Nearly seven months ago I left Kathmandu on a panoramic flight over the himals of Nepal, beautifully outlined against a clear winter sky. I looked out the window, recognizing many of the major landmarks I had come to describe as the ‘white giants’. I remember feeling emotional at the sight of them, just as though they were old friends lining up to say goodbye. After passing Annapurna and Dhaulagiri the plane made its way towards India and the Himalaya disappeared out of sight. But they did not disappear out of mind. Not a single day has passed where I haven’t thought about those mountains.
At the time, I was convinced that the hardest thing I’d ever done was to complete the Great Himalaya Trail. I’ve come to reconsider that thought. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is to come home from the Himalaya. A home I had actively longed for, but a home that felt alien as soon as I got there. The mountains have left their mark and I am a stranger to my own surroundings. I am still standing in the shadows of the Himalaya, trying to make sense of those 127 days on the trail, trying to give it a place and to settle down in the routine of daily life again.
Upon return from a trip people expect that you’ll tell them some stories and then be done with it. I can understand that. Though this trip was different. There were lots of questions when I got back and for the majority I had no answers. During those first months at home my head had not quite wrapped itself around the experience of balancing right on the edge between bliss and destruction, and for me personally once between life and death. I could not explain. My mood changed rapidly between feeling confused, sad, ecstatic and proud. I really wanted to understand why things happened the way they did out there, but couldn’t. And if I couldn’t grasp it myself, there was no way I could explain it to others. The three of us faced this problem, each in our own ways. No one else understood, so we could only share our experiences with each other. And honestly, we have all been feeling very low.
There was some hostility, too. Some have ruled the trip rash, exaggerated, irresponsible, extreme. Those were the hardest responses to deal with. For a while I stopped speaking about Nepal, not wanting to be judged. It has taken me until now to find confidence in it again. Sure, it was rash, I’ll admit to that. It was rash, bold, exciting and educative. I’ve learned so much from my time in Nepal. There are many reasons why we continued rather than quitting when things got rough: out of curiosity, out of respect for those mountains, because we happened to meet the right people at the right time to cheer us on. There is nothing that can compare to the grace of the Himalaya. Even here, in the beautiful fjords of Norway, I often find myself missing those gigantic peaks on the horizon.
“You’re not going to do something like that again, are you?” I would honestly do it again in a heartbeat. Not that the Great Himalaya Trail can be repeated, but there are other challenges out there. The Himalaya has shown me that with training, preparation and determination a lot of things can be done. I want to be a better climber. I want to paddle more. I want to know more about mountaineering. I want to be a bolder person.
It’s been a rough few months for the three of us, but slowly I have the impression that everyone is recovering and finding their place in the swirl of life again. It’s much easier to be out there on the trail with such clarity of purpose. In the mountains I had a sharp idea about the future and where I wanted to go, what I wanted to be. Those ideas have blurred in the midst of the noise of society, but they are slowly returning. Marylène is looking more alive again whenever we talk. PJ’s smile has returned. And so has the hiker hunger. It was unreal for me feeling unmotivated to disappear on trails unknown on days off. Now I’m out there once again.
I go out into the mountains to find piece of mind, clarity of thought. I go out to remind myself that we have so many comforts at home and that we don’t need much to be happy with. From time to time I enjoy a small reminder that we are small and fragile things on a powerful planet, needing to take care of our surroundings. I go out because I want to see what is up there, because I want to know what lies beyond observation. It’s only from above that we can see what is below. Those sensations are hard to understand for someone who’s never been lost in the hills before. But as the old saying goes: “Those who dance are considered insane by those who can not hear the music.”
Next winter PJ and I will ski the length of Norway, starting in October. I’m keen to take an adventure on home turf. We know the country, we know the language, we know where we want to go. It’s been far too long since I’ve ventured into Europe’s Arctic regions and I’m really excited to head north in a few months. We will soon update the site with more information on the trip.