To celebrate her 70th birthday, Los Altos Hills resident Saroj Pathak last month went hiking. Or rather, climbing – to the base camp of Mount Everest.
This was Pathak’s first trip to Nepal, though she visited Tibet two years ago. She was part of a group of 15 trekkers, all from the Bay Area.
Pathak enjoys local hiking and said the trip was something she’d been considering for awhile. At first fearing she might not be in adequate shape to take on the Himalayas, she asked herself, “If I don’t do it now, when will I do it?”
Another motivation was the Hindu Vedic tradition of Vanaprastha (literally, “retiring into a forest”) – the third of the four stages of life. According to Pathak, it’s meant to be a period for spending time in nature and imparting one’s wisdom and knowledge to others.
Although she had no previous mountain-climbing experience, to prepare for the trip she hiked in Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and other parts of the Sierra “to get the feel of high altitude,” she said. “Here, the highest elevation is 12,000 feet. (In Nepal), we start at 10,000 and then go up.”
After a flight to Istanbul and another to Kathmandu (Pathak said many people opted to travel via China), the trip involved two weeks of trekking. Once they reached the base camp, with an elevation of approximately 18,000 feet, the group made a number of climbs to peaks they could manage without carrying oxygen.
While at the base camp, they stayed in basic lodges – “tea houses” – with unheated rooms. They took along all of their backpacking equipment, including warm sleeping bags. Several Sherpas accompanied the group.
Spreading the joy of science
Not only was her trip to Nepal a momentous birthday adventure, but Pathak also hoped to lay the groundwork for a relationship with her nonprofit organization by visiting with area schools. The septuagenarian is president and CEO of Explorabox, which makes hands-on science kits for kids. An electrical engineer, Pathak worked in high-tech for 40-plus years before founding Explorabox.
“I’ll see if I can come up with a program to work with (schools in Nepal),” she said before her trip.
Locally, Explorabox works primarily with low-income schools. It also handles the science portion of Bullis Charter School’s summer camp, taking kids on field trips to Google Inc. and other high-tech companies.
Explorabox is dedicated to promoting science, technology, engineering and math knowledge to all kids, regardless of their socioeconomic background, according to its website.
The all-volunteer staff of Explorabox comprises a range of people, from high-tech retirees to high school students who help with the camps.
“I do it because I want to be involved with kids, and the science education of kids,” Pathak said.
For more information, visit explorabox.org.