• November 14, 2013

Notes From the Road: Sky, Rock, Emptiness, Truth

Aaron Huey

Despite totally sleepless nights, unbearable cold, and a potential stomach virus, things are really awesome here. That’s one of the weird things about the big mountains. It hurts like crazy but the views are worth it.

Base Camp at Ama Dablam is usually a nice grass field and the hike to Camp 1 is usually a long, but dry, hike in tennis shoes. Not this year. This year it’s deep snow. Terrible for climbing, but awesome for photos.

I keep having to remind myself, “I’m here for photos, not the summit. I’m here for photos not the summit. I’m here for photos, not the summit.” It’s a bit confusing because every other person here is only here for the summit (or at least the Facebook post of them on the summit). So the work begins.

Starting early enough in the day we are able, from time to time, to step off of the steep icy path onto the hard-crusted snow that has been touched only by a winter fox. I trace its tracks switch-backing up the steep slope near a Sherpa who is carrying tents to Camp 1. This is just a brief photo foray, but the day turns into a nearly 4,000-foot vertical climb because I keep wanting more. Being new to the big mountains, I quickly fall into a trance and am overwhelmed by the scene that surrounds me. Peaks in every direction make the Grand Tetons of my home state look like small foothills.

At one point I turn around and Taboche, at over 21,000 feet, is above the clouds, alone, like a giant altar in some epic, otherworldly ceremony. The scale of physicality, of time and space, is so different it is disorienting. There are just a few of us up here, marching in a line of brightly colored down jackets in otherwise endless white. We are so high above the organic world of living things, above the billions of beings churning endlessly through the cycle of life and death. There is something about this icy world that feels completely removed from ours. So far from the moist soil, and the stray dogs, the traffic jams, office buildings, and funerals. Like it’s already the other side. More spirit than flesh.

My climbing partner Panuru is ahead of me. He’s seen it all before. But for me it is a rare moment of surprise that snuck up on me in the hour I was looking at the ground. And suddenly tears are streaming down my cheeks. I’m not sure how to tell you why. What I see is just so much bigger than the thoughts that swarm my brain that it washes them all away for a brief moment of emptiness and purity. Like the curtains have parted and the illusion is lifted. All that’s left is sky, rock, emptiness, Truth.

And then for the rest of the hike it happens whenever I stop and look long enough to let it in. And I don’t think for a minute about trying to stop it because I want the veil to be lifted. Panuru stops ahead of me from time to time, and I am glad I am wearing sunglasses and that my big black hat and a band of fabric covers most of my face. I don’t want to have to explain the tears.

The closest thing I can compare this feeling to is what is felt at the birth of my only child. Now I know why people come here and are willing to die in these mountains.

Photographer Aaron Huey recently returned from an assignment for National Geographic in the Himalaya. Over the coming days we’ll be reporting on his adventures as he discovers the joys and pains of high altitude photography while surrounded by snow and ice. You can see all of Aaron’s Notes From the Road here. You can also follow his journey on Instagram (@argonautphoto).

There are 67 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Indiver Purohit
    December 6, 2013

    Thanks Aaron.
    I wish those lines were mine…

  2. Prabhatkumar Upadhyay
    December 6, 2013

    Thanks for your beautiful photo of my beautiful country,NEPAL.

  3. Joanna
    December 5, 2013

    Aaron, I know you’ve heard this a million times but THANK YOU for your photos. I’ve been religiously following you on Instagram and liking every single photo you’ve posted of your time in Nepal. I stumbled upon your photos shortly after coming back from attempting to reach EBC in October. I experienced the crazy snow too 🙂
    It’s been a true pleasure looking at you Instagram updates, recalling fond moments when I too had the same view. I’ve struggled to put my feelings about my time on the trip into words and many couldn’t understand how I could feel awesome about it when I was so exhausted and exasperated. But you’ve done it so beautifully and I completely relate to your line about feeling Truth. It’s an amazing experience. When I started my trek from Jiri, all I had in mind was reaching the summit. Though I never reached it, I realised I gained so much more than a proud Facebook photo on the summit. Thank you for putting my gratitude into words!

  4. Nadia Bouchier
    December 5, 2013

    wicked photography Aaron! My mom loves you

  5. sandra torres
    December 5, 2013

    Majestic! love the pics and your comments.

  6. laura fontana
    December 5, 2013


  7. Cat N
    December 5, 2013

    I love the mountains – they always make me feel like this. It’s very spiritual. Beautiful photos too.

  8. marita gonzalez
    December 5, 2013

    Thanks for the pictures!! they are amazing!!!!

  9. cheryl
    December 5, 2013

    Fantastic pictures, thanks for sharing

  10. Richard
    December 5, 2013

    Aaron, thanks for sharing your wonderful photo and your journey.

    ….”But for me it is a rare moment of surprise that snuck up on me in the hour I was looking at the ground. And suddenly tears are streaming down my cheeks. I’m not sure how to tell you why. What I see is just so much bigger than the thoughts that swarm my brain that it washes them all away for a brief moment of emptiness and purity. Like the curtains have parted and the illusion is lifted. All that’s left is sky, rock, emptiness, Truth.”

    When i first saw the Annapurna mountain, I got the same feeling like yours but i was unable to describe that moment so beautifully like what you have here 🙂


  11. Edna Gonçalves Bastos
    December 5, 2013

    Muito obrigado pela imagem Divina e pelas palavras mais que sábias.

  12. Himalayan Mentor
    December 5, 2013

    Amazing collection! Autumn and Spring season in Nepal are best for trekking holiday there

  13. D.Muruganand
    December 5, 2013

    Himalaya = Heaven and Heaven = Himalaya.

  14. ecehan ilalan
    December 5, 2013


  15. Nacéra Maouchi
    December 5, 2013


  16. Ivar Shrestha
    December 5, 2013

    Author was in the most beautiful mountain in the world

  17. Binay Gyawali
    December 5, 2013

    Dear Aaron,
    You have done extremely well. You explored the area which is even unknown to Nepali also. But I haven’t notice anywhere name of place(Nepal) which you must included in your lines.

    Thank you for being here.
    From Kathmandu Nepal

  18. Antonia Frew
    December 5, 2013

    Thank you Aaron for the exquisite images and superlative text.

  19. Sudha Kulkarni
    December 4, 2013

    Awesome pics Aaron…must say lucky you… Coz being an Indian feel sad that I have just travelled viewing Himalayas never trekked so extensively yet… Very much inclined to do so in near future…I love the passion you narrated esp in the lines … Like the curtains have parted and the illusion is lifted.. All that is left is sky, rock, emptiness, truth!!
    Amazing lines!! Thanks and hats off !!

  20. Mark Krueger
    December 4, 2013

    Thx for the photos. Pench yourself from time to time to remember there are many people seeing something through your photos they would never get to see. Thanks so much.

  21. Nabin Dhital
    December 4, 2013

    Thank u for good try to explore Nepal,these are only mountains which we Nepali are proud of but get inside the hills below the mountains there you will get extremely extraordinary episodes for the Channel National Geographic.Nepal is small its true but it is world in itself it is also a fact to learn.NEPAL..NEPAL,,NEPAL.Visit Nepal,.Thanku.

  22. Edward Harris
    December 4, 2013

    outstanding. can we see more pix?

  23. syedmmashraf
    November 26, 2013

    nice to view , like get chance to visit.

  24. kapil
    November 26, 2013

    Simply Bliss….thanks for sharing such a nice picture

  25. Deb Agnelli
    November 21, 2013

    Thanks you so much for sharing your photos and narrative. It’s truly beautiful!
    ” We are so high above the organic world of living things, above the billions of beings churning endlessly through the cycle of life and death”…your words speak to me on such a spiritual plateau….and i am moved. Thank you.

  26. Tabia Shaban
    November 20, 2013

    good job!!!

  27. damian nedescu
    November 20, 2013

    toti munti din lume fiecare in parte au farmecul propiu !

  28. Terrance A. Clifford
    November 19, 2013

    Aaron Huey is my bro!! Inspired me like crazy. !!

  29. shaji PL
    November 18, 2013

    How couragios and lucky to be there to have such wonderful pictures

  30. monica
    November 17, 2013

    grandioso, felicitaciones, nos muestra la maravilla de la naturaleza—gracias

  31. Mary Jane Andrade
    November 17, 2013

    I too have been seeking and praying that the veil would lift for me gratefull seeing your pictures lifted my very soul I cried ty

  32. Francesca S.
    November 17, 2013

    When I think “Where would I like to go?” I think of Himalaya. People who have been there they are really lucky!

  33. Galen Gao
    November 17, 2013

    Such a emotional moment, it reminds me of the time when I was in Tibet.

  34. Steve Wilson
    November 17, 2013

    In the face of pure majesty, tears come as an involuntary response. That moment is a glimpse of something that opens us to a humbleness that can be truly life changing.

    We connect.
    I call those moments ” God looking back at us an smiling”.

  35. DocAnchovy
    November 17, 2013

    Makes me want to trade in my beach sandals for a pair of Koflach boots.

  36. Asif Sadat
    November 17, 2013

    hat’s of to Aaron huey.

  37. anton
    November 17, 2013

    Thanks for such pictures.

  38. Rahayu Majid
    November 17, 2013


  39. Manjit Thandi
    November 17, 2013

    I had the same upwelling of emotions on my recent visit to just the Dauladhar Range in the mighty Himalya, mere foothills in comparison to your expedition Aaron.
    I wish I could see what you saw!
    Thank you fir bringing these images to me through your photos.
    Be safe, be blessed, always.

  40. Vjollca Lleshi
    November 17, 2013

    I would really aprechiate you for your courage.

  41. Beth MacKenzie-Acuna
    November 17, 2013

    Your comments resonate with me on a deep level..having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, I understand how profound and moving the beauty of a mountain landscape can be, whether it’s the breathtaking view when the clouds part momentarily or the contrast of stars with the black sky at night. Looking forward to following your posts!

  42. Kaushik Mukherje
    November 17, 2013

    passion, somebody will understand.

  43. Rajan das
    November 16, 2013

    wonerfull & fantastic.

  44. Ana Urban
    November 16, 2013

    Your words are reminiscent of what many seek but cannot find. Hat’s off to you for doing and finding what we only dream of. The photos you are there for are breathtaking and have not words but their own language that soars us (me) through air, wind, miles, horizons, time to this place you have found, this wonderland that I see in my minds eye with their help. Thank you for your vision through your camera’s eye that delivers us there and for sharing what we only dream of. Stay healthy, healthy, and wise.

  45. sultanat khan
    November 16, 2013

    Nice I like this channel

  46. rasfonzy vybz
    November 16, 2013

    highly educative..

  47. rasfonzy vybz
    November 16, 2013

    it’s a great pieece boss…

  48. Hanan aljandal
    November 16, 2013

    You are such a brave man .. Keep it up

  49. Mr Halim
    November 16, 2013

    Woow unbelievable, one of the best snapshot that my eyes has ever seen.

  50. Annette Brooks
    November 16, 2013

    The view is stunning, but it is your narrative that puts it in perspective. Thank you.

  51. nighat paristan
    November 16, 2013

    thanks for sharing your inspiring adventure tale

  52. Subhojit Ray
    November 16, 2013

    Himalaya is perhaps the most beautiful place on the planet. But beyond the scenery it presents a deep rooted philiosophy, perhaps imbibing in itself the essence of every religion known to man. Even the greatest non believer will agree that if there is a God this is a place where He can be found……..

  53. Roshan Bhatta
    November 16, 2013

    Awesome article. Really enjoyed it and yes I am proud to be a citizen of Himalayan country Nepal 🙂

  54. Chi Tran(Easternsailor)
    November 16, 2013

    Buddha was the first man at the Peak of Himalaya and for the reasons and never conquer the Nature!

  55. A-ann Hinanay
    November 16, 2013

    Thanks for the pictures! I really admire the works of God. Especially this mountain. I wish I can go there too.

  56. sumitra
    November 16, 2013


  57. Inema harry
    November 16, 2013

    Awsome. I did say. Do we have any of these in Africa. But it reminds and make us remember that there is God who created the world

  58. patti sebring
    November 16, 2013

    I am thrilled, how i feel after i read your thoughts. Thank you kindly, looking foward to reading more

  59. Uttara Ghosh
    November 16, 2013


  60. Jason Grzeskowiak
    November 16, 2013

    Awesome! Stay Safe!

  61. Renee Hathaway
    November 15, 2013

    what a completely cathartic experience. thank you for sharing your complete experience. and for your bravery and courage to explore what some of us can only read about. safe travel

  62. julius
    November 15, 2013

    nice pictures

  63. Yolanda O’Bannon
    November 14, 2013

    Beautiful post. From start to finish, from “That’s one of the weird things about the big mountains. It hurts like crazy but the views are worth it. ” to the tears I think we can all understand. Thank you!

  64. Christopher Carfi
    November 14, 2013

    Huey, thanks for sharing view. And the perspective.

  65. Bill Huey
    November 14, 2013

    the contribution is tenfold – just a proud father

  66. Sany Panova
    November 14, 2013

    Admirable and inspiring! I would call them tears of freedom where you are one with yourself in the right place at the right time, simply priceless. It’s in nature where you find yourself, in the peace, the beauty and the danger of it, where your spirit is set free.

  67. David Johnston
    November 14, 2013

    Fantastic and inspiring content, Aaron! Great stuff! I would love to make it to that area at some point in my life.

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