Back in medical school, Lisa Kernic, D.O., put visiting Nepal on top of her bucket list.
Dr. Kernic stands amongst the Himalayas in an alpine meadow, which she says is her favorite place on earth.
The village behind Dr. Kernic is Namche Bazzar, a trading town at about 9,000 feet in the Everest valley.
The peak of Mount Everest is visible from about 40 miles away. (The other peaks are closer, so they appear the same size.)
But as the years went by, the busy physician and mother of two teenage girls began to doubt that she would ever get there.
Her husband knew how much the trip meant to her and insisted that they would find a way for her to go. Bolstered by her family’s support, Dr. Kernic, of LG Health Physicians Hospitalists, spent 16 days climbing Nepal’s Himalayan Mountains in October.
She reached an altitude of 13,500 feet and saw some incredible sights, including a clear shot of Mount Everest, some 40 miles away.
“It was a very rich experience,” she said. “The mountains are indescribable. They’re just so immense.”
Dr. Kernic, who has practiced as a hospitalist in Lancaster since 2001, currently works part-time, logging 10-hour shifts for a week at a time. As much as she loves the speed, acuity and intensity of hospital medicine, she also appreciates breaks from that work.
“I’ve always been a nature lover,” she said. “I love being outdoors, especially anywhere with a view.”
Before they became parents, she and her husband hiked part of the Appalachian Trial and Diamond Head in Hawaii. In 2014, a friend asked Dr. Kernic to join a hike to climb Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States, at 14,500 feet.
“That experience was really pivotal,” she said. “The Sierra Nevadas are breathtaking. It really ignited something about the high mountains for me. I was in awe.”
The eight-day hike was Dr. Kernic’s first real back-country trip. A pack mule train led by a “true Texas cowboy” carried the hikers’ food, tents and other supplies.
Her Nepal trek stuck mostly to well-traversed trails at between 9,000 and 13,500 feet. Though special technical skills or equipment weren’t required, it wasn’t easy. In a typical day, her group, assisted by Sherpas, hiked about a 3,000-foot change in elevation over 5 to 8 miles.
The group crossed many suspension bridges over deep gorges. They ascended 1,500 feet in two hours to get the best unobstructed view of Mount Everest.
Good cardiovascular fitness was a must. To help prepare for the trip, Dr. Kernic worked out with a personal trainer -- and took the stairs at LGH.
But, she laughs, “Eight flights of stairs is nothing compared to the Himalayas. Climbing up stone steps for an hour and a half at 10,000 feet with a pack on your pack – that’s a challenge.”
Dr. Kernic enjoyed the Nepalese people and culture, and meeting fellow travelers from all over the world. She didn’t experience altitude sickness, but the cold, thin air did cause her asthma to act up. She also took a scary slip that could have ended in disaster.
Dr. Kernic also has traveled with her family to Mount Whitney and Glacier National Park. When she can’t get away, she likes to sit on the porch of her farmhouse, listen to the birds and look at the trees.
“Anytime I can get outside and connect myself with Mother Nature, it is stress relief,” she says. “It grounds me and resets my perspective.”
Next on her bucket list: Machu Picchu.