Friendship and the Unexpected


Annapurna Sanctuary, Nepal, January 1977 with Roger Browning

Roger and I spent 23 days together trekking to the Annapurna basecamp (15,500’) and then around Annapurna, passing abeam Dhalagiri, and on to the Jomsom Plain and the Buddhist shrine at Muktinath near the Tibetan border. This is a picture of Muktinath with snow.

Nepal 2

This morning I read in the New York Times that a freakish out of season snowstorm had caught trekkers in that area by surprise, stranding many and killing seven at last count. It is the worst trekking accident in recent memory.

The astounding thing to me is reading that 350 people were traversing Thorong La Pass (18,500’) on the day the storm hit. It reminds me of photos I’ve seen in recent years of daisy chains of climbers on Everest. It’s difficult to get my head around a cast of thousands in these difficult to reach wilderness places. Roger and I probably didn’t run into 50 other trekkers once we were outside our starting point in Pokhara over the entire 23 days we were on the trail. It’s equally surprising to hear that some of the stranded trekkers were able to make cellphone connections and alert rescue crews. In 1977 there was no way to alert anyone in that area except by short wave radio from the STOL (short takeoff and landing) airstrip in remote Jomsm. Bless technology for that, but money and technology have also been responsible for many of the tragedies on Mount Everest in – people who are not serious climbers buying their way onto guided expeditions and thinking that because they train hard for a few months they are qualified mountaineers. Last year’s tragedy should be a lesson, but I’m sure the tide will continue to swell.

Just as surprising as the out of season snow storm but much less tragic was a coincidental meeting on our trip to Nepal. One day we encountered Elke Schunorth, a woman I knew from Berlin, walking in the opposite direction on the trail. Elke was trekking by herself with a guide. Neither one of us knew the other was planning to be in Nepal, and when we crossed paths we were probably 7 days from the nearest civilization. That uncanny meet-up seems to happen to me fairly frequently. It’s happened to me late at night on a side street in Copenhagen, in a bookstore in December on the island of Rhodes, in a tent full of 5000 people at Oktoberfest in Munich, but that’s the subject for another blog.

Like Darryl, the subject of yesterday’s post, Roger and I were classmates in law school, and, like Darryl, Roger and I have followed very different paths to get to today. But we’ve stayed friends and shared a number of adventures like the one in Nepal. This is a picture from a law school skit in 1964. That’s me on the left, Roger seated next to me, Darryl playing the banjo, and Roy Eisenhardt, former President of the Oakland Athletics on the right.



It’s a small world. Keep your eyes open and you might meet an old friend on the trail.

More tomorrow…

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