Dispatch 17/The way home/5.27.08

We have arrived at the trails end and the road home.

The morning of 5/23 we boarded a plane in Jomosom, a tiny Nepali airstrip located between the Annapurna and Dhauligiri ranges. The airline, Gorkha “Fly with us the gallant way”. What? Six expeditions here and I never really knew how to define something such as flying as gallant.

As poor weather delayed our flight for 2 hours we pondered our position. The upper hand was always in our favor as we were done walking and food was available everywhere. Flying was almost wishful thinking. The weather this year has been relentless, when the call came the crowd spread like rats.

The pilot boarded the plane-towel around his neck and fingerless gloves tougher than Chuck Norris. As we darted forward in the tiny caravan we thrust upward at the last minute, our stomachs lighter than a plastic bag. The pilot had no room for error, the runway ends abruptly with almost a kicker or tiny raised lip to push us over the edge and into the upper valley. Wingtip to wingtip soaring again, the “gallant” way?

By the same afternoon we were on the hunt for adventure again. An old friend, David Riggs, met us in Pokhara. He is on his post graduation trip from Thunderbird where he just received his MBA. He formerly ran an import/export business in Nepal between his undergrad and Thunderbird. When Riggs joined us for our last few days things really got fun.

“Motorcycles Clark” Riggs threw out, “we have to get some”. Sounds great, but really-left hand driving through third world country dodging cows, bikes and dump truck sized vehicles swerving over the middle of the lane. I figured “Why not Riggs?” we didn’t get buried on Annapurna IV and this was my fourth time in Pokhara, “we might as well learn how to deal with this insanity.”

If you have never experienced driving in a third world country, it appears to be total chaos. Swerving left and right, non stop honking, breakdowns-cows chicken and water buffaloes crowd the street and then enormous vehicles push everything out of the way. Two wheels is definitely better than four. We hopped on our steeds and entered the stream of madness.

Within a few blocks it all started to make sense. This wasn’t a reckless and disorganized system, it was a fine tuned artery of mechanized movement and communication. No blinkers no looking over the shoulder- just honk and the road is yours. Yet another fear vanquished and another great experience unveiled. We toured the city and countryside for a full day. It was amazing.

Now that we are in Hong Kong, our last Asian hub before the states I am reminded of how much fun we have climbing and travelling-expeditioning. I can see the city from here and still find the draw to explore overwhelming. The entire process is just one consistent attitude and formula.

Hopping on the bike was scarier than ice climbing at 20,000′. Riding the bike in traffic was easier than I ever thought and much less difficult than the ice climb. Skiing the mountain was how we got down, just like working really hard to get there made it happen. It’s all the same-fun.

Thanks to everyone who followed and shared in our adventure. I appreciate hearing from you all and certainly wish everyone the opportunity to pursue such frivolous things in the future-we must have a goal eh? Ours will be set a bit higher for next year, 2 peaks-Huin Chuli and Tharpu Chuli. 2 technical peaks with some sweet ice climbs splitting some great skiing that has yet to be done. They are also lower and in a better aspect for lessavalanche danger. As usual, we’ll go to China in the fall-if it is open?- and climb more unclimbed unnamed peaks in Eastern Tibet. Our target is peak 6509 and the surrounding peaks in the cirque. We will keep you all updated with e-mails and audio just like this trip!

Bon voyage and cheers!

Ben Clark

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