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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

Sunday, December 16, 2012

September 28th

Morning 6:30am, tents broken down and gear being loaded on Yaks.  We circled up so I could brief everyone.  The first thing I said in that brief was "Lets stick together, things can spin out of control real quick above 17,000 feet".  As I looked face to face I could see there were a few of us that were going to have a difficult day but I knew that everyone gathered in front of me could do it.  I could see one pilgrim especially, a close friend of mine,  had the beginning of facial edema.  The body not functioning correctly with the handling of fluids.  As I spoke I glanced at her and was making a decision in my head if I should turn her around.  There are parts of a guides job that are sometimes solitary, things that cannot be shared with client.   In our solitary life on a trip at altitude we are watching everything, shoe laces, speaking patterns, gait, clothing choice, respiration, eye dilation, balance, wind changes, water intake,  temperature fluxuations, cloud patterns,  appetite, possibilities of rock fall, who's passing in our group and where, others outside of our group passing, trail conditions, where to take brakes, cognition, the list goes on and on and is unbeknown to the client.  I did not want to tell my friend about her facial edema, it would just add to her stress.  After asking how everyone was feeling I could see that the pilgrim with the beginning of facial edema responded well and in that moment I decided she could do it.  At the same time also planning an escape plan which would entail getting her down if she could not make the pass and letting those who could make it go over the pass.  Some how we would have to meet on the other side of the mountain.  I hoped deep down that she would make it.

We were on our way to one of the holiest sites in the world the "Dolma La" pass at 18678 ft.  The trail from camp started off with a gentle rise and within 10 minutes people who were hurting started falling behind.  The day went on like this with part of our group 20 to 30 minutes in front of a second slower group.  Everyone was excited.  For a guide there is a fine line between being excited for everyone and getting everyone over and out of altitude before someone grinds to a halt.  On this day,  as time passed and the air grew thinner with every step,  I was a little worried that we were losing our team and becoming a broken group of individuals, a behavior that is common at altitude.  I have seen it before where the higher one goes the focus becomes self centered.

As we went higher I could see my friend was having a harder time controlling her feet.  Her coordination slipping.  I decided to hang back to keep an eye on the group from the rear to watch for anomalies.  As my friend started to slow so did her cognition.  I would ask her questions and sometimes it would take her 30 to 40 seconds to answer.  As her situation became worse a beautiful thing happened.  Three other pilgrims began to help.  It took some of the stress of my job off my back and felt a bit better about the situation.  I could now watch the groups progress and still keep a tight focus on a deteriorating pilgrim.

About 2 hours from the pass I asked to carry my friends pack.  I waited as long as possible because I knew it would be a big psychological support to have that pack off her back.  "There is the pass,  you can see it, you can make it".  Shouldering her pack I could see she was happy and gained a burst of energy.  The pass did not look far but according to my watch we still had 1800 feet to gain.  Here balance waning and breaks every 10 steps, part of me grappled with the turn around point.  The point where it is to late to turn back or to early to stop.  It is the hardest part of a guides job because you want the client to be successful but not at the cost of life.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 3, 2012

September 28th

5am.  Cold with a light wind brushing over an ice covered tent.  I got out of my bag to wake everyone.  It was about 25 degrees.  More stars than night filled the sky.  When I finally donned my cold weather gear and crawled out of the tent the North face was booming upright with a silver hue.  I walked tent to tent "time to get up".   Excited voices, the rustling of clothes, tired replies, stoves hissing.  It was the day we would go over the highest and holiest pass on the Kailash Kora.  For some it would be the hardest day of their life physically.  Stay tuned.

Friday, November 23, 2012

September 27th second day of Kora

On day one September 26th, we had hiked 5 hours along the east face of Kailash.  It was astonishing how the trail was situated right at the base. The mountain rising from rubble to sky.  We worked our way around to the North face all the while kailash demanding respect.  I mentioned in a earlier blog that some pilgrims will prostrate around the whole mountain.  I was curious to see such a person.  This second day we were above 16,000 feet.  When we had arrived at camp the day before no one had the energy to walk across the river to the Diraphug Monastery,  the effects of altitude.  There was a wind that moved through every layer of clothing and through the body.   Respiration was heavy with the thin air and rigors of setting up 7 tents.  Our team worked well and soon we were tucked in for the evening, water boiling, snacks in hand, a darkening blue sky.  When we woke it was cold with a blanket of ice covering our tents.  If you have ever spent time in an icy tent you know the mornings are the toughest. Going from warm lofty down sleeping bag to the 33 degree weather outside is a battle of will.  Sometimes I will sleep in all my clothes just so they stay warm.  Putting on a cold pair of pants that you have been wearing for the past 7 days (with out a wash) can be daunting.  Someone had asked me on this day what was the longest I had gone without a shower and wearing the same clothes.  I answered with a smile "you don't want to know"  followed by quietly spoken "45 days".  Those of you climbing Shishapangma  (14th highest mountain in the world) with Four Winds in 2014 know what your in for.

We were on the trail early.  An hour into the hike I noticed 2 pilgrims rising and crouching then laying on the ground.  They were prostrating around Kailash.  As I approached I took the photos below.  I could feel there devotion.  I heard through the grape vine that it had taken this couple 5 days to do what we did in 5 hours.  It would take roughly 21 days to prostrate around Kailash.  Climbing Everest is like Disney Land compared to prostrating around Kailash.  As I approached the couple I was expecting tired haggard faces.  Eyes heavy and heart dusty.  I smiled at the woman as she turned my way.  She gave back a big smile with sparkling eyes and a hearty Tashidelek ( the Tibetan greeting).  She turned back to the trail in front and began her next prostration.

                            Tibetan Men starting the Kora

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Dream. Sept 26th

Beginning of the dream.  We were approaching Kailash and pilgrims began to appear.  Groups of Tibetans walking and laughing, some with a serious tone, others had young children on their back sleeping, young teenagers, elderly with canes,  women hand in hand, all gathered to walk the 36.5 mile kora on the slopes of Kailash.   We wanted to get out of the car.  I could see the trail and pilgrims but we were driving to meet our gear truck and the yaks that would be carrying our gear.  A group of Tibetans in traditional long coats,  one sleeve worn off the shoulder,  and felt hats caught my eye.   "Stop" I pointed with a rushed manner.  Our driver pulled over with a questioning look.  I said nothing and exited the vehicle before it came to a stop.  We were all excited.  Packs were pulled from the rear of the land cruiser, jackets put on,  laces adjusted, hats donned, cameras at the ready, smiles, big smiles.  We were psyched!  Months and Months of planning, flights, hotel arrangements, permits, VISA, embassy visits and here we stood.  Just 8 days before the journey there were rumors that the Chinese Government was going to close the border.  At this point there were 12 of us who had investments emotionally and financially so I ignored the rumors.  At 5 days before departure the rumor was becoming more of a reality and I decided to change the whole itinerary drastically.  With the help of Hira my agent in Kathmandu we completely revamped the itinerary so we could exit Tibet by October 1st, the rumored date of the border closure.  Regardless of all the obstacles we had arrived and now were walking.  At 15600 feet it took us a few minutes to get our trail legs back.  Kailash loomed above its shape emanating grace.  About 20 minutes into our pilgrimage we came to the yak loading area.  Commotion and dust surrounded our gear truck.  As I approached Govinda one of our cooks approached and started asking me which bags go.  "This one....... This one?......... This one?"  Our yak drivers,  2 Tibetan woman in beautiful bright pink traditional dress, looked on confused.  There were 12 duffle bags and tons of kitchen gear and tents.  We only had 6 yaks.  Each yak could take 2 duffles.  We could not take it all.  I started rifling through the kitchen gear.  I looked at Govinda and DB who was in the back of the truck unloading more gear.  "Leave it,  we leave all kitchen gear,  kitchen tent, utensils, stoves, karosene, leave it"  The cooks looked at me like I was crazy.  I continued.  "Govinda,  DB, you go as pilgrims this trip, no cooking."   They looked at me surprised.  Never have they done the Kora without having to work.  They had beaming smiles.  I had planned to go light for the kora.  We all would cook in our own tents and everyone packed dry food.  The cooks had not been told and now they were on the kora for the first time as pilgrims.  They excitedly threw all the kitchen gear into the back of the truck.  Yaks were loaded and last minute arrangements made for the truck to meet us on the other side of the mountain.   We posed for a group photo turned and began the Kora.  My assistant guide, Yubach, yelling from the back of the pack, "Every body readyyyyyyyyyy?".

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rush Hour Tibet

On the way to Kailash there were several "rush hour" periods where traffic was backed up.  Below is a photo of a typical rush hour.

Pictured below..... the Tibetan Porsche.  

September 25th - Rest Day?

This was our beautiful camp next to holy lake Manasarovar.  In the distance you can see Mt Kaiash.  On this day we would have a rest day.  The words "Rest Day" take on a new meaning at altitude.  Your body automatically adjust your respiration so you have more oxygen in your blood stream.  For example if at sea level you have a resting heart rate of 65 your heart rate at altitude will raise anywhere between 15 and 30 beats a minute at rest.  It is like you are on a slow jog 24 hours a day.  On most trips I lose anywhere from 5 to 12 pounds in 19 days.  This trip I lost 9 pounds.

Not only is your heart rate elevated but on rest days we have to adhere to an acclimatization regimen which consist of climbing high and sleeping low.  The photo below is on one of our "Rest Days".  We hiked 1000 feet above camp and then came back to camp to sleep low.  In this process our bodies start to acclimatize to the rarefied air.  Rest days at altitude?  Imagine a slow jog 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 15 days.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

September 24th

Tibetan pilgrims would amaze me daily on this journey.  The photo above shows what they carry.  I had a chance to speak with the 3 pilgrims in the photo above.

 Looking toward the Chugu Monastery I saw in the distance pilgrims huddled around a small fire.  I believe they had carried small pieces of kindling as there is no wood to be found.   Though they probably needed every bit of food and drink they carried for their journey they were quick to offer tea. They had no shelter and their travel kit consisted of a small burlap sack (pictured left) and a white woven plastic sack( pictured middle), thats it.  As I approached, their smiles warmed me.   It was a stark contrast to our camp here next to the holy lake.  We had state of the art 4 season tents,  down sleeping bags rated to 15 degrees or warmer, and a truck to carry our gear and food.  Still we suffered and believe it is just a testament to how soft our spirits are becoming with all the material we have.  Really,  I probably would not last 3 days with what the Tibetans in this photo carried, yet there they were big smiles and laughter booming as they as they walked past our cozy lake camp.  I found out that they had already walked 5 days.  At this point I would guess they had another 5 days to make it around Kailash, then 5 days home.  All done with a burlap sack and a white woven plastic sack.   What were the contents?   I believe....... mostly strong, wild spirits.

This is a photo of the North side of Shishapangma, the 14th highest peak in the world.  In 2014 I will be leading a expedition on the South side of the mountain.  Email me if you would like to join this trip.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The pilgrims of Kailash that made the arduous journey.  We unofficially named ourselves the "Zum Zums"  a Sherpa phrase that means "lets go".  Holy lake Manasarovar in the back round.  
Kids in the Limi Valley of remote Western Nepal.  Most of the population are of Tibetan heritage.  We were able to get a permit to walk through the valley for 8 days to continue and finish our pilgrimage in Nepal.  Blogs about the Limi Valley will follow Tibet blogs.
I met a 72 year old Tibetan Pilgrim Named "Karma Sonam"  I will write about him in upcoming blogs. 
Tibetan Pilgrim on day one of the Kora.  He spins a prayer wheel.  On the inside of the wheel is a long scroll of prayer text.  

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sponsors and supporters

I want to take a moment to tell you about companies who gave graciously to help make this journey possible.

Zing Bar.  Thank you again John.  If you have not tried Zing bars you may want to.  They are designed by nutritionist, gluten free, and they were a great treat on our journey.

Flying Apron.  Oh my god!  The flying apron supplied what is called the "Peanut butter Joy".   These were outstanding when our taste buds were missing home.  Visit "Flying Apron" in Seattle for totally gluten free treats.  Than you!

Figure Four.  Hands down the best packs on the market for serious alpinist.  It was awesome to use the pack on the Kailash kora for its weight and durability.  Thank you Steve.

Black Diamond Tents.  We used the black diamond stormtrac 4 season tents.  Once you learn how to set them up they are roomy and light and provided a secure get away from all conditions.  Definitely a must have tent.

Thank you to all.   Matt

Tibet September 23

Day 4 would be a long driving day.  The day made easier by the fact that we would see one of the holiest sights on earth, Mt Kailash and Lake Manasorovar.  The landscape changed several times already and now we are passing through high desert.  The colors here are a palette of sunset red, brick, lemon yellows, wheat grass, with splashes of green, outcrops of grey.  Again as in the past days I did not let sleep come while on the drive.  The anticipation of the first view of Kailash kept us looking off in the distance, over ridges, through valleys for just a glimpse of her slopes.  We asked are driver often "is that Kailash"  or " how much longer".

 Mt Kailash holds the designation of being one of the holiest sights on earth that is the least visited.  The latter being true because of the raw nature of the location.  The Tibetan plateau sits above 14,000 feet.   The base of Kailash is at 15,600 feet.  The actual pilgrimage takes place in this high altitude arena to altitudes above 18,000 feet.  It is a true adventure and the pilgrim has to acclimatize properly before attempting the Kora (pilgrimage).  This is not a place for ignorance.  The combination of altitude, cold, sleeping in tents at these elevations,  and of course permit issues make it the least visited but probably the most coveted holy sights on earth.  It is like Mecca or Jerusalem but unlike these sees only 2000 visitors a year.

Situated in far Western Tibet it is also hard to get to and Chinese regulation make it impossible to do on your own, literally impossible.  One of the newest regulation being that you must have at least 5 in your group with 4 of those being of the same nationality.  This is just one hurdle of a myriad of regulation.   (If you want to do this trip hire "Four Winds" we will get you there and out).

Now just hours away, breathing the rarefied air,  and running the gauntlet of bureaucracy,  I and I am sure all in the group felt privileged just to glimpse her slopes.  It is a lifetime goal of every Tibetan Buddhist, and Hindu, to walk the Kora.  Tibetans will walk the plateau for days with only a blanket, and water container to do the pilgrimage of suffering.  The devotion of the Tibetans is made up of surrender, sacrifice, suffering, and runs high.  It is not uncommon to see pilgrims prostrating the whole distance of the Kora.   A pilgrim would bend to his/her knees, lay on his stomach, stretch his leathery hands as far in front of him as possible, rise to his feet, take one step, and repeat.  I questioned weather there was any devotion greater than this and wondered if I would see such raw devotion on the Kora.

In the distance the road emptied into a valley.  To the left sparkling brilliant light reflected off of a large body of water.  Yes lake Manasarovar the holy lake.  I knew Kailash would be west of here and my eyes scanned excitedly.  There standing alone amongst the rolling brown hills stood a sentenel.  Bright white snows with a soft pallor, a summit touching heavens doors, Mt Kailash!  The occupants of the land cruiser grew excited then silent.  We were viewing something extraordinary.  As if entering a church we spoke very few words, the benevolent was present.

We turned south onto a dirt road.  We would be camping next to the Chugu monastery, a place where very few others get to camp, on the shores of Manasarovar.  Here we would spend 2 more days acclimatizing in the church of Kailash.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Greetings from 15600 feet.  We are at the village of Drag Nag perched just below the Cho La pass.  One of my beliefs is that the mountains will dictate your journey.  Not only has it been true on this trip but it was ever so true on the Tibet trip.  I think the itinerary changed daily on our Tibet trip.  One has to be flexible and have a total respect for the mountain.  Two days ago a young American woman that had befriended our group had this idea that she had to go to Everest Base Camp no matter what.  She was cocky and was going to do anything to get there.  She asked my opinion on her high altitude symptoms.  She was exhibiting a strong headache that had not gone away for 3 days.  Not the normal come and go high altitude headache.  I gave her my opinion "go down today, rest, and come back another day".  She was going to have none of that.  I told her my motto "the mountain will dictate your journey" as she walked off indignant.   The next morning we heard a rescue helicopter......   the young woman was on it.  I hope she is well and will return again to do her dream on the mountains schedule.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hello Everyone,
I am in the Khumbu on expedition and have a brief rest in Namche Bazaar.  I will have to continue blogs on the Tibet trip upon my return to Kathmandu but leave you with this:

Day 3 of our journey heading West across Tibet I saw the ultimate nomad.  We were 2 to 3 hours by car from any village.  The hills of Tibet stretched beyond the eye, endless.  The ultimate nomad caught my eye between horizon and road side, just a black speck in a sand sea.  Trotting with an air of confidence, a regal traveler with head held high, tail curled tight, and business to tend to.  This nomad is the formidable Tibetan Mastiff.  I would guess that the one I view now from the comfort of my car was 150 miles from the nearest Tibetan hovel.  The breed is known to travel 3 to 5 days without food and water.  They will fend off wolf to protect the nomadic family and fight to the death to keep the yak heard safe from snow leopard.

They also have a very lazy side.  I have watched the breed for 10 years or more and often you will see them lounging in the hot sun on a high rock.  I brought one from Nepal in 2004 and most of the day she lays and acts like we need to tend to her.  When it is time to protect the house from the odd raccoon she becomes fierce.  

Viewing this lone dog crossing the Tibetan plateau made me think about freedom, strength, and living without fear.  If you have a chance look up the breed do so. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tibet September 22nd

After crossing the boarder we met our Tibetan Liaison officer.  Pemba was very quiet at first but as the journey unfolded he unfolded.  We also met our drivers.  We would be driven by Land Cruisers across Tibet traveling from East to West, until we reached the foothills of Mt Kailash and the beginning of our pilgrimage by foot.  I had done this drive in 1998 and was excited to feel the vastness of Tibet.  This vastness permeates every cell.  It is hard to describe the feeling of freedom while crossing the 14200 foot Tibetan plateau.  I can only imagine that when we leave this world we pass into a place or feeling similar to the feeling and place that Tibet exudes.  It is a preview of the after life.   As we loaded up our truck that would carry our gear I was excited to float through this vastness.  I say float because space is so infinite that the physical is reduced.  I feel like a half grain of sand on a windy day at the beach, the winds and the undulating terrain pushing me at their whim, a floating light soul.

Though the landscape spreads into an infinite painting and the days of driving long, you want to keep your eyes open and fight sleep.  The colors, mountains, streams, high passes, huge puffy clouds, deep blue sky, and the characters on the road are wild and free.  Every driving day was at least 5 hours and sometime 9 but I and the others rarely shut our eyes for chance we would miss something in this special land.  I rarely blinked.  Most of the hours were passed in pure silence.  Three land cruisers,  4 people each car, rarely a word exchanged in the truck I traveled in.  The driver of my truck was a larger man light on his feet.  At one point he loaded a music CD and haunting Tibetan music came through the speakers.  He began to sing and his voice melted our hearts, I could feel the land and his experience in his voice.  His name was Pinejew (spelled phonetically) and he grew on all. 

The characters on the road I will write about in the next blog.  Imagine mad max meets Tibetan nomad.  Also photos coming soon.  Love to all. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

September 21st

Flexibility is key.  On September 15th I found out that China would be closing the Tibet borders on October 1st.  This gave us a brief 4 day window to change the itinerary drastically.  We (my agent and I) had worked on perfecting the original itinerary for a pilgrimage around Tibets Mt Kailash over the past 6 months.  Now to get in and out of Tibet before closure we would have to design an itinerary in 4 days.  What we came up with was a wild dash and outrageous adventure.  Everything would have to align perfectly without a hitch or we would miss our deadline out of Tibet.   I emailed clients just 3 days prior to departure from the states.  The memo was brief " Don't miss your flights".  Four of the clients would be arriving Kathmandu on September 20th around 2pm and we would be departing for Tibet early on September 21st.  The connection was crucial and providence stepped in again.  All 12 of us were on a bus heading toward the Tibet border on September 21st. 

I have had bus drivers in Nepal smoking hash while listening to Santana, drinking Chang ( local rice wine) and slurring their words, visiting with their good friend in the jump seat next to them with their eyes on the road only 50% of the time.  The great Himalayan gorges beckoning, tires just inches away from the great plunge. I was apprehensive as our bus pulled out in the early Kathmandu dust toward the North, and the cool mountain air.  I cannot remember our drivers name but he was the first driver I ever tipped.  He was awesome!  Careful around blind corners where others would Carine a speeding bus into possible mayhem.  One bus ride I actually jumped out the window as the driver tried to slip the bus past a landslide only wide enough to fit a small car.  Every passenger followed, spilling out the door ways, the emergency exit in the rear,  half opened windows, and the bus skidded to a dusty stop just inches before the plunge.  Today our driver was smooth, safe, and kind.  He probably listened to Santana in the safety of his home.  I tipped him good and everyone was thankful.   We arrived at the Tibet border in one piece and began the immigration process.  

We had arrived at Kodari the last village before crossing the friendship bridge into Tibet and the town of Zangmu.  The bridge brings back old memories.  It was here after finishing an expedition on Cho Oyu the 6th highest peak in the world that I had trouble exiting the country.  They would not let me leave an I could not figure out why.  I had planned to escape at night by rappelling down into the deep gorge that separates the borders and then crossing the river into Nepal.  Providence steps in again.  I ran into a Nepali friend who was doing business on the Tibet side and told him of my plan.  In his broken Nepali accent he said "  No no no maaat,  Chinese machine guns in valley".  I decide to pass on the idea of escaping via valley.

I called the American embassy in Chengdu and Nepal.  They contacted the Chinese officer in charge,  I was out 2 days later.

Now crossing back into Tibet I was nervous that they would refuse me entry.  As they checked our paper work mid bridge span I looked toward the Chinese guard with his crisp green uniform and white gloves holding a semi automatic weapon.  First thought, not good, as I walked toward the guard.  Everything actually went well after I passed.  We went into an immigration room and a kind Chinese officer greeted us and apologised for the wait. Relieved,  we entered Tibet on September 21st and were on our way to holy Mt Kailash. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I have just returned from guiding a trip to holy Mt Kailash in Tibet.  It is the practice of every Tibetan Bhuddist to walk around the holy mountain on pilgrimage.  Sounds easy but it is 35 miles all of which are above 15,400 feet,  the high point being 17,600 feet.  Over the next few days I will write about our journey and add photos.  There were 12 of us and 11 made the entire journey.  Because the Chinese government was going to close the border on October 1st our itinerary changed drastically.  We all were walking into the unknown for the most part.  It was interesting to be guiding a trip where the only thing I really had knowledge of was how to acclimatize the group,  keep them moving efficiently through the mountains, and keep them safe while remaining at altitude.  Everything else was out of my control and theirs and for the most part the group was good with that.  We all suffered bouts of anguish, frustration, cold, and exhaustion.  During the journey I was reminded that these along with the myriad of other emotional and physical suffering are an integral part of life.  In our culture we are constantly trying to deny suffering turning away or hiding from what is a natural occurance on this journey of life.  What I have found is that in the midst of suffering it hurts.  What is also very true of suffering is that you can count on plentiful gifts once on the other side.  The key is to understand that suffering too shall pass. I believe it is also key to understand the reality that we are all walking into the unknown.  No one is exempt or knows the future. If we believe we know what will happen tomorrow we are lost for sure.   We are all walking into the unknown.   Hope you enjoy the following stories of our Joy, suffering, and laughter and our journey into the unknown.  Matt

Thursday, August 23, 2012

commit and flow

Early in 2011 I had decided to lead a trip to Tibet's holy Mt Kailash.  I had been hesitant for years but finally came to a place of commitment.   Here is what followed after a 100 percent commitment.    A distinctive voice rose above the mayhem of the money changer.  Number 30, Number 31, large bills and stacks of Indonesian Ruphiah cross hands above a high counter.  A red digital sign flashes  with the prices of foreign currency, the Aussie dollar = 9580 ruphia, the US dollar = 9150 rhupia.  Customers enter with hopes of the value of their money rising, a nervous Spaniard stokes his Euros in the corner, the digital screen ruling his attention.  Their are 5 Indonesians behind the desk taking in money, counting carefully, bright neon, a overhead fan, sweat from the Bali heat.  A distinctive voice draws my attention.  I see the profile of a gentleman standing at the counter and instantly recognized that he was Tibetan.  His voice, his stance, the bag he carried, the light around him.  I tap him on the arm and say "your Tibetan".  He looks at me first with an inquisitive stare then beaming smile.  He replies "you are Tibetan also" a huge beaming smile lights his face and warms my heart.  I reply "Yes" in a past life and we laugh like we had known each other for years.  My wife Dee is with me we are both surprised to find a Tibetan in the middle of Bali, at a money changer.  The odds of finding him here become even greater as he relays his story, and we soon realize this is not just a chance happening but message.  Crossing paths with this gentle Tibetan man in the middle of Bali at a random money changer, there are 1000s in Bali, at a certain time of day was surprising.  Running into this Tibetan who's  family owned all of the land that surrounds Mt Kailash was synchronistic.  As he shared his story he told of how, prior to the Chinese invasion he and his family were the stewards and owners of all the land around Mt Kailash and more.  His family was responsible for the monasterys in the area and taking care of 7000 monks.  Our mouths dropped. We told him of our upcoming trip to kailash.  "Well I will connect you with family in the area".  As we discussed and shared, the bustle of the money changing office faded. A deep connection ensued.  "Give me your hands".  Our hands went out and he took them, "this is a rare blessing and can be used only on special occassion".  He began a blessing right in the middle of the money changing office.  I love the sound of Tibetan mantras, I can feel them in my blood.  Receiving a blessing from a Tibetan of the Kailash area in the middle of a money changing office was profound. The money changing office faded and became a cocoon of light. Love poured through our hands and a tear pooled in the corner of my eye.  It was as if we were not even in the office, money kept changing hands, dollar signs kept flashing, no one seemed to know we were there and I felt as if we were not there.  Was this Tibetan and angel?   At the end of the prayer we placed our foreheads together, a sign of friendship in the here and now, and connection in path of the future.   We exchanged emails, he left out the door.  Dee and I smiled at each other, the experience left us breathless and light on our feet.  I wanted to see him as he walked away so stepped out the glass doors which he had just exited 20 seconds ago.  He was gone.  The message?  I think Johann Goethe summed it up in the following quote:  "Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.  Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:  that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too."  I end with this:  Commit to your path  Peace.  Matt

Friday, June 1, 2012

Guiding Mt Everest? Client on Mt Everest?

Several of you have asked me to write my view point on "Guiding"  Mt Everest.  The topic has been scrutinized, shredded, and sensationalized and I understand its allure.  I have been asked to lead expeditions to Everest several times throughout my guiding career.  The answer always a quick "No, but I will take you to a peak where the climbing is beautiful, technically harder,  and we will be the only team on the mountain".   Two old school climbing values held within this answer:  1.  The aesthetic nature of the line.  2.  Having a wilderness experience.  Two out of several values that are the foundation of climbing ethics and why we climb.  These values and many others seem to be missing in the choice to climb Everest.

In 2008 I was leading a trip on the technical South West Ridge of Pumori.   Our team of 4 were sharing a Base Camp with Tim Rippel, a guide I highly respect, of "Peak Freaks" and Fabrizio Zangrilli an outstanding guide from Boulder Colorado and his client.  I believe there were a total of 14 people on the mountain.  In our group tent the discussion of "Guiding" Everest was a topic that sliced the thin air at our 17,300 foot Base Camp.   There were 14 of us on Pumori,  more beautiful than Everest ( it resembles a mini K2) and the route a climbers dream.  Steep ice,  a line that follows the south shoulder, distinct and sharp. That same season, just 1 hour and 45 minutes to the North, Everest Base Camp was hosting 800 people (according to the Sagamartha Pollution Control Committee), several generators, computers, boom boxes, and a russian spa.  We would walk from our star lit Base Camp to the edge of a moraine that formed a high shoulder.  Looking North to Everest BC we were shocked to see it lit up with electricity, we could here music, generators,  basically a small town formed on the glacier.  

I do not want to step on anyones toes!  I have friends that guide Everest,  a high respect for some of the guide services leading trips on Everest.  I am happy that the many Sherpa's have steady work.  The guides service and Sherpas hold years of experience and outstanding knowledge of the mountain.  Other toes that I may want to tweak are those of clients or people considering going on a guided climb of Mount Everest.  You have a responsibility! Just because you pay big money does not mean you are exempt from responsibility.  Also the guide service has a responsibility to educate you on your responsibility,  maybe this does not happen in a clear concise way.  It seems that there may be a break down in communication because guide services, rightly so, want to make money and clients want to climb Everest and have paid thousands to get there.  Because big money is involved on both sides I believe that important issues the guide services need to address often get left in a grey area and important issues that the client need to address get dumped into the same grey area, never discussed.  In short our goals and desires can often outweigh what is inherently important in choosing to Guide Everest or choosing to be guided on everest.  In 2003 I went to Everest BC for an acclimatization hike.  I witnessed a client learning to put on crampons.  It became obvious to me that the guide service was not responsible and the client was not responsible.  Climbing is like learning to fly a plane,  you just don't go from a flight simulator (the climbing gym) to sitting in the cockpit of a 747 ( Mt Everest).   You have years of steps and studies in between.  Learning the skills should not be taking place on Mt Everest.

Responsibility is just one of the hundreds of issues that surround the "Guiding Everest" debate and I only have these observation to offer to both guide service and client on responsibility.  I  have a set of guidelines that I have been using in the Himalaya.  In 31 seasons and 19 expeditions they have worked for my guide service "Four Winds Himalayan Guide Service" and client alike.  

Clients if you are choosing to climb Everest or anything above 21,000 ft.  you should take responsibility for the following:

There is no such thing as an easy mountain.  Climbing any mountain is dangerous and you could die.  No guide service can stop an avalanche, a snow storm, the 500 pound boulder bouncing down slope.  Any guide service that says "Thats an easy mountain"  you may want to be cautious of.  If you are in the climbing arena remember you could die.  You alone are making the choice of being in the climbing arena.  With this choice you must accept that you might die and that just because you are being guided you still could die to no fault of the guide service.  If you don't know the high risk involved in the climbing arena you probably have not spent enough time in the mountains to be on Mt Everest.

If you are choosing to climb in the high altitude arena it is your responsibility to be truthful about your experience.  If you are learning to put on a harness at BC then you should not be there.  If you have less than 5 years of alpine climbing and mountaineering experience you probably should not be there.

You should be proficient at using your mountain axe.  Self arrest, boot axe belay, pick positions, adze usage, all should be automatic.  If you don't know what these are you should not be on Everest. 

You should be 100% confident about rappelling and belaying.

You should be 100% confident/proficient with your crampon skills,  be comfortable climbing AI 3.  If you don't know this rating you should not be there.

You should be proficient with crevasse rescue.

You should be comfortable with setting up a tent in heavy storm conditions.

You should be familiar with stoves and be able to cook and boil water in near hurricane condition.

You should be proficient at rope travel and management.  You should at least know how to tie a figure Eight.  If you don't know what this is then you should not be there.

You should be comfortable and accept 100% that just because you are paying $7000 to $75,000 for an expedition in the Himalaya does not guarantee a summit. There are too many unpredictable variables. You are paying for a chance to summit.  If a guide turns you back or shuts down the expedition he is probably saving your life.  It is your responsibility before an expeditions to understand that you are just paying for a chance at reaching the summit.  A chance has been attained when you reach base camp,  anything after that is out of anyones control, a fringe bentefit,  you might not make it to Advanced Base Camp.

These are just some of the basics that are your responsibility as a client.  If you do not have these basic skills or experience then start with a smaller mountain like Island peak.

Guide Services:  If your clients for Everest fall outside of any of these guidelines then you have the responsibility of turning them down.  

You have the responsibility of letting them know what their responsibilities are.  Asking what there skills are and submitting a "climbing resume".  If your clients are learning to put on crampons at Base Camp of Everest many would say you are being irresponsible.

Leave all the crap at home.  Get rid of the comforts like generators and loud boom boxes (obvious reasons and a whole other topic).

Limit your group size.  I don't have a number but a client list of 18 or more seems extravagant.  I have heard of Guide services with 25 or more climbers.  Dollar wise it is awesome for you, totally understandable, but responsibility, safety, and the mountain experience suffers.  Think about others on the mountain.  A group of 7 to 12 is plenty.

Have clients carry their own gear.  Hardly anyone climbs everest any more except the Sherpas.  They carry gear, set up tents, fix rope, carry clients oxygen, make tea for clients etc.  Let clients do all this while keeping the Sherpas on board for back up.  Let the client climb the mountain, carry their gear, set up their own tents, cook their own tea and meals.  

If client and guide services can follow these simple guidelines I believe guiding Mt Everest would be a much safer, quieter, undertaking for client and guide service alike.  Clients who do not have the skill will not go to the mountain ( at this time) and Guide Services will attract climbers that have put in their time on smaller mountains and have the skill to climb the mountain without reducing Everest to her knees.   

In the end remember the 2 "old school" climbing ethics and choose your mountain accordingly.  The aesthetics of the line and the wilderness experience will define your climb not how high the mountain.

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