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Everest 2012: Namche to Kathmandu

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Getting ready to jump on the this Tara Air, Twin Otter to fly out of Lukla, and back to Kathmandu. Photograph by Max Lowe
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Saying goodbye to my Sherpa family in Namche Bazar. Photograph by Max Lowe

Max Lowe received a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant to document social change in Nepal’s Khumbu region alongside our 2012 Everest Expedition. The expedition is being covered live on the National Geographic magazine May edition iPad app.

Leaving the Khumbu after such a long and in depth integration into this place and these people was tough, and most definitely disheartening. Saying goodbye to my family was the toughest part of the process.  Since being in Namche Bazar and the Khumbu, I had immediately felt that I was part of the family. From cooking dinners together to being invited to family celebrations, they had taken me in and leaving them, not knowing when I might return, left me in a forlorn spirit as I walked down the hill from Namche.

Crossing expansive suspension bridges streaming with prayer flags and Kata scarf’s over the Dodkossi River, and walking foggy trails amidst patches of sun and misting of rain, my spirits lifted. When I had walked this path before it had been a cold and wizened landscape. Now strolling through lush green pastures of Millet and Bokchoy with dense briers of rhododendrons, erupting in pink and white, it seemed like a different sweep.

After only a days wait in Lukla for good enough weather to fly out, (sometimes people wait for four or five days before plains are allowed to land) I caught my Twin Otter, Tara Airlines flight back to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. I met up with good friend Cory Richards who had taken leave from the Everest West Ridge climb because of unanticipated health complications. It was good to see him healthy and well, but it was a bummer to see him having to forfeit a climb he had so passionately prepared for emotionally and physically.

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Cory Richards stirs some roasting goat meat at a Nepali BBQ outside Kathmandu. Photograph by Max Lowe

Jiban, our expedition organizer and professional headache manager, invited us out with him to his friend’s countryside house for a goat roast. The outskirts of Kathmandu contrast the dusty and crowded streets of the city with rich green pastures and rolling hills covered with lush forest. Sitting atop a hill in the middle of nowhere, we enjoyed beers and rich Nepali food cooked over a wood fire. It felt good to be back in the lowlands. Tomorrow beginning my work connecting with a handful of people for my project and the head of conservation for the Khumbu.

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The dirty streets of Kathmandu lack the pristine feel of the mountain cities of the Khumbu. Photograph by Max Lowe

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