Juggling in Nepal

I went to Nepal with 6 Californian friends in the fall of 1996 for a trekking and climbing trip. As it turned out, most of us could juggle at least 3 balls and three of us could pass clubs. So we brought a set of six unbreakable Todd Smith Elan clubs (with bicycle handlebar tape wrapped around the handles), and a set of 7 guaranteed-for-life Flying Clipper juggling bags.

During the 12 day walk to Mera Peak basecamp, we passed through many villages and entertained the locals by passing clubs and then letting them give it a try. We pulled the clubs out at just about every pass and other scenic point along the way. As we got higher, juggling got a lot harder. I managed a 5 club juggle at 15100'/4610m, but it took a few tries.

In this photo, the mountain we climbed, Mera Peak, is visible in the background.

5 clubs at 15,100'/4610m [97k] (Photo by Lyle Scheer)

Here's a shot taken on a dayhike near Kathmandu at a Monastery that had only female monks. It's at about 6300'/1900m, and had many strings of prayer flags blowing in the breeze. When the wind moves the flags, which have prayers written on them, the prayer is scattered with the wind and goes out to people. Of course I had to juggle under the flags...to bless the clubs.

Juggling under prayer flags [126k] (Photo by Geoff Faraghan)

The first few days of the trip were spent climbing up from 1000'/300m to our first obstacle, Salpa Pass at 10800'/3300m. On the 4th day we made it and celebrated with club passing and other silliness. Here's perhaps the first 5 club juggle on Salpa Pass with the 400 year old stupa marking the pass visible in the background.

5 clubs on Salpa Pass [103k] (Photo by Lyle Scheer)

Here's another pass, cool name unfortunately forgotten, altitude about 13900'/4250m. This was on our 9th day, Nov 15. I'd bet just about anything that this was a first for this isolated pass. We heard that a group of Swiss lepidopterists (butterfly dudes) came through in 1990, but this route is very much off the beaten path.

Club passing at nearly 14,000' [141k] (Photo by Geoff Faraghan)

Juggling clubs at 14,200' [110k] (Photo by Geoff Faraghan)

On the 10th day, we had camped just short of this 14200'/4330m pass. Nearly everyday was crystal clear in the morning, often with clouds in the afternoon. This photo was taken on the pass at about 8:30am. Weather was great with no rain to speak of in 5 weeks. Chamlang at 24011'/7319m is visible in the background of this photo on the left.

Our camp the 11th day was at 16100'/4910m at Kongme Dingma. As the afternoon clouds were clearing, we passed clubs, then gave club lessons to some of our 22 porters. This photo shows two of the youngest - check out their footwear! An unclimbed but beautiful peak is in the background.

Club Workshop at 16,100' [123k] (Photo by Nathan Hoover)

Atop Mera Peak 21,200' [77k] (Photo by Lyle Scheer)

Finally, my single juggling summit photo. Contrary to the fact that there are only 4 balls in the picture, this was a 5 ball juggle (or one of the attempts). For me, it was very difficult to juggle 5 balls up there. The gloves didn't help, and there was some wind with a little blowing ice, but even in perfect conditions, it would've been about 100 times harder than at low altitude. The difficulty did not seem to scale with how I was feeling. We were continually surprised at how much energy juggling required above about 14000'/4300m. On my next trip I plan to study this effect more carefully. Let me know if you're interested in climbing and juggling on Ama Dablam 22492'/6856m someday. It's a technical climb and is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, with "no easy way up."

The highest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha by the local Nepalis and Quomolongma by the Tibetans, altitude 29028'/8848m, is the closest tall peak to my left shoulder, at the edge of the clouds. From this distance of about 20 miles/32 km, it looked only a little bit taller than our summit. But it was sobering to realize that it's still 7830'/2387m higher, which is more than double the height of El Capitan in Yosemite! It is one big, scary looking mountain that I have no ambition at all to climb.

Nuptse (about 24600'/7500m) is below Everest coming out of my shoulder. Lhotse (27890'/8501m) is next door to the right of Everest. From the top of Mera Peak, we could clearly see these five of the world's 14 peaks over 8000m:

Here's a link for travel information on Nepal: Lonely Planet Nepal

A photo of Ama Dablam 22492'/6856m:

Ama Dablam [118k] (Photo by Colin Monteath for the Hedgehog House)