Telluride Inside...and Out: Clark In The Himalayas

Editor's note: For eight years, Telluride local Ben Clark and a few friends/business colleagues have made Spring treks to the majestic mountains of the Himalayas. Follow his adventures on Telluride Inside… and Out, including links to his regular podcasts.

Benbioshotlr-254x300 "Dispatch 2: Thuli Kharka/13,900'.

""The hiss of stoves, songs of porters and cries of ravens fill the damp air here at 13,900'. Our team has traversed a 15,000' pass to reach a granite filled bowl and crossroad of expeditions exploring the Hunku valley. This is day three of our eight-day approach, and we are in a crude site known as Thuli Kharka.

"The trekking here has been magnificent. In addition to being immediately surrounded by jagged thrusts of granite and icy 20'000' plus summits, we are charmed by the presence of French, Dutch and Nepali accents as we ascend and descend into our approach valley, the Hunku. This year is far different from last…There are people here and we are happy to greet old friends and porters I've expeditioned with in years past.

"Today I shared greeting with a local friend I've known since climbing Dhauligiri in 2002…and we compared gray hairs! Then I spoke at length with the owner of the tea house where we sit. He had a great decade as a high altitude sherpa and like me, felt that doing Everest once was enough. Now the man has a business and a family. It's a great feeling to be on the trail surrounded by these mountains and the people who know them. There is much to enjoy before even getting to the mountain.

"Of course, sharing the experience with our little team is every bit as fun too. Jon Miller and I are constantly enjoying discourse about why we are so passionate about returning, and videographer Chris Dalton is soaking in his first trip with ease. I'm psyched to have them both here. This is my eighth expedition and watching Jon do great today at altitude was really reassuring. We nearly lost our drive to revisit these heights last year after a five-day stint on an exposed ledge that left our partner Josh Butson and I working together to see Jon down safely after a tough battle with a medical issue we have resolved this year. I feel confident in him and in our challenging, but less committing endeavor this year. We are still a tiny team by Himalayan expedition standards.

"More than anything, revisiting this culture, seeing a new region and returning to finish what we began last year has got me quite sobered. By that I mean, this is real, we are here and the jet lag has eroded away. This is my life and this is my job, travelling and sharing the experience. Give or take a few failures I still manage to be here each year, to show up and go.

"I feel lucky, I feel calm, and I feel present. So I have to go…not because I don't have more to share (you can see that in the podcasts coming up in June) but because the room I'm in is filled with 17 climbers from two expeditions returning from a summit of Mera Peak's central summit and their joy and comaraderie are not to be missed. I like it, I've been a recluse in the hills, and am inspired by the accomplishments of these first timers.

"We have six more days of the approach, so I'll be in touch tomorrow…and pictures will soon follow."

Live the dream,

Ben Clark

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