from hiking down more than 1.100m at once. Only a couple of hours ago I peaked. I reached the third and last pass Kongma La, snacked plain toast, and topped it with pistachios, feeling fancy while staring at Ama Dablam. I shared a Mars bar with Harka, my lovely porter who is a very skilled dancer btw. Is this even real? I’m pure joy, a goofy ball of happiness sitting here at the oven drinking ginger-lemon tea and watching the lush snowfall outside. I feel light. I feel proud. I’m fear, bad coffee, cold toes, exhaustion, and loneliness mixed with warm Nepali hearts and deep blue Himalayan skies. I’m peaks and valleys, snowflakes and cornflakes. I’m happy and sad in tears. It’s Sunday and I’m high with life.
What everything means now
“Why am I like this” – I’ve been asking myself a lot during my time in the Himalayas. There was no answer. Honestly, I still don’t know and I don’t even try replying to the question I’ve started this text and the trekking with. I think the explanation is wired into my and our lifelong quest to find out who we are, to understand, and be ourselves. “Just be yourself” – sorry there is no shortcut here, this I know for sure now. Here you have to go the long way, and sometimes this path takes you over three high-altitude passes. Of course, it’s important to ask yourself hard questions but it’s even more vital to live the answers and test rather than intellectualize them. Anyways, this adventure showed me my limits and how to be emotionally available. It made me feel everything, everything, everything. All them feels – because they helped me keep going, taking rest, asking for help, and supporting others.
That’s how I’ve learnt: I’m everything, everywhere, all at once.
Thank You for everything
Thank you dear Rugged Trails for supporting me to experience every feeling ever felt by a human being… and finding all the hiking equipment (even shoes!) last minute in Kathmandu. Thank you Nirajan, Indra, Harka, and all the lovely people of Nepal to make it a perfectly organized and super-safe adventure. Thank you for putting up with all my feelings and random requests for ginger-lemon tea.