WESTPORT, Conn. – Westport's David Schachne had a lifelong dream to go trekking in the Himalayas. But his 2004 expedition to the summit of Kala Patthar turned out to be more of a nightmare.
Schachne recently published his book "The Trek," which details his two-week climb to the summit, at 18,192 feet above sea level and more than 500 feet above Everest Base Camp. Although the trip was ultimately fulfilling in many ways, Schachne fought mental and physical exhaustion, subfreezing temperatures, illness, high altitude sickness, utter filth, bacterial infections and more during his long journey.
Schachne provides vivid details in the book about the trails, the spectacular scenery, the snow-capped mountains, the Sherpas and more, along with the absolute misery he endured.
The trails were incredibly narrow, along the edge of cliffs, with drops of thousands of feet below. Schachne describes sharing space along those trails with massive yaks, trying to keep from being gored as the animals carried supplies up and down the mountain.
“There’s a village at 11,000 feet, called Namche Bazaar, and almost 1,000 people live there,’’ he said. “It’s a big trading center. Yaks are going up and down constantly, carrying tents, food and almost everything else, including the kitchen sink.”
At many points all along the journey Schachne thought better of continuing on. He was just a few days from the summit during his most serious moment of self-doubt.
“I had a terrible bacterial infection and was really, really sick,’’ he said. “I had nothing left inside of me – no carbs, no energy, nothing. I couldn’t keep any food down. I ran back and forth to the outhouse numerous times, in the middle of the frozen night. It was awful. After the entire debacle, I exited the outhouse and looked up at the night sky, and right in front of my eyes was this spectacular scene with millions of dazzling bright stars. It was a spiritual moment for me - a sign from up above to keep moving forward."
Fortunately for Schachne and his climbing team, they had a “rest” day the following day, in order to acclimate to the altitude. "It was just what the doctor (would have) ordered,'' he said. "I was able to recover and build up some energy in order to keep going.”
Schachne lost 20 pounds in two weeks and couldn't speak for a week when he returned home due to a viral infection in his throat. Fortunately, however, Schachne’s wife, Faith, had given him a travel journal as a gift to record the daily events during his trek. When he returned home, his wife read the journal to get all of details. It was at that point that Faith first mentioned the possibility of a book.
Schachne spent a number of years working on the manuscript but purely as a pet project. It always got put on the backburner because of time constraints. He finally decided to commit himself to getting it done in early 2013. He hunkered down in the Westport Library from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for six months to complete it.
“The whole climb is still fresh in my mind, as if it were yesterday,’’ Schachne said. “When you read the book, you’ll realize how miserable I was. For better or worse, you will feel like you are hiking along with me, or that you actually are me.”
He added, “It was a lot harder writing the book than it was climbing the mountain.”
Schachne has created a website where people can learn more about his trip, the Himalayas, trekking in general and to purchase his book. The eBook is available on all major online book sites, and the soft-cover printed version is available on Amazon.