This morning we held our opening ceremony at the local monastery, or gompa. The monastery is at the top of the village, several hundred vertical feet above the guest houses where we stay, so we warmed up shortly after breakfast. The day began in typical spectacular fashion with cloudless skies.
After gathering outside, we entered the gompa to begin the sarkin puja, a typical ceremony conducted at the beginning of things, such as a journey, building a house, or in this case, starting the KCC program. The puja asks all the local deities for protection as well as for forgiveness for any mistakes we may make during our project as a result of not knowing the local customs or practices. The most important local deity is Khumbila, the local god of the Khumbu. While our ice climbs-the School Room- is at the base of the mountain, the mountain is off limits for climbing despite the obvious aesthetic appeal. The mountain is in the background of the first attached picture.
After the abbreviated puja ceremony (I think the standard ceremony lasts for hours), we moved outside for the official opening ceremony for KCC. Lhakpa Nurbu directed the ceremony and there were welcoming speeches by Chhongba, our Director of KCC Nepal as well as by Pete Athans and myself, the other 2 co-directors.
A significant part of the opening ceremony was the lighting of butter lamps in honor of the 16 men who died this past April on Everest. Of those 16, 13 were affiliated with KCC as instructors or students. While we lit the butter lamps, om mani padme om was chanted repeatedly, a standard prayer which in this context means something like, “may their souls rest in peace”. It was a very moving moment as we thought about the personal losses to the families.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, we all went to our guest houses for lunch. In the afternoon, each group of students and instructors met to get introduced and begin the process of training. That initial training will continue again tomorrow here in Phortse before we go out on day 3 for actual climbing. Our day ended with some clouds and a cold wind, typical afternoon conditions here.
All the best,