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The Here & Now of Trekking by Kev Reynolds

By Jude Limburn - 14th December 2021

Following the very sad news of the death of our great friend, trek leader and writer, Kev Reynolds, we wanted to share a piece that Kev wrote for Mountain Kingdoms about his love of Himalayan trekking.

600 Descent from Larkya la to Bimtang Meadow Kev Reynolds
Descent from the Larkya La by Kev Reynolds

(Written by Kev in 2010)

"On his way to Rakaposhi in 1947, Bill Tilman summed up the appeal of trekking with a passage that has for me a permanent echo: ‘I felt I could go on like this for ever,’ he wrote, ‘that life had little better to offer than to march day after day in an unknown country to an unattainable goal’. (Two Mountains and a River)

Those words conjure for me the indescribably rich fragrances of a Himalayan foothill shortly after dawn. Huge spiders’ webs jewelled with dew stretch from one poinsettia to another; the blue haze of wood smoke hangs over a tiny thatched village; the sound of a cock crowing, neck stretched taut, brown wings flapping – and far off, way beyond an artistic landscape of terraced fields, a great arctic wall shimmers in the crisp morning light a dozen days march away. The Himalaya!

In ignorance I once imagined the pure joy of trekking would only come from being among the big mountains. But that’s not so. The foothills are every bit as exciting, the middle hills just as invigorating; for each is part of the jigsaw, dependent on the others to complete the picture.

Laden porters pad by smelling of cooking fires, their flip-flops slapping the clay path, loads piled high above their heads. These Himalayan juggernauts are the true heroes of trekking, and I’m humbled by their presence as I, carrying just a light pack, allow them to draw ahead. I and my fellow trekkers have time to soak up the beauty of the morning, to anticipate the day’s journey… Better still, anticipate nothing. Take this moment for the blessing it is. For trekking can be (should be) an education in the art of happiness. Living in the moment. Living for the moment. Living NOW.

Tom Longstaff, another great Himalayan explorer, promoted that view in This My Voyage: ‘Since happiness is most often found by those who have learned to live in every moment of the present, none has such prodigal opportunities for attaining that as the traveller.’ Longstaff continued that theme in a letter to Bill Murray while Murray was exploring the Panch Chuli: ‘…just forget all before and after and soak the moment in so that it will never come out.’

What is so compelling about trekking through an unknown country is the immediacy of existence. Life is instantaneous. There is no past or future, only the present; and that consists of simply putting one foot in front of the other. That simple act can be achieved without conscious thought (if all is going well), or it can be the most difficult or painful exercise imaginable if the way is rough and you’re dogged by illness or injury. On the trail when things go well, the days expand and every moment is cause for celebration; the journey itself becomes intoxicating, life enhancing. It is the ultimate great escape. Not an escape from reality (as some might suggest), but an escape into reality – an opportunity to divest oneself of the restraints and clutter of ‘normal’ existence, and to be cleansed by an awareness of what little it takes to survive and live well – if only for a few short weeks in a year.

Live the moment. Live it well. Live now."

Kev Reynolds, 1943-2021

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