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Published: July 22nd 2014
Day 5 Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Phortse Gaon (3810m)
Waking up early in order to start our day, we knew it was going to be a fairly long days walking. Around 7 hours was the estimated time scale to complete the 9kms between us here at Namche to our new destination of Phortse Goan.
As Donna and I awoke for the last time in this room, we took a look out of the condensation filled windows to see what weather was awaiting us. To our shock and delight, for the first time, we could see the beautiful mountain that had been eluding us since arriving here. The mountain was Kongde Ri and as the sun cast its rays on the tip of this stunning mountain without a cloud in the sky, it seemed to glisten and come alive above the shadowed darkness of the town below us. It really was quite something and motivated us for the challenge that ahead.
Not having a huge gain in altitude between Namche and Phortse, we assumed that there wouldn’t be too much uphill today. Our assumptions however all came crashing down when we were given a brief of today’s
route being one of undulating hills meaning some serious up and downhill walking.
The first thing that was apparent from the day was that much of this trekking was going to be along these narrow ridged paths with near vertical drops below us. Not something that I am usually a big fan of, however after a little while, the nerves of the drops diminished and my mood instead took to its familiar mode since starting this trip which was one of joy and excitement. I really did just feel great being out in the open in this amazing area of the world and didn’t want to take any of it for granted hence why I would regularly stop, look around and take it all in.
After several stops where we were entertained by the local kids with their huge smiles and cheekiness it was finally time for lunch. To make it here was a fair and steady climb, but one that was all worth it when the food came out! Tired and full after lunch though, it was to be a very different story as it seemed what goes up, must come down as we started to descend
downhill, very quickly. During our descent, we were directed to look directly in front of us where we could see a small settlement across the river. This was apparently where we were going to stay for the next 2 nights in Phortse, although I couldn’t help wondering how this was going to take us a good few hours that we had left to get there? It was right across the way from where we were and assuming that there would be a high suspension bridge somewhere soon it looked like we would be there in no time. But down we kept going, further and further, closer and closer to the valley all the way down the bottom. Surely we wasn’t going to go all the way down there? We were so high up and if we did have to go down there to cross a low bridge, then we would have to walk all the way back up the other side to reach Phortse…..
Unfortunately, this was exactly the case for us, and therefore we would indeed have to walk all the way to the bottom to cross the river before walking all the way back up again! To
be honest, the walk was so pretty and enjoyable, this didn’t really bother us in the end, but being able to see your destination so close to you and on the same level, it’s tough to know you have to go the long way round!
Once we had crossed the river in the valley and made our tiring ascent uphill once more, we again came to one of our water stops and to catch our breath. Ashok then assured us that Phortse wasn’t too far away now, maybe an hour and a half or so, maybe less. This was greeted with varied emotions considering the current weather looming over us of mist, fog and cloud as well as some of the aching limbs that were starting to set in. Water bottles back in their holders though and walking poles on the ready, we were off again once again. No more than a couple of metres after the stop, we emerged over a hill only to be greeted with a little village. Knowing that we really were nowin the middle of nowhere, it was clear that Ashok had told us a little fib, and we had infact reached our final
destination for the day……ah the banter! And so, a few minutes later, we had made it to our cosy little hotel for the night in Phortse Gaon.
It was a rather basic place again in regards to the rooms. More so for the toilet as this was an Asian special where the toilet was outside and was little more than a porcalin hole in the ground. Not the ideal scenario when you are freezing cold, its dark and you need to go, but hey, it’s all good experience if you ask me!
As we entered the dining area for the night, there was an immediate feeling of coziness. The fire was on and burning beautifully using Yak Poo, the dinner was on the go and cards were out for yet another round of shithead. What’s not to like!
Unfortunately for us though, it would be a little while before we could really chill for the evening as we still had the little matter of our afternoon acclimatisation walk to get to. This would just be a half an hour or so climb up so that we could sleep lower than we had climbed for the day, however
with the weather the way it was, it was difficult to see too far in front of you and the temperature really did start to drop. It was actually kind of cool being out there in that mist as so far we had been blessed with some great weather. It just went to show how quickly mother nature can change things around here, and that anything was possible in such a short space of time when it came to the weather.
One of the highlights of being in this great little place in Phortse was meeting the owner of the teahouse we were staying in. The guy had been a Sherpa for many years and had amazingly been to the summit of Everest 6 times! This really was a living legend in our eyes and a guy we had so much admiration for. An amazing person and true inspiration to us all.
The evening was really cosy in our little Yak dung heated room, and once despite there being rumours of some card playing, I think the day had really worn everyone out so we all headed outside towards our rooms for the night, preying we didn’t need
to get up for a pee in the night in the outside toilet……unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for me. Brrrrrrrrr Day 6 – Phortse Gaon (3810m) – Dingboche (4410m)
Waking up to another fairly standard early start, today we were bound for Dingboche which would finally take us over the 4000 metre mark. It was going to be another long day of walking as we were due to complete around 8 kilometres so our expected trekking time here was going to be in the region of around six hours or so. As a group, I think even though everyone was very different, we all had what seemed to be a fairly similar state of fitness and therefore there was never really anyone sprinting on ahead nor dragging behind at the back, so it always made for a nice paced walk.
One of the main things I remember from this day was the weather. It was absolutely stunning and perfect trekking conditions. There was barely a cloud in the sky the entire day and although the sun was out, it wasn’t causing anyone too much hassle as yet. One of the perks from this was of
course the simply beautiful views we had from what seemed to be every angle. The cream of the crop in this area being Amadablum, a 6000 + mountain that was unbeleivebly striking and one that quickly became Donna’s personal favourite within this area of the Himalayas.
Our first tea stop was in a cute little area that hosted a very famous old monastery. It used to be the main monastaey in this region however recently, the monastery in Tengboche had become more popular due to tourism, and so this one was a little quieter. This of course actually suited us all better as we were pretty much the only ones visiting this place at the time. As we walked in, the colours and exuberance of the place is the first thing you notice with its traditional Tibetan style décor and imposing murals. The second thing is the sense of peace and tranquillity it exudes. Whilst here, there was only one monk who now looked after the place, and he took time to hand us all a scarf which he placed around our necks whilst blessing us. This was a great thing to have been able to receive, and right
away, I knew this would be something I would leave at Base Camp should I make it in memory and honour of my wonderful late Dad.
As we carried on, we continued to climb in altitude and truth be told, it was clearly starting to get a little harder to breath now. It was still fine and fortunately Donna and I were still feeling fine, but you definitely started to notice the difference. The other things we started to notice more now was the Yaks. Only being able to survive above 3000 metres, these stunning hairy beasts started to appear everywhere, and you can easily see why they are used so much in the Himalayas for transporting goods from one place to another….they are Huge!
As we finally hit Dingboche it seemed like we had to walk through the entire town before we came to our teahouse, but on arrival it was worth it. We had once again had an amazing day of walking, everyone was in good spirits despite a couple of people feeling a little affected from the altitude and the place we were staying at seemed perfect. The common/dining area was b busy with trekkers,
the rooms were fine and we even had a western toilet between two rooms that was indoors! Why would we not be in good spirits?
Having sat down, drank a hot chocolate and made ourselves at home, there was just the small matter of acclimatisation once again. Today, we would climb for around 20 minutes / half hour in order for us to be able to sleep lower than we had walked that evening. On doing so, we all noticed the slight change when reaching the top and for the first time, started seeing settled snow in pretty much every direction. Here, the gloves started to come on as the temperature really dropped and we all knew that things from here were starting to get really serious. Just before we retreated back to the teahouse for hot chocolate and a game of cards, we were treated to some stunning light-rays disappearing behind one of the mountains which was awesome. We were also treated to a very ecstatic Matt who, being from Australia couldn’t wait to play in the snow…. Day 7 – Dingboche – Acclimatisation Day
A week into the trek and we had another
acclimatisation day, this time in Dingboche. Sleeping at this altitude was now getting a little tougher with breathing issues and with being kept awake by the sheer thought of where we were now, in the middle of nowhere. To be honest though, I didn’t sleep too badly considering, and only woke a couple of times gasping for breath before settling down and nodding back to dreamland. Now that we were over 4000 metres, it was clear that our decision to hire a season 4 sleeping bag (comfortable to sleep at temperatures around -10 degrees or so)as opposed to taking our season 1 bags (summer sleeping bags for 10 degrees or above)was a pretty good one, despite the extra cost!
Waking a little later than on trekking days, we had time relax before breakfast before we were due to head uphill to acclimatise once more. The route would be the same as the little climb we had made the previous evening, plus what was sold to us as a fairly short yet steep climb. The idea was to hit the 4900 metre mark which was to be the altitude we would be sleeping at the next day, so we would
be used to it.
Reaching the same point as we had the previous day was a fairly painless affair, however it was here we caught sight of where we were heading to. Looking up towards a large mountain, we could see what looked to be several ants making their way uphill, when we realised these were in fact not ants, but humans doing the same thing we were about to do. So much for our relaxing day!
The first part of this steep, unforgiving climb wasn’t actually too bad to be honest, and everyone was in fairly good spirits going up. This quickly seemed to change however once the terrain started to hit what seemed to be a near vertical ascent. Still feeling pretty good though in regards to aches, pains and breathing, we carried on upwards upon the now treacherous ground below us. The problem with climbing up this particular route was that as we had now a smattering of snow on the ground and being a popular route, the ground was now becoming slippery, muddy and icy, not ideal when climbing an extremely steep hill!
Finally making it to our destination which was around 200
metres form the top of this particular hill, we all picked a rock to sit on as we got our breath back, before having it taken away once more with the stunning views around us. The surrounding landscape really was starting to change around us now from lush green trees and ice blue rivers to snow-capped mountains and ice-paved valleys. Life didn’t get much better than this…
After our fill of the views and sucking in as much of the oxygen that was available around us we started to make our way down the hill. If getting up here was difficult, coming down was a nightmare! When your slipping and sliding in your £30 walking trainers out of Sports Direct with mud and snow making skidding downhill inevitability, it meant that concentration was key. Having navigated down though without any major problems, we were back at the teahouse for a respectable midday, where we had nothing to do but chill out, rest and get the cards out once more. Before that though, there was the small and rather surprising matter of getting the layers off that we had shoved on for the freezing morning in order to soak up
the gorgeous heat of the Himalayan sunrays. With the sky as blue as I’ve seen it and no clouds for the sun to hide behind it really was a stunning day to kick back with a book or some music and appreciate what we were experiencing and to take in what we had seen so far.
As the evening started to draw in, we all met in the common area for a chat and a reflection on the trip, when I noticed someone had an itinerary for the entire 14 days of the trek. Intrigued as to what we were facing over the next couple of days I asked to take a look at what lay ahead. What I noticed was something I wasn’t expecting and something that all of a sudden made the goal of making it to Base Camp something that I now wanted even more than ever. It was the date that we were due to get to Base Camp, the 24th
October 2013. The reason that this day was significant to both Donna and myself was that on this day exactly a year ago, I tragically lost my father to emphysema. I did realise that
when we booked this trip that we would be on the trek on the anniversary of his passing, however we had no idea what we would be doing in that particular day. At that moment, it all became even more important for us to reach Base Camp in memory of my amazing Dad, and hope that he would have been proud of both of us for our accomplishment.
A nice dinner, a few games of cards and some friendly banter, and it was again time to hit the hay in Dingboche for hopefully as much sleep as possible. Tomorrow, we were off to Labouche which stood just under the 5000 metre mark, and where we would only be one day away from our trek towards Base Camp. Day 8 – Dingboche (4410m) - Lobuche (4900m)
With a long day ahead of us, we once again took on the hill beside our teahouse for a third time. This time, once we arrived at the top, instead of turning back or heading further up the mountain like the previous encounters, we headed towards the flatter land of the valley.
Walking for some distance on fairly flat
land was a bit of a novelty for us as it was in stark contrast to the ups and downs of the past few days, and to be honest, it was quite welcomed. Another thing that was welcomed with open arm was the stunning weather we were again blessed with up in the Himalayas. We really didn’t expect to get such good luck the higher we got, but it seemed luck was on our side and once more, there was barley a cloud in the sky.
Further into the days trek, we eventually hit our inevitable uphill section, and it was a biggy! A long hard slog up winding pathways amongst snowy ground, we made good albeit fairly slow progress towards our goal. When we finally reached the top of this tough section, we were rewarded with absolutely phenomenal views once more as well as reaching a significant marker in the memorial section of the walk. It was here where hundreds of tributes and memorials stood honouring the many people that have passed away over the years on their expeditions to summit Mount Everest. There were young and old climbers, as well as locals and international trekkers all in
the same place and it was an eye opener to see how many people had lost their lives trying to climb Everest, or in some cases, people trying to descend the mountain after having summited.
Having spent a little time at the memorial site, we made great progress issue free towards our accommodation for the evening as we rolled into Lobouche. Here it was clear that the snow over the past few days or so had been pretty relentless as in some places it was waist deep. Added to the fact that the helicopter rescue pad was completely snowed over and the icicles hanging from the teahouse were more like javelins than icicles, it was clear we were in for a pretty cold night. Before dinner though and before cozying down in our sleeping bags, it was once again time for our acclimatisation walk. With the thick snow outside and seemingly offbeat route we were taken, we were all surprised when we were told to leave our walking poles back at the teahouse as we wouldn’t require them. As we started our ascent up, it seemed strange that poles wouldn’t be necessary as this looked a pretty tough climb
amongst the white stuff. Climbing up this hill off the normal path in the snow was exactly the kind of thing that I was a little worried about before setting off on this trek. Knowing that we were a long way from any real civilisation and being very high up with a risk of AMS, being stuck in the snow somewhere wasn’t something I wanted to experience and something that unnerved me pre-trek. Whilst out on this walk however, I had the complete opposite reaction to the situation, and absolutely loved it. It was the things I was worried about previously that I really started to embrace here. The isolation, the snow, the cold and the adventure really stirred something inside me that I wasn’t expecting, and to be honest, climbing this hill in the snow was quickly becoming one of the highlights of the trip so far for me. Once at the top, and buzzing with adrenaline, none of us were disappointed as the 360 degree views of the mountains and valleys were simply breath-taking. With nothing around us miles but snow, rock and water, our teahouse really was the only thing keeping us from being completely isolated, and
what a feeling that turned out to be. With the trek leaders pointing out the various mountains and even Base Camp where we were heading in the morning, everyone seemed in great spirits. This lasted all of 20 minutes though, when it was time to finally descend from our viewpoint back to teahouse and people realised they had to now get back down! Some of the comments and noises that were coming from the group were simply brilliant and with a huge smile on my face and knowing how lucky I was to be here, it really was just one of those moments I know I will cherish for ever.
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