Himalayan Trek - Day 41-51 (EBC & Kala Patthar)
Trip Start Jan 31, 2008
254Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Up at 4am this morning to catch the flight to Lukla, only had around 4 hours sleep so feeling rather tied. When we arrived at the airport it was shrouded in dense fog, around 50 metres visibility. I'm sure someone doesn't want me to go to the mountains, could it be a sign. I knew my 6am flight would defiantly be delayed. The fog finally lifted at 8.30am and we departed Kathmandu in a little 18 seat twin prop just after 9am. I luckily had one of the front seats and a perfect view of the cockpit, I could literally touch the controls from where I was sat. Had a great view out of the cockpit window too.
Around 5 minutes into the flight and you're confronted with the Himalayas, nothing quite prepares you for these truly epic white islands sat in the sky
As we came into land I peered through the cockpit window and all I saw was a wall of rock and snow, looked a little further down and a tiny runway was perched on the cliff, Lukla airstrip. As you approach you realise the runway is on a very acute angle, I presume it's the only way to stop the planes with the limited amount of space. The wind picked up a couple of minutes before landing so the plane started to move sideways and sheer, really exciting way to finish the flight. As we touched down, the first thought that enters your mind is, there's no way this plane is going to stop before the end of the runway and the concrete perimeter wall, but the slope and breaks just do enough to stop the plane, thankfully.
Lukla is located at 2650 metres and today we trekked to Phakding which is around 2750 metres altitude. Hardly any altitude gain but there are a few ups and downs on the two and a half hour trek to the village where we're staying. Really hard to judge distance with the ups, downs and zig zaging but I reckon we did about 8-10km today
It's just me and my guide on this trek now, which is really great and the way I like it. It allows us to have the freedom and flexibility to go at whatever pace we like and logistically it's a lot easier to manage as we only have ourselves to look after. My guide is a real nice smiley and polite chap, he checked up on me several times a day when I was ill in Kathmandu, so we knew each other quite well before we set off on the trek.
Phakding & Namche Bazaar (Trek day 2)
Small villages, yaks being disrulely and causing traffic jams on the trail. Buddhist shrines and Sherpas carrying ridiculous loads up very steep paths. I'm now well and truly in the Himalayas.
Today we trekked to Damche bazaar which is at 3450 meters. It's the biggest village we're going to come across on the 12 day trek and even has an internet connection. There's everything you would ever need here at highly inflated prices of course, all the produce has to be carried up by Sherpas from Lukla.
The trek today was relatively strenuous with a couple of steep sections, took around 5 hours with a long lunch break. Along the trail you come across several steel suspension bridges which swing and sway across the raging torrents below. Some are up up to 100 metres above the water. If you had vertigo you'd be in trouble. The water is bluish green due to the suspended glacial till, you know its cold, you defiantly wouldn't want to fall in
It was a snowy afternoon but we missed most of it, only started snowing about an hour away from the village. It really started to come down heavy after we reached the lodge. The village was covered with a beautiful picturesque dusting of snow by night fall.
Staying at the Moonlight lodge for two nights. The lodge is right at the top of the village with great views, but every time you want to stroll round the shops below you have a steep ascent up hundreds of steps. Tonight at 8pm it was below freezing with big snow flakes falling, could be a cold night with no heating in my room. At 9pm it was six degrees in my room. Going to be seriously cold in the lodges higher up.
Namche Bazaar (Trek day 3)
Today was an acclamation and rest day. Walked around the village and the Saturday market in the morning, took some photos of the surrounding peaks and slept for 3 hours in the afternoon. Normally don't really sleep in the day but I think I'm still recovering from my bout of Typhoid, still don't feel 100%, but making good progress every day that passes
Namche Bazaar & Tengboche (Trek day 4)
Woke up this morning to 4 inches of snow and it was still snowing hard as we departed a rather snowy Namche Bazaar shortly after 8am.
Unfortunately we had to drop down from 3650 metres to 3250 metres by a river then back up to 3850 metres where Tengboche is located. It was a quite a hard slog but I was in zone, I felt really fresh and on several occasions I had to wait for my guide to catch up, defiantly starting to feel more like my old self. It was really nice walking through the mountains and coniferous forests in the snow and mist today, it reminded me of a day hike I did with a friend in Sequoia national park in California this time last year.
When we arrived at the lodge, I dropped my bags off, had a short rest and went for a stroll around the small village
Got my first glimpse of Everest this afternoon, began to think I'd never get to see it with the weather conditions we been experiencing over the last couple of days. Just saw the top peaking out over the grey cloud, with jagged ridges of Lhotse in the foreground. The cloud then descended again and Everest was gone once more. I returned to the lodge for some dinner and tea, but was disturbed by some people shouting, "Everest is back! Everest is back!". I ran outside and witnessed the most beautiful and awe inspiring view my eyes have ever seen. Forget the Grand Canyon, forget the Ngorongoro crater and Forget Yosemite valley. This was truly a magical sight, the peaks of Everest, Lhotse and Amphulapcha were orange with the setting sun and for 360 degrees around me there were some majestic peaks, the sky had completely cleared
Tengboche & Pheriche (Trek day 5)
Becoming a bit of legend in the mountains with the other trekkers. Now referred to as "Typhoid boy".
Woke up at 5.45am this morning to crystal clear views of the surrounding mountains including Everest and Lhotse. Extremely cold but it was worth it to see this magnificent range of 8000 metre peaks. Set off from Tengboche just before eight and descended down a small river valley with Everest straight ahead, with snow being blown off the summit. It was like a carrot being dangled in front of me beckoning me closer. The trail was so icy this morning and even with trekking poles I fell on my arse a couple of times. It was well below freezing and with the recent heavy snow fall it was so slippery and precarious. I even saw a few Sherpa's fall over, so the trail conditions must of been bad, if these guys were struggling. As we continued along the trail, the morning sun melted the ice and snow and conditions improved
We reached a bridge over a river, two herds of yaks approached in opposite directions and chaos ensued. In the carnage I was knocked over by a big yak as other trekkers scrabbled to move out of the way. The trail was really tight so there wasn't really much room for manoeuvre, especially when there's 100 metre drop down to the river below.
Stopped off for lunch at Phunki Tenga and chilled out in the morning sun for a while just admiring the views. We then had a 300 metre ascent to the village of Pheriche where we're staying tonight. The village is located at 4250 metres, so we're starting to get reasonable high now. The views around the village aren't as impressive as the last village we stayed at. Pheriche is in a valley with a large flood plain, it's pretty bleak and barren with the only vegetation being mosses and heather, I'm well above the tree line now. There are some impressive peaks around but it's hard to top the views from Tengboche. I reckon the trek was around 12-14km today.
In Pheriche there's a medical centre for trekkers, climbers and Sherpa's. At 3pm every day the western doctors give a talk about the effects of altitude, it was interesting talk about the horrors of altitude on the human body
Pheriche & Lobuche (Trek day 6)
Another glorious day in the high Himalayas, clear skies for the second day on the run. It was minus one in my room last night but I was relatively warm in my sleeping bag, needed to go to the toilet in the middle of the night but couldn't bring myself to get up and out of my warm bed, so I painfully held on until the morning.
We had a 700 metre ascent today but I felt really strong, think I've completely recovered from my bout of illness. Stopped for lunch at Dughla (Thokla), and then trekked up to Lobuche which is at 4925 metres, did it in three and half hours with 40 minute lunch break which isn't bad going from Pheriche.
Going up to Everest base camp tomorrow morning, we're a couple of days ahead of schedule so if the weathers bad we have a bit of contingency to wait until conditions improve
Lobuche, Gorak Shep & Everest Base Camp (Trek day 7)
Trekked up to Gorak Shep this morning at 5165 metres. Dropped the bags off, had something to eat, then headed off to Everest base camp. The first couple of kilometres where across a dusty valley with some big boulders to negotiate. We climbed onto a small rocky ridge which the Khumbu glacier runs parallel too. The first part of the glacier is covered in rock and scree with the occasional section of exposed ice poking out. As we headed along the trail Everest made another guest appearance, again with snow being blown off the top by high winds. I've read that the jet stream occasionally blows across the summit with winds well over 150mph, won't fancy being on the summit when these supercharged winds align with the peak. Airlines take advantage of these winds to reduce fuel costs which demonstrates how high Everest really is.
The landscape here is barren and glacial in nature, but extremely beautiful in it's own right with 8000 metre peaks surrounding it. As we progressed up the valley more blue ice became visible and the Khumbu icefall came into view with the distant colours of the tents at base camp appearing at the bottom of the icefall.
To get to base camp you have to traverse across the glacier for around 2-3km, with ice pinnacles, boulders and small glacial ponds along the way. Everest base camp sits at the bottom of the Khumbu icefall as it turns down the valley
Base camp at 5350 metres wasn't as dirty and scruffy as I imagined. It's still early in the climbing season and I think it's recently been cleaned up, but it was a pleasant surprise. There are dozens of expedition groups camped on the glacier, waiting for their assault on the summit. All the tents are pitched on the ice, Sherpa's busily hack away at the glacier to make flat surfaces for the tents to sit on.
Only a couple of kilometres from the Tibet border at base camp. Wanted to go over the 6100 metre Lho La pass into Tibet but my guide won't let me for obvious reasons. I'll have to visit Tibet some other time.
Ran down to Gorak Shep from base camp in under an hour and ten minutes, should take two and half hours. Good effort I reckon, felt really fresh even which the altitude. Some Americans where clapping and cheering as I strided past them energetically on the trail at over 5000 metres.
Returned to Gorak Shep and spoke to a climber in the evening who was the first women to summit Everest without oxygen 20 years ago
Defiantly the longest day today, started at 7.30am and finished at 3pm. Tomorrow we climb Kala Patthar (5640 metres) with great views of Everest, the best without climbing it apparently. Then we head down as far as our legs will take us. Early start tomorrow, 5.30am!!
Gorak Shep, Kala Patthar & Deboche (Trek day 8)
An epic hike today, eleven hours in total! Started trekking at 5.45am, it was -10 when we left Gorak Shep. We climbed up to Kala Patthar at 5640 metres, the highest peak I'm going to stand on in the Nepalese Himalayas on this trip. Kala Patthar means black stone in Hindu and is certainly an apt name for this ugly peak.
The 500 metre ascent was a hard slog especially when I woke up late and hit the trail 5 minutes after getting out of bed. I was still semi conscious in the freezing temperatures.
Watched the sunrise from behind Mount Everest, an awesome sight, I saw a diamond ring just like a solar ellipse. The sun pierced the west ridge, and a beam of light sliced through the rocks. Tried to capture it in a photo, but it didn't do it any justice, you had to be there.
Had lunch at Pheriche, the moorland in the valley is very much like Derbyshire and the peak district until you look up and see the massive peaks
Staying at Deboche tonight after a 30-35km stomp. I'm going to be like a finely tuned mountain goat by the time I leave the Himalayas. Deboche is located at 3735 metres so that's a 2000 metre descent for the day. I'm the only guest in the lodge tonight, very quiet and peaceful. A nice change from the hectic Gorak Shep. Went outside after dark to admire the silhouette of the mountains in the quarter moon light, back in the treeline too so it's nice to see some big trees and vegetation.
Today was the Nepalese elections, curious to know how it all went. Probably be many days until the full results are in. Hopefully Kathmandu will be peaceful when I return there in a couple of days.
Deboche & Namche Bazaar (Trek day 9)
A four hour hike back to Namche bazaar today (around 12km), a very easy day compared to yesterday. Some ups but mostly down hill sections. Arrived in Namche at 12.30pm, had a shower, first one for 6 days, it was glorious
Mist and light ran descended again in Namche in the afternoon, haven't seen the sun while I've stayed in the village. It's either rained or snowed.
Namche Bazaar & Lukla (Trek day 10)
Feeling quite tired today, felt really good all the other days but hit a brick wall today. Didn't sleep very well last night due to a dodgy bed.
Stopped for lunch at Phakding after 3 hours on the trail, then a further 3 hour walk to Lukla, a long last day when you haven't slept well.
Big thunder storm, with hail and rain an hour after arriving in Lukla. Lucky to make it back before the deluge. Haven't seen really intense weather like this since southern India.
Had my last Dhal Bhat tonight. I've lived off the stuff in the mountains. It consists of rice, lentil soup and potato/veg curry which is really thick. You mix it all together and it's really good and fills the big gap a long day trekking leaves. Plus it's "all you can eat", so when you're burning 6000 calories a day, an "all you can eat" dinner is much appreciated, I normally have two or three big portions to fill the gap. Haven't eaten meat for over two weeks now. Could murder a KFC!
Fly back to Kathmandu early tomorrow morning if the weather's fine. Heard stories about trekkers getting stuck in Lukla for over a week due to bad weather conditions, fingers crossed for the morning. Sorry to be leaving the Himalayas, I'll defiantly be back to climb some 8000 metre peaks which will hopefully include Everest one day, that's if I can find the cash.
Lukla & Kathmandu (Trek day 11)
Woke up to a beautiful clear morning in Lukla. Stayed in the Paradise lodge last night which is literally 30 metres from the airport run way, so the walk to the airport this morning was short.
I'm not going to ramble on about how great the flight to Kathmandu is (I rambled on about this in a previous blog entry) but it's fantastic!
Arrived back in the pollution of Kathmandu just before 8am. Jumped in a cab back to Thamel. First time I've seen any automobiles in 11 days. Didn't really miss them
Kathmandu looked very peaceful after the elections, but no winner has been declared yet so things could change. I found out later in the day that the Maoists have taken a very large early lead. If the Maoists win, I wonder what will happen to Royal family, will they be forced into exile? The next couple of weeks in Nepal could be the shaping of a new nation.
It's Nepalese new year today, the date is 2065. Went out for a view beers but retired early due to getting up at 5am this morning. Feeling rather tired now.