Barefoot in the Himalayan mountains

14/08/2019



I look up. The beauty of Ama Dablam, Lhotse and other infinite peaks whose names I will never remember bewitch me.
I pass through the many villages along the way and greet the people there. How do they always manage to give me a smile that fills my soul? I find myself automatically making a comparison with our world: how many times does this happen to us, in our cities, towns or even along the mountain paths?
I continue walking. It is a slow and constant rhythm, with a light pace, almost rolling; I am careful to note all the emotions that these places offer. It’s up to you to seize them.



Sometimes I admire my surroundings; other times, focused on my own sensations, I find myself immersed in a stream of thoughts.
Step after step, always focused on where I place my feet. One on the ground, the other on the rock and then next to the root, careful to maintain a constant and easy pace.  And so also my thoughts:  I observe the color of my new shoes, blue like the clear blue sky of these valleys. While I’m immersed in these childish and foolish thoughts (but thoughts are not governed, right? They are probably just an expression of who we really are …) Furba, the porter carrying my luggage, overtakes me. He is headed to the next village, where he will wait for me at our lodge. He carries the load with a sling on his head and I find myself slightly relieved to think that I carefully chose the materials to pack: only the bare essentials, the minimum needed. So also for him these days will not be too tiring. He greets me with respect and a contagious smile;  I smile back and copy his greeting with joined hands saying “Namasté”.



I watch him walk away with a quick and light step.  I look at the load on his back.  I look at him;  he is always wearing  a down jacket.  I look at his worn blue jeans (so much for technical materials). I look at the steps he takes ... but wait ... what ... he is barefoot!  I am flooded with memories about how long I evaluated, analyzed, studied, collected information about the most suitable footwear for the trek I was planning. Low-cut, mid-cut, with or without Gore-Tex, a Vibram sole or other ... Hours of accurate and careful contemplation.  In the end, it’s a personal choice (not everyone has the same needs and tastes) and I think I made a 100% right one. And then he walks past me, carrying my baggage, fast and light as the wind, wearing a pair of trousers that I would use for ... no, that I would no longer use, wearing a cotton shirt and a down jacket imitation of famous brands.
Barefoot...
 

Without shoes, out of necessity

 
I stop him and ask, albeit with some difficulty in the language, why he is barefoot. I am sure that he had been wearing footwear the previous days, although I cannot remember which.  He explains to me that he broke his flip-flops that morning and hasn’t been able to repair them.
What other solution was there if not to set off again barefoot?
I believe that in the valleys, but also in the city, this is common for children; being barefoot is part of the normal state of things. Even so, I ask him if his feet hurt and he explains to me that you must choose well where to walk and how to place your feet on the ground. And I thought I was the ‘expert’ on walking, with my slow and steady rhythm, with a light pace, almost rolling ...
 


Without a second thought, I ask him for my bag. Our destination is the Kala Patthar, a 5,600m peak above the Everest Base Camp, in the Khumbu valley. There could be snow, so I had also brought a pair of boots suitable for this terrain. I take them out of my bag and put them on. I offer him my sky-blue colored mid-cut shoes, urging him to accept them. I think the size will probably not be right: normally they have much smaller feet than ours, even if with a wider plant.  But this is doubtlessly just my problem; in fact, he puts them on and looks at them. He looks at me. Without saying a word. It is a silence full of emotion. Reciprocal.
He gets up, repositions the load on his back and gets ready to leave. He turns to me and, with joined hands, thanks me saying “Dhanyabad Dady, Namasté”. He has a different smile, full, profound. He seems moved. I am moved.
And he heads off towards our lodge with sky-blue colored shoes.



I also resume walking,  my pace and my thoughts travelling together. I wonder if he appreciates all those technical characteristics that I had meticulously and carefully analyzed and chosen. I am sure he will, even if perhaps without consciously realizing it. It’s too easy to win the match against a pair of flip flops ...
But I am also sure that he will appreciate the beautiful sky-blue color, the same shades of blue of the Khumbu valley.
Have a good trip my friend, see you at the Lodge for a Sherpa beer.
 
 
The sky-blue colored shoes featured in this piece are the 9.81 N.AIR.G MID GTX SURROUND, which Garmont provided to the author, one of our brand ambassadors. We are really happy that our shoes are now at the feet of those who live the mountains every day, arduously bringing invaluable help to the many mountaineers who venture among the peaks of the Himalayas.
 

 
​​​​​​​Guido Candolini has been a UIAGM Mountain Guide since 2005, but he has been going to the mountains since he was a child thanks to his parents’ passion. What he loves most is the opportunity to experience this environment in every season, changing activities from time to time, savoring all the possibilities that snow, rock and altitude offer. Guido is co-founder of inMont, a company of Alpine Guides offering activities in all spheres of mountaineering, from rock to ice, from ferratas to the high mountains, from ski mountaineering to expeditions also outside of Europe.
Garmont has been by InMont’s side for 3 years, supporting their passion for the mountains in every activity.