3 Himalayan valleys in 3 weeks
Trip Start Oct 15, 2008
55Trip End Jun 01, 2009
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This area is known as the Khumbu region and there are no roads up here - a long path from Jiri, way down in the valley or by plane into tiny runway at Lukla are about the only ways to reach it
Conditions are not that easy - mainly because of the altitude. The paths themselves are generally well marked, unless you're in deep snow, and relatively easy-going, which can be deceptive and many trekkers get sick because they go too far up in too short a time without acclimatizing. We took a few days rest going up which helped our fitness and neither of us had any serious altitude symptoms - unlike others we met who had to take oxygen or pop diamox regularly. It does get a little unnerving when you see the helicopter flying up the valley on a cloudy day and you know it can't be a sight-seeing visit but must be carrying someone down to hospital in Kathmandu! Plus there are loads of memorials by the side of the path to trekkers and climbers who have died in this region.
One thing that helped slow us down (and forced us to acclimatize) was carrying our own packs. The only days we had help were the first day out of Namche when Andy had strained his achilles and then the 2 days over the TschoLa pass, when we needed a porter-cum-guide to also help us navigate through the snow. We met 2 Germans in Lobuche whose guide introduced us to Bibi who carried one of our packs for the 2 days and had done the TschoLa pass many times - a lovely 54yo Nepali from a village south of Lukla, 54
We met a few Everest summiters over the 3 weeks - apparently the only time of year they summit is during May when there is clear weather - this year they only had a few days window for all the 50 odd expeditions to summit, which caused a bit of a traffic jam up to the top. Steve told us about how his group had planned a 10hr push to the summit but because of the number of people it took 19hrs and seriously depleted their oxygen, food and water supplies. Didn't stop them doing a bit of snow-boarding on the way back tho'. We met a few teams descending quickly on our path up the valley, obviously on a rush back down to Kathmandu for shower and beers! They were usually followed by a long yak train carrying all their supplies and waste - that all goes in blue containers so you don't want to upset those!
We did have some spectacular weather at the beginning of the trek - clear and sunny days - but our days over the pass were when it started to snow and we got snowed in in Gokyo for a few days (start of the monsoon season when further down the valley it rains)
We timed the trek perfectly so that we made it back to Namche to see the Everest marathon finish and our Canadian friends come in at 7pm. The runners start at Everest base camp and run down to Namche (although it's not down all the way, they started off in snow and most of the first half of the path is hopping over boulders. Our Canadian friend Fred, 61, broke his arm about a quarter of the way down but amazingly still managed to complete the course, with the help of daughter Sheila, who ran beside him all the way
We stayed in some lovely lodges along the way - no camping on this trek, thank goodness!!! Facilities were pretty basic (outside pit toilet and warm bowls of water for washing were par for the course) but the lodge owners were very friendly and we met many other trekkers, guides and porters there. We usually fell asleep to the sound of mice scratching around but think that was mainly our fault as we were carrying emergency chocolate rations - Esther slightly alarmed when she awoke with a mouse a few inches from her nose, clambering around on her pillow!!! Watching the porters down heaped platefuls of dal baht for the evening meal was also fascinating! For anyone planning this trek, our best lodges were the Yak Hotel at Namche, the red roof Everest Summit lodge at Dingboche, the Gokyo Resort at Gokyo, the Nyamgal lodge at Machermo and the Hidden Valley at Kumjung. Food and drink very good in all and no stomach disorders at all over the 3 weeks.