Weaving through the “hillsides” (in Nepal anything below 7000ft is called a hill) we gradually increase our altitude. Eventually the smog and dust of Kathmandu valley vanishes behind as each peak steadily edges further and further into a clear royal blue sky. It is a perfect day to fly. In the distance, vast white capped Himalayan Ranges stretch to each edge of the horizon. Making a quick stop at Lukla about 10,000 ft. above sea level, gives us a chance to observe the world’s most dangerous airport in action. There are no second chances for pilots here and after watching a couple white knuckle arrivals and departures I am very relieved to have come in on a helicopter. In a few short minutes we are refueled and flying again but this time there is a much higher landing site in mind. Our steep accent brings us into the heart of Sagarmatha National Park, through beautiful valleys, past icy lakes and finally to the foot of Mount Everest. Healthy forests have long since given way to scrub, stone and snow but that doesn’t stop the steady stream of trekkers making their way to base camp each day. Seeing them next to the Everest glacial flow lends much needed perspective to the sheer magnitude of these beasts. We land in a field close by and disembark giddy with excitement. Being literally surrounded by a breathtaking panoramic of the tallest mountains in the world is an experience that I would strongly recommend. The moment however is fleeting. Breathing the thin air at 18,000ft, without acclimatization, for too long is very hazardous so after about 10 minutes it was time to retreat for lunch at a much safer altitude.
It is very fitting that I should visit Everest at the end of this PULSE assignment. When you see firsthand the sheer immensity of these mountains it’s hard to believe that one person could have conquered that peak let alone thousands. But they don’t climb by themselves. It takes a large team of people to get that man or women to the summit. Just like with any goal this project was successful because of the people involved. It was a great privilege to contribute to CARE Nepal’s work and I hope my time there will have made a lasting difference, but just like that moment at base camp it was short-lived. While I will miss my new friends and coworkers, it is time for me to retreat to lower altitudes, catch my breath and reconnect with the support group I had left behind.
I imagine that when climbers reach the top of Everest and look at the view before them (besides the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment) all they see are more mountains to scale. Goals are not finish lines, however they may be starting gates. Learning to spot the opportunity that completing a goal creates can be just as important as the goal itself. The PULSE program was a three year process for me and now that it is coming to an end I find myself looking ahead to the future. It’s time to find new peaks to climb and try my hardest to learn and develop from the journey.
P.S. The PULSE program was one of the great experiences of my short life. However I could not have done it without the undying help and support of my wife, family, friends coworkers and leaders. Thank you so much for all that you have done I only hope that I have made you proud.