Interview Ken Stober on trekking in Nepal

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Below is an interview with Ken Stober, Volunteer Director of International Operations for the International Mountain Explorer’s Connection based in Boulder, Colorado. Ken has spent a considerable amount of time not only trekking in Nepal but also doing some volunteer projects. BootsnAll editor’s had a chance to interview Ken and ask him about advice for trekking in Nepal.

What route did you take in Nepal?
I have been to Nepal three times, 1998, 2000, 2003, been to the Everest region three times and Annapurna once. Two of the trips to the Everest region were with guided groups of 10+ people. For Annapurna, three of us hired a porter/guide to help us. Since we were limited on time the Annapurna trip was from Pokhara to Jomsom and then flew back from Jomsom.

How many days were you climbing on the mountain?
While trekking in the Everest Region, we would be out about 13-15 days, sleeping in tents along the way.

How many people were in your group? How were the group dynamics?
Group dynamics can be a very interesting thing with groups, more so when the group is thrown together with people you have never met. My first trip to Nepal we had a fun group, no real issues, but we do not really keep in touch.

The second time I went to Nepal one of the members in our group died of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). We were trying to get him to lower altitude and to the Pheriche clinic when he collapsed and died. This was very difficult for our group, Too many climbers make this trips there life long dreams and feel the trip is a failure if they don’t make it to the top. It’s the adventure and the people and cultures that are important, making it to the top is the bonus.

What was the hardest part?
Anything above 19,000 feet sucks!

What was the easiest part?
Not sure there was an easiest part, the most rewarding is meeting the kids. Kids don’t have the same hang-ups adults have with language, meeting people and wanting to explore.

Did everyone summit?
See my comments above. But usually we had over 50% of the group summit.

Who was your guide? How many porters did you have?
Our guide was Pemba Sherpa, who lives in Denver CO. We were able to visit his childhood village while were on the trek. I have since developed a relationship with the whole village. We had with us Pemba, two climbing guides, several porters and yaks. In all there was 4 guides, 5 kitchen crew, 10+ porters, 10 yaks all for 11 people.

If you could tell travelers one word of advice for Nepal, what would it be?
Be flexible, things do change, weather changes, people change, what you want may change. Be willing to be flexible to the changes. Some people think that not taken a shower or bath for 18 days is a big deal, it’s not. After the 3rd or 4th day your smell really does not get any worse.

Was Nepal what you imagined? What would you tell other people going on a trip to Nepal?
I had a goal and dream to go to Nepal for years. Seeing Everest for the first time is so cool. I was disappointed when I returned about my pictures, they were not as wonderful as when I was there. I realized that the pictures did not capture the smells or the sounds that were part of the big picture. No picture captures the moment than being there yourself.

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