Monday, August 1, 2011

On May 5, 2011, we began a journey to Mt. Everest to benefit the children of Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.  This blog records our adventure and our efforts to raise a mountain of funds to support the health care needs of children.   Climber Janet

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Few Pictures from Everest Trip


Potala Palace in Lhasa

Gyantse Kumbum Temple

Prayer wheels

Yamdrok Lake (sacred lake of Tibetans) from the summit of Kamba-la (4700 meters)

Yamdrok Lake

Road to Mt. Everest

First sight of Mt. Everest at Gyatso-la Pass

Switchbacks on road to Mt. Everest

Turn off to Mt. Everest (Qomolangma)

Rongbuk Monastery; Mt.Everest in clouds 
Base Camp:  from left to right, Janet, Claire and Paul

Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest; prayer flags

Mt. Everest sunset

Mt. Everest sunset; villager bringing in the yaks for the night

Mt. Everest sunset

Mt. Everest sunset

Mt. Everest sunset

Mt Everest at end of sunset

Mt. Everest sunrise

Mt. Everest sunrise; prayer flags

Paul touching the top of Mt. Everest

Claire hugging Mt. Everest

Our prayer flags (on white scarf)

Prayer flags on mountain

Final Blog (Pictures to follow)

We have arrived home safely, so I am using this last blog to tell you stories we could not write abroad and to attach some pictures with descriptions (separate blog). 

As it turns out, we could not hike or trek at Mt. Everest.  We were told that, several days before we arrived, someone set up a Tibetan flag at Base Camp.  Since Tibet is ruled by China, flying the Tibetan flag was apparently viewed by Chinese officials as a potential problem.  It is unclear who may have done this, but after the flag was placed, Mt. Everest Base Camp was closed to foreigners for several days.  We were among the first group of foreigners allowed in the park the first day it re-opened.  So, we counted our blessings that we could make it to Base Camp at all. 

As a result of the incident, however, we were told that we could not bring anything that was printed in English with us to Base Camp - not our journals, instruction manuals or, importantly for us, the prayer flags.  Since I was carrying a blackberry, I asked my office to move off all emails to a separate folder so that the phone essentially would have no English, but I would have a way to communicate (which we could, believe it or not, from the Mt. Everest area, although not from Base Camp itself).  Part of the issue here is that few Chinese officials read English letters (as you know, they have a different system of writing) and therefore, even if we could explain what it said, they could not confirm what we said was true.  The heightened security also resulted in multiple passport/visa reviews and a complete baggage check.  

For the same reason we were not able to trek anywhere.  When we got to Base Camp, we had a final security check and we were limited as to where we could walk - generally only within sight of the security check-point.  In the picture I will post of the three of us below the sign for the mountain (called Qomolangma), the sign is as far towards the hill that we were permitted to move.  On top of that, as you will see from the many clouds behind us in the picture, we could not see the top of Mt. Everest from the Base Camp.  At this point, we were consoling ourselves with the facts that at least the park had re-opened; that we had been able to get to the Base Camp; and that we saw the base of the mountain. 

As the blog for that day indicates, the temperature plummeted that evening, and with other weather changes, we had a spectacular view of the mountain at sunset and again at sunrise.  As it turns out, we think the pictures were best taken farther away from Base Camp.  In retrospect, the closing of the park and the requirement that we take the bus to Base Camp may have been a blessing in disguise since breathing at 18000 feet is a real challenge for those, like us, who spend their lives at sea level.  

As we left Tibet, we were told that Tibet was no longer issuing permits to Americans; this is apparently due to American aid to Tibet rather than the incident on the mountain.  Once more, we felt blessed to have been able to visit Tibet when we did. 

So, what happened to the prayer flags?  We did take all the prayers and wishes with us to Mt. Everest, placing them in God's hand and sending out best wishes to to world.  The actual prayer flags we strung on white scarves that had been given to us for good luck and safe travels.  We hung them with other prayer flags on the mountain.  Publicly, I am posting only the flags being placed so that the location remains unknown and the prayer flags stay in place.     

Thanks to the many people who have supported the Rainbow Climb for the Kids, including the many organizations who both supported and got word out to members:  Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital Foundation; Rainbow Circle of Friends; University Hospitals Directors, law and internal audit department colleagues; employees and friends; All Saints School; St, John Vianney Parish; my family and friends; members of In Counsel With Women; Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Order of St. John, Knights Hospitaller; and, Chagrin Valley Wellness Center.   I apologize in advance if I have missed anyone or any organization. 

Special thanks to Paul K:  as it turns out all blogs were blocked from China.  In anticipation of this (since it happened at the Olympics too), I had arranged to send emails to Paul who posted them  for us.  Special thanks too for the Circle of Friends staff who helped with prayer flags and getting the message out, especially Sharon, Meagan, Charlene and John.

Finally, one of the prayer flags from Rainbow thanked us for being their heroes.  It is not we who are the heroes here, it is the children whose health, safety and well being we wanted to advance.  It is they who face mountains every day and climb great heights to better health and healing.  It is children in the schools, like All Saints, who support and pray for their friends and advance the cause for children's health. 

I hope that the fact we successfully completed the quest for Mt. Everest means that the quest of all children for health and quick recoveries is met with equal success.  Blessing to you all and thanks again for your support.   

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011

We decided to make the most of our limited time in Beijing and signed up for a tour.  First, we headed out to the Great Wall.  We are, apparently, all men now because we all climbed to the top of it (according to the words of Mao).  The wall was bigger than anticipated, it was more of a climb than mount everest.

Next, we headed to the jade factory.  We learned all about the process of making jewelry and such from jade. The sculptures made from jade were both very magnificent and very expensive.  Needless to say, we skipped buying jade things.   We had lunch at the jade factory as well, where we tried dozens of different Chinese foods.

Then, we saw the Ming tombs.  Think pyramids for emperors, only Chinese style. And HUGE.
Then, we all got a lesson in Chinese medicine, while getting foot massages, which we greatly needed after our hike up the Great Wall. We are all in great shape according to the doctors there.

Lastly, we saw the silk factory. The process of making things from silk is very intricate and time consuming.

While busing through Beijing, we also saw the Bird's Nest Stadium and Olympic Park.
Looking forward (sort of) to our 1 hour (technically 15 hour) flight  home!!!! ( The international date line makes the flight shorter than in actuality.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011

We are off the train!!! Good thing because we had too much pent-up energy to have lasted much longer.

After arriving in Beijing, we took a minibus (dirty rickety van) to our hotel, which is quite extravagant compared to prior accommodations: it even  includes a modern bathroom facility in our 9th floor room. The hotel also is well-located relative to major sights.

After recuperating from our train and van rides, we spent 4 hours walking around the Forbidden City. We managed to use substantial amounts of the pent-up energy referenced above.  At the same time, given the sun beating down on the stonework at the city, we consumed vast amounts of water.  

The Forbidden City is actually a city with multitudes of palaces and gardens.  The woodwork and stonework are phenomenal.  With names like "The Gate of National Prosperity," "Palace of Peace and Harmony," "Hall of Imperial Peace," "Palace of Gathering Excellence," what is not to love about the moments spent in these places.   The gardens were rejuvenating; we felt much younger  after walking in the blazing sun for hours.

We returned to our hotel to refresh ourselves (take a shower after the 2 showerless nights and 3 Purell-filled days
We then went back out for further hours of walking as we sought a "real" Chinese restaurant.  We located a restaurant that appeared to be frequented by locals. While we had tasty sedate meals (Claire has mastered the art of eating with chopsticks), we did have the opportunity to view the meal options prepared from live fish, live frogs and pickled snakes.  We left the restaurant thinking that we had seen it all as it relates to food, but, oh, how mistaken we were.

As we walked back, we went through a decorated gate and found ourselves in "real" China.  Food offerings included live scorpions, seahorses, starfish, beetles, squid, and reptiles on a skewer. People were actually eating these delicacies!  Then there were the more traditional mussels, dumplings and candied fruit.  We took pictures since our appetites had already been satisfied in the restaurant.

We returned to the hotel where we had mango juice, jujube juice (tastes like a plum/date mixture) and celebrated Paul's passing his dental hygiene boards.  

We are looking forward to trekking on the Great Wall tomorrow using the great skills we honed on  Mt Everest.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011

We hit another milestone today for the three of us:  Claire's first train ride and the longest train ride for all of us.  They changed the engine after the Pass and high altitude and now the train is running on electricity.

We are back to more normal altitudes. Overnight they pumped in oxygen to our berth so that we could breathe more comfortably. This came with the warning not to smoke.  Even if it was honored at the time, now that the oxygen is off, we have wafts of cigarette smoke.  

The scenery today reminded us of the moon and Mars in terms of desolation. Consequently we were able to do a little reading and card playing.  

China clearly is in a building mode - we saw major construction everywhere. We saw mining for miles.  We could barely take a picture without a telephone or electrical pole in it. Originally, we referred to the picture obstacles as "perspective" but now we have lost that perspective with the number of poles in pictures.

Planting crops also is in progress. Here, however, planting all seems to be done by hand.

So far, China does not seem to have quite the scenic beauty of Tibet. We should be in Beijing tomorrow morning and beginning a whirlwind tour of the city before heading home.

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 13, 2011

We're blogging from the train as it passes over the highest point in its trek toward Beijing. This is the highest railroad in the world so we can check that off on our list of "ests".  On this trip we have seen the tallest Buddha, the highest mountain, the highest lake, and the biggest lake in Tibet.  

Our berth on the train, which is the best on the line, has 4 places to sleep. Close quarters does not begin to cover it. Claire and Paul, sitting opposite each other are knee to knee.  People run up and down the corridor to get hot water or use the facilities.

While we have four berths to sleep in, we anticipate sitting up to sleep as the bedding appears pre-used.

We had thought this would be a trip through the mountains but the area actually is a 5000 meter high plateau that seems to stretch for miles.  We have had a combination of sun and rain making the clouds picture perfect. We have seen all colors of rocks and soil including natural designs in colors on the mountains surrounding the plateau.    

We are looking forward to the remainder of our 2 day train ride.