Go Far

Ama Dablam and Kangtega in the Solukhumbu range of the Himalaya

Ama Dablam and Kangtega in the Solukhumbu range of the Himalaya

A thousand miles and more
Beyond the Bosphorus and the Levant,
Far along the Karakoram Way,
Past the ancient city of Tashkent.

Dusty Kathmandu beckons,
With Thamel’s every trackless street,
Spin the wheels at Boudhanath,
And the temple monkeys to greet.

Looming distant beyond the valley,
Rising above the smoke and haze,
Gleaming, jagged, white with summer snow,
The Solukhumbu commands your gaze.

From Lukla’s first tilted landing,
And the winding paths of Namche Bazar,
Along narrow depths of the Dudh Kosi valley,
Steep trails promise to take you far.

The welcoming arms of Ama Dablam
Smiling over the milk river below,
Guarding over the school in Khumjung,
Tengboche’s chanting, yet still far to go.

The Pheriche valley is a welcome path,
Stone homesteads and herds of yak;
A sombre memorial at Thokla Pass
For those who didn’t make it back.

Wild horses roam Lobuche;
Gorak Shep, last chance for tea;
The Khumbu Glacier is now the road,
High Himal everywhere to see.

Nuptse looms, Pumori beckons,
Kala Patthar provides the view,
Yet still you press on farther,
Unsure of what you came to do.

The Khumbu continues upward
Beyond the grim and frozen fall,
Inexorable, rising, air ever thinning
Beneath high Lhotse’s mighty wall.

Steeply ascending, jumars on the rope,
South Col will be your final rest,
A camp too high for long to stay,
So press on to the final test.

Lamplight climbing, past Hillary Step,
Sunrise on the last ridge line,
Gleaming on all the peaks below,
You stand now there in bright sunshine.

Sagarmatha holds you in her arms,
Upon her grace you now depend;
The Roof of the World, Peak Fifteen,
Look quick, it’s time to descend.

The world all lies below you,
Nothing now stands as high;
Yet you cannot stay, it’s not your realm,
If you linger you will die.

A fast descent, a steady walk,
Back down the valleys below,
The villages and teahouses greet you,
Another traveler, with their welcome glow.

Of the high places of the world,
Stories you now have to tell,
Yet what you will remember best
Are the people who helped you well.

Tsering, Pemba, Pasang, Phurba,
Without them you would surely fall,
Lhakpa, Dawa, Mingma, Dorje,
There beside you, and sturdy all.

In your armchair by the fire,
You still see their faces clear,
The Sherpa of the Solukhumbu,
To your heart remain forever near.

18 thoughts on “Go Far

        • I have done a little bit of local climbing, but also not anywhere near that kind of level. I did travel to Nepal, though, and trekked up to Everest Basecamp, and that trip is the inspiration for this piece. I have dreamed of being able to climb farther, beyond the Khumbu Icefall, but, skills aside, such a thing is also financially beyond me. So, the poem is one part personal experience, and one part personal dream.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Wow– did you go to Katmandhu ? How did you enjoy that ? Man, I would have given my eye teeth for that– I was close enough a couple times, but didn’t have the time or money.

          I am totally with you on Everest — it is never going to be possible for me, but I dream of it often anyway.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I was several days in Kathmandu, both before and after being up in the mountains. My first day there, I was so jetlagged and I got ripped off as soon as I exited the airport, so I wasn’t set up to enjoy it much. By the second day, though, I’d had some sleep and let things go, and really started to experience the culture and the sheer amazement of such a different place, and although I wouldn’t want to live there (easily the most smog-ridden city I’ve been to), nevertheless I fell a little bit in love with it. It’s crowded and dirty and dusty and noisy and all of that, but it’s *alive*.

          After returning from the Himalaya, all flights out were thrown in disarray, as demonstrators had taken over and shut down the airport in Bangkok, and of course that is the central hub for the region. I spent several days figuring out what to do next, before finally finding a flight to Delhi (with no visa for India, and immediately after the bombing in Mumbai), arriving there only to be told that my onward ticket to Chicago was not valid. A few tense and uncertain hours, then eventually I got a standby seat on the plane.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rachel! I should be clear, though — I have not climbed Mt Everest, merely dreamed of doing so. I did, however, hike up to Everest Base Camp a few years back, spending about a month in Nepal and almost three weeks in the Himalayas overall. My time there definitely left a lasting impression.

      I also had the opportunity, many years ago, to briefly meet Sir Edmund Hillary. He wouldn’t have remembered, of course. He was giving a speech, and afterwards I shook his hand and said some forgettable nonsense, probably “It’s an honor to meet you,” or something similarly inane.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Reblogged this on Lace Winter and commented:

    With the recent earthquake in Nepal, and the news coming out of Kathmandu and from Everest Base Camp, my thoughts inevitably are drawn to the Sherpa people I met when I traveled there several years ago, some of whom were working in the base camp when the avalanche off Pumori roared through. This poem was an homage to the Sherpa when I wrote it last year, and I re-dedicate it to them again now in the wake of this tragedy.


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