The week before you leave on an expedition , you wish you had never even signed up for trip. Seriously.
The hundreds of things to do, trying to wrap up work, saying good bye to friends, and trying to spend some time with family. It is impossible to get it all done.
One of the first things to go out the window is training. After all, you have been training for more than 6 months – the last few days won’t make a difference in your conditioning, so there is not too much point to it. The risk of a trip-ending injury rises too high to make continued training worth it. So you taper off training a week or more before the trip.
Then you fly around the world and sit in buses, jeeps, taxis and trucks for 4 or 5 days. And gradually, I feel out of shape for a walk around the block, let alone a climb up to 26,000 feet.
Well today, we got back to training. With our final member having caught up with the main team (their arrival was delayed) we were all together at last. So we went for a hike straight out of the hotel. We threaded around the hand-stacked stone walls through people’s yards, cut around the potato field, passed a few grazing yaks, and started up hill.
We hiked from 12,300 to 15,000 feet in about 2.5 hours. Everyone performed well. Sadly, we were lost in clouds so we could not see the 23,000 foot mountains just east of us.
The clouds enveloped us and rime formed on our jackets. We sat there a while to facilitate acclimatization. We want to force our bodies into moderate stress from lack of oxygen so that they kick into gear and start growing more red blood cells. When we got too cold we headed rapidly down hill passing prayer flags along the way. With each flutter of the colorful cloth, they send the prayer printed upon them up to the gods.
Just outside town (Nylam), we passed a large mani stone, with prayers carved right into the rock. I do not read Tibetan, a derivative of Sanskrit I believe, but I can take a good guess at what the mani stone said: Om mani padme hom- Hail to the jewel in the lotus flower. It is hard to translate in this short space, and I am unsure my Western mind could really grasp it anyway, but this important phrase is basically homage to the birth of the universe and wisdom. These revered words are much used in daily Buddhist life.
Tomorrow we move to the last town along the road – Tingri. We will rest there for two more days while our bodies build up even more red blood cells. We’ll need them to trap more oxygen from the ever-thinning air. Each day we inch closer to the mountain, Cho Oyu, where the real test of our training begins.
For whatever challenge looms before you, I encourage you to train hard.
Best wishes from Tibet,