Friday, November 2, 2012

Pheriche to Lukla

The overnight snow left a light blanket over the trail as we headed further downhill, with our final destination for the day the monastery of Tengboche, situated on a ridge at an elevation of 3880 meters with views of Mount Everest. Along the way we stopped for tea at the community of Pangboche and then lunch after crossing the river once again on a suspension bridge to the community of Deboche. As the elevation decreased we reentered pine and rhododendron forests and then climbed steeply from Deboche to Tengboche where we stayed at the Himalaya Hotel. We arrived in time to sit though part of a service at the monastery, but left after 30 minutes when we realized that we understood nothing that was going on and we were getting numb from sitting cross legged on a cold floor.
The hotel dining room was crowded, but we had a reserved table (sort of) and were all able to fit around the table. After dinner we continued a lively game of dhumble, but as usual, by 8 PM everyone was ready for sleep.
View from Pumori Hotel, Pheriche

Bridge over the Dudh Khosi River

Patrick & Sean taking a much needed break

Tenbgboche Monastery

Tengboche Monastery 3880 Meters
Leaving Tengboche by another route we headed down the ridge towards Nauche (Namche) and re-crossed the river on a suspension bridge where we stopped at Phunsi Tenga for tea. Hiking up a steep slope we arrived at Kenjoma where we stopped for lunch before heading across the ridge to Nauche Bazaar. We arrived at the Namche Hotel and were greeted with "deluxe" rooms with hot showers and electric blankets on the beds. Getting cleaned up was a real treat after so many days of cold weather and no showers.
That evening we treated ourselves to a Guinness Stout at the Irish Pub before heading to bed.
We departed Nauche at 0900 after stopping at the Illy coffee shop for take-away cups of mocha or espresso. The hike back down the hill to the Hillary Bridge gave us our last views of Mt. Everest as we hiked through the pine and rhododendron forests through the relatively thick air at 10,000 feet. Stopping at Jorsale for tea we then exited Sagarmantha National Park at Monjo and stopped at Benkar for lunch before continuing on the Phakding, our stop for the night.
The Beer Garden Hotel was just as bad, even worse, then when we were going the other way, with the toilet not working, the bathroom ceiling leaking water in big drips and black mold everywhere. The hotel management fixed the toilet but ignored the rest of the problems and sleep that night was like being in a cold clammy cave with a stream running through it.
After a lukewarm breakfast we gratefully departed the wreck of a hotel and headed towards Lukla, some 8 kilometers away and 600 meters higher. At about the 4 kilometer point we crossed our last suspension bridge of the trip and stopped for tea at Cheplung. A tired crew walked under the archway into Lukla at 1200, passing through the main part of town, around the end of the airstrip and finally stopping at the Hotel Numbur alongside the airstrip. After lunch we backtracked a few hundred yards and gathered at the Lukla Starbucks to agree on the gratuity for the porters and expedition leaders while enjoying a double grande mocha. (this may not be a real Starbucks but the coffee was good)
We covered approximately 150 Kilometers during the trek, reaching elevations of 18,192 feet and saw some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the world, including the world's highest point, Mt. Everest, at 29,028 feet. We witnessed the Sherpa's lifestyle; simple and difficult, but seemingly satisfying. We saw evidence of the Sherpa's Buddhist faith everywhere we looked, from mani stones to monasteries filled with monks. We made new friends, our fellow trekkers and met other trekkers from every part of the world. We tested our physical abilities at altitude and found out that training does payoff, but that nothing we can do in the Northwest can prepare you for the effects of the thin, cold air above 14,000 feet.
The sun sets over our trek to Everest Base Camp

Lobuche to Gorek Shep and Everest Base Camp

The trip from Lobuche to Gorek Shep and the Yeti Lodge was very cold and we were glad for the down jackets. We arrived under sunny skies before noon, and after lunch began the hike to Everest Base Camp at an elevation of 5364 meters. It was a hard trek up and down glacial debris until we finally arrived at the stone cairns and prayer flags which mark the furthest distance that trekkers are allowed to proceed. As we hiked back down to Gorek Shep at an elevation of 5180 meters the temperature continued to drop and the snow began. By the time dinner was over, the temperature had dropped to -10 degrees Celsius and the snow had started to fall.
Patrick at 5159 meters and the way to Gorek Shep

On the way to Everest Base Camp from Gorek Shep

Victory - EBC at 17,600 feet

The group that made it
Sean was up at 0515 for his Kala Patar summit attempt, while Patrick got up at 0545 for his lesser goal of getting as high as possible before the lungs and legs gave out. The temperature at Gorek Shep was a chilly -15 degrees Celsius.
Patrick called it quits when he hit the wall at 5400 meters (17716 feet) above Gorek Shep, but the views in the predawn light of Mount Everest were still stunning. Patrick returned to the Yeti Lodge and about one hour later Sean returned, having successfully summited Kala Patar at an elevation of 5545 meters (18192 feet). Both Sean and Patrick were totally exhausted by the morning effort in the thin cold air above Gorek Shep.
Sean at the summit of Kala Patar at 18,192 feet
After breakfast and packing of the duffels, we began the long slog down the hill to Pheriche, at an elevation of 4200 meters. We had lunch along the way at Dughla.
Our lodgings in Periche were at the Pumori Lodge, where the entire team showed symptoms of the "Khumbu Cough", caused by the combined effects of dry cold air and altitude irritating the bronchi.

Dingboche to Lobuche

Another cold night in Dingboche, but nothing compared to what was to come. Departing Dingboche a little after 8AM we crested the ridge above town and hiked upwards along the side of the ridge until we headed down into the stream bed and crossed a steel bridge before entering the small community of Dughla, which is really only a couple of trekking lodges. Stepping off the bridge, Patrick slipped on the granite blocks and sprained one ankle and bruised both his pride and his gluteus maximus. Patrick hobbled the several hundred yards into Dugla and when the shoe was removed, the swelling was obvious. Sean had tape and so the ankle was taped and any decision of continuing was deferred until morning.
The lodge was crowded and the dining hall was nearly standing room only. As we played Dhumble the snow started and the temperature dropped. We broke out the down jackets and were in bed by 8PM, which is when the lights go out anyway.
Dugla at Dawn

Scott Fischer Memorial

Other stone memorials above Dugla

More stone memorials to climbers killed on Mt. everest
We were awakened with cups of hot tea at 0700. There was a little snow on the ground and it was cold. Patrick's ankle was taped once again for the trip to Lobuche and uphill travel proved to be possible on the taped ankle. The trail stretched steeply upwards from Dughla to a ridge where the stone memorials to the climbers killed on Mt. Everest stretch along several arms of the ridge. Most of the climber's bodies still remain on the mountain. We arrived at the Himalayan Eco Resort at an elevation of 4950 meters (16,272 feet) in sunny but cold weather. After lunch we took a training hike up to 5050 meters to a ridge overlooking the Khumbu Glacier. From this ridge we could now see both the summit of Kala Patar and Everest Base Camp in the distance.
View from ridge above Lobuche to Khumbu Glacier and Everest Base Camp
We spent the evening playing Dhumble before hitting the sack at 8PM.