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Dear friend and enlightened trekker
It is with deep sadness I report that Joel died of a heart attack
11am, 13 June 2010
He is missed by Kim and myself, Lobsang, Tenpa and staff, his brothers and hundreds of trekkers around the world.
Joel Schone - by Corrin Higgs
Joel was cremated near where he died and a funeral was held in the UK. Later a chorten was built above new Pangboche and we held a traditional one year send off puja in a gompa in Manali. Lobsang also placed mani stones where Joel died.
A chorten was built near Pangboche, and consecrated 20 December, 2011, with tears, laughter and many thoughts. Thanks you to Lhakpa Dorje, his sister in Pangboche and Kim for commissioning the chorten. Alison and Richard Keidan joined Kim, Luke and myself, with Lhakpa Nuru (and Shoshana) turning up also.
The chorten is next to Joel's brother's chorten, in the row leading out of Upper Pangboche.
There was a one year traditional Tibetan send off puja ceremony held for Joel in Manali on 13 June 2011, and with excess of the donations, Singge's schooling was paid for another year.
Alison wrote for the ceremony
I thought I’d begin by reading a poem by Shakespeare, and then I thought,” why should I? He never reads any of mine.” … That’s a quip by Spike Milligan, one of Joel’s favourite comedians. And it’s fitting to remember Joel with laughter, as he would have wished, rather than with sadness. You all know how much he would long to be with you all here in Manali, laughing, talking, joking – eating pizza! Maybe he is – and getting very wound up because we aren’t listening to what he has to say!
I have so many wonderful memories of Joel – times of such pure joy and happiness and fun. He made life so bright with his own vitality and enthusiasm and zest for life. I like to remember him sauntering around campsites in the summer sun, checking tents, joking around, talking gear prices with Lobsang - Lobsang always telling Joel he had basically been screwed: 'This too much pay, Joel", Joel obsessing over cheese and coffee and debating Seinfeld with the earnestness one could reasonably expect be applied to a cancer cure, but not a comedy programme.
I remember that boundless enthusiasm of his, so that if you didn’t think the accommodation or the food you were eating to be quite as “Oh my God, Oh my God – this is amazing” as he did, you were convinced that you were in the wrong ‘because how could someone be so enthusiastic over such shit if it really were shit”. That was the power of Joel.
He brought so much delight to so many people, and so much joy and laughter. And I think how lucky – of all the millions of people in the world, and the million-to-one chances of meeting – how lucky that we got to meet and got to know Joel. He was the best of human beings whom it was an honour to know. He made one feel happy just for being in his company – sort of like a fire that one could warm oneself up around. He was truly inspirational: kind, compassionate, adventurous, interested and interesting, warm and funny. He led by example - made you want to be better yourself – read more, learn more, explore more, have more adventures… Even no longer teaching, one could learn a lot from Joel – perhaps the biggest being to live in the present and take pleasure in the smallest things – a sunny day, a flower in bloom, shifting light over the mountains, the companionship of friends and kindred spirits.
He continues to live through the many shared memories he has left with us and the links between people he forged – between we trekkers but also with Lobsang, Temba, Phuntsok, Kunsang, Nyima-Lhamo and Yangzom – Joel’s much-loved Indian family.
He was a force of nature and in my absence, I expect you all to drink to that - to Joel and his wonderful staff who have given us so much pleasure, shown us such extraordinary sights, and will continue to do so in the future.
So trek with open hearts and fresh eyes and look forward to new adventures, as Joel always did. It's up to us now to live life for him!
Bob Rosenbaum wrote
During the puja in Manali - Jamie
L-R: Louise Dunlop, Peter Sih, John Soos, Nakul, Lois, Steve, Catherine, Christine, Robin Boustead, Sam Palsmeier, Luke Smithwick (red, back), Richard Nacin
And on the right: Lobsang in the white t-shirt, Yangzon, Nima Lhamu
The puja to remember Joel, and to send his spirit off, in Manali - Jamie
A life so lived
You walked, you loved, you dreamed, you dared.
- Louise Dunlop
Joel started his travels in Asia with a marathon bike ride across Tibet, Pakistan, and India in 1987, and managed to combine a career as a London Primary teacher with running his own treks for ten years before deciding to trek full time in 1996. We met in 1997? and Joel started running treks with me (Jamie) in 1999; Kim joined in 2001.
A Himalayan life
Read Joel's thoughts... a wonderful reminder of his appreciation for everything.
Joel died of a heart attack, while biking with Peter Sih, David Donaldson and Murray Winks. We owe them gratitude for handling the situation so competently. The detailed version of what happened is lower down.
Joel burning brightly one last time; Lobsang assists as always - David Donaldson
Joel's body was cremated in the Buddhist tradition at the confluence of the Chandra and Bhaga Rivers in Tandi, the same place where Joel had cremated his brother Jason's body in 2005.
My sympathy to all who have been touched by Joel's life. Joel died doing something he loves in a place that he loves with clients he considered friends. We should only feel sad for the people who will miss him.
Peter Sih and Joel on a 2008 trek - David Koelle
Joel could simultaneously lead, enjoy, help, joke, listen and gently scold and showed by example how to walk the line between relaxation and effort, and between introspection and sociability. Like a true leader he gained happiness from other peoples’ successes.
This is one of my favorite poems for you, Joel. With all my love ...
Thus shall you think of this fleeting world:
And one more as I know that your heart & soul are still in the Himalaya ... I think you once emailed this to me.
Once you've lived with the mountains
I miss you so much, Joel, although I'm not quite sure that you've left us yet. I know that some young monk will soon look at me with a flicker in his eye, and laugh ...
Jullay! Kim Bannister
He made life so bright, for me, for so many. He was so warm and kind and vital. ... We were privileged to have had him in our lives, for however brief a time. He was such a bright, bright star. Please pray that his spirit is at rest, at peace. ... I feel numbed by our loss. I want to speak to him, tell him how much I loved him. We were very lucky to have spent that wonderful time at Manaslu, Nar & Phu and Everest with him.
Sending you light and love as you walk off into the mountains on your next journey. Thank you for sharing your passion for life and the mountains, your infectious laugh and smile, your funny stories and your love of life with me. I have amazing memories of our adventures and treks together. You touched everyone you met. I am blessed to have known you and been your friend......until next time... in the Himalayas!
A question would be thoughtfully and gently answered with unexpected and curiously interesting enlightenment. Joel was the best.
... I also am thinking of a day on our trek to Nar Phu, shortly after leaving the Annapurna circuit, still in middle hills area. We had crossed a bridge over a river high with glacial melt, and although there were no "special" views the hills were very green, the river's voice was loud, the sky was very blue. I remember turning to Joel and saying "I feel so filled with beauty, and happiness, this moment -- I feel my life is complete. I've had my full share of the best life has to offer. I have no desire to die, but I can't be afraid of it either, since anything which happens after this is gravy. This just right now is enough." I knew Joel understood exactly what I was talking about (we had talked before -- years after he'd stopped using alcohol or other substances -- about how sometimes his joy was so great, trekkers would accuse him of being on drugs). He'd told me, as I'm sure he told you, that he knew he didn't have a pension, or health care, and might die younger than he otherwise would living in England or USA, but it was OK, because he was doing what he loved.
His joy was great, and the joy he brought to others was great.
His life was, is, and will be complete.
I miss him already.
I trekked with Joel in Kanchenjunga for 6 weeks in 2002. In the years that followed I would bump into Joel every year in Kathmandu, either in the back of a jam-packed trekking shop buying up gear for the next trip or at a café tip-tapping on his computer doing last minute things before heading out of town. He hated being in Kathmandu so much he was always in such a hurry to get out of there!
What I remember most about Joel were the stories, the story telling, the passion with which he talked about his next adventure or about his last adventure, his love of the people, his love of Asia, its culture and its history. What a complete treasure trove of information was Joel. His writing reflected all of this, evocative, sprinkled with anecdotes and pearls of historical tidbits. It takes a certain sort of person to turn their face into the winds and to the high Himalaya at the age of 50 to embrace all it has to offer and to then offer this to others with such passion. That was Joel. Thanks for opening so many peoples’ eyes to the wonders of Asia.
I’m part of the Ashmount years in London. 1990-93, Sally Thomas, Joel Schone, Carol Battram and myself, Jo Shinner; we were the gang together teaching at this Islington primary school.
It was the spontaneous trips to Epping Forest that Joel ran. Suddenly Sally and I would be shopping for the food, Carol armed with ordinance survey maps taking kids who don’t leave their corner of their estate to a much greener patch led by Joel, and always inspiring always making a difference to their lives.
We loved Joel for his knack of arranging trips. Joel always with his rucksack ready. Term would begin and Joel may be flying in that morning from Nepal arriving at school with his bags, off to teach his class and then ready to have us all round for his slide show. I knew I was in for a splendid display of colour and light but always joked about where the people are in the photos. Always happy about inviting us down to his Hoxton home which was an old school caretakers home, very atmospheric, I think he shared it with one of his brothers.
Joel always talked proudly about his parents and his family they truly meant a lot to him.
Joel was one of the gang the four of us; all teaching but Joel found his dream and led a life that gave him immense satisfaction .
We loved Joel ...
While I only trekked or biked with Joel three times, I feel like I've lost someone much closer to me than Joel really was. Part of the reason he made such an impact was because he guided me to some of my fondest memories - of course, I never thanked him properly. The other reason is that Joel was one big collection of personal qualities to envy, and fine example of how to live life. I'm so sad that I won't be able to trek with Joel again - I just assumed I would. One day, I will return to India with my son (still a bit too small), sorry not to be able to introduce him Joel, but inspired by him nonetheless.
We met in 1999 while I was walking along a snowy trail in the Khumbu region. I was using your guide book to the Everest Region, when he told me that the author was his friend. After I completed the Kailash Kora later that season, we all met up in Kathmandu. Joel and I had been friends since. He has inspired and taught so many of us over the years. Each trek with Joel deepened my appreciation of the splendour of the people and magic of the topography of the Himalayan landscape. His knowledge, kindness and good-natured humour always made the challenging passes a little easier to negotiate safely.
In one of our altitude-challenged banters, we fondly re-christened one another in honour of our favourite Himalayan adventures. For me, he was to become Willy Moorcroft, Jr. - after the 18th century British veterinarian, William Moorcroft, who searched the mountains of Central Asia for an elusive breeding horse for the East India Company. I was to become Csoma, Jr. - after the Hungarian hermit Tibetologist, Alexander Csoma de Koros, who while searching for the mythical origins of his People, met Moorcroft while crossing a barren, windswept pass in Ladakh. That narrative resonated within us as we fancied ourselves as later day explorers of the Himalaya. The difference was that I was always the fair-weather adventurer, while Joel was the authentic item. I, as many of our tribe, will miss him dearly.
John G Soos
Joel was a rare and amazing guy - one of the few truly, selflessly, genuine people I have ever met.
For some when they leave us, we say, "the mold is broken." Joel did not come from a mold. Joel was a shaping force. A force of nature.
I will always carry very dear memories of your jokes, your music stories, the incredible adventures by your side and how happy you made everyone feel when you were around.
Two things that I always think of when it came to Joel was you could never stump him on a movie or show, especially chorus lines. The other "bad habit" he made me develop was a taste or ear for Basal Rathbone and Sherlock Holmes. We used to stay up late and tune into the show over shortwave and of course he had many an episode on, back then, cassette tape.
While I always was appreciative of the porters on our treks, Joel would go the extra mile and coerce me into helping him take popcorn over to where the porters were staying and just be with them and listen to them talk about things. Some of the simplest things bring joy into ones heart and life and he showed me plenty.
I remember in '99 when he and I headed up towards Chabuk La, I was tired of smelling and eating food cooked with that old oil Dawa used. When we set up a camp near Pandra, I was craving a good ole hamburger. Joel put his magic chef hat on and made the most delicious tuna burgers that I had ever eaten. We ate those for the next four days while exploring. Even when we returned to the trail together in 2001, we continued the tuna burger tradition.
Joel touched many lives and I am proud and grateful that mine was one of those touched.
Joel will live on in our memories and continue to inspire our work and lives. He went the way I think he would have chosen to himself if he would have had the chance, doing what he loved in the place he loved the most; the Himalayas. What a guy, he was always so full of energy, knowledge and inspiration and even though he didn’t like Kathmandu we always had great times catching up there and sharing ideas and eating pizza of course! Joel will continue to travel with us in spirit and he will be a great companion as always.
Clare Smith and Mads Mathiasen
After having read what has been written about Joel, I feel sad that I never went trekking with him. He sounds the most inspiring, enthusiastic and fun trekker. But every once in a while, I had the joy of seeing him in Kathmandu on his way through and it was always a real pleasure to bump into him in the streets of Thamel. He was always energetic, full of new trekking ideas and a pleasure to talk with.
Even though he spent most of his time in India, he certainly was an institution in the Nepal trekking scene and shall be greatly missed in Kathmandu.
We met Joel so long ago we can’t remember when anymore, but he was sitting on our balcony one evening in Kathmandu sharing a bottle of wine and wondering whether to chuck in his teaching job and work full time with Jamie.
He always hated having to spend time in Kathmandu, and whenever we ran into him it was like a crazed whirlwind. We did however get to spend some time with him in his place down the back of Thamel in the Explore Himalaya storage yard, where he had a 6 inch black and white TV he bought in Manali, and a VCD player where he entertained us with his favourite movie, The Great Escape. Well now he’s had his Great Escape.
In 2004 we were trekking in Manaslu and relaxing under the shade of the tent when we heard ‘Robin and Judy, I can’t believe you’re trekking here!’ and there was Joel laughing his head off. We trekked beside his group to Manaslu and Naar Phu, where we got to know Bob and Ali.
It was always with regret that we never got to share a trip with Joel, we always seemed to be catching each other in the brief ‘in-between’ moments, but they were always precious, funny and unexpected – characteristics Joel had in spadefuls. Judy was lucky enough to catch up with Ali and Joel in May this year in Delhi and as usual it was as if we had only seen each other yesterday.
We will both dearly miss him, his laugh, his love of the mountains and his spontaneous approach to life that was an inspiration.
So long dear friend and happy trails.
Robin Boustead and Judy Smith
Joel introduced me to the magic kingdom of Himalayan trekking with his unique, cheerful, deep, sensitive approach. I'll be grateful to him forever. Fly high in the skies, as you always did.
I will never forget the wonderful trek I made with him in 2009 through the Markha Valley and to the summit of Stok Kangri. It was not only the trek but much more his presence and attitude that made this time unforgettable.
A cocksure self effacing Pom who maintained he was actually an American in his splendid Londoner way.
Cantakerously unflabbable - gracious yet contrary; always present, and listening.
Bloody good company.
A true Python.
A fount of knowledge; his exposition of Lord Curzon's foibles at the Viceroy's Lodge in Simla was worth the trip alone.
One funny bastard.
Paul (and Scarlett) Jacobbs
Joel was gentle and truly loved trekking and helping others enjoy
Joel had a huge interest in Anglo-Indian history. He loved his brothers and his sister and talked about them a lot. He was inordinately fond of British radio dramas. He liked strong coffee, fancy cameras, 70’s English rock, and talking with Ali on the phone. He had adopted Indian standards of modesty. I pictured him winding down to easier treks and retiring in Manali. I hope he was in a beautiful place in the Indian Himalaya, on a quiet road with clean air and open sky, his spirit already a little closer to its destination, when he passed.
Just imagine all those trails, dinners, snowstorms, river crossings, villages and vistas. Those who do what they love for a living have got it worked out. Joel may have compromised on the “for a living” part a little, he was braver than most. In doing so, he inspired me to consciously love what I do. There is some wisdom in the Buddhist/Hindu saying of “accept your Dharma”. I will always cherish my time with Joel in India. Rest in peace.
We honor Joel's spirit. We feel fortunate that we got to meet him and are grateful that his life touched the life of our daughter, Kim.
Lynn and David Bannister
He was happy and always smiling and radiated infinite kindness.
I had the good fortune of spending 3 wonderful weeks with Joel during an exploratory trek in Ladakh, India. As it turns out, the trip would change my life for it was during this trip that I got inspired to create the Everest Peace Project - a peace organization, and my Everest climb for peace, which Jamie was intimately involved with...
It was friggin' cold during that trip! - And most nights Joel and I would gather around the heaters and talk about gear and equipment - he affectionately called me a "gear head". It was one of the best and most memorable journeys of my life.
I never got to meet Joel in person but got to know him well over the years via email. I learned to appreciate his dedication to Singge, a Ladakhi kid that Kim and Joel stumbled upon on one of their treks several years ago. His dedication to Singge (an orphan) was amazing and with Kim inspired me to raise funds for Singge's education and care and I have managed to do so since 2004. Now more than ever, I remain committed to Singge and will always do so with deep respect and remembrance of Joel...
Amazing person, amazing life, amazing memories, amazing friend. My memories with Joel and my son Micah in the Khumbu will be with me forever.
His passing pains us dearly
He was a wonderful bloke and he will be a big loss to the outdoors community.
Glen Kowalik and Jane Monaghan
Joel has been part of my life for twenty years. When we all taught together at Ashmount he was always off to mysterious places and would return, just in the nick of time, with a fine selection of interesting hats for us to scrap over during morning break. His house in Hoxton, long before that part of London was spruced up, was as quirky as its two residents. Red wine in plastic cups and tortilla chips to scoop up the chilli. There was some very dodgy club that we used to head to nearby, down some stairs and through the thick smoke. Blue.. something....
Anyway, he eventually scarpered out of London, although we would occasionally meet up in some Highbury pub for a catch up pint. I finally did a trek with him about four years ago and he kept me going when it became clear that my idea of fitness was fine for Bangkok at sea level, but woefully inadequate for the Indian Himalayas. Once the altitude got to me and my lips went a funny shade of blue, Joel and Lobsang put me on gorgeous Gorpa for the last couple of passes and our group made me a lovely Princess tiara out of snacks. I ended up with blisters on the bum from the world's most uncomfortable saddle, but it was all part of a joyous experience. Joel was as fit as a fiddle; always last to bed and first up to get the super strength coffee and porridge on the go.
I last saw Joel in 2007 when he came and stayed with me in Bangkok before heading off on his bike to goodness knows where. I was so pleased that he had finally made it here, considering that he felt pretty much the same about the heat as I feel about the cold. It is hard to comprehend that he is no longer a physical part of our world but he will always be a part of our lives. He strived to live the life he wanted to live and he did so with a boundless generosity of spirit.
From first meeting you and Joel in Kathmandu several years ago (about 2000?), to a recent Nandi Devi trek with Joel, I found him to be a genuine, kind and humane person who was a wonderful historian. His knowledge and recounts of the early explorers through the Himalaya is memorable. He indirectly showed people how to really live, what living was really all about, and fuelled an inspiration for living a meaningful, yet simple life.
On meeting you both years ago, I fell in love with the Himalaya and this was only further sparked by Joel's passion and love for the Himalaya mountains, people and spirit. There are no better times in my life, than sitting on the side of a mountain in the Himalaya, with Joel and friends and too overawed to speak in the presence of the enormity, splendour and calm of the area - when all else that mattered was simply that moment. I regret that there are no more chats, stories, emails and trips with Joel, but be comforted that he provided some of the best memories in trekker's lives, treated his trekkers and staff with genuine respect, support, humanity and love, with was simply good fun and easy to be around. He really did show myself, and others the path to fulfilling and meaningful living.
The impact of the Ladakh trip we did with Joel will be one of those long lasting memories I will always hold, we had great times, hard walking, huge highs and incredible sights as well as constant evening debates about films and music. It was never dull and always challenging, and a time filled with much laughter.
.. his spirit will remain embedded in the mountains of that unforgettable region that he loved and knew so well. ... He will leave a long lasting legacy of amazing memories with so many people that is incredible and a testimony to his passion for life.
We at the Marcopolo World Travels, Sikkim, deeply mourn the loss of our great friend & mentor, Joel.
He has contributed so much to tourism in Sikkim and he was always personally involved in every aspect of trekking to make it a success and enjoyable.
He will be missed...
Karma, Tega, Sharma, Dawa, Thinley & everyone at Marcopolo.
Joel was a strong character and very influential on my life, probably mostly unbeknownst to him. Devoutly missed. He was so at home in the Himalayas and highly passionate about them. I remember a quote he spoke one night, roughly it went:
"A soul is cleaned of its sins by the sight of the Himalayas."
He was a true and unrivalled Himalayan adventurer of modern times and it was a blessing to be acquainted with an amazing person like Joel. May his spirit lives on to guide us whenever we return to the Himalaya.
Joel cared very much for the people he travelled with (and took care of). He continued leading us along our trip and ever further away from help for his dislocated finger for some two weeks, rather than turn back and end our adventure early. When back in Leh after the trek he went shopping and cooked our first meal himself since there were no restaurants up to his standards open in February. I most remember him as one who brought people together.
Joel was a true leader of the Indian trekking field, a true lover of the mountains and a passionate leader. He trekked with me as my client in 1993/1994, we worked together from 1996 onwards. Despite his busy schedule during his ;"transit" in Delhi, he would always take the time out to drop in my office in Delhi to say hello.
[I will] remember him as the kind man he was.
With my prayers - Basant & team at Ren Tours & Treks
I trekked with Joel and Kim in 2005 (far too long ago) on the 'Land Beyond" trek through Ladakh and Zanskar and in all my travels before and since this has remained the highlight. So much fun and so many memories but two or three things on that trek always bring back memories of Joel.
Singee - we were leaving camp at Kargyak (where Singge is from), and Singhee was doing his best to stop crying as he clung to Joel not wanting him to leave. So reassuring was Joel that he would be back soon that Singee even managed a smile - it was such a touching scene that it brought tears to my eyes too.
On a more humorous note was Joel's reply when at the end of a long day I would ask "how much further to camp?". "Its just around the corner", Joel would reply and that would translate into at least another hour! I was hiking here with my friend Marv Godner on the day Joel was cremated (not knowing that he had just died) and as we were lagging a bit towards the end of the hike we laughed as we recalled Joel's words when we had a ways to go to our car at the end of the trail - "its just around the corner" we assured ourselves!
The gadget man. He had this small battery operated 'swizzle' machine which he used to froth up the coffee and each morning was like the first time he had used it - like a kid with a new toy.
Dear Joel was far more than just these endearing memories though...
Namaste, June Dickinson
His love of the Himalaya made such an impact that I thought only of returning to trek, and when work started to consume my life, it was then that I would browse Joel's itineraries and imagine through his words that I was somewhere else. ... He made it a wonderful place to find and lose yourself, no missed opportunities and every day there was a positive element. The smell of brewed coffee, the discussions surrounding food and watching "Dad's Army" are only a few of the happy memories I have of camp life, not to mention the hundreds of 'moments' on each trek. Joel was a very special person and I am so pleased to have met him, if only for a short time, in my life.
As a family Joel took us all from Manali to Leh in 2001 and that was the best trek ever, entirely due to Joel. He was outside of the usual type of trek leader and never batted an eye lid when told about two replacement hips and a reconstructed femur.
[and never mind the rest..., Jamie has to add]
John Smellie (and Malc, Sharon etc)
How can I thank you for so unstintingly sharing your ‘places of the heart’ with a rookie Aussie wanna-be trekker?
I will forever see you at home in the kingdoms in the sky, so thankful for your warm, compassionate life and your inspiration to live the dream.
Whaia e koe kit e iti kahurangi;
Seek the treasure you value most dearly;
Tavan Bogd base camp is a sublime spot overlooking the highest mountains in Mongolia, a wanderer's paradise. We built a shrine for Joel there and burned incense to Tengri, the Mongolian protector of the "Eternal Blue Sky" there, played him some music, told some stories and remembered him as the Bactrian camels loped by, silhouetted in front of the five snow-peaks.
I could feel Joel there with me, looking down from the blue heavens, saying please don't be sad, rejoice in my life, remember all the years we spent together, the treks and bike trips, the wonderful times and the hard times, the travels, the wanders down narrow Asian streets, the laughter, the tears and all the dinners in India & Nepal washed down with cold beers that we shared, all the people we met, the books read aloud, nights under the stars, the long, Central Asian days and evenings spent with our amazing staff and with Singee.
So I have been doing that ...
He was one of the greatest persons we have ever met, a real good man - in the deepest meaning of "Good".
... he had passed away doing what he loved to do, closing a perfect cycle, exactly like it started - riding his bike across the mountains.
Dênio e Raquel Moreira de Carvalho
Such a wonderful man. Kind, witty, compassionate, incredibly knowledgeable and willing to share it with all. He treated everyone he dealt with, villagers, staff and trekkers alike, with respect and kindness.
He gave all he trekked with such happiness. Walking along with Joel...that smile, that laugh, the adventures, hearing his passion for the people and places around us, talking about everything and anything, solving the world's problems- what could be better? He led us to, and shared with us, such amazing experiences.
May we remember him with smiles on our faces and happy memories of a good man.
We have lost a trekking addict of the highest order. Whatever I had done in Ladakh he had been there twice, done it faster, more cheerfully and learned more from it. His passing at least sounds swift and apt, but that does not make it any easier; a good man's gone down.
Joel is one of the finest human being we have met and he has left a profound impression on us all after our trek in Ladakh in 2007. Due to Joel's way of running things, we had an experience of a life time and we gained a friend. Trekking with Joel was not a business, but an adventure in which he partook as much as everybody else and soon became a friend, we knew this was true when we said goodbye in Leh and there was tears in his eyes.
Per and Tanja Gullestrup
Joel and his passion for the Himalayas was contagious, he walked with the knowledge and experience of a veteran, and yet with the curiosity and humbleness of a novice - a combination seldom found. I remember us accidentally discovering a caravanserai in the Nubra valley, and his excitement was the same as when we strolled through the rice paddies of eastern Nepal. Joel is gone, but his inspiration remains.
Many thanks to Joel for introducing us to the magical valleys around Nanda Devi. ... His joy was just as great returning to a place with new friends, as it was when he saw it for the first time.
I am writing to say thank you for all the kind comments that have been posted about my brother Joel, both on my behalf and on behalf of my family. Joel's loss has been keenly felt by his family who loved him, as a, brother, uncle and a kind, gentle, considerate man. He will forever live in our memories.
I absolutely adored Joel. There only a few people who really impact you in life and he is one who I will remember as a true gem, who really made you think about what it means to be a quality human being and how to live life fully.
I have often thought of all the memories of our trek with Joel in 2007 up the Kang La. The mudslides had washed out roads and we were going to have to do a slightly different trek; not having been prepared to be on a glacier, I was nervous. Joel's leadership and happy-go-lucky sense put me at ease and he was always ever so patient.
I cannot help but remember the amazing sunsets we saw as we trekked along the Kang La river; one night we all marveled at sunsets caused by cyclones on the other side of the Himalaya. Joel said--it "nuclear" and was so in awe of these sunsets - we all were. But we were all sharing a moment of sheer delight in what nature can bring in a moment. That was Joel in a nutshell - able to truly enjoy the moment.
His care of the village children (Singee, the young boy who badly sprained his arm, and who trekked with us the rest of the way) was clearly evident. Joel's mind paralleled his ability to have gratitude for life and the present moment. He introduced me to a great writer, John Keay, When Men and Mountains Meet. But he was so well read and intelligent. Never snotty always funny, truly a pleasure to be around.
You never got the sense that he got tired of trekking - for there was always something to discover. And now he's in the great Himalaya in the sky - discovering. Thank you Joel for showing us your Himalaya. I feel so lucky that I got to experience my first trek there with you and your crew. Much love to Lobsang, Punsok, Tenpa.
The three weeks Helen and I spent trekking in Ladakh with Project Himalaya were absolutely unforgettable, and the relationship we were privileged to have with Joel in that time was a completely integral part of the whole thing. He'll be someone I'll remember forever, someone I felt closer to in that short time than I'll ever feel with the huge majority of other people I'll know in my life. I guess it's partly the natural intimacy of spending time in the wilderness with only a very few for company – but what ideal circumstances to come across someone like Joel!
His gentleness, his openness, his love of strong cheese and spinach, his endless store of anecdotes, jokes, classic British comedy; and his total ease and serenity after years of leading treks, sharing a trek with us, and sure to go on to lead many more in a life that was so obviously happy and fulfilling in a way most people can only envy – I see him bald and begoateed, a twinkle in his eye.
Brilliantly, I remember the one single time I plucked up the nerve to interrupt his flow and tell a somewhat ambitious joke of my own, he reacted with outraged and hilarious scorn at how horrendously awful it was. I mean, goddammit, it was my very best shot! And yet he was right – his jokes, even the ones which were kind of terrible, were matchlessly told, and I laughed at every single one.
So I'm left with laughter and deep admiration for a guy who died swiftly and with no fuss doing something he loved – and that I would have loved to be doing myself – in one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you had to choose an ending, I suppose something like that would be pretty near perfect – although, hell, I'm gutted it had to happen so soon.
Evan (and Helen) Jeffries
We were all privileged and enlivened to share his company ...
On our ’99 Kanchenjunga trek at the end of a particularly long day we were all resting, sitting or lying around on the ground. A rather tuckered out Joel was rocking back and forth and sighs under his breath “Oh dear….oh dear… I think I’m coming down with a case of M.E.” All exhausted someone asks “What’s M.E.?” and Joel moans back “that dreaded yuppie disease of self-absorption.” Me! Me! Realizing everyone was also afflicted, it brought smiles all around.
I was always stunned that no-one could stump Joel about movie lines or who was in what movie no matter how old or new. Pretty damn good with '80's rock too!! He was an enjoyable presence in camp each and every night. I feel very fortunate to have been one of the hundreds who had the opportunity to spend time with this amazing individual in a spectacular part of the world.
Joel or "Mr. Schone" as I knew him best was my year 5 teacher way back in 1994. He meant so so much to me and my family. He was so inspiring, creative, caring and the best and most memorable teacher I ever had! I even still talk to my parents about his lessons today, as they too remember what a great teacher he was and how much he made me love learning and school. He is one of the reasons why I myself am a teacher today and I only hope to be even nearly as brilliant as he was.
It is a fitting measure of what a truly extraordinary man Joel was that so many people have written so many heartfelt and wonderful tributes to him.
I went on two treks with Joel, so I was with him for only six weeks in all, yet in that short time I came to love him like a life-long friend and brother. After the end of our Kanchenjunga trek together last May, he and Alison Tucker and I were talking about hiking in the Alps together next summer and then suddenly he was gone. I take solace in knowing that he was cremated in the sleeping bag I gave him at the end of our Kanchenjunga trek so that something of me is with him even now.
Joel was a true leader of the Indian trekking field, a true lover of the mountains and a passionate leader.
Gopal and Bikash & team at Adarsh Tours & Treks, Sikkim
I said a prayer to the mountain gods for Joel at the top of the Kongma La in the Khumbu and in a more direct tribute pigged myself in his name at the Imperial hotel breakfast buffet...
There went a man who did something with his life.
A patriot of the mountains.
Peter Sih writes:
David Donaldson, Murray Winks, and myself have each have trekked with Joel several times. We met in Delhi on May 27 to start The Great Himalaya Bicycle Adventure and the next morning escaped the heat in Delhi for Shimla where we assembled our bikes in the evening and cycled up the banks of the Sutlej River the following morning.
For the next ten days the four of us cycled through Kinnaur and Spiti in perfect cycling conditions, supported by 2 vehicles and Lobsang, Pemba, Kunsan, and Punsok. Joel reminisced about cycling this same route years earlier in the opposite direction.
On Monday, June 7 we started at a campsite above Losar, crossed the Kunzam La (4570 meters), and set up camp at Dadar Pul in beautiful Chandra Valley. That night it started raining. In the middle of the night it turned into snow and by morning all of our 3-season tents had collapsed under a blanket of snow. [The remnants of Cyclone Phet hit them; see a short video].
Although we felt safe in our camp we heard and saw dozens of avalanches and rock slides all around us. The sky cleared midday Wednesday but the road in both directions was impassable. We were lucky we had enough food and fuel on hand. We kept hearing about rumors of road reopening from passing shepherds but none materialized day after day.
On Saturday morning David and Murray set of towards Chattru pushing their bikes over the snow. Although the road to Gramphoo was still blocked in several places they managed to bike and walk to Koksar by evening.
Meanwhile on Saturday evening back at the camp that evening the Himachal Pradesh Police (HPP) arrived at Dadar Pul to evacuate the tourists. Joel objected as to why this had to be done in darkness but the HPP Inspector did not give us a choice so we hastily packed our belongings, ate, and pushed our bikes to Chattru where we spent the night with Lobsang and 3 Indian tourists in one room behind the Chattru Dhaba.
Sunday morning after breakfast Joel and I prepared our bikes and rode off at about 9am. Confirming that there is no toilet at the dhaba we joked about finding big rocks along the road. Lobsang stayed behind to look after our belongings at Chattru and Dadar Pul. We were all in good spirit to resume our bicycle adventure.
I was cycling slowly ahead of Joel all this time and when I got to the switchbacks I walked my bike up that section most of the way. When I got to the top of the switchbacks I looked back and saw Joel just 2 hairpins back and he appears to have found a rock to his liking. So I cycled ahead and waited for him after I made my own rest stop.
After about 30 minutes and not seeing Joel I feared the worst. I retraced my route slowly, calling his name and looking off the sides of the road. When I got to a long straight section I could see a person and bike on the ground in the middle of the road. As I approached I could see it was Joel. I called him and there was no response. I looked for a pulse and there was none. Although Joel was not wearing his helmet I could find no external injuries. I noted the time (12:19pm), location (N 32°20.787' E077°19.641'), and took several photos. I biked back to Chattru knowing that the HPP was still there. After 1 or 2 kilometers I stopped a motorcyclist approaching and he gave me a ride. I found Lobsang sitting outside at the Chattru Dhaba and I can tell he knew something terrible has happened.
We returned to the scene and the HPP made an investigation. They made an inventory of Joel's possessions at the scene and gave everything to me. (About this time David and Murray must have been notified of the situation at Keylong.) With Joel's body wrapped in his sleeping bag we were transported past where the road was blocked by an avalanche to a waiting police bus and an ambulance and were taken to Koksar. A medical doctor examined Joel briefly. We headed towards Keylong but the main road was blocked by a mudslide and the bypass road was blocked by a stuck truck near Sissu so we turned back to Koksar where we spent the night.
Monday morning when I was waiting to the ambulance I was surprised to see Lobsang, Pemba, and Kunsan. They had walked all night from Dadar Pul with little sleep so I hired a taxi to take us to Keylong. The ambulance left with Joel's body for the Keylong Regional Hospital. I met David and Murray at the Tashi Teleg Hotel around noon and filled in the details they had not known. I learned that Joel's family, Jamie, and Alison had been contacted [thank-you, David].
A post-mortem was conducted that afternoon. The cause of death was due to "massive myocardial infarction => cardiac arrest => circulatory shock => death". There were no external injuries and Joel had died "within minutes".
And trekkers said
A BIG thank-you for another great trek. ... I really enjoy seeing the relationship you have with the core group of staff and your style of leading. It permeates through the trekkers and creates an atmosphere that is 'fun' to be part of. As I said at Johnson's, your team is also part of the reason why I keep returning; people make a trip as much as the experience.
"Latin" Leigh, The Great Himalayan Traverse 2009
Thank you so much for a wonderful trip! Your company is highly recommended and your team are superb! Your ability to pull it all together and remain calm and make everyone feel like they're important astounds me, but I really think overall it was the trek I am afraid that wins the prize.... you share in the prize as you put the trek together!!! I was close to the mountains, every slog was worth it, I have never seen views like it in my life (and we have trekked in a couple of places!) ...
Carolyn, The Great Himalayan Traverse 2008
In Welsh: Americanwr yw Joel Schone ac mae ganddo dros ugain mlynedd o brofiad fel arweinydd yn yr Himalaya. Gyda gwên gyson a storiau di-ri am hanes gorymdeithiau i'r Himalayas, dros y ganrif ddiwetha' roedd e'n ddewis ysbrydoledig!,
Richard, Sikkim 2008
A few final thoughts on the Everest Pilgrimage Trek now that I have had a chance to collect my thoughts -
1) This trip exceeded my expectations. I've certainly heard and read a lot about the Khumbu Region but until one actually experiences it in person you can't appreciate all the things that make it magical - the mountains, the monasteries and the incredible personal warmth and hospitality of the Sherpa people.
2) The Gokyo Lakes region is preferable to the Everest Base Camp valley. It's less crowded, the scenery at the lakes and Reno Pass is breathtaking. You get to see Cho Oyu up close and personal. One of the Germans staying at the lodge in Gokyo said it was much better than Everest Base camp.
3) As in India, Project Himalaya in Nepal provides a superior "value quotient" to trips with comparable itineraries offered by other companies. Project Himalaya offers an expert western guide as well as a seasoned Sherpa serdar for a price that is 25% - 35% less than the competition.
4) Many companies boast about their long standing relationships with local lodges etc. Joel literally knew the owner of every lodge we stayed at - many for up to twenty years. This translated into clean, reliable accommodations. We had no problems with stomach issues due to food.
5) Lhakpa, our Serdar, personifies the positive strength of character of the Sherpa people. He always thought a couple of steps ahead of what client needs would be. He had great personal integrity and was very generous in inviting us to visit his family home for lunch.
6) Joel's expert knowledge of the area enabled us to see hidden gems like Lauda monastery and to adjust our itinerary on the fly to visit Ama Dablam basecamp - "like being in an IMAX film".
Thanks again for a great trip and best wishes.
Fred M, Everest Pilgrimage trek 2008
Anyway, what I really wanted to say was that I really enjoyed and learnt a lot from your history stories as I knew of most of the lecture content. You managed to teach a very amateur historian like my self a bit of history!
Martin Kear, Kinnaur & Nanda Devi 2007
I really cannot thank you enough for the opportunity that your trek provided for me. It has really opened up a wealth of options for me (both recreational and occupational).
Dr Romany Topsfield, Nanda Devi 2007
Thanks again for a good trek – you really seem to have a terrific knack at allowing independence on treks but also stepping in and being supportive/decisive when needed. I must admit, I was worried about doing the group gig as I’m a bit of an independent wanderer, but now would have absolutely no hesitation booking on another of your group trips.. hopefully/probably/god willing/if my stars say so/if I haven’t been eaten by a koala etc etc ...in ‘09.
Gaye Kittel, Nanda Devi trek 2007 led by Joel & Lobsang
The Dzo in the snow, the glowing crimson Himalaya, the Nutella, the spoon, comparing Patagucci gear, the camaraderie, the altitude, Csoma, Moorecroft, the fish tika, Windermere "How was the expedition, Sir?", "I shot a moose..." – so many marvellous moments.
Thanks so much, for helping put together another fabulous trek.
John S, Sikkim Kanchenjunga 2007 lead by Joel
The trek was truly an experience of a lifetime, I really do not believe it could have gone any better, everything worked out perfectly. Your knowledge of the culture and the area is amazing and very inspiring. Furthermore the respect you show for your employees was gratifying and made everything very harmonious. A heartfelt thanks from all of us!
Per Gullestrup, Arne & families, India 2007 lead by Joel
Really Joel, you were the best. We (I) wouldn't have tolerated a group of people that were shying away from being where they were, and with whom. On the other hand, I don't want to be a young dead Russian girl, travelling alone with no back up. So everything was perfect.
You of course were cantankerous, when you weren't being howlingly funny. I, of course, was my ever delightful, charming self, who wanted to shoot people indiscriminately when I'd had too much. Which was most of the time.
It was the best trip ever, Joel--and because of you.
Brenna (and Joe Stein), Everest Gokyo 2006 lead by Joel
We're back home and already missing you and Nepal. Thanks again (and again) for your knowledge and good humor, introducing us to your friends, and -- above all -- for your companionship and generosity: it was a privilege and joy to share the journey.
(Brenna and) Joe Stein, Everest Gokyo 2006 lead by Joel
Yes, it turned out to be a real good trip and I am most glad that I participated. Thanks to you and Kim, your organizing and your crew. The land and the people turned out to be as interesting as you had promised. And the fellow travelers turned out to be amiable. The last, but not the least, Temba [Tenpa] and his assistant cooked up a storm. And all this sunshine...
Rein Grabbi, Zanskar, the Land Beyond 2005 lead by Kim and Joel
I also wanted to tell you both again how much I enjoyed the trek, how it really has been a "trip of a lifetime" for me that has given me wonderful new insights into Ladakh and a rich experience that I will always treasure (and hopefully repeat)! You were both instrumental to that experience, and I appreciated immensely your energy, enthusiasm and passion for trekking and your deep knowledge of the culture and history of Ladakh.
Scott R, Jumlam 2005 lead by Kim and Joel
I was on a Ladakh trek with Project Himalaya for a month last summer and had a positive experience. I didn't know Joel or anyone in the outfit ahead of time, but developed a sense of their competence from some preliminary emails. So I gave them a try.
I can honestly say they delivered on everything described in their website. Everything was unusually well organized. The two guides were always pleasant and responsive. The staff, in particular, were all high quality people. The food was excellent and more varied and interesting that I would have anticipated considering the circumstances. Something I watched carefully was the horsemen, and they were obviously much better than others on the trail. In a couple cases, the guides delivered more than advertized. On the way in, Rotang pass was blocked by a slide. Rather than waste time, they sent someone ahead to arrange a jeep, pay baksheesh, hire porters, etc, so that we stayed on schedule. Another outfit started about the same time and they fell behind, so they rushed the altitude acclimization. As I hiked by the ashen faces of their trekkers on the third day, I really appreciated the extra effort. So, based on my experience, I would say the outfit is well organized and delivers on what they claim.
Tom, Remote Zanskar 2004, posted on Yetizone
...Also a big thank you to Project Himalaya for such a great trip back in late Oct. Joel and the gang were on top form, and speaking of top, they did finally haul me to the top of a 6000m peak! This time with no ill effects!! His team were fantastic...
Malc Southern, Malc's Return trek 2003
I did the Everest Base Camp trek with them in 2003. Joel Schone was the guide and did an excellent job. Compared to some of the other outfits I saw along the way (skimping on all expenses), I felt fortunate. In addition, as I acclimatized quickly, Joel was flexible and modified our itinerary so that I was able to add Chukung Ri and Gokyo Ri to the original plan of Kala Patthar and base camp. I am planning to trek with them again in the future.
Bob Moule, Anniversary Hillary Khumbu Traverse 2003, posted on Yetizone
I was just emailing to say thanks really, we both had an awesome time in Ladakh and will definitely try and raise the money to do it again sometime, probably when university constraints are over. Anyway, thanks again for an amazing month...
Tom and Tom, Zanskar Remote 2003
... thank you [Joel], Kim, Lobsang and co for a trek that far surpassed all hopes and expectations. You can supply the adjectives for yourself to save me descending too far into the realms of cliché - any delighted superlatives will do. Unforgettable, and certainly not the last time I hope to come out.
Evan Jeffries, Caravan 2003 (and Helen and Evan came out in 2005...)
Last night Bob gathered the rest of the crew for a picture/slide show, some dal bhaat. We had a great time and had brownies for dessert just in honor of the great surprise from the trek.
To a person, we all remarked about the professionalism, knowledge, skills, enthusiasm, infectious excitement, enchantment with the Middle Hills of our fearless and intrepid leader Joel. I can't even imagine going on a trek without him. Our trek to Kangchenjunga and two of the members climbing Tengkoma was an extraordinary experience. The combination of Joel, Ram Kaji and Dawa Gyalgen was a study of organization. At the time we concluded that Joel certainly is an inspired teacher, Ram Kaji could run training seminars on organization and motivation in major companies. Dawa is flat out the most impressive person that I have met in any field, any place, any time. Putting these three guys together may have been just serendipity but it was an incredibly great match up. In short, even though I am prone to hyperbole, this had to be the best of all possible worlds.
Joel, I am still trying to figure out how you got me to walk on trails and schlep across bridges that usually would have resulted in soiled underwear. The fact that you did this without large bore weapons and electric appliances is a credit to your teaching skills. It is always the inspired teacher who can take the student into feared circumstances and have the student both like it and forget that they should have been terrorized.
Wes Lamb and Bob Rosenbaum, Kangchenjunga Fall 2000
We would like to to thank you and Joel for 'persuading' us and getting us onto the India trip, for the flexibility of you and the other participants in bringing the start date forward (so we could get our return flight to UK) and for all your and particularly Joel's hard work in making the trek such a success for us. We know it can't have been easy at times, with all the snow, but we loved it and we hope to come back one day.
Peter and Susan, 2002
Teacher. Avid trekker, in the Himalaya 2 or 3 times a year for a dozen years. Knows the Indian Himalaya A to Z. Knows more movies than anyone. Hysterically funny, good natured, knowledgeable, articulate.
By Dana Alford, Kangchenjunga Magic 1999