Flight 795 to Bangkok, 200 AM: just woke up, looked out window on left side of plane. Lights. Seems odd, why city lights when we’re flying over the ocean? Monitor in the back of the seat in front of me (Apa’s seat actually—we both have left-side window seats) shows a graphic of our route. We’re over the Sea of Okhotsk heading southwest and Magadan is to the east, I’m guessing Magadan is in Russia, but it could be China. Likely we’re flying down the west coast of either the Kamchatka (sp?) peninsula or the north island of Japan Hokkaido (sp?). A city called Harbin is now east of us, it’s hard to tell the scale, a hundred miles east perhaps?
Am pretty sure it’s Kamchatka out the left window if we’re further north than I first thought (I write this portion parenthetically for my brother-in-law John aka Mr. G’s benefit. If I remember right, Vladivostok is on south end of the Kamchatka peninsula and the city I see could be Vladivostok. Point being, the Russian we met right after Mt. Whitney, Lubar or Lubat, the guy whose outrageous witticisms stopped you in your tracks John, he had the white BMW with the back seat full of magazines—remember him? He was from Vladivostok. So I might be flying over Lubar’s home town tonight. Small world in some ways, and a pleasant contemplation to wile away the hours on a 17 hour flight. It’s really not that uncomfortable—thought you should know that Mr. G…just in case you head to Asia for your next adventure. Thai Airways is a vacation in itself, the service is absolutely first class.)
I definitely need to give a shout out to Charles F. and to John. Charles, if you are reading this in Czech Republic I want you to know that there is no way I’d be headed to the Himalaya if you hadn’t invited me to climb Whitney with you four years running in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. We certainly gave that mountain everything we had. You were the catalyst along with Carolee who sparked my interest in mountaineering. The other day when Apa asked me if I’d ever used crampons before, I told him once, the once being when you (Charles) and I climbed the main Baldy Chute at Alta to reconnoiter it for skiing. Now I’ve used crampons twice, the second time being on the front lawn at Diamond Mold. Apa rigged up a ladder last week to simulate a crevasse crossing. He had me practice walking across the ladder on crampons, hooking the teeth in, keeping tension on the ropes. We were only 12” of the ground, the ladder bridged two wooden pallets, but it was still intimidating thinking that in a couple of weeks, if I can make it to base camp, that we’ll try the same technique on blue ice over a gaping chasm.
And John, what can I say? You’ve hung in there with me all these years—this is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into J Let me just retell that story about getting ready for the Whitney trip in 2006 with Charles. The irony just came to me today. We were at REI buying camelbacks or was it daypacks? Yes, a daypack for you, the same pack as the one Carolee gave me. We struck up a conversation in the store with a guy who said he’d climbed Everest, and you’ll remember how amazed we were given that we were sweating buillets over the prospect of Whitney and inching out on the Ebersbacher ledge. Later that day I went online and looked up his name, which I’ve since forgotten, on the list of successful Everest summits. What struck me, however, was that while scrolling down that list hunting for his name the name of Apa Sherpa kept popping up. Every year Apa’s name was listed and I remember thinking what an unusual name and how remarkable one person would have so many summits. Apa’s name registered with me but at the time (it was Sept ’06) I hadn’t met Apa—we hadn’t met Apa, we knew nothing of him. I had just by chance come across his name…didn’t give it any thought until much later, but my subconscious took note of Apa on that day when you and I were in REI buying your pack for Whitney. It was an auspicious day, and I thank you for your sense of adventure because if you hadn’t thrown in with Charles and me, and if we hadn’t persevered on Whitney, then there’s next to no chance I would be on this plane half way around the world right now. It was the fire in us after the Whitney ascent via the mountaineer’s route that inspired me to connect Diamond Mold’s small world with that of Apa’s much larger world when the opportunity presented itself in the summer of 2007. Thanks Mr. G.
Earlier at LAX: First time through a body scanner at the airport. I didn’t mind it except you have to raise your hands over your head for 7 seconds as if you’re being arrested or taken prisoner. That part I could do without. Clearly this trip will have a number of firsts in it for me. First time to Nepal, first time to Kathmandu, first time changing dollars to rupees, seeing a yak, climbing on a glacier, who knows what else, the list will be endless. Naturally we are hoping there’s one major new first in it for Apa, his first time on the summit for the 21st time. Much of this trip will have elements that are familiar to him, but one can only attempt the summit for the 21st time if the prerequisite has been met, 20 previous summits. I marvel at Apa’s endurance even at this early juncture in the journey.
For instance, departing SLC airport. Apa was swarmed by reporters, well five anyway, I’m not sure that’s a swarm, but it’s three more than I’ve ever been swarmed by. They formed a phalanx, set up tripods, glaring lights, microphones, asked him a barrage of questions, many for which there are no really complete answers possible, like “how does your family feel about your leaving?” He answered all of them patiently and with a huge smile. That wasn’t before the airport security came over and made the cameramen turn around all their cameras 180 degrees. It took a while to figure out what was going on. Turns out film crews can’t shoot footage with banking operations in the background, in this case Zion’s Bank in terminal 2 was the back drop.
Now I have to digress and say a few words about Jerry Mika. Most of you reading this will know Jerry and his maverick, incorrigible, dauntless style. Apa wouldn’t reside in Utah, and for that matter I wouldn’t be on this trip, if it weren’t for Jerry Mika. Jerry sponsored Apa’s application to immigrate to the US back in December 2006. Of his many brilliant ideas, one of Jerry’s that took more chutzpah than usual was to approach then Governor John Huntsman and introduce him to Apa. Being the persuasive guy Jerry is it’s no wonder he secured a letter of recommendation on Apa’s behalf from the Governor. Of course Apa deserves credit too because Huntsman wouldn’t have written the letter if Apa hadn’t been the charismatic heart warming soul that he is, but Jerry was the facilitator, and he has been an indefatigable supporter of Apa and his family for over 5 years.
More firsts for Terrell: first time flying over mainland China, first time seeing Beijing’s lights from the air, an expanse that seemed to curve over the horizon in every direction. First time flying over the northern part of Vietnam (that was surreal. I’d flown over Vietnam in 1984 on the way from Bangkok to Taipei, but never thought I’d fly over what used to be North Vietnam). We detoured around North Korean airspace; have never done that before. The flight path made a big jog to the east. First time watching the sunrise over Laos. Never flown over Laos before either. It would be great to visit these countries someday. There is nothing like travel to inspire the wanderlust inside.
Apa says it’s time to go to Gate C1 for the flight to Kathmandu. He’s put on a new change of clothes and even shaved. He says “Just in case.” Meaning just in case the media are waiting at the KTM airport. Quite surprising to me one person here in Bangkok’s airport has already recognized him and stopped to wish him well. We are definitely not in LA any more.
Thinking of you Carolee…since I know you’d like them I took a photo of purple orchids growing out of the wall here in the airport. I hope you had a great trip to Puerto Rico.
Next stop Nepal.