| Junko Tabei of Japan, the world’s first woman to climb the Everest, plants a tree at the International Mountaineers Memorial Park in Kathmandu. (AFP)
Kathmandu, May 28: He bears the scars of an Everest expedition in his blackened nose, sunburnt cheeks, a cracked voice and a general state of physical exhaustion. But none of that could keep the young doctor from Bath in England from the great evening reunion at Rum Doodle.
Dr Rob Casserley had returned here from his first conquest of the Everest only in the morning. So had his American colleague, Kevin Vann, from Tennessee and their Nepali fellow climber, Pasang Nuru, from the Sherpa country of Solo Khumbu at the foot of the Everest.
Sipping at his gin-and-tonic at a corner of the pub in Kathmandu’s backpackers’ haven in Thammel, Rob talks indefatigably. The 26-year-old mountaineer is obviously still heady with his Everest success in the very first attempt. “There were moments, though, when I felt like doomed. Managing the Hillary Step can leave you colder than braving those howling, icy winds. A false step there and you fall 10,000 feet below to the Tibet side or 7,000 feet down to the southern (Nepal) side.”
But all that’s behind him now — till at least the time he is back here to be up on the mountain again. But he had to come to Rum Doodle anyway before he took his flight back to London. Not just because this evening the place was as crowded with Everest summiteers as the mountain itself this season with 24 expeditions in about two months. “The Everest climb is incomplete without a climb up the short flight of stairs up here to the Rum,” Rob chuckles.
Jyoti Pokharel, the Rum CEO, standing by, nods in approval, proudly. Established in 1983 as a Nepal-Japan private business collaboration, it has since been a happy stopover for the climbers on their way up or down. There isn’t anything like this for climbers either in the Himalayas, the Alps or the Andes. As for the name, it comes from The Ascent of Rum Doodle, the hilarious satire -- some called it a Homeric epic -- on the first Everest climb, written by W.E. Bowman three years after Hillary and Norgay conquered Everest in 1956.
So they are there all over the first-floor hall of the pub and under the shamiana hung on the roof – the heroes of the climbing community from five continents with just one common claim to fame. Garlanded, feted, wined and dined by a country anxious to recover dipping tourism benefits from the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of the Everest, they savour the history of Rum Doodle as well.
Like Rob, they all know what it means missing Rum Doodle. Leaving the footprints on the Everest is as important as leaving them in this pub. And, hundreds upon hundreds of footprints are everywhere in the watering hole -- on the ceiling, the walls, the bar counter, the tables and the pillars that separate sections of the hall.
Piece-board cut-outs of footprints, large and small, and scribbled and signed on by the mountain men are the hallowed insignia of the pub. All the names of the Everest story since 1953 that one can recall – several hundreds of the 1,200 men and women who have so far climbed it - are scribbled on the Rum Doodle footprints in their own hand.
And, back from the harsh mountains and often from the brink of a snow burial, they scribble not just their names but little love songs and nuggets of wisdom and dry wit and occasionally, harmless swear words.
Like “I came I crapped I conquered” from Fubar on one “footprint” on a pillar near the semi-circular bar counter that reminds many mountaineer of the top of the Everest. Or, like the one just above it -- Into Thin Shit, an obvious reference to Jon Kraucker’s heartrending book, Into Thin Air, on the 1996 tragedy in which some of the finest climbers died.
One scribbled and signed footprint to the left of the bar counter bears the name of the most celebrated victim of that tragedy -- Rob Hall.