Published: December 1st 2010December 1st 2010
The following is a first account experience I just had with a trek in the Himalayas that I would like to share with you. I wrote a little everyday while I was up in the mountains. I hope you enjoy it.
Day 1 Airport Appreciation Day
We rolled into the airport at Kathmandu around 0715. None of the flights were departing due to poor visibility in Lukla. Eventually at 1530 they finally canceled all flights. Went back to a new hotel to try again the next morning.
Day 1 pt. 2 Lukla (9317 ft) to Phakding (8563 ft) 0830 – 1130 3 hrs
The flight was only delayed an hour this time. Amazing views of the Himalayas (1st time to see them). Landed in Lukla on a very short runway that dead ends into a cliff.
The trek was not difficult as it was mostly down hill. Passed by a few temples and a little human traffic. Being in the Himalayas for the first time is a very mind numbing and spiritual experience. The peaks are steep and snow covered, and we descended into a valley along a river with water a very light blue
glacier color. Passed by many Sherpa families. A few Sherpa's were carrying heavy loads. One load my guide Ramu pointed out weighed 100 Kg which is 220 lbs. That is the same weight the yaks can handle I am told. The Sherpas are originally from Tibet. We are spending our first night at Kala Pathar Lodge. It's clean, quiet, and the bed is comfortable. I have to pay extra if I want a hot shower. We are heading towards Sargarmatha National Park. Saragarmatha is the name for Mt. Everest, also called Chomolungma by the Nepali locals. For lunch I had Momo's, which are similar to pot stickers. For dinner I had a Yak steak which was much better than I expected.
Day 2 Phakding (8563 ft) to Namche Bazar (11,286 ft) 0830 – 1330 5 hrs
The first part of the trek involved a lot of up and down, as well as multiple river crossings. After following the river up the valley, we eventually crossed it for the last time. From there it was up the rest of the way around the edge of a small mountain until we hit Namche. Saw a couple of snow capped peaks.
The temp hasn't been to bad yet, mostly upper 40's – lower 50's during the day. There are a few clouds so the scenery is in and out. We officially entered the park about 1/3 into our trek today. I'm currently staying at Buddha Lodge. Good view of the Bazar, town, and a snow-capped mountain out of my window when the clouds are gone. Haven't given in for a hot shower yet, but thinking maybe tomorrow. Namche has everything, including a helipad, internet (sometimes), bars, restaurants, and even a barber shop. It's built on different levels of a U-shaped cliff.
Day 3 Acclimation Day
Today we hiked around the town of Namche Bazar and took in the sites. We first hiked up to the Namche Buddhist Monestary. Next we hiked up to the helipad which had a great 360 view of the landscape. I stared in awe at Thamserku (21,680 ft) towering over the village. Off in the distance was the equally impressive Ama Dablam (22,493 ft) where only two weeks ago a European climber and his Sherpa both fell to their deaths. The rescue helicopter also crashed into the side of it killing the pilot. We then
hiked up the hill where I got a little rock climbing in. Then we hiked behind the village and over to the Sherpa museum. After that we were going to climb another hill to get our 1st view of Everest, but the clouds rolled in so we didn't even bother. I spent the afternoon watching a free showing of 'Into Thin Air' at a local bar further solidifying my lack of desire to ever attempt to summit Everest.
Day 4 Namche Bazar (11,286 ft) to Khumjung (12,401 ft) 0930 – 1230 3 hrs
Got a bit of a later start. Had a bad stomach ache the night before. We climbed up a steep hill above Namche and took a break to watch a private plane land on a dirt landing strip. Then we reached the top of the hill, walked around a lodge, and there it was, Mt. Everest. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. The whole valley was impressive with plenty of 20,000 ft + cliffs. Looking up at the 29,000 ft Everest for the first time is something I will never forget. We continued on down a hill until we hit Everest view hotel for
some tea. This hotel is in the guiness book of world records as the worlds highest hotel at 12,730 ft. Next we hiked down a hill into Khumjung. The owner of our lodge had gone to the Saturday market at Namche Bazar so we had to wait a couple of hours in the cold to get in. I put on all layers and couldn't warm up. At that point my stomach was getting worse so I broke out the Cipro. I was probably in bed for 14 hrs trying to sleep off the pain. A couple of times I was woken up to what I think were rats in the walls. 3rd night in a row I got to listen to them.
Day 5 Khumjung (12,401 ft) to Dhole (13,484 ft) 0930 – 1330 4 hrs
I felt a little better this morning but am still taking it easy as I don't want to become more sick. With the exception of my rations of beef jerky, I don't plan to eat any more meat on this trek so I don't get sick. The first part of today was a little downhill, but the 2nd half was all uphill.
I took it slow and was a lot more tired today. We broke off from the Everest Base Camp trail and started to head up another valley towards Gokyo. We followed the river up, up till we arrived at Dhole. At this point I broke down and took a 'shower' which was a cooler full of hot water feeding through a hose. It was freezing outside, but the little hot water I got did the trick.
Day 6 Dhole (13,484 ft) to Machherma (14,665 ft) 0900 – 1100 2 hrs
Today was a quick trek. Some of it was up but most of it was trans versing along the side of a mountain. I met two girls, one from Canada, and one from Ireland along the way. I gave each of them a Clif Bar. They were ecstatic. I really like Machherma as it's nestled into large cliffs on all sides which blocks the cold wind. It's starting to get into the mid 30's at night. With no heat, that is pretty cold. I went to an AMS (altitude mountain sickness) presentation at the local rescue clinic put on by two doctors from England. The center is funded
by an English charity. They educated us on altitude sickness. During their presentation I learned that I am allergic to my Diamox (altitude sickness medicine) so I gave it away to two other people in the class. They gave us a test for 100 rupies (about $1.40) to see how our bodies are doing with the altitude. I scored a 90 which is good. I haven't really felt the affects of the altitude, except for the minor headache once in a while. The bottled water is beginning to get expensive so I started using iodine tablets to treat my own water last night. No problems so far.
Day 7 Machherma (14,665 ft) to Gokyo (15,715 ft) 0830 – 1100 2.5 hrs
I have discovered the SteriPen much more effective in treating my drinking water. I am now a fan. The first part of our hike today was fairly steep. We got our first snowfall. It started off very light and gradually fell more and more heavily. The trail leveled off once we got past the river, and by this time everything was snow covered, including us. Eventually we came upon a large lake with cliffs on all sides.
The water is a very light blue color. Nestled next to the lake against one of the cliffs was Gokyo. About 30 min after reaching our lodge the weather finally cleared up. The scenery here is amazing. I played cards at a different lodge last night with the two girls I met yesterday and two American's from Bozeman. They all just showed up at my lodge so it looks like we are going for round two tonight.
Day 8 Gokyo (15,715 ft) to Gokyo Ri (17,575 ft) to Gokyo to Thangnay (15,420 ft) 0500 – 1200 7 hrs
I got up at about 0445 and went downstairs to wake up Ramu, my Sherpa. We took off to summit Gokyo Ri, which is about 2000 ft of straight up. We were both struggling as neither one of us had gotten any sleep the night before. Ramu couldn't sleep because he learned the previous night that a German trekker had died in our lodge 4 days earlier due to altitude sickness, and his body was still upstairs in the lodge. Our assent was very slow at the beginning. We stopped frequently and watched the sunrise. There were a few clouds
where the sun was coming up that were gold, purple, and red in color. The rest of the sky was crystal clear, we couldn't have asked for better weather (except it was freezing). The full moon lit our way until the sun took over. The summit had a great 360 view with snow-capped peaks in all directions, including Everest. It was a lot closer than the last time I had seen it. While we were at the summit, I heard what sounded like a very large thunder crack behind me. I ducked down and turned around in one single motion, wondering where the hell the thunder was coming from on such a clear morning. Instantly, I thought Avalanche! I stared in it's direction, could hear it fall for what seemed like a minute, but couldn't see anything. It was in the direction of the pass we were attempting the next day. Great. When we descended the mountain, we walked by a helipad near the base. Soon after a heli landed, and then a group of Sherpas carried the body of the German on a stretcher and loaded it into the helicopter. A reminder of just how unforgiving this place is.
After we got back to the lodge and rested, I said my goodbyes to my friends and we took off for Thangnay. We hiked up a small hill, then descended into and crossed a huge glacier. The glacier was mostly covered with rock and dirt, so you could barely tell it was a glacier at all. We climbed up the other side and arrived at our lodge. I was too tired for lunch so I went to my room, finished off some beef jerky, and passed out for over 4 hours.
Day 9 Thangnay (15,420 ft) via Cho La Pass (17,610 ft) to Lobuche (16,109 ft) 0645-1530 8.75 hrs
We took off after breakfast and a good nights sleep and headed up a valley for a while until it leveled off for a moment. We stopped and took in what was a huge fish bowl shaped valley surrounded by cliffs in all directions. I could also see the top of Cho La Pass across the valley up a steep cliff. We descended into the valley, crossed it, then made our way to the most difficult cliff I think we had attempted yet. We took our time up it,
and I even scaled a couple of cliff faces with the big backpack on. When we got to the top, it was worth the effort. There was a huge snow covered glacier on the other side that had cut out the beginning of a new valley. We continued over the glacier, turned around a corner, and could see for miles down into the valley with its light blue lake and massive snow-capped peaks. It may have been the best view I have ever seen in my life. We continued down the glacier until it eventually faded away as we descended back into the rocky valley. We stopped at Dzonglha quick for lunch and continued down, made a left, and walked up along Khumbu glacier until we arrived at Lobuche. I think my legs hate me. It was a long day, but has been the best trekking day so far in my opinion.
Day 10 Lobuche (16,109 ft) to Gorak Shep (16,803 ft) to Kala Pathar (18,192 ft) 0830-1600 7.5 hrs
My room got down to 32 degrees last night. None of these lodges have heating. You can definitely notice the altitude. Sometimes I will be sitting or lying
down and I will have to catch my breath. Minus these hardships, I felt great this morning. We started out walking along Khumbu glacier for almost two hours to get to Gorak Shep. When we got there, we dropped off our bags, got some quick lunch, and headed up Kala Pathar. About halfway up the mountain I noticed that my water tasted like kerosine. My Sherpa told me that at the lodge where I got the water, they used to have kerosine in their drinking water bin, but they 'cleaned it out'. I dumped it out and figured I'd be ok for the rest of the hike. We reached the summit at 18,192 ft, which is the highest point of the entire trek and the highest I have ever been. We celebrated by breaking out my Cohiba's (cuban cigars). Another great spot of 360 degrees of some of the highest mountains in the world in all directions. This was the closest I have been to Everest so far. From this point, I can even see the route the climbers take up the mountain. After taking it all in, we decided to take a 'short cut' down the mountain towards Base
Camp. The weather was so perfect, we figured we would knock that out today as well. We headed down, straight towards Everest, through a boulder field, most of which would move when we stepped on them. We were doing fine until we hit a dead end, the only way down was to run/jump/traverse across a steep slough of dirt and rocks. I was mostly concerned about starting a rock slide. I went first, and Ramu went 2nd after I was safely at the bottom out of the range of the falling rocks we were producing. That maneuver took a lot of energy. We got to the bottom of the mountain and headed between two pools of water and up another hill trying to find a passable way to the Base Camp trail. Eventually we hit another cliff with the same scenario, rock slides. We split up and took different ways down and met up again once we reached the trail. We were still about a 40 min walk to Base Camp. By this point, I was completely exhausted, and I could tell I was dehydrated because I wasn't sweating anymore. I doubt still being close to 17,000 ft was helping
much either, so I made the call, we go back to the lodge and try again tomorrow. It took a little over an hour to get back to the lodge and fresh water. No more short cuts for me!
Day 11 Gorak Shep (16,803 ft) to EBC (17,598) to Gorak Shep to Pheriche (14,035 ft) 0730-1430 7 hrs
We got up and headed straight to Everest Base Camp along the Khumbu glacier. It was a fairly flat walk and took us 1.5 hrs to get there. There was a dark cloud engulfing the peak of Everest, but I wasn't disappointed. I have seen it many times this week. I could see everything else in the area though. As far as Base Camp itself goes, it's basically just a pile of rocks on the glacier. The surrounding scenery is amazing. It was cool to look up the Khumbu ice fall and see where the climbers head out. Many lives are lost in there. When we were done looking around, we hiked back to our lodge, grabbed my bag, and started the long decent back. We went for almost 4 hours, almost constantly down the whole way, until we reached
Pheriche. On the way down we passed where the Cho La Pass fed out. Our hotel is at the base of Ama Dablam, which I have decided is the coolest looking mountain. The lodge lies in a flat river basin where two different valleys meet. It is called the White Yak, and has been the nicest one by far with the best food. I can already notice a difference in the air. I can breath easier now. Crazy to think I'm still at the altitude of most of Colorado's highest peaks after descending all day.
Day 12 Pheriche (14,035ft) to Namche Bazar (11,286 ft) 0900-1700 8 hrs
The iPod I am using finally started working again last night after making it back down to 14,000 ft. Apparently most of the models do not like high altitude. The trek was down for a long time, until we hit a hill that seemed like it wouldn't end. When we finally got to the top, we had reached Tengboche, which may have had the best scenery out of any of the towns we had hit. The whole town sits on top of a high tree covered hill. One direction you have
the highest and 4th highest mountains in the world towering over the river valley. Next to that, you have a perfect view of Ama Dablam. Keep on turning your head and you have good views of Kangtega (22,254 ft) and Thamserku (21,713 ft). At the top of the town is a large impressive Buddhist temple. It would be a great place to relax and spend the night. We continued on down, down back into the river valley, crossed the river, then started to head up for a long time. Eventually the trail leveled off and fed into Namche Bazar. We had now done a large circle around the park. As soon as we got into town we ran into the two girls. I went to take a quick shower and spent the night hanging out with them and the two American's.
Day 13 Namche Bazar (11,286 ft) to Lukla (9317 ft) 1000-1600 6 hrs
Got a bit of a late start out of Namche. From here it was a back track to the start of the trek in Lukla. Met a few interesting people on the way. One guy from North Carolina only had 12 days total to
go to Base Camp quick, then go to a 5 day long wedding in India before going home. Further down, I met a girl from England who had been traveling for 20 months so far, and had 21 days to trek around the park all alone, with no guide or porter. I also ran into an American girl from Houston who I had talked to previously at Gorak Shep who had let me use her charger for my iPod. The iPod didn't work at that elevation, but it did take the charge. I was completely exhausted when I got to our lodge in Lukla. It will be another early night for me.
Day 14 Back to Kathmandu
We sat in the airport for around 5 hours before our plane came to pick us up. The Lukla airport was the coldest airport I have ever been in. No heaters, and all of the windows were open. I could see my breath the whole time. It was a perfectly clear day and a nice flight back. This time, when we landed in Kathmandu, I could actually see the mountains from the city. The past two weeks were an amazing experience,
and almost seem surreal. That was the best scenery I have ever seen and one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
I am really enjoying Nepal. It has always been number one on my list of places to go, and it does not disappoint. I will probably stick around for a few more weeks and hang out with the locals.
There are more photos below