The Worst of Times, The Breast of Times

Everest Region, Nepal

I trekked the EBC with my amazing friend Kimby. Kimby is a beautiful deaf lesbian cinematographer who had just given birth to her second child no less than four months before embarking on this epic journey with me through the Himalayas.

I know what you're thinking, wasn't Deaf Lesbian the name of your cousin's failed punk rock band in the 90s? No, I jest, there's just a lot to unpack here in order to describe to you the fascinating enigma that is Kimby Caplan, and in order to do her justice, it's going to take some time. So what I want to start with is the simple, blessed, fact that other than our sherpa guide and our porters, it was just the two of us together on this trek, just me and Kimby vs The Mountain.

This is Day 0.5, so look how smiley we both still are! We have no idea...
This is Day 0.5, so look how smiley we both still are! We have no idea...

Occasionally we would see large groups of people hiking together. I'm talking groups ranging anywhere from 6-12 people strong, all snaking up the mountain like a wheezing conga line behind a singular guide, and honestly, I don't know how they were doing it. I've traveled with groups before (in much less demanding circumstances, mind you), and I can testify from experience that once you surpass a certain number of people, the whole operation flies off the rails almost immediately. Even when you're SNOW SKIING you want to cap it at about 4 friends, otherwise you'll never make it out of the cabin, and even then, it's a miracle if you get to the slopes before noon.

I still have no idea why my parents thought it would be fun idea to take my brother and I on ski trips as children, it seems like such a monumental hassle when all the beach requires is a swimsuit and some lotion, but I am sure glad they did, because the sport teaches you accountability. Just like trekking, skiing involves a lot of STUFF -- technical clothing and equipment you have to keep track of -- and I think it's a good gateway activity to see if you are compatible with a person on a technical level, before embarking on a multi-week trek together. Did I mention that Kimby is an Olympically trained skier? No? We'll just add that to the list of stories I'll eventually loop back to.

Anyways, when traveling with a large number of people, you can have the best intentions at heart, but no amount of research or preplanning is going to prevent the fact that about every 15 minutes or so, someone in the group is going to ask to go to the bathroom. Or announce that they're hungry. Or manage to hurt themselves somehow. Or realize that they forgot something. Or once, growing up, for some unfathomable reason my brother managed to put (and keep) his ski boots on the wrong feet for an entire day. Wtf, Ross? The list goes on and on and oh my god I'm getting irritated just thinking about what it's like to travel in a sprawling group of people, so kudos to all these groups of EBC trekkers that add madness to misery and attempt to hike in the Everest region as an unwieldy troop. Kimby and I had our hands full with just each other.

Uh oh -- I see the smiles are gone... We look rough, because things WERE rough!
Uh oh -- I see the smiles are gone... We look rough, because things WERE rough!

In Kimby's case, her hands were often literally full, as she tried to hike while simultaneously pumping breastmilk from her engorged tits. Warning, this is about to get... I don't want to say explicit, so maybe just...weird? This is about to get weird. (Just wait until we get to the part where I unknowingly eat Kimby's breast milk...)

I understand very little about the female anatomy and even less about childbirth, but you see, when a woman loves a woman very, very much, and they have the means both physical and financial to bring a second child to term via invitro insemination, then sometimes four months after giving birth, one of the women in the relationship will leave the newborn child with the other mother back home in America, while she goes to Nepal on a two week trek through the Himalayas with her good friend Ryan. It's a tale as old as time. And if that woman is painfully lactating at the time of departure to Nepal, and intends to continue doing so in order to resume breast feeding her child when she returns home to California in a month, then it becomes necessary for her to manually pump that milk from her breast. With surprising regularity.

I used the word "surprising," but in my case, I think the word "shocking" more accurately describes the disbelief I soon experienced at just how much breast milk this tiny little friend of mine could produce on a daily, nay hourly, basis.

Before we left America, I was telling my wacky aunt what I imagined Kimby planned to do throughout the duration of our trip, concerning her breastmilk. I told her what I thought to be true at the time, that since we would have limited access to electricity in Nepal, Kimby had purchased the... I don't know, "finest manual breast pump in all the land." I said I figured she would likely retreat each evening to her bed chambers, or somewhere within the tea house lodging each night, to privately express her milk for the day. Remember that at this point, I had yet to actually see our ramshackle lodgings in Nepal, nor did I yet know that "tea house" was actually a euphemism for "shantytown plywood slum shack," so in my mind it was all very civilized and, again, all very private. I didn't really know what I was talking about here, admittedly, but my wonderfully eccentric aunt apparently knew even less.

She pulled me in close like she was about to tell me a secret, and in hushed, sultry tones confided to me, "Ryan, I realize you don't know much about women, but I have been a mother myself, and listen to me when I tell you that for a woman, breastfeeding can be a relaxing, sensual, almost sexual, experience. You need to give Kimby her space each night and respect her privacy and wishes. If Kimby is like me, then this is something she will likely prefer to do alone, in private, maybe in a bubble bath with some incense and candles. Don't be insensitive, Ryan, let Kimby have her long, soaking bubble bath each night if she needs it."

I had done enough research about the EBC trek already to know that my aunt's bubble bath scenario was a complete departure from reality and that we'd be lucky each night if we even had access to a private toilet, much less running water, but I left America resolved to be the perfect gentleman, especially in all things related to her breast milk expulsion. If Kimby needed to spend an exorbitant and unreciprocated amount of time in the bathroom, relaxing with whatever the Nepali equivalent of a bubble bath might be, then so be it. I could always pee outside. Being away from her newborn baby and having to constantly pump milk on his behalf, Kimby was making some pretty big sacrifices to be up here with me, and so too, could I. Maybe I could even poop outside if it came to that, I had done it once before while CAMPING in Big Bend, perhaps I could do it again.

Well, little did either of us know that the Nepali equivalent of a bubble bath would be her quickly retreating behind a plywood door (if we were lucky), to hover above a Turkish-style, hole-in-the-ground toilet, and pump breast milk whilst standing up and shivering in the freezing cold darkness. Remember, there was rarely electricity, and therefore rarely any light or heat. There was also never a bathtub, seldom was there any running water (and if there was it was always just a few degrees above freezing), and there certainly weren't any bubbles. Also, the water was FILTHY AND POISONOUS, and so you wouldn't want to be soaking in it anyways; just to be clear. The closest my wacky aunt came to the truth was her mention of burning incense, since the Nepali people were CONSTANTLY BURNING SOMETHING. It was mostly yak dung or plastic water bottles, and the acrid smoke would often seep through the wall boards and sting your eyes the entire time you were in the toilet shack. Sensual, almost sexual, right?!

So horrifying and grim were the lodging and restroom conditions, that with a sort of defeated amusement we began using the term "bubble bath" on the trail to refer to Kimby's need to pump milk. I could say that we started using this overly civilized euphemism as a courtesy to our guide, but I'm pretty sure that he learned long ago to completely ignore the endless stream of nonsensical bullshit that flowed from my mouth. (I also don't think he spoke as much English as we originally presumed, which I regale in further detail HERE).

What I think shocked both of us was just how frequently Kimby started needing this bubble bath. As we rose in elevation, what started out as maybe a twice or thrice daily affair soon turned into every few hours, with Kimby popping off quite frequently to have her bubble bath behind a rock or bush. Kimby became a pro at sniffing out potential bubble bath locations for herself, and she was always surprisingly fast at getting it taken care of, yet still the constant departures from the trail were noticeably slowing our already slow progress. The slowness of our established pace was mostly due to my inability to go any faster, regardless of Kimby's bubble bath departures, and she'd always catch back up to me within mere minutes of disappearing. Kimby loves to show people this slow-motion footage she shot of me on the trail. It amuses her to no end to show them the video of what it was like to hike with me, and only at the very end of the clip does she reveal that it wasn't shot in slow motion at all, this was just me hiking in real time. Hilarious.

As we progressed higher in altitude, I eagerly welcomed Kimby's bubble bath breaks, and came to need them as much if not more than she did. But between my sluggish, slow-motion hiking, and Kimby's incessant bubble baths, it became clear that we were making dismal progress, and at this rate would need to add at least a day or more to our trek. And that simply wasn't an option.

A lot of this trek was a haze for me, but I do remember the first time I witnessed Kimby's crackerjack solution. I was huffing along and needing to rest and thinking surely we were overdue for a bubble bath break, why hadn't we stopped? I looked back and saw that we hadn't stopped because Kimby was simply hiking and having her bubble bath at the same time. (This would soon be her M.O. from this point moving forward, by the way.)

Now granted, she didn't have all the kinks worked out yet, so her titty was mostly exposed, and our guide looked horrified, but eventually Kimby would come up with a system that involved affixing a nozzle to her nipple and shoving it through a small hole in her rain jacket to meet the pumping gadget on the other side. Then she would simply hike along and pump in step, no more noticeable or obscene than rhythmically squeezing a stress toy. We weren't quite there yet though, logistically, and Kimby must have misread the crestfallen look on my face as some sort of affected modesty, but before she could apologize or put away her tit, I quickly explained that I was just selfishly mourning the loss of all the frequent rest stops that came along with her previous, more discreet, system. I could honestly give a f*ck if her breast was exposed on this dizzying, godforsaken trail, and to drive home this point and emphasize that we'd disposed of all pretenses long ago, I decided to share with her the fact that for the past three nights, while she slept, I'd been pulling out my dick and peeing into a Nalgene bottle in our room. This was so I wouldn't have to walk in the freezing cold darkness to the toilet, and to clear up any confusion, I even mimed putting my dick into a water bottle, just in case her hearing aid was out.

I mentioned earlier that Kimby was deaf, which is true, and I promised to loop back around to that; so I will, albeit briefly. Similar to the fact that she's a lesbian, both items are pretty straight forward, and I don't much know what to write about either topic, since I'm an authority on neither. Early on, when our friendship was still tenuous, I remember asking her on set if she could translate something into sign language for me -- I had an idea for a comedic bit involving a visual pun. This might not seem like a big deal, but since the film that earned her a Student Academy Award was pretty much all about how she grew up with a cochlear implant and learned to read lips rather than learning sign language, it became immediately apparent in that instant that I might not have actually watched her film like I might have said that I did. Ooops!

I still mess up every now and again by walking on the wrong side of her, the side without her hearing aid, or forgetting to face her as a courtesy when I'm speaking... but here's something to think about, what must have the pandemic been like for her? Sure we all experienced the constant irritation during Covid of not being able to understand what someone was saying through their muffling mask, but for someone who reads lips, everyone covering up their mouths with those awful masks must have been like flipping off a switch for her. Maddening. On the upside, though, she is the only person -- roommate, romantic partner, or otherwise -- whom my snoring doesn't bother. She can literally turn it off with the push of a button! I love this for her.

And as far as the lesbian thing goes, I am constantly amazed and amused at how vast the differences are between her gay lifestyle and mine, so I can't imagine what I'm supposed to have in common with all those other letters they keep adding to the LGBT acronym. I can't even consistently tell you what some of the letters stand for, and what some of the letters stand for isn't even consistent! Ask different people what the Q stands for and you'll get different answers. So silly. "Questioning?" Are you kidding me? You don’t even know if you want to buy it yet, but you got in the checkout line anyways? That seems premature, if not downright rude. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time to decide whether something is right for you, just get out of the checkout line and go think about it somewhere else. This line is for people who’ve already made up their minds. I'm of the opinion that before we get so inclusive that the LGBTQIP2SA acronym is just the entire alphabet rearranged, do we maybe want to take a step back and just define the community by what we’re not? NH? Not Heterosexual?

Excuse me for a second while I get down off my soap box and hop back on the EBC trail story with all of you (which.... hold on... I'm being told since my last usage of this acronym that the trail leading to Everest Base Camp is now officially called the EBCT. As I've mentioned before, EBC stands for Everything's Burning Constantly, but now this new "T" apparently stands for Trailsexuals, which makes no sense and will take some getting used to, but hey, I want to be politically correct, so...)

I wish I could say that it was on the EBCT that Kimby first fed me her breast milk. But sadly, this is not the case. How great would the story be if, due to some Everest avalanche or other unforeseen tragedy, we became trapped in the Himalayas, and I had to suckle at Kimby's tit to survive in the wilderness, as she nursed me back to health like some Mama Wolf? Maybe she nursed our sherpa too! DEAF LESBIAN CINEMATOGRAPHER SAVES TRAPPED EBCTH TREKKERS WITH BUBBLEBATH, the headlines might have read.

But all of this is false, the truth is actually much more insidious, for this is not the first time Kimby has produced breast milk. As you might recall, earlier I included the seemingly unnecessary detail that this was her second child -- this was just clever foreshadowing on my part! I'm such a good writer, y'all! Even the meandering digression about skiing is about to come into play, too! It's all coming together for you, The Reader, although I want to apologize in advance if it's a tad anticlimactic.

Many years ago, we were all skiing in Taos. It was Kimby's turn to make breakfast, and we all requested French toast, but were unfortunately out of milk.

Ahhhh, but Kimby wasn't. Out of milk.

She waited until we were all about halfway through our second helping to tell us all how she'd managed to make the French toast, and what it was we were eating. I spit out my mouthful immediately, but afterwards began wondering, "Why did you do that, Ryan? Is there any real reason why adult friends shouldn't consume each other's breast milk?" The answer, I later found out, is yes, yes there is, Kimby! But each time this became an issue, both whilst skiing in Taos and while trekking in the Himalayas, we had no easy access to internet. So I don't think I was being too overly paranoid on the EBCTH, watching Kimby closely to see what exactly she was doing with all those little bottles she produced. I was constantly on guard for her to try and surreptitiously slip me some of her "bath water" again (fool me once...), but to my knowledge, I don't think she ever did.

She hinted at it though, and it drove me crazy! "What's a little bubble bath amongst friends?" she'd say, and it wouldn't have been uncommon for at least one of the 6-12 people passing us by in large groups to hear me yelling "You can't unwittingly feed people your breast milk Kimby!" followed by Kimby just laughing and laughing. And that's okay. Go ahead and laugh. That's fine.

I never did tell you where I put the contents of my nighttime Nalgene bottle.


UPDATE: This just in, the "C" in EBCT no longer stands for "Camp," it now stands for "Curious," to be more inclusive of those people who might want to trek on Everest, but just haven't decided yet. They're thinking about it, though.


Kimby and her son Harry, in an ACTUAL bubble bath, in Telluride, Colorado.
Kimby and her son Harry, in an ACTUAL bubble bath, in Telluride, Colorado.

A billboard in Viterbo, Italy.
A billboard in Viterbo, Italy.

You can read about my "Immodest Proposal" HERE!