by artist Peter Ellenshaw
Acrylic 1986 40" x 30"
Ellenshaw's sense of wonderment grew significantly after he traveled to the mountains of Nepal. "I love to paint mountains," he says. "They are so very majestic and varied, and the most exciting are the Himalayas. Mountains such as the Himalayas are very special; they are to me among the holy places of the world, and I am tempted to try to capture some of that otherworldliness in my paintings. I think it is a vain hope, but it is something for which to strive," he notes.
Ellenshaw had always considered the mountains of Nepal too remote to visit until a friend returned from there and described his hotel overlooking Mt. Everest. "I considered myself no mountaineer," Ellenshaw recalls, "but I decided that if he could make the journey, I certainly could. Little did I realize at the time that this hotel was a shed that leaked."
Bobbie bravely agreed to accompany her husband, knowing that the journey from Katmandu would be in a single engine plane, flying through the narrow mountain passes, just beneath the clouds before landing on a solitary runway at an elevation of 12,500 feet. The alternative would have taken a week, traveling by foot with a train of porters.
The hotel, 500 feet above the airfield, lacked basic amenities, and because of the unaccustomed altitude, breathing was extremely difficult. Their first meal consisted of yak meat, but they hadn't come this distance for the food, Ellenshaw arranged for a Sherpa guide to take him to the remote monastery of Thangboche, the starting point to ascend Mt. Everest, the very next day.
The boulder-strewn path was precipitous as Ellenshaw inched his way along, followed by his guide, who walked along the edge, ready to catch him if he went over, or join him should he miss: "I had never felt that human bond before," Ellenshaw recalls. "I was in this man's care, and he was ready to die for me. He would say, 'One step, pause, one step, pause'. Sherpas are very special people. Living at high altitudes with very meager rations, they live short lives, rarely past 40 years,"
To reach the monastery required a descent of 1,000 feet followed by a similar ascent. After they had spent a fascinating hour there, Ellenshaw's guide suddenly demanded that they leave. Ellenshaw soon realized why the Sherpa had been so adamant, for they reached the hotel Just as night fell and a heavy fog rolled in. He realized then that he would not have survived the freezing cold at that altitude had they not arrived at the hotel when they did.
Some talk about scaling mountains as proof of their devotion, and in the Himalayas, Bobbie attempted to descend one,with no provisions other than a heavy overcoat. Peter later learned that as soon as she saw that night was falling and a heavy fog was blanketing the trail, his determined wife had set out on the steep path on her own to try and find him. Sherpas guarding the trail gently persuaded Bobbie that her husband would soon return and that she must not go alone.
Despite everything, they were both sorry to leave this hallowed and magical place when the plane returned for them a week later. But it is apparent that some of the magic stayed with Ellenshaw, evident in his magnificent paintings of these glorious vistas, "the most awe-inspiring mountains I have ever seen," he reflects.
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