Everest Trek part three, Namchee to Pangboche

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May 29th 2010
Published: August 29th 2010
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29/5/10: A great night sleep turned into a disastrous morning when the 19 Indians we met the night before decided to get up at 4:30am in the morning and proceeded to, all, go through their morning cleansing ritual. I have written about this in past blogs, especially through India but never thought I would have to live through it again in Nepal. In short it sounded like somebody was strangling a yak 19 times right outside our bedroom door. I still can’t understand why they insists on letting the whole of Namche valley know they are shoving there toothbrush halfway down to their stomach.
A quick breakfast, again wholesome noodles with eggs we brought back in Kathmandu. Slowly we whittle away at my overweight pack. We started walking around 6:00am.
The visibility was terrible, the fog never lifted from the valley until several hours later. Jacinta woke up in a foul mood, she jump down my throat on the most trivial things giving way to a temper that only increased with the altitude, this meant that the first part of the morning was spent not talking to each other at distance of 50m. Apparently altitude can make you agitated and agro; I have proof of that.
On the way to Tengboche we passed through some beautiful rhododendron forest with moss and lichens growing from the trees, they were beautiful. We trekked from an altitude of 3440 down to the valley floor, met the Imja Khola river again at 3250m before a bitch of a climb 810m all the way back up the hill to Tengboche at 3860m. We were patient with all the yaks and porters bringing expedition gear back down from EBC, while we waited we filled in the time with some snacks until the yak caravan finished. In the lower altitude of the Imja Khola river I felt strong, fit and energetic, halfway up when the air became thin, I felt like shit, the altitude forced me to stop every 50m or so. Once above the altitude of Namche it was hard to get our breath. It forced me to stop every 30m just to rest and catch my breath.
They held a marathon from EBC to Namche today, three quarters of the way up we witnessed the first runner barrelling down the hill. He was only young, around 20, he flew down side tracks and shortcuts like a mountain goat being chase by a snow leopard. The next runner was also Nepali but trailed around 10 minutes behind. It was an hour before the first westerner showed up, he looked awfully exhausted. The strength of the Nepali people is nothing short of amazing; it can only be only attributed to high altitude genetics.
The very last rise in the hill happily brought us in sight of a Gompa, we had finally made it. At 3860m high the altitude took its toll, we were stuffed. The 19 Indians I talked about earlier made it to Tengboche the same time as us even though they left an hour earlier than we did. For lunch we relaxed, ate noodles and drank tea. Looking north we gazed up the valley, we were in awe, the huge mountains that lay ahead of us were intriguing but intimidating. I took a compass bearing from the map and tried to lay out our path hoping we would brush pass the base of these majestic beast. It didn't really matter as we would later find out that we would be surrounded by mountains over 6000-7000m high. The two dominate mountains were Pokalade and Chhunkhung, Aba Dablam to the right was obscured by cloud at the time. We regained our strength and wondered over to Tengboche Monastery, it had gone through such a rough history from earthquakes to fires and had to be rebuilt 3 times, over the last 100 years. As the cloud thickened it got colder and colder giving us a nudge to move on. Our scheduled stop was Deboche but we arrived so quickly that it seemed pointless to stop, the next best town was Millingo but we mistakenly passed it, 15 minutes down the track when we realised that the two little stone huts were Millingo; oooops. The next town was Pangboche a little higher than Tengboche, we didn't plan to stay this high for the night but it was better than turning back. All physical signs gave us the thumbs up, even though we were tired and gasping for breath we felt fine. We finally arrived at 3:30pm picking a lodge that wasn’t accommodating 19 Indians; I just couldn't stomach the cleansing ritual again. We found a nice family run lodge, got a room, freshened up and settled in the common room hoping they would light the yak dung heater. We ordered dinner and half an hour later had buffalo curry with Dahl and rice for dinner.
We chatted to some Spanish guys that turned up not long after us. It was still and quiet; all of a sudden a bunch of Sherp’s, porters and a guide barged into the room; they were all pissed as farts, celebrating the summiting of Everest for the 4th and 5th times. The main Nepali guide was so drunk I surprised he made it to Pangboche in the dark. They were all in high spirits from all expeditions summated Everest without any major problems. All up there were 33 expeditions with 350 people including Sherpa’s and porters. I can now understand why there was so much gear coming down from Everest on the backs of porters and yaks. Stories started to fly across the table as they settled in with another local alcoholic beverage. I was shocked to hear about a famous well respected Italian climber that stole six oxygen bottles from one of the higher base camps, then apologies later when caught. They were seriously contemplating going to the prime minister of Nepal stopping the Italian gaining entry to any climbing peaks or even a cancelling his visa. It was serious matter and could have put somebody’s life in danger; we all agreed it was a very low act on his part. There own expedition spent 4 days above 8000m high waiting for the weather to clear before summiting, the Sherpa’s and porters chose not to use their oxygen but had they required the oxygen it would not have been available.
Their stories continued in between their drinking. There own expedition involved two Canadians in their 60’s that paid the standard rate of $75000.00 USD to climb Everest, one of then gave up 5m from the top; he couldn't go any further if he tried and wanted to turn around They were so close to the top that one Sherpa grabbed the Canadians arm and pulled while the other Sherpa pushed from behind, they all summited together; now that's team work! The other Canadian summited in his own fashion, he belly flopped on the highest peak in the world superman style; the best way for the drunken Sherpa to demonstrate this was to swipe all the drinks and food from the table, lay belly first while spreading his arms and legs like a stranded turtle; it was so funny and we all laughed.
We were all surprised when they said they summited at night; leaving at 6:00pm summiting by 2:00-3:00am then descending again. I thought this was a waste of $75000USD, the 360 degrees view from the top of the world would be the most memorable and rewarding part, I only hope it was a full moon for their sake. It’s not all glossy though, climbing Everest is still a life and death gamble, while ascending, the fact that they passed four dead bodies from previous years expeditions was a nasty reminder not to disrespect the mountain.
It was getting late and also harder to understand their drunken tongue, we said our goodnights and retired to bed. We felt honored to have met such a fine bunch of men. I know that if I ever climbed; let me rephrase that, if I were ever allowed to climb Everest, then these guys would be my first choice as climbing partners.

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