Been a busy second half of the week, ending with a few days at Namche Bazaar – and wanted to check in before we move on tomorrow.
Firstly – a few stats, since I know folks are curious. Met the team Wednesday and we have a total of 5 climbers and 17 trekkers accompanying us to EBC. Am personally thrilled at the small team of climbers and even more so by the fact that our western guide is the same one who I was just on Aconcagua with this past Christmas – a great guide and great guy that I trust implicitly. Two seemingly small – but in fact pretty huge points. A very good start!
The rest of Wednesday was spent catching up with my old pal Yagya, who had guided me on my original trek to EBC back in 2010, and later that day we got out and about in Kathmandu to see some of the many world heritage site temples. The city is far dustier and smoggier than I remember, but understandable after the earthquake and resulting repair efforts, not to mention the new water system mega-construction project and the ever increasing traffic volumes in a city with absolutely no traffic lights or stop signs!
We started early on Thursday AM and were lucky with the weather in that we could fly out of Kathmandu without any significant delay to Lukla, the start of the Everest basecamp trek. Weather wasn’t great on the flight in so we were denied what is a glorious view of Everest and surrounding peaks in the distance – but otherwise was smooth sailing into the infamous mountain airport, where the short runway is at an incline so as to help pilots slow upon landing and/or speed up for take-off. Once there, the team assembled over morning tea (a local staple) and then started the trek with a modest hike to Phakding. The hike itself is like stepping into your own personal National Geographic show… with stunning views along the valley, dotted with cable bridges, quaint villages and Buddhist prayer wheels, stupas and prayer flags everywhere.
Day 2 (Friday) was spent trekking further up the valley to the local commercial hub, the town of Namche Bazaar. This involved crisscrossing the Dudh Kosi (milky) river, crossing several cable bridges – which anyone who has seen the movie “Everest” will recognize.
The town of Namche is a remarkable spot, at approx. 11,200 feet, built into a hillside like an amphitheater, with a huge drop off into the valley and a mountain buttress where the stage would be. This town is aptly named as it is renowned for its market or Bazaar, where traders from the locale and across the border in Tibet journey to sell their wares. And, as it turns out – home to the highest altitude Irish pub in the world… we Irish are everywhere!
This town would be our base for the next 2 days, giving the team a chance to acclimate to the new altitude, and so Saturday was spent on an acclimatization hike above 12,000 feet, returning later to Namche. One stop along the way included a monastery that claimed to have a scalp of a yeti on display… skeptical or not, we had to take a look!
Today (Sunday) was a rest day where we literally did just that – rest, eat, repeat – ending the day with a box of Girl Scout cookies thanks to Dan Maltby back at CS in NY!! Everyone feeling great and in good spirits – but – happy to move on tomorrow. I fear I need more exercise and less calories – but I suspect that will be sorted out all too soon.
We trek to Tengboche tomorrow, at 12,664 feet – home of the Tengboche Buddhist Monastery – where we hope to seek a blessing for climbers and trekkers alike from the local Lama before continuing our way up the valley.
Hard to believe it has only been a week since we left NY – seems a world away already, and with each passing day I am relaxing that bit more. I didn’t realize quite how stressed I had become trying to wrap everything up in order to put regular life on hold for two months and just get to this point. Trying now to take the time to decompress and enjoy each day of the trek to EBC before the real work begins.