After a hearty Eco Lodge breakfast of egg, tomato and what looked like bacon, a visitor arrived to see us. It was Jeevan Shrestha from the Himalayan Data Base Organisation. He was here on behalf of Elizabeth Hawley, to get information on our expedition. Now this is a very interesting part of Everest history, and let me touch on it quickly. As mentioned, Jeevan works for Elizabeth Hawley, who runs the Himalayan Data base, and the Expedition Archives of Mount Everest.
Elizabeth Hawley was born on the 9th November 1923, in Chicago and educated at the University of Michigan. In 1959 she visited Nepal, which had newly opened its borders to foreigners, and a year later she moved to Kathmandu permanently. She found work with the Reuters news agency covering mountaineering news. As a correspondent for the Reuters in Kathmandu, Miss Hawley quickly recognized the growing popularity of mountaineering, so she began meeting, tracking, and filing Himalayan expedition reports.
While she has never climbed a mountain herself, Hawley has been the best-known chronicler of Himalayan expeditions for over four decades. She is respected by the international mountaineering community because of her complete and accurate records, despite their unofficial status.
To date she has documented more than 80,000 ascents, and shared friendships and expedition advice with everyone from Sir Edmund Hillary to Reinhold Messner (and even us!)
Despite the unofficial status of her archives, Miss Hawley, and her reports, are widely respected by the international mountaineering community for their thoroughness and attention to detail, and mountaineers have dubbed her post-expedition interrogations “the second summit.”
The data cover all expeditions from 1905 through 2015 on more than 340 significant Nepalese peaks.
Now 95, Miss Hawley is still confirming and denying summits from her home in Kathmandu and sharing her reports with alpine journals and mountaineering magazines around the globe.
I was very keen to meet Elizabeth, but understood that, with her age, it might not be possible. To make matters worse, she had recently broken a hip in a fall.
Once we had completed the documentation with Jeevan, Sean and I headed off in to town and started shopping for my gear. I had arrived in Kathmandu, with very little kit as Sean had informed me that it was very cheap to purchase. Most of the day was spent getting kitted out. From boots, to crampons, cold weather gear, jackets, and an ice axe. By day end I had it all and could not have cost me more than R2500!!
Sean on a rickshaw bicycle!
The streets and shops of Kathmandu are like nothing I have ever seen before! Although not a very clean city, it is a hive of activity with vehicles, motor bikes, bicycle and people everywhere! Unfortunately with this, comes pollution and most people wear mouth masks, protecting them from the air pollution. Having said this, it is a fascinating place and the local folk are great. No stress, or road rage, and certainly a very safe place to wander around as one wishes.
The Street of Thamal, Kathmandu
Sean and I ate out most lunches and dinner, but we had been warned! Although I have enjoyed everything I have eaten so far, the food can lead to stomach disaster! Many a traveller have succumbed to a dose of “galloping gut-rot” when eating at local food houses on the streets of Kathmandu.
Thursday evening we were kindly invited by Tim, an American who works with Mohan, to a local dance evening. The best news it just how “local” it really was!
We were picked up at7.30pm and taken off in to deepest Kathmandu. After a short walk through the alleys and a dodgy lift to the 7th floor of what looked like an old warehouse, we arrived at the venue!
The 3 of us were the only foreigners and for the rest of the evening we were treated as honored guests. The dancing and singing was special! So different to anything we had experienced before. At one point we were invited up on stage and introduced to the patrons. Sean gave a few short words and a kata was presented to us. We were invited up to dance and party the night away.
The following afternoon was just as exciting! A friend of Sean’s, also an expedition leader, was getting married! Ronnie and his new wife, Elizabeth, were regular visitors to Nepal. Having recently been married in Cape Town, they wanted a traditional Buddhist blessing in Kathmandu. We arrived at the venue in Thamel and witnessed the blessing, carried out by a Buddhist monk. We also met a lady by the name of Billi, who can best be labelled Elizabeth Hawley’s protégé. Billi has spent many years at Elizabeth’s side, assisting her with her Everest data base management.
Ronnie and Elizabeth’s wedding ceremony
Saturday afternoon, and we checked out of the Eco Lodge and checked in at perhaps the top hotel in Kathmandu, the Hyatt Hotel! This was 5 star treatment and great to spend 2 nights in comfort before heading up in to the mountains!
From here, it was off to the airport. The rest of the team, along with the 7 trekkers joining us for the walk in to base camp, had landed. We met them at arrivals and transported them back to the Hyatt Hotel. The full team was now in town!
The Whole team arrives in Kathmandu
Sunday saw us doing last chance shopping, finalizing all logistics and packing our bags. Next morning 5.30am, we would be on our way to the airport for the flight in to Lukla!
Gear ready to be packed!