Henry Crigler – Hiking The Deepest River Valley

Location: Round Table Pizza, 2065 Occidental Road, Santa Rosa

Time & Date: Tuesday, May 1, 2018 @ 7:30 PM (Social hour and free beer for members at 6:30)

Directions: From Highway 101 at Santa Rosa go west on Highway 12 to Stony Point Road Exit. Go straight from the middle lane at the light onto Occidental Road. The Round Table Pizza is on the right just down the road.

After graduating from North Carolina State in 1968, Henry Crigler found his services in great demand by the Army. At the time, Henry didn’t have an interest in long walks in the jungle, so instead he went on a cruise. A really long cruise to the Tonkin Gulf. In the ship’s library, he found a number of mountaineering books including Annapurna, The White Spider, and The Ascent of Everest. His interest kindled, Henry determined to travel to Nepal to see the highest mountains for himself. In January 1972, his commitment to the Navy over and done, he took an overseas release from duty. He left the aircraft carrier Constellation with a backpack and scant information and set off to travel the world. He arrived in Kathmandu in early April and began planning his trek into the Himalaya.

There were few provisions or maps to be found, and little trekking information except for swapping stories with other travelers. Most of the travelers Henry met were there for the hashish and divine enlightenment, so were of little help. Undeterred, he got his trekking permit, found a crude map at a street vendor and off he went. The trek, one of three allowed by the government, was from Pokhara to Jomsom, which followed the course of the Kali Gandaki river between Dhaulagiri and the Annapurna massif, both 8,000 meter peaks, making this the earth’s deepest river valley.

While his interest was initially focused on the scenery, he found the people and their culture to be most fascinating. He had not seen people living in such primitive, harsh conditions. Water was fetched from the river, often at some distance. Medical care was non-existent. Several times, a villager would approach with an abscessed molar or a nasty cut that should be sutured. He could do nothing but hand out aspirin. Tilling the terraces was done behind a buffalo with a wooden plow. All goods of trade were carried on the backs (and tumpline) of young men in flip flops. The primary product going uphill was kerosene. The typical load was 4, even 5, 5 gallon cans. Now there’s a road to Jomsom…or you can fly there.

“I am fortunate to have made this trek 46 years ago. This remains one of the most indelible and formative experiences of my life” – Henry Crigler.

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