You never know who you’re going to run into in the lobby of the Hotel Yak & Yeti. The former royal palace, with its scarlet lobby chairs, baby grand piano, and bar that serves a cold Tuburg beer, is the last gasp of Kathmandu comfort for climbers and trekkers on their way to the Khumbu. It’s the kind of place you might see Elizabeth Hawley interviewing Conrad Anker. Or David Breashears having dinner with Wongchu Sherpa, his head sirdar back in the mid-90s when Breashears was filming theEverest Imax movie.
So it was not too surprising when our microbus, jammed with 22 bright blue duffelsand ten trekkers, pulled into the hotel’s circular reception area after a 20-hour flight from the States, practically ran into this massive banner: “Hearty welcome to the Dick Bass Everest Base Camp Trek Group Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Dick Bass’s Ascent of Mount Everest April 30, 1985.”
Considering that Bass will soon turn 81 years old, I wasn’t sure if the Man himself would actually be commemorating his own climb. But having just read Seven Summits, the book by Bass, Frank Wells, and Rick Ridgeway that chronicles the owner of Snowbird Resort’s successful attempt to be the first man to climb the seven highest mountains in the world, I started to stalk Bass as if he were a rock star.
First, I checked with hotel reception, who told me that, no, there was no Mr. Bassstaying here. I didn’t believe them. So the next morning I scouted the breakfast buffet, with its piles of croissants and steaming eggs and bacon, looking for a Texan with a big grin. He couldn’t have changed that much from the 25-year-old photos in the book.
Our team had only two nights at the Yak & Yeti before starting out on our owntrek to Base Camp, so time was running out. Finally, on the second evening, as I was late for dinner, one of my Expedition Hanesbrands teammates called me in my room.
“Steph! Get down here! Dick Bass is in the lobby!”
Sure enough, standing in the lobby, was a gregarious man bearing a slight resemblance to Jack Nicholson dressed in bright orange tennis shoes, khaki cargo pants, and a giant turquoise bolo with a plaid shirt. He was taking out his false teeth to show them to a growing crowd. I didn’t get the full false-teeth story. But then Bass launched into his plan in Nepal: Tomorrow he’s flying in a helicopter to Tengboche at 12,800 feet to start his trek to Base Camp in order to be there on time for the 25th Anniversarycelebration.
Bass was late for dinner, but he still planted three kisses on my cheek, one for hisFrench third, one for his German third, and one for his Scotch-Irish third. The gesture made him late for dinner, but he was still game for a photo.
“Hurry up take the picture!” he said. “I can’t suck in my belly forever!”