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Matt Fioretti- Guide/Owner- has led 20 expeditions and has 35 seasons of experience at altitude.

Matt Fioretti- Guide/Owner- has led 20 expeditions and has 35 seasons of experience at altitude.
Matt Fioretti - Guide/Owner has led 22 expeditions and has 36 seasons of experience at altitude.

About Four Winds


Four Winds Himalayan Guide Service has been guiding trips in the Himalaya since 1994. We have 23 years and 40 seasons of experience at altitude, including 19 successful climbing expeditions. With an emphasis on uncrowded treks and remote climbs, clients leave Nepal/Tibet having experienced the rich culture, ancient trails, and the intense climbing available in the Himalaya. Founder Matt Fioretti has been Alpine climbing since 1984 and brings 34 years of experience to the high altitude arena. Gombu Sherpa and Singa Lama joined Matt early on and bring with them more than 30 years combined experience on the trails and steep faces of the high peaks. The accumulation of years and passion for the mountains between the 3 individuals insures a safe, rare adventure.


Our trips are intimate. We allow only 6 to 9 trekkers and 2 to 6 climbers on a journey. You can call the owner Matt Fioretti at home or office anytime prior to the trek or climb. Weather your on a climb or trek, individual attention is one of our top priorities. You can expect prompt, courteous responses to your questions. Pre-trip orientations allow for everyone to receive a comfortable knowledge about the journey. While on the trek our adherence to small group size helps members become brother and sister, a camaraderie that often lasts for years afterwards. The intimacy is extended to our Sherpa and Nepali friends. We have created lasting relationships with the locals. Our group is greeted with a warmth that suggests we are part of the family. You feel at home and get a “backstage” view into the culture.


Almost anyone can do a trek in the Himalaya. You can be a beginner and feel comfortable with our experienced staff. Our age group has spanned 11 to 79 years old. The pace is slow and comfortable, each day hiking village to village and traversing the highest mountain range in the world. Everyone has acclimatized on our treks because of the calm pace and expertise of the guides. For the more advanced we offer guided and commercial climbs. Climbers with experience but daunted by the idea of high altitude, are taught expedition skills and the logistics of climbing a big mountain in a safe environment. For those who don’t need a guide we offer commercial trips. This means we handle all the logistics and red tape that are inherent in the Nepal Permit system, but you go as a climbing team member proficient at climbing.


Safety is our number one priority. Each group is registered with the American Embassy in Kathmandu and is equipped with a satalite phone. In 22 years of leading trips on the trails and mountains of Nepal our safety record is flawless.

Join us. We are personable, professional, fun, and have years of experience at altitude.

We specialize in the Himalaya of Nepal so you will have a transformational, adventure. One cannot walk through the Himalaya with out being changed or experiencing some shift in the soul.


Trekking and Climbing Shedule

Please call for possible openings for 2018. Now taking deposits for September, 2018, and March 2019 trips

2018 September Expedition- We depart from Kathmandu to attempt an unclimbed peak. Climbers must show a climbing resume to be considered. 2 spaces available for a team of 6. The peak is in the far west, the journey remote.

March 2019- Hike around the Manasulu, the 8th highest peak in the world. 23 days.

April 2019- Trek the 5 holy lakes in the Gokyo area. Hike to the summit of a 17700 foot peak. Cross a 17660 foot pass, visit 2 monasteries while trekking village to village. 20 days door to door. All abilities. 3 spaces left

September 2019 - Pilgrimage Mt. Kailash - Tibet's holy mountain. A true extreme hike and adventure. Hiking over the crest of the Himalaya in Nepal to Tibet. Then circumambulating Tibet's holy mountain on pilgrimage with Tibetans. Must be in excellent physical condition. 7 to 9 hour hiking days at altitude. 4 spaces left.

For more information and pricing please email or call.

Phone: 206-282-0472



Greg Valentine and Matt Fioretti did the first ascent of Nireka in a 2 day alpine style push.

Greg Valentine and Matt Fioretti did the first ascent of Nireka in a 2 day alpine style push.
Nearing the summit on the first ascent of Nireka. Four Winds strives to do peaks that are uncrowded, remote, and rarely done. On many of our expeditions we are the only team on the mountain.

Matt Fioretti eyeing the South Ridge of Cholatse

Matt Fioretti eyeing the South Ridge of Cholatse

What clients have to say....

True to his word, Matt was committed to safety on our trek to Nepal.He is knowledgeable, organized and has a positive attitude which is infectious. Matt is well loved in the communities we visited. The respect and admiration he has developed with the Nepali people created a unique, enhanced and truly exceptional experience for our group. Thanks, Matt! October 2013 Trek.

K. Baker

Going to Nepal was like stepping into the pages of National Geographic with the color, chaos and crowds of Kathmandu to the breathtakingly beautiful snow capped Himalayas. Matt had said we would stay with friends (I read business associates; I was wrong). These people were Matt's second family and they treated us as family. I didn't have as much vacation time as the rest of my group, so I returned early. It snowed one night and the inn keeper, Urken wouldn't let me leave until the trail was broken. A little while later I looked out the window and Urken was up on the mountain checking the trail for me. He came back in and said it was safe to go now. Later as I was crossing one of many suspension bridges, my porter, Prem, ran ahead of me to stop the yak train from starting across the bridge until I had finished crossing. With Matt's group you're not a tourist, you're part of Nepal, you're family.



“It has been years since I went with Matt and his crew to Ama Dablam and crazy as it sounds, it still feels like yesterday. The experience was one that is hard to put into words, when you are there amongst the people and grandeur of the Himalayas you feel all at once small and insignificant, yet more real and present than ever. I carry the essence and spirit of that journey with me everyday. Just go… more than that, go with Matt.”

I was just shy of 60 when I did the Everest Trail Trek with Matt. It was one of the most memorable events in my life! I loved it! And I learned some trekking lessons that apply to the rest of life, as well---like "Pace yourself." Those of us who did pace ourselves made it to the magnificent Everest Base Camp area at 17,000'. Throughout the entire trek we always felt secure with wonderfully kind Sherpas always there to lend a hand and encourage us onward. It was a grand initial experience into trekking that held so very many gifts from beginning to end.

Port Townsend

"My trips to Nepal with Four Winds were life-changing experiences, in the best possible way. Being halfway around the world, in an unfamiliar place, thousands of miles away from everything you know, can be a scary situation, but when you're with Matt, there's a comfort level. It feels like all of Nepal is your family."

M. Mahoney

Yes, the trek stands out as one of my life's most amazing experiences, certainly because of the Himalayas magnificence, but also due to our group's lighthearted, playful camaraderie, the welcoming arms of the locals at the teahouses where you had been before, evening card games, and the way you kept us always under your protective eye ... checking every day for our oxygen saturation levels, making sure we drank enough water, stopping for rest when needed, and also encouraging us along, like on Gokyo Ri, for those last panting steps, so that I might not miss the view of one of the world's most spectacular, breath-taking sights ... and yet, I never felt pampered or stifled, as you simultaneously offered ample space for us to move in our own rhythms, moods and pace.

If I never properly said thanks to you before for all that Matt ... Thanks!!! ... the experience will continue to resonate within me for my lifetime!

Some things that are extraordinary about Nepal and going with Four Winds. Kids smiling faces, fluffy clouds, the aroma of incense, village life, and the journey in the mountains. I especially liked the pace of the trek. I could go at my own pace and felt comfortable. Tim S.

With Matt I have successfully climbed a 6000 meter peak and a 8000 meter peak in the Himalaya even though I suffer from a liver disease. The first was Naya Kanga, 6000M, post -monsoon , in the Langtang region near Ganga La. The friends I made have become lifelong best friends, not only the fellow trekkers but the sherpas as well, like Singi and Sangi who brought me milk tea (Dudh Chai)and cheese on the descent. The Four Winds staff, assistants and Sherpas, make the journey possible. When climbing Cho Oyu from Tibet we spent 7 weeks in the Dingri Region and 4 weeks above 20K feet, climbing to 27,500 feet without oxygen. Matt, being the consummate guide escorted a sick teammate back to BC. Two of the five members made the summit. When I go back it will be with Four Winds and fortunately with Matt who also had a serious illness sidetrack him, but who has already made his recovery and found his way back to the Himalayas. This is the true meaning of meeting life's challenges, and this is what you can achieve with Four Winds. Hope to see you on the high mountains. Namaste!

Glen Anders

Matt and Four Winds Himalayan Guide Service kindled in me a deep love of alpine climbing on my first trip to Nepal in 1999. This first trip taught me a lot and I have returned to Nepal with Matt four times since. Matt has a deep love and respect for the indigenous culture of the Sherpa people of the Khumbu, and in his 20 year dealings with the people in that region, he has established many deep friendships; it is especially remarkable to share in these connections with him. I have always felt safe when climbing with Matt. He has developed good mountain sense over the years, and his motto "may the four winds blow you safely home" is a propos of his climbing philosophy which holds safety in high regard. Matt is also a fountainhead of ideas, and has always provided a source of inspiration for those seekers who take to the mountains. I have learned a lot from Matt's personal struggles with aplastic anemia, and his return to active climbing continues to inspire many people to see mountains as metaphors for the challenges we all face in life. I have Matt to thank for what has developed into a life-long passion for me. It all started with one trip to the Himalaya.

My journey to Nepal with Matt and Four Winds was inspirational and life-transforming. Matt's expertise in guiding allowed us to safely explore the exquisite beauty of the Himalayas and experience Nepal's fascinating culture. We always felt welcome wherever we went, as Matt has formed incredible connections with the people of Kathmandu, the sherpas who gently encouraged us, and the families who brought us into their homes and fed us delicious meals. Nepal is a hiker and climber's paradise and an adventurer's dream. It's beauty is truly divine. The journey has made a permanent impact on the way I live my life, appreciate nature and take risks. I highly recommend traveling with Four Winds! Aileen P.

The smell was of burning lantern oils and incense. The colors were the bluest of blues for the sky and the whitest of whites for the clouds. The sounds were of another language, and the ringing of yak bells were soothing to my ears late into the night. The touch of the air was bitter cold in a soothing way. The taste of the food was bland, yet sweet and interesting to my taste buds. When I close my eyes and think back on this journey , it was the most romantic thing I have aver experienced on my own. I have returned with Four Winds 3 times. David Frisk

“Thank you Matt for my wonderful trip to Nepal. It really changed my life forever” Jeanne

Matt, I wanted to officially thank you for a seamless trip to Nepal which you made fun and easy. The trip and all its details were extremely well thought out. With all your planning, I never had to worry about any of the details one would normally have to deal with when traveling half way around the world. I also felt priviledged and protected to be under the many watchful eyes of all the friends you have made over the years (Gombu, Qayoom, Dawafuti & family, Tsedem, etc). Even when I branched off on my own your friends were there to make sure I was safe and happy (Hira, Ramesh, etc). If it wasnt for you and your flexible, can-do attitude, I would never have made this trip to the wonderful and amazing Nepal. D. Oxford

My trip to Nepal was life alterning and I owe so much of that to Matt and his team. He has such a passion for the country and the people that my trip was anything but ordinary. While we were taken to many of the main tourist attraction sites, we were also shown sites of Nepal that few tourists rarely see. My trek back to the 5th holy lake at Goyko will forever be in my heart as one of the greatest experiences of my life. Matt was in constant communication about changes to the intinerary (a common fact when traveling in the third world) and always worked diligently to ensure that things went as smoothly as possible, and that we were getting the best experiences everyday. His easy going personality allows for lots of laughs with quick and lasting bonds being formed. I am grateful to have found Matt and his team. I didn't have one bad expereince on this trip and I look forward to when I will be able to go again!

Everest at sunset from 20,000 ft.Everest Sunset from Pumori.

Everest at sunset from 20,000 ft.Everest Sunset from Pumori.


Taken from Camp I -Pumori


S. W. Ridge. Pumori

We are insignificant

We are insignificant
Trekkers at 16,000 feet dwarfed by some of the smaller peaks in Nepal. Have trouble acclimatizing? Our treks are designed so everyone acclimatizes.

Nirekha- 5th pitch

Nirekha- 5th pitch
Join us in October 2015 on this beautiful climb

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nirvana, heaven, dreamland

16,700 feet. The wind carries a chill, stirs tundra life, and carries on to the North across the Tibetan plateau. We are a group of 9 that has hiked to this point just 3 miles from the Tibetan frontier, the wild, wild, east. We are tired but inspired by this dream land. We are dirty but it makes us feel close to the earth, we are close to each other with the toil of altitude pressing us together. The beauty has pulled us on, deeper into the wild. Three of our porters have joined us. It is supposed to be their day off from carrying loads but they are pulled also. We reach the 5th holy lake of Gokyo. As if each on a treasure hunt, we disperse. I find myself alone ducking behind a boulder to escape the soft, cold wind. The South face of the Cho Oyu is eye blinding bright. The sun carries little warmth but behind the boulder out of the wind is a haven. Convection. I lay down and scan the slopes for Snow Leopard. This is where they would be, they are probably watching me. Here they are free to frolic, free of the hunter. This place is so freeing to the soul that it is a place one would not mind to walk. Walk any direction, and just keep walking, infinite, timeless, just keep walking.

Twenty minutes pass and the treasure hunters return to my haven behind the boulder. Treasures are worn on each of their faces, wide eyes, happy souls, the sparkle of freedom, the face of happiness. A few words are exchanged, trail food shared, and a quiet surrounds us, a veil of silence. Soon we are all horizontal, the heat from the stone sooths us, sleep.

I wake feeling as I had slept for a lifetime. We all woke at the same time with the same feeling. My first words were "what happened" ? All had the same question. We were baffled and over joyed at the place we had slept and woke. It was as if we were one body sharing the same sleep, and now awake, sharing a dream like state. The moments were perfect. This is nirvana, heaven the same. We were confused, questioning, one utters "are we awake". We all laugh at this wonderful "happening" that we all experience at the same time. Several breaths later we shoulder our packs to head down out of the clouds. The snow leapard stretches and lays down, probably watching our every step, content to stay in dreamland.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Expand your "uncomfortable zone"

I sat sipping tea gingerly daydreaming in a comfy coffee house in Kathmandu. Outside the window everyday life of Nepali people passed by. A man carrying 2 office chairs on his back, a bicycle outfitted with hand woven baskets as saddle bags, each basket bursting with chickens, as the rider dodges traffic, loud horns every 5 seconds, a beggar on crippled legs sits in the dirt.

"Can I get my coffee" the voice urgent and whiny draws me to the table next to me. An American woman is fuming. "I just cant wait any longer, it has been 10 minutes, please bring me my coffee now" Her voice is irritating and her lack of patience grating. She seemed way out of her comfort zone as if someone were stabbing her in the leg.

I glance back to the window. Outside the man with crippled legs sits in the dirt. He travels by crawling on his knees. The calluses on his knees thick like a elephants feet. He is smiling and asking passers by for money. He crawls on. Cars, exhaust, mud, trampling feet, and crippled legs, yet he smiles.

I look back to the woman. I have been where she is at, complaining, whining. I also have been where the man crawls by going through a bone marrow transplant and pushing my uncomfortable zone to wider margins in the high mountains.

When I start to complain or whine about my car not starting, the guy cutting me off in traffic, the rude woman at the phone company, I realize I am just spoiled and have too much comfort. I forget to use the perspective given me by going through pain and suffering in the high mountains and through transplant.

Expand your uncomfortable zone. Get uncomfortable for 5 minutes and realize that our comfort zone does not need to expand to the point where we are just locked in our homes all cozy, fat, and lazy. Our comfort zones do not need to permeate every aspect of our lives to the point that we dont feel life. Being uncomfortable is a good and necessary part of life. It allows us to be compassionate and appreciate what we have. Being able to widen your "uncomfortable" zone allows ease of happiness. Things that seem huge obstacles become simple as you widen your zone

Think about how you can get some discomfort in your life to keep in perspective what is truly out of your comfort zone. If not getting your coffee within 10 minutes of ordering upsets you, try walking on your knees to the nearest Starbucks.

October 18th success but no summit

It is the ultimate test of letting go, turning back, surrender. The summit is only 4 to 5 hours away. We carried our gear high as planned. We began to climb through the avalanche cone to 18000 feet, the curiousity of the rock section that split the snow ramp pulling us higher. We were not sure if the rock was steep, loose, or possible. At about 18100 feet a loud thud permiated the silence. I froze and the thud became louder, louder, louder. "Rooooockkk" I shouted once to Sabrina and Wesley just below me. I dont think it registered with them at first because they were out of sight and sound of the boulder bounding its way down slope. "Rooockkkk" a second intense punctuated shout. A rock the size of a large bowling ball flew eye level past me just 5 feet to my right heading directly for Wesley. He registered the shout instantly and waited till the last second to see which way the beast was bouncing. The boulder now 1 second from inpact with his body, Wesley side steps and it lands a few inches from his foot. It continues toward Sabrina who is safely out of the beasts path.

I took a quick look at the rock step and realized it was all loose rock, unprotectable, dangerous.
After the message from the meandering boulder, we decide to turn back. The route was just not in good shape. If there was more snow we would make the summit in 5 hours from this point.

We are all down and safe and the mountain will be there next year with a route safe to travel. Love to all. Matt

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Camp I, October 16th

Camp one at 17,200 feet. Quite a place. We are all doing well the summit only 2600 feet above. Our plan was to go for the summit in the morning of the 17th. We have decided to carry all our hardware to the avalanche cone and the beginning of the steep climbing, come back and rest for the day. Wesley arrived late and has acclimatized well in a short period of time but we decided to give him one more days rest and acclimatization.

From our "camp I" we have beautiful views East to Ama Dablam, Everest, Lhotse South, and hundreds of more obscure peaks. Like being on the moon, the landscape is desolate, quiet, empty yet full of wonder and intense beauty.

Going for the summit on the 18th if all goes well.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Figure Four Packs

Looking for the perfect pack for alpine climbs? I used a pack by a company called Figure Four and found it to be the best pack I have ever owned. The size is perfect 42 Liters. The weight is unbeatable at 1 pound 5 ounces. It carries like it is part of your body. Look into "Figure Four" and ask for Steve.

October 15th,11

On our way to establish a camp one at 17200 feet on the south side of Machermo peak. We are in the village at a lodge called Namgyal Lodge, named after its Tibetan owner. My friend Fabrizio and his client have just came down from their base camp below the East Face of Kyajo Ri.

Do you believe in the Yeti? I ask because Fabrizio and his client Heather were deep asleep when a growl, described by both as sounding like an extremely large Bear, shattered the night. The echos reverberated in the remote valley. They both tucked into their sleeping bag and acted as they did not hear a thing. Just extremely unexplainable.

Oddly enough in 2002 I was attempting the first ascent of Kyajo Ri and had a Base Camp almost where Fabrizio and Heather had theirs. I had 2 clients from Switzerland join us on the climb. Because the peak was unclimbed we were all over the mountain trying to find the path of least resistance on a peak that was near vertical. The couple from Switzerland left in the morning excited to be in a valley where none had gone, infinite space and not a print. When they returned they had photos of foot prints. Not boot, not human, but definitely prints.

We are excited to be heading to camp one. Maybe the Yeti will pay us a visit. Matt Fioretti

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Woke at 3am. We are all at the village of Gokyo. We step outside into frigid, crisp air, a billion stars ablaze. I and 5 trekkers on our way to see sunrise behind Mt Everest, Chomolongma, mother goddess of the world. It was a hard trek for some but all pushed on to their high points, opening new boundaries within and pushing thresholds. The gold light moving ever so slowly finally peaks behind everest, tears flow easily. We are all well and will be walking toward Tibet tomorrow. I am acclimatizing well for the climb on Pharilapche and will be excited to move to camp one as we all head back down valley in 2 days. Love to all. matt Fioretti

good friends

This is a very rare and auspicious climbing season in the Himalaya. Two of my close friends and brothers from past lives are here. Not only here, but one of them Fabrizio Zangrilli will be on the same route on Pharilapche with his client. Also Chad Kellog may be approaching on the trek we are on. So happy to see friends in the middle of the Himalaya.

Dont believe in past lives? Well I was a yak herder with 2 Tibetan Mastiffs in my past life. It is often that I make a yak herder on the trail bust up with laughter as I yell out the Tibetan commands "Cha, whoaaa. The herder looks with bewilderment. Often a herder will reply "good, good". His yaks responding, their ears twitching from the new unfamiliar voice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

base camp

I have never been to a more powerful beautiful Base Camp. Wesley McCain, Sabrina Oesterle, Singi Lama and (matt fioretti) are attempting a route on a peak called Pharilapche. The approach to Base Camp is like something out of "The Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe" cascading water falls, red stone ledges polished smooth, Boulders the size of houses sitting in the middle of a green patch of grass, you feel the yeti is near or a snow leopard watching from on high. Four trekkers joined us on the approach and all of us were humbled.

Base camp was pitched at 16200 feet, a perch overlooking a broad tundra valley.

In 3 days we will move to camp one, more remote, deeply other worldly, vast. Camp one, we hope, will be at 17400. This will leave us with a final push of 2600 feet.

Thinking of all of you. Matt

Friday, October 7, 2011

6 a.m. Puja

We all arrived in Namche Bazaar at 11,280 feet. Not very high but the air thin with the lack of acclimatization. Early on we visited the Monastery next to our guest house. The lama was just closing his doors but invited us in. We sat and he smiled the jovial smile that all older monks have, warmth, wisdom, and open heart. We did not want to keep him long and began to walk out. I asked what time were prayer services tomorrow. He looked at me and said "come, come, 6am.

In the morning it is hard to get out of the warmth of your sleeping bag. A cacoon stuper. The prayer services called and soon all 6 of us were walking the rocky trail in front of the Monastery. At the entry the Lama was waiting and waved us in.

We entered the old monastary and sat in front of the Buddha and Tara on old Tibetan carpets. He began instantly no pause, a sing song mantra. After 40 minutes he waved us over. He stayed in the lotus position and tied a red blessed string around our neck and touch us forehead to forehead. We bowed before him humbly. We are now ready to continue our journey and climb. Hope you are all well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Squeek, slosh, squeek, slosh.  I woke at 3 am in Kathmandu to this sound.  It started at 3am and went until 5:30am.  As the gold  light of early morning broke into darkness I could see out my window to the source of the sound.  There was a man pumping water into old buckets encrusted with stains and use.  The center back of his shirt wet with sweat, shirt untucked and ragged. 

In my 5th floor hotel room I pulled my self from the window and wondered what it would be like if I still had to pump water from a well in my back yard by hand.  The man had pumped 2.5 hours and filled several containers so he and his wife could cook, shower, wash clothes, and have drinking water for his 2 kids.  I walked into the bathroom, turned a knob, and hot water gushed.

We are in Kathmandu Nepal.  Everyone has arrived.  We fly to Lukla tomorrow the trail head for our trek and climbing expedition.  Welcome to Nepal.  Hope you follow us as we climb the South and North side of Pharilapche (aka Machermo).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

2012 season Mt Kailash Tibet

Hello Friends, Adventures, couch potatoes,
I depart in 3 days for my 30th season in the Himalaya. It is an exciting season with a full trip of outstanding people. We start with a trek to the Holy Lakes of Gokyo. A dip in one of these lakes at 15,400 erases the sins of a lifetime. So far I, nor any client has dipped in the 3rd lake at Gokyo village, sinners.

I am very excited about a new pack made by a company called Figure 4. Alpinist, this is the pack you have been looking for, 42L and weighs only 1 pound 7oz. Durable, light, comfortable. Thank you Steve at Figure 4. More on this later.

At the end of this trip we will head west with a small group of climbers to attempt 20280 foot Pachermo. Joining us is Danaru Sherpa who has summitted Everest 7 times. After Pachermo my climbing partner Wesley McCaine and I will attempt a new route on Pharilapche.

The reason I am writing today though is to let you know about a special pilgrimage "Four Winds" will be offering in September of 2012. We will be joining pilgrims from around the world to do the circumambulation of Tibet's holy Mt Kailash. Hiking from Western Nepal over the crest of the Himalaya to the Tibetan Plateau is arduous, tiring, challenging, one can feel broken. The rewards, however, are priceless. Tibetan Buddhist must do the 3 day journey around Kailash once in a lifetime as part of their practice. Join us on pilgrimage in September 2012. Embrace transformation.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

internet, yaks

Hello Everyone,
The group has finished the trek and we are now at Namche. I will have more post after I return to Kathmandu covering the journey. Everyone had a fabulous time and we all grew close. I will leave you with this. I am sitting in a room about 10 feet by 14 feet wide. There are 3 computers, a poster of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzin Norgay (the first to climb Everest). To the left of the poster is a yak skull hanging on the wall, Tibetan prayer flags, and a T-shirt that says " no money no wallet". When I look out the door the stone, dirt walkway yeilds yaks carrying loads, a cow looking off to the distance, his thoughts 1000 miles away. A broken clock ticks but the hands stay in one place at 4:30. Yes time has stopped.

More blogs to come about the trip.

Friday, April 29, 2011

chorus of birds

We are all very excited to fly to the trail head. The flight to Lukla (trail head) is 45 minutes and culminates in a stomach churning landing. I laid awake this morning thinking of that flight and the excitement of landing in yet another different world from kathmandu. The mornings in Kathmandu are quite special. A chorus of birds begins as the dark moves to light. High pitched tones, long melodies, the base of the crow, staccato, drums. A chickadee lands outside on my window frame 2 feet from my head. Sings a simple tune, flits about, flies off. Tomorrow when we wake for the Lukla flight at 4:30am, pack our duffel, shoulder our packs, I look forward to our chorus of birds. See you in Lukla.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Security is an illusiona! Apparently so upon entering the Kathmandu airport. First you have the landing. It is known to be one of the hardest, most dangerous, landings in the world. Just last season we were on approach and I could see the landing strip 50 feet below. One set of the white, warning landing signs painted on the runway flashed by. Soon the second then the 3rd and last. Hmmmm, at the time I was thinking "we are still 50 feet off the ground. The last white warning sign is a signal that the pilot has only a few seconds to set down. I remember tightening my grip, seatbelt, and placing a pillow on my lap. The gray landing strip being eaten away by distance. Not much runway left.
A loud blast and shudddering breaks the idle, lone world, of each passenger. There are shrieks and the woman next to me grabs my arm. Everyone grips their armrest. The pilot had given the lumbering plane full throttle and a sharp, rising, banking turn. We had over shot the runway. Prior to 1992 this sort of thing happened probably once a day. Not because of pilot error but because of the Hindus reverence for cows. The cow has all right of way in Nepal. You see them in the middle of streets and in the middle of the runway of the Kahtmandu Airport. It was the job of 2 to 3 people to clear the runway of livestock in the early day. Because there was no fences at the time cows would be grazing and packs of dogs would be playing in the middle of the landing path as the pilots were approaching, the runway keepers off to lunch or morning tea. The cows remained motionless, chewing their cudd, as the pilot gave full throttle to avert the inpending collision.
Our landing yesterday was uneventful. The doors open and we exit down stairs to the outside below the plane. At the bottom of the steps a bus is waiting. The ground crew packs the bus. Bus doors close and the 3rd world clutch of the old bus lurches us forward. The driver turns 180 digrees, drives 40 feet, stops and opens the doors. Thats right it would have been faster to walk. I look back to the stairs at the bottom of the plane. Another bus has pulled up and loading has begun. Passengers who try to walk the 40 feet are stopped by tight security. A sharp "you must get on bus" follows. Rolling their eyes in disbelief passengers unwillingly board, the driver turns, drives the 40 feet, and opens the door. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Inside the airport security is another matter. Security systems are present but their operators absent. After going through customs formalities I walk down an escalator that has not worked in years. Near the bottom I notice a tuft of wires poking out in kaos. Now I am approaching the first security check post. Like the escalator the conveyer belt that pushes baggage through the xray machine has not worked in years. Like any other airport there is a viewing monitor and the typical walk through metal detector. Viewing the situation I laugh and wish I had a video camera. Unlike any airport there was no one at the monitor and no one on the other side of the metal detector to stop you when the alarm sounds and the red light flashes. Passengers are pushing their baggage through, a round woman half way inside the xray machine grunts. When it was my turn I skip the xray, walk through the metal detector, passengers behind follow. Last season at this post there were 2 old Nepali gentleman behind the monitor. They both had cups of tea and were engaged in jovial talk. Not once did they look at the monitor and when the red lights flashed and the bell rang on the metal detector they wave us through not missing a beat to sip their tea. Welcome to Kathmandu and our 29th season. Hope you follow us over the next 18 days through the Himalaya.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Day in the Himalaya

We started off at 8 p.m. from 16000 feet and were taking a trail that is used mostly by locals and a handful of trekkers.  I had just spoken with my wife on Skype so my spirit was floating.  I could tell it would be one of those magical days where there is no structure of time.  An open arena where one can become the wind.  We started off slow and were headed down valley, the great North ridge of Cholatse shooting straight out of the ground and rising almost 5000 vertical feet to her summit. Our hike was below the vast west face of this mountain who’s snows meet stone, then wild flower.

On this day I was hiking with Gombu. He is the son of my head guide Chapa Sherpa who had passed away in 2008. I had never spoke with Gombu about his fathers passing and was curious about the last minutes of his life. The days of his passing are clear in my mind.

I remember one afternoon in August while I was barefoot in my vegetable garden, Chapa had flashed through my mind. An urgency prompted me to call Nepal. I straightened from the row of carrots I was thinning, washed my bare feet off with the hose and went to make the call. I hadn’t spoken with Chapa in months but now in the middle of the day, on a hot lazy afternoon,the pull to speak with him was unexplainable. Entering my house I noticed the prayer flags that lay in a wooden bowl. They were the vertical prayer flags that attach to a pole so I had not gotten around to hanging them. Deep inside I wanted to hang them on a special day.

When the other end of the line crackled to life it was Gombu. He seemed in good spirits, “Hello Uncle, how are you?”. I became “uncle” to Chapas 6 kids. Chapa and I had worked 15 expeditions together and after each climb we would return to his house for a huge table of food. Dhal Bhat, Chicken Curry, broccoli with Masala, spiced lentils with plenty of rice . I would play with the kids and buy them gum, Chocolate, and treats their parents forbid them to eat. It was always an exciting reunion and even more so when I would announce it was time for all the kids to go for ice cream at the shop 2 doors down. Four of the youngest kids would quickly grab me. Two kids to an arm they would pull me toward the ice cream shop, huge smiles, laughter, and a menu of ice cream being screamed in my ear.

Because of the delay on the phone Gombu repeated “hello Uncle”. “Yes Gombu how are you and family?” “Father is sick he has the flu”. “Gombu can I speak with him?” “Yes OK OK!” I could hear the phone being rustled around. Chapas voice came clear and strong. “Hello Matt.” “Hello Chapa how are you?” His reply was delayed, there was an eery silence. “I am fine Matt but not feeling so well.” I remember being worried and promptly suggested he go to the hospital. We ended the conversation on pleasantries.

The next morning I pass the bowl with the prayer flags and decided today was the day to hang them. I was not quite sure what was so special about the day at the time. When I opened the french doors to my home in West Seattle, the smell of lavender was strong, a monarch butterfly flitted above the koi pond, a light breeze made music with the bamboo leaves. A squirrel had scored a peach from my tree and was happily rolling it down my sloped driveway. The day had a strong sense of peace. I grabbed the 2 sets of prayer flags and hung them in the prominent corner of my yard. Looking up at them flapping in the wind a thousand memories of Himalayan adventures raced through me and again Chapa came to mind and a smile creased the corners of my mouth.

What I would find out later that day in August of 2008 was that Chapa had gone to the hospital that night, the same day in Seattle I had called him out of the blue , on a spontaneous whim. In the night, right around the time I was hanging the Tibetan prayer flags that had sat for 2 years in a wood bowl, Chapa had passed. I received an email from Gombu because it is expensive for them to call. I opened the email about 3 hours after I had planted the prayer flags.

“Dear Uncle, My beloved father has departed this world. I dont know what family life will be without father. In his last breath he whispered your name to me”

As we descended, I couldn’t help but think about Chapas last minutes. After receiving the unbelievable email I had never had a chance to talk with the kids or Chapas wife in detail about what happened. Now the first hour had passed and I was alone with Gombu in a place where I used to walk with Chapa.  I asked about the last 10 minutes of chapas life, what did Chapa say?  Gombu said "the whole 10 minutes I do not know.  The last 3 minutes he said 2 things."  The first thing Chapa said to Gombu was: "Gombu do not worry about me, I always have uncle Matt with me".  The second thing he said to Gombu:  “Gombu, please stick by uncle matt, his heart is of purity, he will take care of you and family".  Shocked I asked if that is what exactly what his father said.  "Yes".  After Gombu’s reply I pulled off the trail.  I was trembling and began to cry.  Gombu dropped his head.  I was in pain.  This man took care of me for 15 years in the mountains. He was the living Buddha and I his student. Between the pain and tears I was also happy. Happy that I had a real friend in life. Between sobs I would look up to see huge mountains blurred by tears of happiness and pain.  I swung around wildly and looked across a 10 thousand year old glacier, into the rock and ice, dry tundra on the high hills.  I could feel Chapa everywhere.

Gombu and I slowly recovered and headed down trail.  Two hours pass and we arrive at a stone hut.  A Sherpa in his 70s is digging potatos from his terraced garden.  These terraces and his stone hut Cheat gravity.  Glancing down hill the canyon drops to the river.  One slip and it would be a quick arrival at the bottom.  I ask the man if he wants help.  "yes".  No words he just hands me an adze like farming tool.  He puffs a cigarette, he has 3 teeth with gaps between, a handmade wool hat sits crooked on his head.  His hands are of steel and stone.  They make mine look like a fragile orchid protected in a green house, temperature just right.  I dig for 15 minutes stop and ask Gombu to dig.  We are digging potatoes at 15000ft.  A man appears in the door way of the Sherpas house.  "This is my brother from Tibet, he has just traveled over the high passes at night to arrive here.  He did not want to be detected by the Chinese"  I ask his name.  "Pasang" he says in a deep growl.  He is wild eyed, red cheek bones, a wild horse would be tame looking standing next to him.  He has a traditional knife wrapped in his sash around his waist.  He smiles a smile that brings down all defenses.  We all sip tea outside the door, the valley flowing below, wind, a high sun.

We continue.  An hour passes. Grey trail dust swirling from the wind, the bright red tundra brush, and white white granite, color and time blend. The occasional purple blue wild iris clump and cling to wind scoured dirt. An hour seems infinite. A typical day on a Himalayan trail where often the world disappears and the walk is a meditation.

I step through an open space in a stone wall that crosses the trail. I run into a man building an outhouse for his mother in law.  He is very humble and quiet.  Something did not fit.  He just did not seem like an outhouse builder.  He was strong, his movement smooth.  He balanced on the support sticks of the roof, they bent and swayed under his weight but his balance was unchallenged.  I asked his name.  "Danaru".  He came down.  He asked " Do I see you in this valley?  "Yes" I reply knowing that we have probably crossed paths before.  I ask him where he lives.  He happens to live in Phortse where my friend Dave works at the climbing school.  Danaru has climbed everest 17 times, just 2 times less than my friend Apa.  He knows Dave, Apa, and we connect like brothers.  His mother in-law brings out hard boiled eggs and black tea. We sit in the pasture like setting in front of a stone house. The village name is “na”. We talk as if we had known each other through the ages, peel the shell from the hard boiled eggs and eat. A few chickens gather around our feet hoping for a morsel and pecking at the shells.
He finishes his tea and begins working on the outhouse. I shoulder my pack and continue. It is a connection that will last a life time. Just before we drop over the rim of the river gorge I hear a whooop. Look back and Danaru is waving from the top of the outhouse both hands above his head, a smile that says, “I will see you again”.

It is afternoon maybe 2 p.m. We are in the deep gorge of the Dudh Kosi, words than mean milk river. The sun is passing below the far ridges in the West. A chill sets in but the warmth of the people we have met today and the angels that still accompany us produces a fire inside of me. I turn to Gombu and say “What a day”. He smiles and being a Sherpa from the City knows he has experienced a magical day in the Himalaya, his fathers spirit close at hand.

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