It is day one, and I have to say there is nothing more majestic than the sight of Mount Everest from our vantage point in the Himalayas high above the vistas of beautiful Nepal. Although this morning’s viewers will have to take my word for it — most of our camera shots were tricky as we tried to shoot through a “pea-soup” like fog. Despite the weather, I was lucky to catch a few glimpses of the beauty of the area since my arrival yesterday. You may have seen some of that from the helicopter shots this morning, as well as some of the taped pieces that ran in the show.
OF COURSE, ON A clear day, the views of Mount Everest, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, will truly take your breath away. I have to say, though, that all the fog has given the mountain an ethereal quality that is equally impressive. It is amazing how quickly the mist engulfs you at an altitude this high — that, combined with dusk and the evening sky settling in, makes for an eerie backdrop as we wind down the day and prepare for tomorrow.
A few travel notes...I left New York Thursday night, bound for Rome on a commercial flight. After spending Friday in Rome, our travel group of seven boarded a private jet headed for Katmandu, Nepal, with only a brief fuel stop along the way. Next we boarded a helicopter for the ride to the city of Lukla, off the mountain, where we spent Sunday. Finally, early this morning we headed for the Tengboche monastery, in the Khumba region, where I was stationed for my live broadcast for “Today.”
For me, the trip has already been a physically taxing one as the altitude at Tengboche (12,700 feet) can play havoc with many people’s systems. I was lucky to have the help of an altitude sickness specialist, Dr. Buddha Bosnyat — whom we heard from this morning on the show — who has helped alleviate some of my symptoms. While no one has been seriously ill, a few others in the group have suffered from minor problems such as nausea and blurred vision.
With that in mind, I am awestruck by the determination and sheer courage of people like Beck Weathers, Peter Athans, my own NBC colleague Keith Miller who made the climb to base camp for a piece that aired this morning, and the many others who have braved the elements, the altitude and the physical challenges of attempting a climb up Mount Everest. Whether the ultimate goal is base camp at 17,000 feet, or the summit at an astounding 29,000 feet, the accomplishment is truly something amazing. I guess I had always imagined how difficult such a climb might be, but there is no substitute for being here, and peering up at the peeks from our vantage point at Tengboche.
One of the most interesting things I have been able to do so far was to sit down with one of the Buddhist monks here at Tengboche. While we shared some tea, we spoke about the rigors of the mountain, the Westerners who come to visit, and the religious aspects of the significance of Mount Everest. He had some fascinating things to say about the state of his religion, and the changing times in the monastery. Meeting some of the sherpas and the guides and doctors who make this their home has also been an incredible learning experience. For many of them, Everest is a way of life — and the respect they have for this mountain is limitless.
As I mentioned this morning on the air, travel off of the mountain will be impossible tonight, with the fog showing no signs of clearing. So it will be a night on the mountain in Tengboche for us, and an early trip out tomorrow as we head for our next destination. We will sleep in a plywood structure tonight — with a sleeping bag and lots of warm clothes. It is only about 20 degrees outside, and there is no running water - giving a whole new meaning to the idea of “camping.”
Where in the world will I write from next? Tune in tomorrow and find out.....