The beginning of a longer walk

A huge thank you to all of you who came to the “Short walk in the Solu Khumbu” exhibition in London at the end of October, as a result of your support and strong sales I am delighted to tell you that with the help of the Himalayan Trust we have raised enough money to re-open the Health centre in Phortse that has been closed for three years. As well as that Tashi and Palden have started a “meals on wheels” for the elderly in the village with a daily meeting house and a hot meal which will be taken to the homes of those too frail to attend the meeting house. Flick and I intend the funding for this to be on going, supported by print and painting sales from the Gallery.

The experience of trekking in the Himalayas was life changing for us both, not just the mountains but the people. To “road test” my methodology in such a visually challenging environment and find that it worked was very encouraging; the glimpse of Buddhism that subtly influenced my imagery as the paintings developed was an unanticipated bonus. When we returned home from the exhibition and after the dust had settled I began to consider what next, at which point I realised that I was feeling disquietingly bereft. Then one morning I was walking along the long beach below the croft with the dogs and there was a patch of low winter light on the point at Rhue, suddenly I saw that I didn’t have to discontinue the work that I had begun in Nepal, I just had to bring it home. Strange to travel half way around the world in order to see your own country with fresh eyes, or maybe not!

The Short walk in the Solu Khumbu Exhibition was at La Galleria, Pall Mall, London

from Monday 29th October until Saturday 3rd November 2018

A short walk in the Solu Kumbu Exhibition Catalogue

For larger images and prices see below

Nepal Paintings on canvas

Nepal Paintings on paper

Nepal Drawings

Nepal Prints

A Short walk in the Solu Khumbu

Back in October 2016 I came home from holiday to an e mail from James Lamb asking if I would like to go trekking with him in Nepal, he knew of my work as an artist and wondered if I would be interested in making some pictures of Nepal to raise money for his charity the little Sherpa foundation. I must have thought about it for all of thirty seconds before writing back with an enthusiastic yes. James and his wife Karen came to visit and we walked our dogs around Inverpoly while discussing plans, we were reassured when James told us that trekking in the Khumbu would be no harder. Because I often paint the lochs in Scotland we decided to head up to Gokyo where there are seven lakes of differing sizes, this I hoped would be my way in to painting the Himalayas. Next was a trip to our G.P. to arrange the recommended jags and there was kit to buy, from travel sacks to walking trousers, hand sanitiser to sleeping bags.

So finally in early October 2017 we flew from Inverness to Manchester, then on to Abu Dhabi where gate forty eight made me smile, that’s where the Kathmandu flight left from and it was as if the “Glastonbury filter” had been activated, ruck sacks, wild haircuts and colourful clothes amongst the beards and walking boots. Kathmandu is the only airport I have visited where they scan your luggage after you get off the plane; it was my first introduction to the delightful logic of Nepal.

We were met by Tashi, James’ partner in Tengboche trekking, a company that creates local employment and generates money for the little Sherpa charity. Tashi is a twenty eight year Buddhist Lama who has lived in the Khumbu all his life and was our guide during the trek. The following morning we were up early to catch the flight to Lukla and I was very glad that Tashi was there to hassle, it’s quite a scramble that early flight and always challenged by the weather. It was dreich in Lukla and we set off through mist and trees dripping with rain. Everything improved as we walked up the valley through small farms and villages to Phakding, conversation with Tashi and James flowed as fast and free as the great river we crossed and crossed again. Next day we climbed harder to reach Namche Bazaar by late morning catching a brief glimpse of Everest as slowly trees gave way to a more open landscape, the trails were busy on this lower section that is also part of the route to Everest Base Camp. Namche is beautifully placed in a South facing horseshoe on the side of a hill, a great tea house and our last hot shower for three weeks. We had a “rest” day following that still involved plenty of steep ascent up to Khumjung and back but found us sleeping at the same height as the previous night to help our adjustment to altitude.

Onwards up to Mong la and down and across to Phortse now clear of the tree line for a while; Thamserku across the valley behind , Ama Dablam ahead beckoning down the great Khumbu valley towards EBC. If ever there was a Shangri La Phortse might be a contender, it’s a great tongue of land at three and a half thousand meters at the confluence of the two spurs of the Khumbu valley, one flowing down from Cho Oyu, the other from Everest. Glacial deposit over millennia has blessed it with at least half a meter of superb top spoil which shamed my garden at home, it faces South West and I swear that I saw the largest cauliflower I have ever seen, no bugs either!

We spent two days in Phortse getting to know the place and the people, this is where many of Sherpas who died on Everest in 2014 came from and is the heart of James’ charitable operations, it’s also Tashi’s home. From there we walked up to Dole, Machermo and Gokyo. By now I was stopping to draw most days and Tashi would sit beside me and meditate giving a most empowering and comforting energy. Completely confounding my preconceptions Tashi strode the trails in full length maroon robes and climbing boots, often with a mobile phone held to each ear, he was our Mr Fixer and knew everyone it seemed. On one occasion he doubled back to fetch tea and cups from his Aunt’s tea room that we had passed a short way back, it seems that Sherpas are one great extended family, a “cousin brother (or sister)” denoting a more distant relation.

We spent three nights in Gokyo and loved it; walking beyond the lakes up to Scoundrels point we left the crowds behind and were pretty much alone. Surrounded by Cho Oyu, Nuptse, and Everest, a lot of rock with a huge conflagration of glaciers below we felt we’d arrived, finally off the map and somewhere truly other. The weather was kind with clear blue skies and crystal air and I’ll never forget the rock pinnacles, weird and wonderful shapes, pointed and crumbling, full of overhanging jagged shards that defied belief. That afternoon we crossed the glacier, (“no talking, walk quickly, don’t stop” Tashi), to Dragnag. Mostly a rather scruffy conglomeration of grey boulders every so often the glacier revealed the beautiful ice forms of its interior. From Dragnag we walked back down to Phortse on the East side of the valley. It was much quieter here and we passed through hill farms where Tashi had spent idyllic summers with his grandparents, two storey stone buildings reminded me of the Lake District in their style.

During two more days in Phortse we enjoyed the ceremony of prize giving for the school children and pensions for the Sherpa widows and the elderly from James’ charity. We made Trips to Pangboche and Tengboche monasteries where we were able to listen to the monks rehearsing for Mani Rimdu. Those great horns, the cymbals and drums and the chanting made avant-garde jazz sound mainstream, but if you let it all wash over suddenly it was like ocean currents, buffeting winds, tectonic forces moving within. We greatly enjoyed our four weeks with Tashi and immersion in Buddhist culture, finding a calmness and serenity in all the people that we met, who were tirelessly hospitable and generous despite not having much. Now as the photos run on my screen saver and I work up my sketches into paintings I remember with deep affection that month where time stood still and I learned to just be without really realising it; it is my greatest pleasure to have this chance to give something back.

Tashi delek (Sherpa greeting: good luck, have a great day) James Hawkins Sept 2018

James Lamb, Flick and myself on Nepali TV