Everest / Alpine Expeditions

Return To Everest Update 31 March: Scott Parazynski: Peaceful Meditation in the Himalayas

By Keith Cowing
Scott Parazynski
March 31, 2009
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Return To Everest Update 31 March: Scott Parazynski: Peaceful Meditation in the Himalayas
Tengboche Monastery
Scott Parazynski

To bed at 8pm the night before, I had the “intention of considering” waking up early to visit the Tengboche Monastery for morning prayers — with a pre-dawn and pre-warmth start of 6am. I rustled at 5:30 am to the sounds of gongs nearby, and then whispered over to my roommate Steve to see if he wanted to make the short hike. To my surprise — and quite honestly initial dismay — he said “Yes, let’s go.” So we bundled up with our cameras and marched outside, amazed to see an inch of fresh fallen snow, and brilliant, deep blue, cloudless skies. It was a one-in-a-million morning that I might’ve missed for a few more winks…

The Tibetan Buddhist service was mesmerizing and powerful, with monks of all ages reading scripts in more or less unison, occasionally taking a break for warm milk tea. The warmth rising from their cups was clearly visible in the faintly lit but frigid temple. Although I’m not Buddhist, and I didn’t understand a word that was said, I felt uplifted and protected by the blessings and prayers of these devout worshipers.

Departing the temple just before the sun rose over the high mountain ridges, the alpenglow on the giant mountains of the region — Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam and others I cannot name — was truly magnificent. Every photograph I took was better than the last: an orange glow cast on Ama Dablam, framed by the monastery gates, the monastery with Everest in the background, and so on. I felt like the Ansel Adams of the Himalayas, but I knew I was cheating: with scenery this spectacular, you’d end up with award-winning shots without even trying… Regrettably the bandwidth from my current location is slow (and very, very expensive), but I hope to share a few of them with you when conditions permit.

To continue the spiritual theme du jour, several of our team traveled down the hill to Dengboche, where a Buddhist nunnery is located. I took my SPOT for along for a walk, and enjoyed the snow-covered pine on the 45 minute walk. Many of the nuns were away in the village of Pangboche today, but one of the nuns graciously shared their humble temple with us. Finally, later in the afternoon, the majority of our team went back to the Tengboche Monastery for prayer chanting once more. A couple of the monks recognized me from the morning service and gave me a nod — a regular!

Tomorrow morning our trek continues ever closer to Everest and the Khumbu glacier: we will attend a puja ceremony at the Pangboche Monastery, and then continue on to Pheriche, where the Himalayan Rescue Association has a major clinic each climbing season. We’ll finally be above treeline, at an altitude of 14,000 feet or thereabouts, and most likely won’t see live vegetation until the adventure of Everest is complete. I don’t know the status of internet connectivity in Pheriche, Lobuche or Gorak Shep — the next destinations en route to base camp — but it is possible it will be non-existent until base camp arrival.

You can follow along the trail as I check in with my SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker

Snow is falling, and my hour on the internet is nearly up!


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻