Bruno Mazzotta ’64 Continuing to Blaze Trails
Bruno Mazzotta, ’64, has sought out and created new professional paths throughout his career and recently moved to great heights, quite literally. He recounts here how he went from St. Louis to Mt. Everest. It’s a remarkable story of purpose and endurance that is infused with adventure and poignant, yet hopeful, reflections on the human condition. Bruno is one of the school’s most accomplished and generous alumni. He and his wife, Vivienne, showed their support for advancement of our students when they established an endowed scholarship. Their fund has now provided tuition support for two highly deserving students who are setting out to reach new academic heights with clear views of all the possibilities that lie ahead. We are all grateful for the inspiration and support.
A Shaggy Dog Story except that the conclusion is relevant
Round trip times & distances:
St Louis to Katmandu, Nepal via New Delhi, India– 22,000 miles
Air travel time– 80 hours
Trek from Lukla to Mt Everest Base Camp –77 miles and 12 days
Getting to Lukla, Nepal:
I investigated other means of transportation and found it would require being on a Nepalese bus for 24 hours and
The runway at Lukla is 1,510 ft long & 66 ft wide with a 12% incline. The elevation is (9,200 ft), or about twice the height of Denver. Aircraft have no prospect of a successful go-around on a short landing due to a high stone wall at the end of the runway and for take off, a steeply angled drop at the end of the runway into the valley below. There have been 7 crashes since 2004 with 33 deaths and 15 injured, making it the most dangerous airport in the world. Since most planes only carry 15-20 passengers, the odds are not in your favor.
then 6 days on foot- each way. Since the trip was already 3 weeks in length, Jim Weir & I decided to take a chance on the 45 minute flight to Lukla. As a precaution, I wore my Air Force Nomex (fire retardant) flight suit, much to the amusement of my fellow traveler. It’s tight, but still fits. Our first attempt involved waiting several hours for the weather to clear; then we flew about 20 minutes before we had to turn around and return to Katmandu due to poor visibility. We waited in the terminal and then they took us back to the aircraft, where we sat on the tarmac, before they decided to CANX the mission due to continuing bad weather. A whole day wasted, but we were glad the pilots decided to be safe. We came back the next morning at o’ dark thirty and waited for the weather to clear and finally took off around noon.
of tea, we began an endless string of rice dishes and 10-12 cups
After a quick lunch, of what seemed like the first of the trek to Phakding which has an elevation of 8,700. Yes, it is up and down for 12 days. The next day’s trek to Namche Bazaar was probably one of the most difficult as we climbed 2,600 ft to 11,300 ft. My traveling buddy, Jim was a great help and advised me to not ask how much farther or how much higher or are we there yet.
Jim’s mantra was “Don’t look up,” which I finally learned was the best philosophy. To do otherwise was to be continually The weather was great for most of the trip if you ignore the Typhoon related 3 days of non stop rain on our way down, The trail to EBC can be a dirt path no wider than 2-3 feet, shaped stone steps, random boulders, swaying steel rope bridges, fast running streams with stepping rocks or narrow streets through the little villages with rough stone pavers.
Sharing the trail with the yaks was also challenging, but luckily they wore bells to let you know they were coming. Once we left Lukla, we did not see anything with a wheel– no bicycles, carts, motorbikes, etc., discouraged by the steep climb, which seemed to be never ending. Not looking up provided an additional benefit, such as avoiding stepping in the ubiquitous yak dung. which drenched us to the skin and left us cold and shivering with no way of drying our wet clothes. This storm also left 9 ft of snow at Everest Base Camp (EBC ).
virtually everything that goes up that mountain to supply the villages and the trekkers– bottled water, beer, toilet paper, propane tanks, eggs, lumber, chairs, tables, trekkers equipment / duffle bags– all goes up on the back of a human being, some as young as 10 years old or on a Yak. Many wore flip flops and for those who wore shoes, socks were an unnecessary luxury.
Susceptibility to Altitude Sickness increases above 10,000 ft and I was able to avoid it till I reached 16,500 ft, 1,000 ft short of EBC. The slight headache, constant urination, labored breathing, cough and insomnia, was made
Considering the cramped and limited amount of cooking surfaces, the food was reasonably decent. For breakfast,
This topic deserves it’s own section. In the villages, most houses are directly on the trail, so the Yak often leave a little
Sherpa guide and porter:
Our guide Saruss, 5 ft tall and 98 lbs dripping wet, was never out of breath or needed a rest stop like I did.
It’s a small world: At 16,500 ft I met a women and her 13 year old daughter from St Louis. We worse by the suffocating kerosene impregnated yak dung which permeated the lodge atmosphere.
After a difficult night, I awoke with little improvement and remembered the advice a friend gave me.
“Listen to your body”. My brain said “Discretion is the better part of valor”, so I listened to my body & my brain and decided to head back down, happy with what I had achieved. Undertaking these kinds of challenges are not about conquering the mountain, it’s about challenging and conquering yourself.
pancakes, french toast and eggs cooked many ways were good. Bacon was replaced with little shards of Yak meat. Lunch had the ever present rice dishes, spaghetti ( not al dente ) so I demurred.
Dinner, more rice.
present only inches from people’s front door. Rather than being upset, they consider it “Manna from heaven”, pick it up and shape it into brown 8 in pizza rounds and press them on the nearby stone walls that are used to define property lines. When these rounds dry out, they are used as fuel in their pot belly stoves and if you’re lucky, they add kerosene to make them burn easier and to provide additional aroma to the atmosphere. Guess why we have rain. It’s to wash the yak dung down the mountain, creating small brown streams making the descent muddy, slippery and treacherous on the rocks.
We stayed in lodges that were mostly a group of 8 X 10 ft rooms with plywood walls and plywood platform beds which came with a comforter. We slept in our sleeping bags as there was no central heating. The communal toilet had to be found with the use of your miner’s head lamp at night. The flushing procedure involved a plastic barrel full of water and a plastic pitcher and made me nostalgic for a primitive pull chain with the tank 6 ft up the wall. On the trail, if you could not find a convenient place to empty your bladder you had to use the Astronaut system, sans the diaper. I have no idea how the women managed.
The porter, shorter and skinnier carried our 2 bags, about 60 lbs, of extra gear and kept pace with us all the way.
We merely carried 20-25 lbs each in our backpacks.
also met Joao Garcia from Portugal, leading 18 people up to EBC. He is one of only 13 people who has climbed all 14 of the 8,000 meter peaks in the world without oxygen. Unfortunately, he gave up his finger tips and part of his nose to frostbite, while accomplishing this difficult feat.
A population of 4 Million and about 8 Million motorcycles causing the pollution to be so bad that many people wear
New Delhi, India:
Second largest city in the world, with a population of 22 Million and about 44 Million motorcycles, bicycles, 3 wheel tuk tuks, 3 wheel bicycle rickshaws and even cars. At intersections, possession is 9/10 ths of the law. Every open space is up for grabs, with all vehicles playing chicken, rushing for any opening and surprisingly, one gets it and everyone else stops just inches from a crash. Just in case, there is a helmet shop on almost every block.
The total population of India is 1.2 Billion, of which 81% are Hindu and 12% are Muslims. Interesting note; the most sacred symbol of the Hindu culture is the reverse of the Nazi Swastika, and is more than 8,000 years old.
Agra, India: Taj Mahal
Is located 125 miles from New Delhi and was built by Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died after the birth of her 14th child.
Completed in 1653, it took 20,000 workers, 1,000 elephants, 22 years to build. It is truly beautiful and no doubt deserves being called the seventh wonder of the world.
The 5 hour car trip took us through some of the poorest areas that I have ever seen, including Nepal, Vietnam, China, Nepal, Vietnam, Philippines, Bangkok, Africa, Honduras, and Panama. India has 52% of its people living in slums and 750 Million do not have toilets.
Conclusion: Thank God
Observing the Nepalese people was a vivid reminder of how incredibly fortunate we are, despite thinking that our personal problems are really serious. We don’t have a clue about what real problems are. We get upset about things that we think are important but probably aren’t.
Most of the people on this planet live a subsistence life, where they struggle every day, barely making it.
They go to bed with no hope or expectation that tomorrow will bring any improvement and seemingly unaware that they will ever make any significant betterment to their lives, but they are happy, even the women washing clothes in the 40 degree water of the mountain stream. Talk about a cold wash cycle!
The conclusion is as much for me as it is for you.
So relax, be extremely thankful, be kind, be happy, make someone else happy and don’t make every little thing a Cause Celebre.
Saint- Exupery said it best in the book: The Little Prince “ What is truly essential is invisible to the eye.”
face masks while walking or on motorcycles. 81% are Hindu and 9% are Buddhist. Unlike most other religions, Hinduism does not have a prophet as its founder.