Airport Kathmandu, we’re waiting for our flight to Lukla. This is the fifth time I’ve come here to hike in the mountains of Nepal. But this time everything is different. “Mom, you’re gonna make it!” is what my son told me two years ago in Denmark. I was lying in intensive care and learned from him what had happened. Following an accident, my
right leg had to be amputated, above-knee. My left leg was smashed and held together with a host of metal parts. I said back then: “This is gonna be my highest mountain.” But that image was only meant as a metaphor for my future life with a prosthesis.
My girlfriend told me after the accident: “When you’re in shape again, we’re gonna go back to Mt. Everest.” Now, two years later, that time has come. The two-motor propeller plane is landing on the short and slanted runway in the Himalayas.We are 2,800 metres above sea level and want to get even higher. At an airport lodge we are to meet Sherpa Sonam. He works as a mountain guide and will carry my big backpack.
Then we start off with our day packs and walking sticks. Very sporty! Nothing distinguishes me from the other backpack tourists. Only Sonam is looking a bit confused. He has never accompanied a trekker with a prosthesis up to the freezing heights and thin air of the Himalayas. But I don’t make a secret of my disability. When I show what’s under my right pant leg and explain how I lost my leg due to a car accident, people generally give me consternated looks. When I mention that my artificial leg has an integrated computer, they then lighten up again. They are usually amazed when I tell them all the things that “such a leg” can do and how I get around almost as any non-disabled person back in Hanover. It usually doesn’t take long before a curious crowd has gathered around me. In every mountain village, children want to touch my prosthesis. And nobody wants to take any money from me when I recharge my “leg”, even though electricity is very expensive up at those heights. To pep me up and strengthen me, I’m often given small delicacies that have been lugged up the mountain from far away.
Two days later, I again meet up with my friends at a height of 3,450 metres in Namche Bazar, the biggest village in Sargamata National Park. This is the right place to recover
from the strenuous exercise and to take things a bit easier. My room is the only one with an electric outlet. In fact, it’s the exact room where Edmund Hilla ry, the first Mount Everest conqueror, stayed overnight with his wife. Namche is going to be my point of departure for day tours to the Everest View Hotel that is located in even higher regions. From here I also have an extraordinary view onto the highest peaks. My electronically controlled prosthesis works wonderfully. Everything fits as it should. After a few
days, mountain hiking has become almost a routine for me. The only thing I’m counting on now is the solar device I brought with me from Hanover. From here on, I no longer
have access to other power sources. Tengboche with its Bud dhist monastery will be the highlight of the trekking tour. From there, I’ll be able to orient myself along the colourful prayer flags. We keep climbing higher, until the altimeter of my mountain clock displays 4,000 metres.
As a sign of thanks, Sonam and I leave some prayer flags in the windy heights before heading back down. Back in Lukla, Sonam says: “Next time, we’re gonna go to the Everest Base Camp” (almost 6,000 metres). I look at him a bit aghast. “I mean it” he says “You can make it!” Only one more night in Lukla. I remember the roaring sounds of the Dudh Kosi, the majestic mountain river that carries the melted water of the Himalayas down to the valley. Crossing over that stream, back and forth on impressively long hanging bridges, I am always on the lookout whether a laden yak herd may be obstructing my path.
Several times, this has forced us to race backwards – a pace I hadn’t thought possible after having lost my leg. At the baggage control the next morning my small daypack is inspected: My “treasure box” with all the batteries, solar device, many cables, plugs and the emergency tools for my prosthesis. As always, this is very annoying! No, it’s not a bomb! And as always, I have to lift my pant leg and explain the computer, power and solar devices! In the airplane I scramble for a window seat. For a last time, I gaze
at the mountains that were my home for the past weeks.
Upon my arrival in Kathmandu, I receive good tidings from Hanover. At last, the insurance is covering the costs for my prosthesis!