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Photo by Catherine Von Holt, Nepal Semester.

What I Love About the Mountains

The Himalayas figured prominently in my decision to come to Nepal. Mountains have been one of the most important things in my life for a long time, but the reason I feel drawn to this type of environment has often escaped me. Recently I’ve started to notice that particular places seem to hold a sort of power for me, deriving from a combination of physical beauty, difficult accessibility and a feeling that in finding such a special place, I’ve been let in on an inexplicable secret known only by a select few. At home I spend countless hours chasing this feeling all across the mountains of southwest Montana. When we arrived at the holy lake that is Gosain Kunda, I knew I had found it again. The trail from Laurabina climbed steeply up to a ridge line that we had craned our necks up at days earlier. From there we wound around the backside of the mountain which we had spent the previous three days ascending, over rolling terrain which is often referred to as “Nepali Flat.” After a few hours of traversing the steep, rock-peppered slopes below Gosain Kunda, we caught sight of a few stone guest houses and some prayer flags fluttering in the breeze. The lake itself is actually one of over a dozen such bodies in the area. From one side it looks as if you’re standing on the edge of the world, as the water gives way to a drop so steep that nothing can be seen beyond except for the massive Himalayan sky, a huge expanse broken only by peaks and clouds which often seem to blend into each other and sometimes become indistinguishable. For the first time in my life I felt the light headed wooziness that can be expected after hiking all the way up to nearly 15,000 feet. This made the usually mindless tasks of setting up tents and digging a hole for the toilet a slightly more complicated and far more hilarious affair. Afterword, I walked around the far side of the lake to where pilgrims had left hundreds of cairns by the shore as offerings to the local spirits and to Lord Shiva, who is said to have created the lake to cool the poison running through his own body. “It’s like I’m in a movie,” I muttered to myself. This was far from the first time that phrase had been used among the group since we started trekking. Eventually I scrambled up a steep slope and intersected the trail out of Gosain Kunda towards the pass. I descended back down towards the lake, stopping at the spring which is considered the holiest part of the entire area, since it is the source of the lake itself. Prayer flags were attached to virtually every rock, and the unseen water rumbling beneath the boulders created a haunting sound unlike anything I’ve heard before. I sat alone on a rock just above the spring for a long time, thinking about nothing in particular, just taking in the beauty of the landscape and basking in the indescribable glow emanating from this very special little piece of planet Earth.