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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

How to walk

Over the past few weeks we have done a lot of walking. We have walked from elevations as low as 1100m and as high as 5000m. Walking is the most basic form of human transportation and there is something so unique about only relying on our own legs to take us to places. We have walked up mountains, down valleys, across landslides, on suspension bridges, through rivers, through villages, over mountain passes and through the jungle, forest and the high alpine climates of the Northern Nepal. The only thing that I’ve noticed in particular is the different types of walking that have characterized this trek.

1. The 5000m “walk”

When you are above 5000m, walking is a little bit different, and it goes a something like this: Walk five steps, stop, gasp for air, take a sip of water, repeat. This is what the I-team calls the type 2 fun: it sucks at the moment but as soon as it’s over and you’re at the top of a mountain with 360 degree view of the Himalayas, it’s all worth it.

2. The steep downhill

As they say, what goes up must come down, and Him B is no exception. Mostly characterized by intense knee pain and thoughts of just rolling down the mountains instead, this walk is done fast in an attempt to minimize the time each knee bears weight, but slow enough not to tumble down 1000m of valley below.

3. The “I can see camp” walk

At the end of the long day, even Him B has drop in energy. But with that first glimpse of the blue dining room tent, the big red tarp or the smiling porters suddenly it is possible to skip, dance, prance, sing (mostly just the Wii theme song) and maybe run the next few meters as thoughts of tea and warm clothes cloud your mind.

4. The midnight pee

It’s freezing in your tent. It is even colder outside. There is snow on the ground. You’ve spent the past few hours trying to sleep and huddling to next to your tent mates for warmth. You are wearing every layer you own and just wishing sun would come up already. Then it hits you – you have to pee. Everything in you is tellin you to just stay in your sleeping bag and try to hold out until the morning. You know that a good mountaineer pees clear, but the toilet tent is so far away and you regret drinking so much water. There are no other options. You stumble out of your tent, hoping that there are no yaks lurking in the night, and walk quickly to shorten exposure to the cold air. Leaving the toilet tent, however is different. A quick glance up reveals thousands of stars and a full moon illuminating the snow covered mountains. Despite the freezing air, you stop for a few minutes and just look. In one of the rare moments of the complete silence and total awe, suddenly the cold doesn’t seem too bad.

5. The suspension bridge

Some of the bridges here contribute to the moments of intense stress. You take the first step onto the wooden planks, alone because the bridge can support only one person (or maybe just the group guinea pig, the world may never know). The bridge is long and narrow, and hundreds of feet below a river rushes down the valley. The bridge swings with every step and the wooden planks creak and seem just about ready to collapse. You grasp the side of the bridge, knuckles turning white, and walk slowly, hoping your feet don’t slip off the side. You wonder how it seems that you have been on this bridge forever yet you aren’t even halfway across. For a second, you look up and all the fear leaves. In its place, comes an amazement of your small presence among the tallest mountains in the world.