Missed summit during trip to Nepal doesn’t dampen locals’ trek
July 16, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The reason for the trip was adventure, but the goal of the journey several locals recently took to Nepal was to climb Ramdung Peak, a nearly 6,000-meter mountain in the heart of the Himalayas.
As is so often the case with mountain climbing trips, the group didn't reach the summit, but the storm that ended the climb didn't ruin the trip. Instead, it saved and defined the experience. The three-week-long trek into Nepal's rarely experienced Rolwaling Valley managed to open the eyes of Steamboat residents Matt Tredway and his wife, Dana, as well as their friend, local attorney Debra Conroy.
"I'd go back in a heartbeat," Conroy said.
The man, the legend
Matt Tredway joined Chhiring Dorje Sherpa to help lead the trek, which also included about a dozen Western State Colorado University students and alumni. After coalescing in Katmandu, the group was bused nine hours to the head of the valley.
It amounted to not one trip in Conroy's eyes but several, with different experiences piling atop of one another on the far side of the world.
"It was three or four trips in one," she said. "The flight itself, 14 hours from New York to Doha, Qatar, then another 4 1/2 hours to Katmandu, was a trip on its own. Then we were in Katmandu, and that was incredible. It's super noisy with lots of commotion and everyone communicating by honking their horns."
The Rolwaling Valley, Dorje's home, provided more unique experiences. The bottom of the valley proved warm and humid, but the air grew colder as the group hiked for a week toward the peak they hoped to conquer.
The team was immersed in the culture of the region, a far cry even from nearby valleys, which have grown thanks to tourism dollars from climbers destined for Mount Everest and the region's other 8,000-meter giants.
"We were maybe the second small group to go in there this year," Tredway said. "It's just so remote. We didn't see another white person the whole time."
Led by Dorje, they didn't struggle to understand their surroundings as he regaled the group with stories of his home.
"I learned what a phenom Chhiring is," Tredway said. "I've climbed with him before and we're friends, but to see him in his valley was amazing.
"Every time I've asked him where he lived, he just said, ‘The Rolwaling Valley,’ and it seemed like he could be more specific because it's this long, big valley. But people migrate up and down the valley as temperatures fluctuate. People have a summer house, a winter house and a fall house, and every town is just the same people, heading back and forth."
Making the most
The trip hit a major roadblock on the slopes of Ramdung, however.
After working its way up the mountain, climbing as high as 17,000 feet, the group had to retreat in the face of a storm that dumped several feet of snow on its upper flanks. They hunkered down in base camp, hoping to try to reach a high camp the following day, but the storm ruined that plan, too.
But it didn't ruin the trip.
"We went back to Chhiring's village, where he grew up, and they allowed us to participate in this ceremony, a celebration the Buddhists do that only comes once a year," Conroy said.
The celebration involved a day of dancing and eating as well as ceremonies built around the local peaks worshipped by the Sherpas. The idea was to cast out the old and the bad and welcome the new and the good.
"It was just so, so cool," Conroy said. "That's a lame word to use, but I don't know how else to describe it. It was such a special experience to see that, to learn so much about Buddhism and what's important to the Sherpa people. They were fun, welcoming and warm, and there was all this amazing, crazy stuff going on."
It wasn't on the itinerary. It wasn't the goal of a trip eyeing a mountain climbing adventure, but it proved all the experience the Colorado trekkers were looking for.
"There were a lot of great things," Tredway said. "The purpose, honestly, was to do a nature trek, to experience Nepal and the mountain culture, and making it to the summit of this peak was to be the icing on the cake. That's what we were all looking forward to, but sometimes, it all works out."
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com