Namche to Dingboche

Trip Start Oct 21, 1999
Trip End Nov 10, 1999

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Khumjung houses an important monastery, which holds the famous Yeti scalp. It was closed when we got there, but an old woman of about 190 opened it up for us. For a small donation I was able to photograph the so-called scalp. It was a strange arrangement for it was held in an old filing cupboard.  On one shelf was a donation box, then a few rags (probably religious significance - looked like rags to me), then on the top shelf a rugby ball covered in fur. This apparently is the scalp of the elusive abominable snowman. Apparently.
I was more interested in photographing the old woman,  who was looking all of her  190 years. Small and doubled over with skin like leather and very few teeth. She looked like she had seen life to its full. Unfortunately she did not want her photo taken so I had to leave it. I told her she was very beautiful. I was actually joking but Roshan translated it for me anyway. She gave me a filthy look, but still no photo.
We walked down past the local school through to the Syangboche airstrip again, then back into Namche. There was time to do some last minute shopping for gear before we left civilization proper. I bought some thick gloves, which I never got to wear. Karen suffers from poor circulation and so I donated them for much of the trip to her. Years of motorcycling have left my hands virtually immune to the cold. I only more a thin pair of gloves and didn't get cold hands. We had tea, and the group was unusually quiet. The day had been a hard walk and I think some of us were starting to realize the effort of what lay ahead.  I was starting to suffer from a bout of diarrhea, a.k.a. the squits. I had been lucky so far, but now I had it with a vengeance. Many trips to the squat loo later I got to bed and slept a restless slumber.
The sixth day of the trek was definitely the hardest. Nepal's best bacteria had a tight grip on my digestive system, which in turn had a tight grip on absolutely nothing. Everything I ate passed straight through like an express train. I am sure the only way to get rid of such an illness is to starve the system for a good 24hours. The bug then dies, and normal food intake can continue. This works if the body can rest in the meantime, but on trek there is little opportunity for this.
I had no breakfast and set off on a track over the back of Namche. After about an hour I was gripped by the cramps until I had to submit and hid behind a rock just of the trail to let rip. I hoped not to be found but unfortunately hiding behind a rock making a noise similar to a cat being violently murdered is bound to get you noticed.  I felt better after the episode and carried on till lunch. I had soup to try and replace some fluids.  The track descended and the path became fairly easy before my biggest challenge of the trek. The hill up to Thyangboche is a killer.  I imagine it is not really all that bad but I was suffering from lack of nourishment. The hill nearly polished me off, and yet everyone else made it to the top with no problem. There is not even a particularly fantastic view, just the other side of the valley. However, from the top is a very good view. Visible were Ama Dablam and several other well known mountains, including Everest on a good day.
Thyangboche has a famous monastery that burnt down in the 80's. It has now been rebuilt in all its glory. Being set on a ridge the whole village and especially the monastery is visible from miles in every direction.  On the way back we could clearly see it from Namche.  When I crawled into our lodge I made a b-line for my bed for a 'quick nap'. Twelve hours later it was time to get up again. I have no idea of what happened to the time in between, but I certainly felt a lot better when we set of early in the morning.
Usual breakfast fuel of porridge and off again on the trail. Thyangboche is at around 3867m and from there on it is a drop down a fairly steep hill towards Pangboche. There really is no other way to go from Thyangboche but down. The only other option is a climb up to a height of 4550m then onto 5009m towards the east. It actually looks like quite a good scramble from a distance and I wouldn't mind giving it a go if I am back in the region at some point. I don't know if any group has an acclimatisation day in Thyangboche, but if you do have a go at that climb.
The days walk was fairly short, but for the first time it was possible to feel the dwindling oxygen in the air. It caused me no real discomfort; it was just possible to feel that the lungs had to work harder at sucking in the air. The scenery at this point was incredible.  Dominating the view were the twin peaks of Ama Dablam.  This stunning mountain is visible from much of the trek from Namche beyond. We had lunch in Shomare beside the river then carried on to the junction of the glacial waters. One half comes directly from the Khumbu Glacier and hence Everest itself. The other comes down from the glaciers of Nuptse and Lhotse. In felt incredible being around such names - names of some of the most revered mountains in the world. For the first time it started to strike home that I was no longer in comfortable Towcester, but in the Himalayan Mountains, on the route so many adventures. And tragedy.
A short walk further on we came to our night stop in Dingboche. This is closest we got to Ama Dablam, and the mountain seemed to over shadow the entire settlement. The lodges start to get a little simpler the higher you climb. The prices go up slightly, but still look puny compared to western standards. We had a good night gathered round the stove.
The lodges all have a very similar format. There are the bedrooms or a dormitory, then there is a lounge where the evening is normally spent chatting, reading or playing cards. There are always benches around the edge of the room, with a yak-dung burning stove in the middle. At these altitudes wood becomes a precious resource and so yak dung is used for cooking and keep warm. It sounds revolting but all the smell is vented with a chimney. Outside the lodge the smoke can get thick and acrid but that is more a worry for the tents normally pitched near the lodges.
The eighth day saw a lie in. This was to be our second acclimatization day. As usual this means find a really big hill that goes nowhere and climb up it. As luck would have it there was such a hill directly behind the lodge. Joy of joys. It had all the necessary criteria. Steep, loose and with a view of the inside of a cloud. It was slow progress, and sure enough after a while the weather closed in and all but one of us made a retreat. Denis carried on to the top. The rest if us spent the afternoon sorting our belongings ready for the big push. We were getting closer to our objective and all of us were aware of the altitude.
That evening was a nice relaxed affair, sitting around the stove which stunk of yak dung. Snow was starting to fall and settle rather quickly now which made us all rather concerned as to the state of the rest of the trek. The brochure mentioned such essentials as sun hat, lightweight trousers, raincoat etc. but made very little mention of crampons, ice axe, pitons, rope etc. This was supposed to be post monsoon - ie no snow. We met some Americans who were going on to climb Island Peak - another trekking peak but rather more severe than Kala Pathar.
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