Ever since studying Jon Krakauer’s “Into Skinny Air” a couple of 1996 Mount Everest catastrophe, Mark Johnson and his spouse Holly had been thinking about making the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal, regardless of having solely ever traveled in another country for a visit to Cancun and being novice hikers. For years, the journey sat on their bucket lists, uncrossed.
Mark was by no means one for standard careers. Whereas I used to be researching an article about distinctive jobs you will get with an English diploma, he and I started buying and selling emails. I rapidly realized that Mark had carried out all of them.
Mark graduated from East Carolina College in 1990 with a bachelor’s diploma in English. He’s held positions as a blogger, editor, graphic designer and director of communications, incomes greater than 100 nationwide awards for writing, images, modifying and video manufacturing. After discovering his love for bluegrass music, he even spent 13 years in Nashville as a musician and songwriter.
His profession path has been so eclectic and stuffed with 180-degree turns that when he determined to group up with a person he met throughout a Lyft journey and launch an Everest Base Camp trekking firm, it was virtually to be anticipated.
When Your Lyft Driver is a Sherpa
The inaugural Hobnail Trekking Co. group, which included individuals from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, California, and Oregon, gathers for a portrait in Lukla, Nepal, elevation 9,300 ft, the spring of 2018. Nepalese Sherpa Dawa Jangbu, Mark Johnson and his spouse Holly stand on the far left. The group reached the foot of Everest eight days later. Photograph by Mike Maxim, courtesy of Hobnail Trekking Co.
It was by sheer likelihood that Mark, who was contemplating a communications job with Lyft in Nashville, determined to make use of a Lyft as an alternative of an Uber in August 2016. His driver was Dawa Jangbu, a charismatic Lyft driver and Nepalese Sherpa who had made the Everest Base Camp trek many instances.
Due to his common exuberance (which I might sense even over the cellphone as he and I spoke), Mark struck up a dialog with Dawa.
Mark needed to listen to the whole lot, however Dawa needed to transfer alongside to his subsequent fare, so the 2 traded numbers to rearrange a dialog. Three days later, Dawa, Mark and Holly met at a Starbucks inside a Goal to debate Dawa’s time in Nepal over caramel macchiatos.
Mark and his spouse clung to each phrase as Dawa talked them by the journey: the prices, the size — all of it. Mark remembers Holly being delivered to tears as they listened to this man describe his expertise doing the factor that they had so longed to do.
“[The memory is] as clear as one thing that occurred 10 minutes in the past,” Mark instructed me.
After that dialog, the couple dedicated to creating the trek in spring 2018. That they had no mountain climbing expertise, Mark had simply left his job on the Tennessee Wildlife Federation and so they had three youngsters. However they knew they’d make it occur in some way.
Mark Johnson poses with Dawa Jangbu in Nashville. The 2 met by likelihood within the metropolis when the Nepalese Sherpa was Johnson’s Lyft driver. Photograph courtesy of Hobnail Trekking Co.
Over the subsequent two and a half months, Mark was making use of for jobs left and proper. However he discovered that he loved being at house after working in an workplace for greater than a decade. He needed to discover a profession to complement his running a blog that might let him keep at house.
Throughout these months of job looking out, Mark couldn’t cease pondering of the trek that was now solely a yr and a half out and whether or not he would have the ability to make it occur. He and Holly shared the information of their scheduled journey with anybody they may inform, principally to carry themselves accountable to following by. However they found one thing thrilling in telling others of their plans for Everest: They weren’t the one ones who needed to do it.
Sooner or later, whereas coaching on a neighborhood monitor (and nonetheless out of a job), Mark was struck with an thought. He had researched the trek totally on-line and located that there have been no firms in the midst of Tennessee that supplied packages for Everest. The truth is, there weren’t many within the U.S. in any respect, and most had been based mostly on the West Coast or in Colorado.
But so many individuals he had spoken to had been thinking about making the trek. What if he partnered with Dawa to launch a Southeastern U.S.-based firm that organized treks to Everest Base Camp?
Launching an Everest Base Camp Trekking Firm
The group picks their manner by snow-frosted boulders between the villages of Lobuche and Gorak Shep, at an elevation of roughly 16,000 ft. Photograph by Mike Maxim, courtesy of Hobnail Trekking Co.
Dawa had the trekking expertise mandatory however no advertising experience. Holly was good with financials. And Mark? Effectively, Mark might write — persuasively.
“I can inform you proper the place I used to be standing [when I had the idea], and I turned and walked to my pickup and referred to as my spouse,” Mark stated. “She was so instantly , she didn’t even hesitate.”
Namche Bazaar is the unofficial capital of the Sherpa area, and the place many of the commerce takes place. Photograph by Rachel Bishop, courtesy of Hobnail Trekking Co.
Getting Dawa on board was a bit tougher. In any case, the pair barely knew one another, and right here was Mark, suggesting that they go into a global enterprise collectively. It took Dawa a couple of months, however ultimately, the 2 embraced this new, mutually helpful partnership.
As soon as Mark had gotten Dawa’s buy-in, he designed a web site and a advertising marketing campaign — one thing he knew do from his profession in writing and advertising. In January 2017, he and Holly brainstormed firm names. Finally, they landed on Hobnail Trekking Firm. It’s named after hobnailed boots, that are well-known for his or her function in historic Everest summits.
Since launching the corporate, Mark and Holly achieved their final bucket-list aim: They hiked Everest Base Camp on the corporate’s inaugural trek in spring 2018. The corporate now arranges treks at Everest Base Camp, Gokyo Lakes and Annapurna Circuit.
Dawa, as a subcontractor of the corporate, will get his lower for main the treks, and Mark earns his paycheck as proprietor of the corporate. Mark can be the corporate’s largest advocate along with his writing, advertising, social media presence and images.
The Hobnail trekking group rests and drinks tea at one of many small villages alongside the decrease Everest Base Camp route. Photograph by Invoice Shupp, courtesy of Hobnail Trekking Co.
To this point, the corporate has despatched 19 People to Everest Base Camp with a number of extra lined up for the 2019 season. “Once we started the enterprise, we projected that it might take two to 3 years to actually have it transferring, and that’s just about what’s occurring. The curiosity has been wonderful, although,” Mark stated.
Hobnail Trekking Co. does all of the work — other than the precise mountain climbing. Mark and his firm make all of the preparations in order that their visitors can present up with their gear with out having to fret about navigation, meals, lodging, and so on. The favored Everest Base Camp trek at the moment goes for $four,790 for the upcoming season. However Mark’s firm additionally gives an Worldwide Flight Package deal that takes the associated fee to $6,540.
An outdated seasonal shelter for yak keepers alongside the Everest Base Camp route. Ama Dablam, one of many area’s most stunning peaks, rises within the background. Photograph by Mark Johnson, Hobnail Trekking Co.
To complement his revenue from Hobnail, Mark additionally runs a enterprise referred to as Huge Harvest Inventive Group that does freelancing, e-marketing and builds web sites. As a result of he has a knack for juggling so many careers, he really launched the corporate on the similar time he began Hobnail.
“I’m not getting wealthy from both enterprise, however I’ve additionally been capable of be right here when my youngsters get house every day, put together home-cooked meals, drive individuals to physician’s appointments and Scout conferences and all that stuff whereas additionally doing work that I’m captivated with, quite than driving by site visitors every morning to a 9-to-5 job,” Mark defined. “That’s the massive attraction of being an entrepreneur.”
A pair of yaks amble down the Everest Base Camp route after delivering provides. Photograph by Natalie Bethune, courtesy of Hobnail Trekking Co.
What Mark loves most about his work at Hobnail is that his story and the tales of the individuals who have made the trek by his firm (together with a 72-year-old lady with two changed knees) are proof that one thing so monumental will be achieved by “regular individuals with youngsters and payments and soiled dishes.”
What’s even cooler to me is that Mark was capable of do all this — Hobnail, his music profession and the whole lot in between — with an training in English. As somebody who confronted criticism from family and friends for pursuing an English diploma, it’s reassuring to see somebody hone the abilities he realized and do one thing so distinctive that also pays the payments.
And, like a real English main, Mark has written a ebook that chronicles his Everest adventures. “Doofus Dad Does Everest Base Camp: One in all Planet Earth’s Epic Adventures Informed by a Barely-Much less-Than-Epic Man” is on the market now on Amazon.
Timothy Moore is an editor, freelance author and proud English main. Whereas he hasn’t made the Everest trek in Nepal, he has fortunately taken on the most important mountains Scotland and Eire needed to provide — and his legs nonetheless really feel the burn.
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