YOU’VE BEEN SITTING IN ECONOMY CLASS FOR 30 HOURS, not counting the nine-hour layover in the airport. You’re 12 hours out of your time zone and jetlag has turned your brain to sludge. Out the window, Kathmandu is a teetering sprawl of blocky buildings painted shades of canary, blue, and carmine, their tones dulled by a blanket of smog. The Lonely Planet described a “pupil-dilating experience” and “a riot of sights, sounds, colors, and smells,” but you’re still not prepared when you step off the plane. The odor that hits you is a humid swirl of diesel, garbage, incense, urine, spices, and a thousand other things that range from mundane to exotic. The days that follow are a bleary-eyed plunge into the throngs of humanity. The hustle through vibrant bazaars, the abrupt tranquility of the Boudha Stupa, the marvels in a single taste of curry—these are the things you’ll remember long after the thrill of the summit fades. The adage of expedition climbing has little to do with success or memorable pitches: “Go for the climbing; return for the people.” It’s what brings us all back.
We are citizens of the planet, not just our country. We are not only climbers, but also ambassadors. Our conduct is a reflection of our nation, our friends, and our families. Climbing and visiting foreign countries are privileges afforded by time and money, and through those resources we can in some way contribute to the societies and lands we visit. Respecting and supporting local cultures are essential. The following information will help you become a good climbing steward and ambassador for your country.