A Conversation with Sorrell Wilby


The Great Himalayan Trail follows the Himalayas from Nanga Parbat in Pakistan to Namche Barwa in Tibet

Sorrel Wilby and her husband Chris trekked 4,000 miles across Asia in 1991, and this spring they’re leading a group through Nepal’s Upper Dolpo—a Tibetan-Buddhist region of western Nepal that was closed to foreigners until the late 1990s. Sorrel shared her insights on the region and the allure of authentic Tibetan culture with us after columnist Jayme Otto grilled her for our spring issue’s PinPoint about long trails. Hear what Sorell has to say:

WAM: Where do you currently live? Where were you raised? How old are you?
Sorrel: I was raised in Sydney Australia, but live now on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific. A Beautiful, beautiful place. I will be turning 50 this year – actually, while I’m in Nepal leading this trek for World Expeditions! How perfect is that?

WAM: What draws you to the Himalayas?
Sorell: I love everything about the Himalaya – the people, the culture, the mountains themselves, of course. Every time I return, I feel like I’ve come home.

WAM: What spurred you to traverse 6,500 kilometers in 1991?
Sorell: I’m a big fan of long treks – and they don’t make ‘em much longer than this! We were unbelievably lucky to be granted permits to trek through Arunachal Pradesh – the closed tribal state of India – so that allowed my husband and me to completely traverse the range, from The Indus to the Bramaputra rivers.

WAM: How long did it take you?
Sorell: 16 months, over an 18 month period.

WAM: What did you discover about yourself during that journey?

Sorell: That’s a tough question. I had pretty much worked out who I was a few years before – when I walked across Tibet on my own. So this expedition was more about exploring all the nooks and crannies within my husband’s soul, rather than my own. What I then “discovered” was just how much I loved him: For he truly is the Ying to my Yang.

WAM: How did you change over the course of that journey?
Sorell: Chris lost over 50 pounds I learned how to occasionally take a day off. Needless to say both of us reverted to our old ways within 6 months of returning home.

WAM: What are a few things you can’t leave home without—if you’re headed to the Great Himalaya Trail?

Sorell: A sense of humor, the patience of a saint, and a really, really good Thermarest.

WAM: Any tips for physically preparing for an expedition?
Sorell: I believe 90 percent of trekking is mental. Ten percent is physical. High altitude is the only way to prepare for high altitude – so try to work more in high attitudes. Also, good clothing, good camping equipment, and worn-in boots (so you don’t get blisters) are equally important preparations to me. But having said that? I walk 6 kilometers every day, incorporating stairs! It’s the downhills that will undo you in the Himalaya – particularly your knees!

Last modified: February 2, 2012

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