Moving up the valley and a special blessing

We spent the last three days moving further up the valley, through Tengboche, Pangboche and ending up in Pheriche at 14,340 feet. We will rest here tonight and tomorrow, using the time to further acclimate before winding our way further up the hill and ever closer to EBC.

On the way we stopped at a Buddhist monastery in Tengboche and had the privilege of witnessing a Buddhist ceremony led by 8 local monks.

We also visted with Lama Geshe in Pangboche, the highest ranking Buddhist lama in the region, who gave us all individual blessings for good luck and safe passage on our climb. He was warm and welcoming and clearly had a good sense of humor, entertaining a bunch of westerners for the afternoon. A truly special experience.

Judging from the number of pictures of folks on the summit, thanking the lama for his blessing – it seems like he has a good track record and given he apparently has the direct line to upstairs, am only too happy to have him on-side for the remainder of the journey!

Leaving Pangboche we wound our way along trails etched into the mountainside and got our first glimpse of Everest – even at over 20 miles away, still dominant and majestic with its traditional plume. It looks deceptively close and clear today.

Further along the trail we passed another mountain giant – Ama Dablam, at 22,349 feet, a truly beautiful peak.

And finally making our way to Periche. Happy to report am feeling fine and *still* eating like a horse… in the interests of fitting into my climbing pants, the sooner we get to the climbing part the better!

Just a reminder for anyone interested in tracking the team as we move up the valley, you can go to the links page and follow our progress on GPS.

And lastly, if anyone still thinking of donating to the American Kidney Fund, you can also find the link on the same page.

Next update from Lobuche Base Camp!

We finally hit the trail

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.

An old friend in Kathmandu

Happy to report Stef & I made it to Kathmandu, bags too – result! Arrived at the Tibet Hotel, our base until tomorrow when we depart for Lukla, at the start of the EBC trek.

I first did this trek back in January 2010 when on a hiatus from work – and my guide at the time was a kind and generous local called Yagya Karki. I had the pleasure of reconnecting with him after all this time… his hair still hair still jet black, unlike mine… all that more grey for our time apart 🙂

Expedition schedule

Lots of pals asking about our schedule when on the mountain – how long does it take to get here or there? How much time spent acclimating? How long for the actual final climb? See below for our planned itinerary… I am reminded of the saying “men plan, god laughs”… well, we’ll still plan – and can only hope Chomolungma (local name for Everest, meaning “goddess mother of the world”) doesn’t laugh too hard.

Date Location
Sunday, March 26 Leave USA (Newark)
Monday, March 27 Arrive Delhi (India)
Tuesday, March 28 Arrive Kathmandu
Wednesday, March 29 Kathmandu
Thursday, March 30 Phakding
Friday, March 31 Namche
Saturday, April 1 Namche
Sunday, April 2 Namche
Monday, April 3 Tengboche
Tuesday, April 4 Pangboche
Wednesday, April 5 Pheriche
Thursday, April 6 Pheriche
Friday, April 7 Lobuche BC
Saturday, April 8 Lobuche BC
Sunday, April 9 Lobuche BC
Monday, April 10 Everest BC
Tuesday, April 11 Everest BC
Wednesday, April 12 Everest BC
Thursday, April 13 Lobuche BC
Friday, April 14 High camp
Saturday, April 15 Summit day
Sunday, April 16 Back to EBC
Monday, April 17 Everest BC
Tuesday, April 18 Everest BC
Wednesday, April 19 Everest BC
Thursday, April 20 Everest BC
Friday, April 21 Camp 1
Saturday, April 22 Camp 1
Sunday, April 23 Camp 2
Monday, April 24 Camp 2
Tuesday, April 25 Return
Wednesday, April 26 Everest BC
Thursday, April 27 Everest BC
Friday, April 28 Everest BC
Saturday, April 29 Everest BC
Sunday, April 30 Everest BC
Monday, May 1 Camp 2
Tuesday, May 2 Rest
Wednesday, May 3 Camp 3 sleep
Thursday, May 4 Camp 2
Friday, May 5 Everest BC
Saturday, May 6 Everest BC
Sunday, May 7 Everest BC
Monday, May 8 Everest BC
Tuesday, May 9 Everest BC
Wednesday, May 10 Camp 2
Thursday, May 11 Camp 2
Friday, May 12 Camp 3
Saturday, May 13 Camp 4
Sunday, May 14 Summit
Monday, May 15 Camp 2
Tuesday, May 16 Everest BC
Wednesday, May 17 Everest BC
Thursday, May 18 Pheriche
Friday, May 19 Namche
Saturday, May 20 Lukla
Sunday, May 21 Kathmandu

The expedition route

Climbing the classic South Side route (Nepal) – initially trekking up the Khumbu Valley to get to Everest Base Camp. This is the route used for the first summit in 1953 by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Other than the icefall, maybe the most daunting part of the climb, at 28,800ft (just- above the South Summit shown below) – being named after Sir Edmund.


Expedition patch

So pleased to present the expedition patch designed by my friend, fellow mountaineer and super-talented graphic designer, Sean O’Mara. Some debate and controversy sparked by his use of 8848m / 29,029 ft as there was a recent re-measurement of the height of Mt. Everest, determining it to by 8850m / 29,035 ft – but we have decided to go with the classical measurement – and suffice to say – if I get to the top – 8848 or 8850 – I’ll be damn  pleased!!

Expedition Patch

Quite the morning in D.C.

I had the honor of attending Advocates Day in D.C. and got to meet a remarkable group of folks – almost all suffering from kidney disease – and doing it with such dignity and strength that it was truly humbling to be around them. I take strength from their strength and quite honestly – can see there are much harder mountains to climb than Mt. Everest!

Very unexpectedly, I ended up on Fox5DC Good Morning D.C. to talk about the upcoming climb, fundraising efforts for the AKF and our advocating later that day on Capitol Hill, when I got to meet folks from the offices of congressman Albio Sires and senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker. Fascinating day for a politics nerd and all the better that we got the message out on allowing charities such as the AKF to assist patients without the means to support themselves – we can only hope the politicians listen.

Link to the TV piece: Fox5 Good Morning DC