Trekking towards Everest

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October 14th 2012
Published: October 14th 2012
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We are back in Kathmandu after ten days of wonderful trekking to the foot of Everest. Each day we were up early to ensure that we saw the mountains at their best in the clear morning air. Whilst Everest is, of course, THE mountain, we had snowy peaks on all sides. Surprisingly, many actually look more impressive than Everest, with glaciers, overhanging snow cornices and sheer rock faces.

From the start of our trek we had good weather with just one afternoon of misty rain. Most days started cold – it went below freezing at night, chilly visiting the outside toilet. By 9 am we were walking in T-shirts but, as the sun dropped in the mid-afternoon, it got cool again and out came a thick fleece, warm hat and gloves.

We trekked at 3 to 4 thousand metres, traversing rocky hillsides before diving down to cross rivers on swinging suspension bridges, then climbing up again through pine, rhododendron and juniper forests. We frequently passed through Sherpa villages which now rely on tourism but they do still farm apples, potatoes and a few greens. They also keep herds of yaks for their milk, which they make into cheese – quite nice.

All the Sherpas who guide and porter climbing expeditions come from these villages. In many tea-houses there is a photo of one of the family on top of Everest. Indeed, we chatted to one who was serving us tea. Strange to think that he had once literally been on top of the world.

The tea-houses we stayed in were pretty basic, often an adapted local house. A large dining room is the centre of things, with a wood burning stove which made it cosy in the evenings. At the back is a wooden extension of simple bedrooms and a yard with outside toilets and a sink to clean your teeth in. Sometimes there is a “hot shower”, actually a cold shed with a bucket on the roof. For a fee they will fill the bucket with hot water and a pipe then showers this water down into the cubicle – quite an experience.

The saving grace of the tea-houses is their fantastic situation. The views are invariably amazing. One morning we woke to see the first rays of the sun lighting up Everest – a wonderful moment.

Our guide and porter have given us an insight into local life as they are both from big Sherpa families, our guide is one of eleven. Neither had any education and our guide has worked his way up from being a porter. He has been encouraging our porter, just 19, to take the same route. His alternative is a life of carrying huge loads up mountain paths. Our guide is currently teaching himself Chinese – he walks along muttering “me shoo chow din” and the like.

Porters and pack animals are part of life here. The nearest road to Namche is 7 days away. Many villages take a further 7 days to reach. Everything has to be carried in by something or someone. This can be seen in the prices. Water is 20 rupees in Kathmandu, 100 in Namche and it got up to 250 rupees two days further up the trail.

The trekking was at times tough, mainly due to altitude. We had to drink three litres of water or black tea a day to ward off altitude sickness, and no alcohol! If we ever got bored with this regime, and we did, the rescue helicopters overhead everyday taking sick trekkers out acted as a reminder of its necessity.

One more day in Kathmandu before we start our journey home after an amazing five weeks. The high spot? Well, dawn on Everest from your bed takes some beating.

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