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Mountain Stories – Guides Tell the Tale Themselves; Sunil Neupane

Sunil Neupane Mountain Stories

Sunil Neupane, an ambitious and highly energetic guide, has been in the list of best guides at Ace the Himalaya. Having worked at Ace for 6 years now, he has been successful to grab the attention of the management and the operation team for his hard work, excellence, good behavior and many more.  His performance with the clients in the mountain has been phenomenal as well. His responsible, quiet yet fun behavior, attentive nature, hilarious jokes and his dance moves are what the clients talk about all the time.

When asked about one such trek he looks up to for the future, he said “I have trekked through the Everest, Annapurna and Langtang region but I have not yet been to the Upper Mustang area. Everyone says that the region is extremely rich in culture, traditions, monasteries, language, food etc. which is why Upper Mustang is a region full of curiosity for me. If I get the chance this season, I would most definitely want to make a visit to the Upper Mustang region and explore every corner of the once forbidden kingdom”.

In the mountain story session we spoke to Sunil Neupane to ask about his experience as a guide at Ace the Himalaya, the memories he has collected so far, his personal and his professional life and many more. Let us see what he has to share with us.

What is a normal day like for you on a trek? “A day in the life of a guide”.

Well I wake up around 5 in the morning and go straight in search for my morning tea. I cannot function without my morning tea at all. After drinking tea, I go freshen up and enter the kitchen to prepare breakfast for my clients. I like cooking hence help the kitchen staffs at the guesthouses most of the time. At 7 I call my clients for breakfast and get a short briefing done for the day. Before leaving the guesthouse in the morning, I collect the keys and go check the rooms myself to prevent my clients losing or forgetting things in the hotel room. We then leave the guesthouse at 8 in the morning. 

Once we start the trek, we have a short 5 minutes water and rest break in every 25-30 minutes. The time can be utilized to click pictures, drink enough water and rest for some time. While on the way, I always make sure to walk with the slower one and sometimes even carry the bag packs if needed. The conversations, the stories, the briefing everything happens in between. We usually stop by for lunch at around 11:30 to 12 noon. I give 1 hour 45 minutes to the clients to get the lunch done during which I manage to fill the bottles with water for all my clients. After that we head back on the trail to reach the destination for the day.

Once we reach the guesthouse, the first thing I do is grab the keys, check the rooms, the cleanliness etc. to ensure a hygienic stay for my clients. We then meet for dinner at around 6:30 to 7 pm where fun filled laughter, conversations, briefings for the next day come in sequence hence ending my day as a guide during the treks.

Groupie-whilst-the-trek
Groupie whilst trek

What is your favorite trekking route?

Annapurna circuit has my heart and my soul. The trails of the circuit are quite different from many other trekking regions. Walking up and down the same trail becomes monotonous which is what I am not quite fond of. The region that the Annapurna Circuit covers is quite huge with multiple variations. The highs and the lows, the mountains and the rocky plains, the culture, the religion, everything about the Annapurna Circuit is extraordinary. There is no fear of avalanches and in case of emergencies, the region is also accessed with a motorable road. Even with the availability of the motorable roads, there are no such invasions and the rawness of the region is still lively. Thus, I would say my favorite trekking region definitely is the Annapurna Circuit.

What has been the most challenging moment for you as a guide?

In the month of December 2017, I had gone for the Everest High Passes trek with two clients. The weather was terrible as there was enormous snowfall throughout the trail. We were headed to the Kongma La Pass but the thickness of the snow was increasing rapidly. The guesthouse owners and the other trekkers heading the same way recommended us not to go as it would be extremely risky. I suggested the same to my clients but they didn’t agree. They wanted to experience the wilderness and I had to guide them along. As we walked further towards the pass, the accumulated snow had risen above our knees. I suggested them to return back as it was life threatening but they didn’t agree. We kept struggling through the thick layers of snow. Once we reached near the Khumbu glacier, I slipped on the snow and half of my body dipped inside the glacier. For a second I thought I would never be able to come out of the glacier. However, I struggled and managed to climb out of the cold freezing water after multiple attempts.

After the incident, we finally returned back and did not go to the Kongma La Pass. This is an experience that made me think about leaving my profession as I was extremely shaken. This experience by far has been the most challenging moment for me as a guide.

What is it like working for Ace?

I started my work as a porter from this company. After working for 2 years as a porter, I decided to go abroad in search for employment opportunities. I left the country but the struggle there cannot be described in words hence I returned back. As soon as I came back, Ace welcomed me with open arms. I had been promoted to a guide and had started working as a lead guide for treks and tours. I never had to go in search for work in any other companies as Ace has treated me brilliantly. The staffs and the management team are very hard working which is commendable. I am extremely happy and satisfied working here at Ace. 6 years at Ace feel like yesterday. The energy, the will power to work is still there as the company has become more like a family than work.

Teaming-Up-for-a-cheers
Teaming Up for a Cheers

What do you like the most about guiding?

There are two things I like about this profession: the first one is that I get to meet new people with new energy, new vibes, new stories to listen to and new experiences to make. Though quiet in nature, I have always been an outgoing person. I love to meet new people from other countries, be friends with, exchange our culture and learn new English words.

And the second thing is that I get to travel. Travelling always makes me happy and excited. Traveling to the same place sometimes can get monotonous but then the beauty of Nepal is so rejuvenating that the more you go, the more it pulls you back.

What is your most impressive climb?

The most impressive climb I have had so far happened during the trek to the Tilicho Lake. From Tilicho Base Camp, it usually takes around 3 hours to reach Tilicho Lake. After reaching the majestic lake, the trekkers usually return back to Base Camp for lunch and head to Khangsar for the stay that night.  But during the trek, my client and I reached Tilicho Lake in an hour, captured some pictures and returned back straight to Khangsar for lunch. We headed back to the trail determined to reach Thorong Phedi and we were successful in it. The journey was extremely tiring but I wouldn’t have done it otherwise. This must be the most impressive trek I’ve done so far.

Did the Earthquake affect your work?

Earthquake happened in April which is one of the peak months for tourism in Nepal. Due to this, there was no work in that respective month and two to three months that followed. That gap was utilized to go to different villages and community schools hugely affected by earthquake along with the MD of Ace the Himalaya. We paid visit to the schools and many villages, distributed the aluminum sheets to construct temporary schools and houses, distributed groceries to the households and many more. I also went to my village to reconstruct a temporary shelter for my parents. After around 3 months of the devastating earthquake, I was called in for work back again and the number of trips slowly increased. Thus, in my case, earthquake did not affect my work as much.

Candid- Sunil Neupane
Candid: Sunil Neupane

Tell us about your family and home.

Well I originally come from a middle class family of Gorkha. My parents are still back in village whereas I live with my wife, my newly born daughter and my brothers here in Kathmandu. I visit my home time and again to meet my parents and my relatives. My family is happy and satisfied with the profession I chose. That’s all about me.

These are few questions we asked Sunil and this was what he had to share with us. According to him, he is happy and satisfied to work at Ace the Himalaya and extremely positive towards making new friends every time he goes for a trek. Ace the Himalaya highly appreciates his hard work, his diligence and his presence in the process of making a difference. We wish him more success in years to come.

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