Kathmandu, Central Region, Nepal
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Amazing Race - delayed but on schedule
April 11th, 2017 Three Passes Everest Trek
Our flight was due to leave for Mumbai at 9:30, but after receiving a meal voucher the flight was cancelled. Thanks to Jhanets speedy work we managed to get booked on a flight via Delhi, leaving in the evening, placing us in Kathmandu only 4 hours later than originally scheduled. We also took advantage of the coach and hotel provided by the airline for the delay.
So far, so good! Having done our visas in London, we whizzed through border control and arrived at the luggage carousel before any bags. Then the dreaded intercom announcement for Michael and Jane to come to the baggage desk....so we were told our bags got left in Delhi, but I was about 99% sure I had witnessed my bag getting loaded....maybe just wishful thinking. We decided to wait and to our immense relief both Jhanet's and my bag appeared on the belt.....yippee. Kathmandu-check, bags-check, Now getting to our hotel (Hotel Nepalalya). Fortunately our hotel offered a pickup service. The trick was finding the right taxi driver among a sea of name boards and drivers. We walked up and down the line trying to read all of the cards being held up and by our third pass one driver (Trekkers hotel) asked who we were looking for. We gave our hotel name and he ushered us into the car park. He called someone, a tiny car showed up, money was exchanged and we were told to get in, this is our taxi. Fantastic, on our way to the hotel, well, so we think.
Amazing race training sidebar: FIRST IN LINE
1. at ticket desk after cancelled flight in London
2. in coach to hotel after cancelled flight
3. off coach to ticket desk after hotel
4. Immigration in Kathmandu
5. at luggage carousel, but last to collect (ok not so good)
Kathmandu is dusty, busy and friendly with cows sleeping in the middle of the road. It is alive with people and with plenty to see. Very visually stimulating...and also audibility distressing (lots of beep beep beep), understandably so, since there are no road markings, traffic lights or signage. One thing that struck me as amazing were the power-lines, holy shit....see photo
After a long journey, it's to bed early for us as our domestic flight to Lukla is at 9:30. That's the scheduled time. Apparently delays are guaranteed. Much to come about Kathmandu as we will be spending 3 days here on our return.
Oh yeah we exchanged money, bought a map of our trail and ate some street corn.
Hotel Nepalaya - Thamel Marg 17, Kathmandu, Nepal
Thursday, April 13, 2017
April 13th, 2017
yes I know that there is a day missing - (that's what happens when you travel) I've learned that there is something called "Indian time" and I swear it jumps around to the point I think my watch is always wrong.....still trying to figure this one out?
We arrived at the airport at 8:30 for a 9:30 scheduled flight to Lukla. The terminal is very basic, with only 3 gates / doorways and no information on flight times, only an announcement on which flight is boarding now. As promised, our flight was delayed by 1.5 hrs, upon which 15 eager passengers were loaded on a bus to head to our plane. We then sat for an additional 30mins next to our plane ("Nepali/Indian time") finally we loaded up and headed to Lukla. The skies were not especially clear but terrace fields could be seen below. We began circling (which I thought was around Lukla) but nope, the winds were to high to land so we landed at CHAURIKHARKA. A diversion in poor conditions and also where we would return to Kathmandu if there were no improvements. The airport consists of a small runway, a dirt parking/taxi area and a small building with airplane seating. The prop plane joined the que on the dirt parking zone. We hung out there for about 2hrs, during which a Russian traveler approached us and we agreed that we are not willing to return to Kathmandu and that together we would rather hike the 2 days to Lukla. Luckily we got the all clear, the winds dropped, so we were all loaded up again and a short 8 minutes later,we were landing in Lukla. The airport is known as the most dangerous airport in the world. Well no wonder! The runway was very very very short with a giant stone (crash) wall at the end of a 12% slope. Loved it! landed well and got our bags and set off for the first trek of our trip.
Lukla to Phakding (3hr) - description below come from the Cicerone guide book:
From Lukla the Namche trail is broad, clear and obvious. It heads north away from the airstrip along a lodge-lined street, passes through a kani (an entrance archway with a row of prayer wheels) then slopes downhill, soon to reach a low region of agricultural land which it skirts along its right-hand edge. In little more than 30min from Lukla you’ll come to a junction of trails in Choplung (2660m: 8727ft) to be joined by the route from Jiri, and bear right on the main route to Namche. There are several pleasant lodges here. The way continues easily without any severe uphill stretches for a while, but then drops suddenly to the Kusum Khola with a suspension bridge in the mouth of a narrow gorge. Across the bridge the trail climbs a stone stairway past the lodges, contours round a corner and soon after slopes down again to the village of Ghat. Now the way heads through a rough, rock-strewn area, but it soon improves and with a small amount of up and down brings you to the larger settlement of Phakding.
Our first stop of our trek. After yet another long travel day, we found a tea house, had a great dinner consisting of potatoes, dumplings, omelette, apple tart....oh and lots of milk tea. I can say I'm much more of a fan of milk tea than Jhanet is at the start....only time will tell if she will warm to it.
Namche, Eastern Region, Nepal
Friday, April 14, 2017
After a great nights sleep we awoke to a beautiful clear morning with a massive moon lighting up the mountains all around us and Jhanet saw her first moon set. We had arranged breakfast for 7am the night before so it was ready for us exactly on time. We left Phakding to head for Monjo on our way to Namche Bazaar.
We did not have the opportunity to obtain a TIMS Trekking permit (with all of our delayed flights) or Sagarmatha National Park permit so we were hoping to do so on the way in Monjo. Fortunatelythere was a check point at Chhumuwa, where we could buy the TIMS. We were then able to buy the national park permit at the park entrance. Few....we can keep going
THE SAGARMATHA NATIONAL PARK
Enclosing an area of 1148 km2, the vast majority of which is above 3000m, the Sagarmatha National Park was established in July 1976 with assistance from the New Zealand government, and declared a World Heritage Site three years later. Managed by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation from a headquarters sited above Namche, it is surrounded by lofty ridges that nowhere fall below 5700m. It is the recognised habitat of the endangered musk deer, various other mammals including the snow leopard, the Himalayan tahr, at least 118 species of bird and around 25 species of summer-visiting butterfly. In the 30-odd years since the park was created, the amount of wildlife has increased, and tree nurseries established by The Himalayan Trust have gone some way to address the problems of deforestation, not just within the park, but outside its boundaries where trees were ruthlessly felled when park regulations forbade the cutting of timber inside its territory.
Now the trail picked its way along the stony bed of the valley, winding among rocks towards the point where the Bhote Kosi and Dudh Kosi come together below a mountain wall upon which unseen Namche Bazaar is perched. The Bhote Kosi rushes through a gorge on the left, the DudhKosi from a gorge on the right. To reach Namche involves crossing the Dudh Kosi’s gorge on a suspension bridge slung high above the river not far upstream of its confluence with the BhoteKosi. The path leaves the valley bed and climbs steeply with the occasional aid of steps to gain the bridge. Across the bridge you descend a few concrete steps, then begin the last long uphill to Namche, a climb of around 700m (2300ft) Steep in places, the broad trail snaked its way up the slope. It was very warm and we both got a bit off sun, avoiding the Yak and donkey trains was always challenging.
We arrived in really good time, took us only about 5 hours from Phakding. Arrived by 1:30....although I had to check multiple devices to be sure (again "Nepal time") We found a tea house in the center of town, checked in and then had a brief walk around town. Found a bakery and had to partake in some goodies with tea. Then strolled to the Tibetan market which had a wide range of products, including cheese, butter, and lots of peppers.
Dinner was had at our tea house as is customary - your not allowed to bring in food and if you eat somewhere else they charge you more. We ate very well and are now preparing for our "rest day" in Namche tomorrow. This will consist of a 4 hr walk and shopping at the Saturday market.
Hotel Khangri - Namche-1, Solukhumbu, Namche Bazaar, Nepal
Namche, Eastern Region, Nepal
Saturday, April 15, 2017
Falling asleep last night was to thunder and torrential rains and thoughts running through my mind like.....glad were are in a tea house and not in our tent. Awoke early, not really by choice but Jhanet wanted breakfast at 6:30 (did I mention it was a rest day) we spilled out of bed and fell down the three flights of stairs to the dining area to force feed ourselves. Having already planned our rest day we headed off to find the much anticipated Saturday market. We had scheduled our trek to be in Namche at least one Saturday so we could check out this market we had read so much about. We found the market on the street map and headed off with a backpack ready to fill with wonderful Nepali hand crafts and yak cheese. As we headed down back towards the checkpoint area we realized that we must have missed it.... after consulting our handy map we headed back up....hummm ok you have to realize that Namche is not that big and after about 45 mins we came to the conclusion that the "Tibetan" market that we explored yesterday was the only market and that there was no Saturday market......our host did say that the Saturday market is for locals and they only sell things like rice and vegetables, not meant for tourists. Guess he was right.
Because of the altitude it is necessary to spend at the very minimum two nights in Namche to aid in acclimatization. To help us with this we had found a 3–4hr circuit that visited two traditional Sherpa villages, provided stunning views, and reached a high point of about 3870m (12,697ft) But first we had to find the start. Ok little side bar, both Jhanet and I suck at navigation within villages, seriously! its ridiculous how many times we ended up at a dead end or having to back track but we persisted and finally we were off....in the right direction. UP! We continued along the trail which climbed steeply for about an hour that arrived at the Everest View Hotel where you could have a cup of tea overlooking, heart-stopping views of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam walling the Khumbu valley. But alas no views for us......the clouds were very low and only briefly did some of the surrounding peaks show through. We continued on (without tea) until we reached KHUMJUNG (3780m: 12,402ft), a large Sherpa village that appears remarkably unspoilt and extremely quiet.
At this point it was snowing so we found a tea house to warm up in. Whilst looking around, Michelle exclaimed: there's our Russian. (The one from the flight to Lukla) and then we explored the village which had the longest stone mani in the Khumbu Valley. The stone manis are amazing. So much detail, each hand carved, at least a thousand stones.
We then pushed on towards KHUNDE (3841m: 12,602ft) another Sherpa village. Here we visited KHUNDE monastery, unfortunately it was closed but at this point the clouds had lowered to almost white out conditions so we headed back to Namche. During our trek today we always tended to take the Sherpa trails away from the main trails. This allowed us to run into (literally) real Yaks for the first time. Most of the Yaks we have seen are actually Naks (Yak + Cow) cross breeds.
On returning to Namche we wanted to secure Yak cheese and bread for the next couple of days and managed to find a local shop with Yak cheese 1 kg for 500 Rs. We also purchased some fuel for our camping nights. We browsed various shops, for our planned shopping spree upon our return. Yak bells will be a definite purchase.
Michelle milk tea for the day = 8 cups
Jhanet 2 milk 4 black = 6 cups
All tired out, we headed for bed.
Hotel Khangri - Namche-1, Solukhumbu, Namche Bazaar, Nepal
Pangboche, Eastern Region, Nepal
Sunday, April 16, 2017
We awoke in Namche to crystal blue sky's and for the first time we could clearly see that we were in the Himalayas. The mountains surrounding Namche were breathtaking. We started off with a visit to the Sherpa museum and the National Park headquarters. The museum was well worth a visit to get a sense of the history of this region and Sherpa life. Then we walked up to the headquarters and were greeted with views of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam.
Now for the start of our actual trail. We walked steadily for a couple of hours before reaching the settlement of Phunki Tenga (3250m: 10,663ft), about 2–2.5 hr from Namche. A series of water-driven prayer wheels and lodges lines the trail. We wanted to let some large trekking groups get a head start so that was our excuse to have some tea and a yak cheese "rool". Now the climb began in earnest. From here the trail goes through a wooded area of pine, birch and rhododendron. We passed or were passed by several sherpas and Yaks. Just before the ridge at Thyangboche the path leads through a kani (an entrance archway whose interior is covered with Buddhist paintings), and then we emerged into a large clearing with hundreds of trekkers and a large monastery. This was the first monastery we had come to that was open. We removed our shoes and had a look around. We both felt that it was quite touristy and lacked a certain feeling.....nevertheless the views were spectacular and I can see why this place is a religious center in Nepal.
THYANGBOCHE (3867m: 12,687ft) is understandably popular. Groups of trekkers and mountaineers fill all available camping spaces, and the lodges are often full in the main trekking seasons. During the three-day Mani Rimdu festival, celebrated here at the full moon of October–November, every bed and every tent space will be taken. All expeditions to attempt Everest from this side of the Himalayan divide pass through Thyangboche, many of which receive the blessings of the head lama before making a start on the mountain itself. After passing through an enclosed courtyard, footwear needs to be removed before entering the richly decorated main hall, or lha-khang, where silk banners and ornamental scrolls hang from the ceiling. Sometimes visitors are presented to the head lama at the end of devotions. On such occasions you will be given a katha, a white ceremonial scarf, by another monk, and this should be offered to the Abbot with a donation concealed within it. Although it’s not the oldest in Khumbu (Pangboche and Thame are much older) the richly decorated monastery is the largest in mountain Nepal, and serves as the spiritual centre of the district, attracting novice monks from all over Khumbu who come here to study Buddhist teachings. Despite the valley having been settled for nearly 500 years the first Thyangboche monastery was not founded until 1916 under instruction from Dzatrul Rinpoche, the Abbot of Rongbuk on the north side of Everest. In 1934 it was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake that killed Lama Gulu, the gompa’s founding father. A replacement monastery was built soon after to the same design as the original, but in January 1989, less than a year after it had been provided with its own small-scale electricity supply, it was destroyed by fire caused by a suspected electrical fault. The present monastery rose from the ashes of its predecessor, and was paid for by funds raised both locally and internationally.
We expected the number of trekkers in Thyangboche and had already planned to walk a bit further to find a tea house that was not as crowded. In about 10min we passed a couple large lodges, and a few minutes more we came to Deboche (3757m: 12,326ft). But decided to keep going a little further.......
Along the route we came across a Buddhist nunnery. There was a sign saying welcome but the place seems under construction and it was difficult to find the entrance. We finally did, but the main door was locked. Within moments a women "nun" came out and unlocked the door for us. It was amazing, this place was what I was hoping to find. Just us in a small peaceful monastery.
We were hoping for an invite of tea and most certainly would have preferred to lodge there for the night. Wishful thinking. So we continued on the trail in search of lodgings. Here the trail is quite possibly, no wait, IS the most beautiful we have trekked thus far. Overlooked by snow cappedmountains, a rushing blue glacial river, interesting rock formations and near misses with Yaks on a bridge. The path was completely empty. No tourists or other hikers. Only the odd Sherpa. Up and up we went,with day light going down. We came across a kani, which is meant to be an entrance to something, but it was only an entrance to more vastness! We continued slowly, passing a stupa on the wrong side and it felt like the stupa was staring us down! Soon after this, Jhanet jumps and shouts with joy! Finally, Pangboche village is within reach.
Warm food and a bed......at the Highland Sherpa Resort
PANGBOCHE (3901m: 12,799ft) is an important two-part village. Lower Pangboche, or PangbocheWa Lim, is a comparatively large settlement with more than a dozen lodges set in a bewildering maze of drystone walls. Stray from the path at your own risk, for it’s easy to get ‘lost’ among the walled-in fields! The upper village is more compact and is certainly worth a visit, so if you intend to return this way, you are recommended to take the trail that leads to it. It is in the upper village (Pangboche Te Lim) that the oldest gompa in the Khumbu is located; it also has several reasonable lodges with wonderful views.
Khumjung, Eastern Region, Nepal
Monday, April 17, 2017
Heading to Ama Dablam base camp today, for our rest day. Once again we missed our trail out of town. I clearly looked at the map and knew exactly where the turn off was. But nope, missed it again! We could clearly see the bridge we wanted to cross but could not find how to get to it. After asking a Sherpa we were off on the right track, 40 mins later. To be fair, the trail was through a broken stonewall and through a field so maybe not all my fault?
The day dawned completely clear and stunning all around. We headed down towards the river and met some very tiny baby Yaks next to a beautiful bridge. Rinsed our hands for the first time in the Imja Khol and then headed up. The trail (not really a trail, let's call it a yak track) was a scramble for about 20 mins before it flattened out into a plateau that is used for grazing. We checked with some sherpas that we were on the right track, then climbed steadily up to some prayer flags. The ridge we were following skirted above the Cholungoche Khola towards Ama Dablam. At this point we decided to find a rock to escape the wind and had some lunch in the glorious sun, the scent of fresh juniper, with blue skies and a view of snow capped mountains. Fresh Yak cheese and bread we bought in Namche, was on the menu. I played with some time lapse video on the GoPro, clouds rushing over the mountains was majestic and can not really be described. We proceeded up again for about 45 minutes and then ran into some tents. Ama Dablam base camp! The area was warm, flat and you guessed it, full of Yaks.
But not just any Yaks, they were friendly, two in particular became my close friends. We called them Thelma and Louise. They got lots of scratches and tried to get into my pack for some extra lunch. I will always remember Ama Dablam base camp with my lovable Yaks.
I think Michelle was more interested and amazed by the yaks then the classic beauty of AmaDablam! It took us about 3 1/2 hrs to reach base camp and another it took me another 3 hrs watching Michelle caress the yaks!! Nonetheless, a memorable and breathtaking moment........I'm referring to the mountains or am I.
AMA DABLAM Considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful mountains, the 6856m (22,493ft) Ama Dablam is easily recognised by its characteristic shape when seen from the southwest, although it takes on a completely different appearance when viewed from the north. The name means ‘Mother’s Charm Box’ which refers to the hanging glacial lump that appears high up on its southern face and resembles the turquoise or coral dablam, or charm box necklace, worn by Tibetan women. During an attempt to climb the mountain’s North Ridge in 1959, two members of a British expedition disappeared on the final arête as the monsoon set in. The first successful ascent (by the South-West Ridge) was claimed in 1961 by Michael Ward, Mike Gill, Barry Bishop and Wally Romanes, who were members of a multi-national scientific expedition organised by Ed Hillary. Ama Dablam has since become the most popular non-trekking peak in the Khumbu, andhas been climbed by more than 15 different routes. In a busy year, the South-West Ridge receives more than 150 ascents.
Spectacular day, cruised down had some apple cake and tea when we returned (Michelle petted some puppies) and later we sat down for a lovely dinner. Off to bed to get some rest to prepare to head up to Dingboche tomorrow.
Dingboche, Eastern Region, Nepal
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
It was wonderfully quiet in our lodge last night and this morning and we had a nice visit with the owner of the Highland Sherpa Lodge. We had a three hour walk today to Dingboche (4350m: 14,272ft) but before starting off we were told to visit Upper Pemboche's monastery. We managed to find the monastery without getting lost. Our navigational skills must be improving. "Actually the only thing that is improving is that we are asking Sherpas for directions before going too far" This monastery is one of the oldest in the Khumbu. We walked around and noticed that the doors were locked and were so disappointed, but then a Sherpa who was by the front door told us to wait for a few minutes. We chatted and found out that our new friend was a monk from Lukla and that his name was Kazi lama. He guides during the trekking season to make money and then lives the rest of the year in the monastery in Lukla where he was born. Very shorty later a nun came and unlocked the door for Kazi and us. What a fantastic opportunity, we were able to walk around the interior and watch the nun light incense and butter candles. It was very dark inside with many ancient paintings adorning the walls. What a wonderful experience to begin our day and thanks to our friend Kazi for gaining us entrance.
We then continued back down to Lower Pemboche to gain our trail to Dingboche. It was quite a clear and warm day but in the distance you could already see the cloud beginning to form over Everest. Today we climbed from 12,794 to 14,469 in elevation. It was a slow steady climb and we reached Dingboche in 2.5hr.
Kazi had recommended the Countryside Hotel Lodge in Dingboche so that's where we headed. We checked in and dropped our bags and then headed out for a walk.....Jhanet and I are not very good at sitting still. Dingboche is located in a valley. With the lower part being noticeable colder than the upper part. The clouds move in and out continuously, changing the view at every turn. We need to stay here for one night to acclimatize before heading to Chukhung
Chhukhung, Eastern Region, Nepal
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Had a bit of a rough night last night. Did not sleep that well, but so far both Jhanet and I have been doing really well with the altitude gain. Just now we are both starting to feel it, if you move to quickly you get a bit dizzy. The best thing for us is to just take it really slow.
Today's walk headed up to Chhukhung which lies at 15,518. It was supposed to take us 3 hrs but it only took us two. Jhanet still does not believe me when I say we reached our destination.
I (Jhanet) thought we reached our first village, Bibre, a one teahouse village. I was still thinking about when to have a break, a snack and sock change and Michelle said we reached Chhukung.
Ridiculous!! The boiled egg we were planning to have for lunch, is still in my pack- will save it for another day.
I (Michelle) decided to take a rest this afternoon to make up for a lack of sleep last night. A little nippy nap to top up and now I'm feeling much better.
I went for a walk whilst Michelle napped. The goal was to find the start of our rest day hike tomorrow-Chhukung Ri, but to no avail. We figured it might be a good idea, since we are so bad at navigating within villages. I did however find a sign post for another pass, we decided not to do. At least we know which direction not to go.
During my walk I found the glacial river and filled our water bottle. I was hoping to come across some sherpas or locals, but the only living thing I found, were a couple of yaks. The village was completed deserted.
Chhukhung, Eastern Region, Nepal
Thursday, April 20, 2017
For our rest day today, we chose to do Chhukung Ri.
We had a late breakfast in the sunroom of our lodge and ordered boiled eggs and Tibetan bread for our lunch, which we popped into zip lock bags. At first the weather seemed like it was going to keep us indoors, but then the clouds rolled out and "sunny" showed his face. That was enough for us, off we go.
We found the route without getting lost and started to climb. Michelle was in excellent shape, I on the other hand. Not so much. I really struggled for air today. My lungs were screaming for oxygen and of course in return my muscles. It was utterly slow going, like a dying snail. The struggle up, was well worth it. The view from the summit is absolutely breathtaking. Michelle and I spent 45 mins sitting up here, baking in the sun, having lunch and watching the forever changing view.
Not to forget our egg-cairn photo shoot.
Mountains and glaciers surround Chhukung. It is a stiff climb up the 5546m Chhukung Ri (four hours return) for views over a fairy-tale panorama of peaks, including Ama Dablam, Baruntse(7220m) and Makalu (8463m). The climb crosses a bald hill and from its crown a tremendous view shows Makalu to the east, and a clearer prospect of that amazing ice-pleated wall to the south.
The climb down was covered in cloud and certainly faster than up. Once we reached the village, Michelle and I swapped positions. Now she is the dying snail and I'm in good shape. We had a wee little nap and retired to the sunroom for some warmth.
Lobuche, Eastern Region, Nepal
Friday, April 21, 2017
The day started off bright and clear which was fortunate as this was our first pass of three during our trek. We were ask by Cyril (a French Canadian) if he could join us for this part of the trek as the pass can be tricky to navigate and it best to have three in your group for the crossing. We headed off early as clouds can build throughout the day. This trek was to (according) to the book should take us 6-7 hrs. We started off around 7am and right from the start the clouds were building from below, chasing us up. We managed to stay in the warm sun for the first few hours. The going was a steady climb and then I began to slow down, it became harder for me to breathe and the effects of the altitude began to show. It's amazing how altitude can play with your body day to day. Yesterday I was strong and felt great going up Chhukung Ri, then I came down and felt not so great. Today going up Kungma La, felt not so great and tonight I feel great????? Let's see what tomorrow brings.
We past a small lake and ascended into a wide basin, dotted with small frozen lakes. Beyond the largest lake, the trail switch-backed steeply over loose scree and finally we gained the Kongma La (5535m) A cairn, mummy-wrapped in prayer flags, marked the pass. Behind all we could see was a lunar landscape of icy lakes and frozen ridges; ahead the landscape tumbled down to the Khumbu Glacier. Incredible views east towards giant Makalu, with peaks in Tibet visible to the left. Gaining the pass took us 5 hours. Not the 3-4 like the book said!
Oh Jhanet also ripped a small hole in her pants on the pass.....
The final descent was the most difficult stage of the trek. Immediately you drop steeply down the scree and boulders for two hours to more solid ground on the edge of the moraine. The next stage across the glacier was the final sucker punch, lots of ups an downs –the three of us followed the stone cairns along the ever-shifting route and then climbed up the moraine on the far side, to Lobuche (4930m: 16,175ft)
To our surprise there was a check point, but not in the typical sense. We we given accommodations (no choice) since most rooms in the village were full. No worries though, they had space and even though the place was a bit rough we met some great people, played some cards and ate dinner. Off to rest for tomorrow, heading up to Everest Base Camp (EBC)
Gorak Shep, Eastern Region, Nepal
Saturday, April 22, 2017
So today we had a short 2.5 hour walk to Gorak Shep the last "village" before Everest Base Camp. It was warm and sunny. Fortunately the night before we had made reservations through our host in Lobuche for a room in Gorak Shep, every room appears to be booked so at least we have some beds for the night. We arrived and dumped our big packs in our room then ate some lunch (potatoes and tomato & cheese toastie) then headed up to base camp. The trail was packed, for so many people this is the calumniation of their trip. I have always had my reservations about visiting Everest Base Camp but could not pass up the opportunity since we were here. It lived up to what I had imagined, and I was not impressed. People everywhere but at least most people were excited to be there and in good spirits. One thing that struck me is the complete and utter disregard of trail etiquette. No curtsy what so ever, standing in the trail, not moving out of the way if a Sherpa needed to get by - oh well, just like living in London. People's need to get to EBC is so great, that they even come up the trail on a horse slumped over not being able to walk themselves.
We made really good time on the way up and even better time with a bit of running on the way down. We did however get caught in a snow squall but at least we were almost back to our lodge. After a quick wash down (boiled water with the jet boil) in our room we headed down to the common room for some cards and visiting with our friends from the night before. Two Germans, one French Canadian and two Chinese. Had a nice dinner in a really crowded dinning room and then went out for a night time excursion to find some water, six of us wandered around looking in the dark for about 20 minutes. No luck.
This lodge does not give out drinking water unless you buy plastic bottled water, and as you can guess there is no running water up here. I will not buy water in plastic bottles. This is the first time a lodge refused to fill our bottles. Glad to be leaving here as everything is extremely expensive and there are just way to many people. Bye bye Gorak Shep and EBC.
Dzonglha, Eastern Region, Nepal
Sunday, April 23, 2017
So today we are escaping Gorak Shep and heading down towards Dzonglha. We awoke to snow and masses of people heading down. We donned our rain/snow gear and took off early. It took us about one and a half hours to get back to Lobuche where we promptly entered a tea house to warm up and get some tea and freshly baked chapatti. From there we continued on until we came across our trail turn off. Jhanet has a great eye as there was a tiny arrow (in marker) on a rock that pointed the way. We did ask a couple of sherpas to be sure.
What a wonderful trail, no people! We did not have any views but the trail was magnificent following the contour for a few hours. We did get a few views of the main trail below which was literally a yak and people highway. We waved to them a few times and did a little "look how empty our trial is" dance. Eventually we ended up what appeared to be more of a yak track than an actual trail, but we did come across the main trail again just before the village. We decided to stay in the the Mountain house and a couple of hours later Cyril showed up. Learned a new card game (Tamalou) and played cribbage before heading off to bed. Tomorrow is a rest day before heading up over Cho La Pass.
Dzonglha, Eastern Region, Nepal
Monday, April 24, 2017
Today is our first actual Rest day, no hikes planned at all what so ever. We were supposed to stay in Lobuche last night but after deciding not to go up Kala Pattar (snowing) we proceeded to Dzonglha. Dzonglha is a village located right at the base of the Cho La Pass. The second pass on our itinerary.
We started our day with a very late breakfast, a few games of air hockey and decided to go soak up the sun. Whilst it was out Jhanet decided it was time to wash our hair. Well needed!!!! We fired up the jetboil for hot water and used Dr Brommers premium shampoo. Ahhhhhhhhhh
Had a light lunch by default, powered up the solar panel and Michelle went to sleep for two hours. Now that is a proper rest day!!!!
I took a walk down to the river to fill up our camel packs in readiness for tomorrow. The sun was shining when I left and I wanted take some photos, but as soon as I reached the river, the mountain weather came in- Clouds, complete cover with some snow flurries.
We did however have an amazing sunset with clear views! Photos do not do it justice!
Gokyo, Eastern Region, Nepal
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Ok after our rest day it was time to head over our second pass of the trip. You would think that after a rest day one would feel fantastic, rested and ready to go. I did until I started climbing. Ohthis altitude is really a killer. I feel fine, no headaches but just can't move with any speed. I am a snail, but that's what seems to work for me. Poor Jhanet has to wait but that's the life of being with a snail. We started out early on a completely clear day to gain the pass before the clouds moved in. It was painful but we continued on until we reached a scrambly section to the "top". Well since I had completely forgot what I had read about this pass we were not at the top yet! We still had to traverse a Glacier before actually reaching the pass. The sun was beating down and we were getting baked on the snow field but there was no need for crampons and as long as you stuck to the trail. There were many people and conditions were perfect so no issues there. Once we reached Cho La Pass there were a massive amount of people traveling in both directions.
From here, there are vertigo-inducing views southeast toward Cholatse and Ama Dablam and west towards the Ngozumpa Glacier, Pharilapche (6017m) and Kyajo Ri (6186m). The descent into the Gokyo Valley was long and tedious, crossing a seemingly endless scree slope that is a minefield of loose stones and hidden ice. There are small stone cairns that marked the way. After what seemed like an age, we reach the grassy hillside below the rockfall. It’s an easy walk on to Dragnag; 4700m. The most dangerous part of this descent was getting around dangerous people who had no business in the conditions we were on, but we made it through and the had a quick Rara noodle soup to restore us for the next journey. Now most people stay in Dragnag but we really wanted to get to Goyko tonight. It was an additional two hours and again our friend Cyril joined us for this last bit.
The final stage to Gokyo drops over the moraine wall and crosses the groaning Ngozumpa Glacier. The trail changes every season as the ice shifts and melts and it's not easy spotting the stone cairns that mark the way. It was great to have three eyes instead of just two. This Glacier was much larger than the first one we crossed after coming down Kongma La. the massive lateral moraine was the last punch before reaching Goyko. Finally, really long day and one pass to go......off to bed can barely keep my eyes open when I was trying to eat dinner.
Michelle's current condition is not funny, but her behavior has had me laughing to myself all day. With every step her anger has been increasing, kinda in sync with the altitude. One minute I should wait, the next minute I should go. Her pace has been a bit of blessing in disguise as it has given me plenty of rest stops, therefore the hike has felt pretty comfortable me.
Absolutely exhausted, we reached Gokyo and watching Michelle fall asleep at dinner, prompted an instant bed time.
Gokyo Resort - Kumbhu, Gokyo valley , Khumbu, Nepal.
Gokyo, Eastern Region, Nepal
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
We awoke to a beautiful view of sunlit mountains overlooking one of Gokyo's many lakes, with crystal clear blue skies.
Now even more grateful that we continued on yesterday from Dragnag. We are both feeling pretty good and even though today is a rest day, we are planning to hike up Goyko Ri. Our returning appetites, gets us both out of bed around 6, with the idea of returning to bed after.....Wishful thinking. After breakfast, we headed out for Gokyo Ri.
As Gorak Shep has Kala Pattar and Chhukung has Chhukung Ri, so Gokyo has Gokyo Ri. The 5360m-high peak on the north side of the Dudh Pokhari (2nd Goyko lake) is an epic vantage point, offering the kind of view that is normally reserved for balloonists or mountaineers. The path climbs for two hours to a cat’s cradle of prayer flags at the top of the hill. It felt like the path was never ending and with Michelle's new hiking method- no more than a boot length per step- I thought we'd reached the summit at night fall.
From the summit, there are panoramic views of Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cholatse and Taboche, with the Ngozumpa Glacier cutting across in front like a massive glacial highway. From this lofty eyrie, Gokyo is a tiny dot on the side of the moraine, and the Dudh Pokhari is a giant jade-green puddle, without a single reflection on its mirror-flat surface. It was absolutely glorious up here. We spent two hours admiring the views, the ever changing cloud formations and basking in the warm sun.
Michelle here, I have just a few bits to add......this is a perfect description of our adventure up Gokyo Ri.....except we had an unexpected visitor make an appearance. I had been waiting for the right moment to give Jhanet "Hermena" and this requires some explanation. Hermena was given to me by Jhanet from a town in South America (Huyancayo) she is a little guinea pig carved out of a gourd. She secretly traveled within my rain cover until yesterday when I pulled her out on top of Goyko Ri. Now I fear there will be many photos of Hermena but she is so glad to be free.
Dragnag was a small dot in the distance and it was really satisfying to see the distance we covered over the large Glacier to reach Gokyo. The wind started to pick up and we decided that it was time to head down. We got a small, late lunch and before we knew it, it was dinner time.
Overall, a great day, with both of us feeling good, but ready for bed earlier than usual.
It seems the early arrivals to our destinations and late nights are over.
Gokyo Resort - Kumbhu, Gokyo valley , Khumbu, Nepal
Gokyo, Eastern Region, Nepal
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Today was another rest day for us. The sun was out today, but there is this icy wind blowing. It turns liquid on your clothes into ice almost instantly. The hike to the likes were beautiful still. Rocky terrain with lakes appearing on the left and ever moving Ngozumpa Glacier flanking you on the right, all the way.
We went into every bakery in the village, until we found the warmest and nicest one. It happened to be at the lodge we were staying, which of course is the last one we tried. A short hike, warmth, food and rest. It seems we are starting to understand the concept of a rest day.......... one would hope. This is most probably the effects of tiredness, skin reactions and altitude.
The impressive Ngozumpa glacier, sits below the sixth highest mountain in the world Cho Oyu in Nepal, at 36 kilometers (22.3 miles) is the longest glacier in the Himalayas.
Lumde, Eastern Region, Nepal
Friday, April 28, 2017
After much debating, the decision was made to do the last pass. We started off early in the morning, clear skies and glorious sunshine again, with very little wind. The path starts along the lake and climbs gently, before turning into a very steep climb, switching back and forth like a python with indigestion, leading up into the large mountain bowl. The views remain spectacular along the way, with Gokyo village and Mt Everest behind you and Renjo La ahead of you. The terrain varies from rock, gravel, sand and snow. It is like this up to the base of the ridge wall and then you follow a giant 'S' path to reach the final section of steps that leads to the pass.
The pass is fairly empty, which is quite pleasant. I have plenty of opportunity to admire the surrounding views and have rest stops. Reason being, the new sloth method book. Michelle has given up snails pace and has decided to actively study the Sloth method. This involves hiking at Sloth pace and taking notes in her head, with grunting and slow hand gestures as a response to almost any question.
The steps leading up to Renjo La is welcoming steady ground. The summit seems so close, as you can see the prayer flags, yet so far. It is a long, switchback path to the top.
About three hours (4 on sloths pace) after leaving Gokyo, we gain the Renjo La (5345m), where an eye-popping vista awaits. With the clear skies , you can see the rooftops of Gokyo glinting distantly on the shore of the lake beneath the grey smear of the Ngozumpa Glacier, and the sawtooth peaks of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, Cholatse, Taboche, Makalu and the Cho La.
Learning from the Kongma La pass, we didn't stop for too long. Scoffed down some cheese bread we bought at the bakery, a wee bit of a break and we continued on from the pass. The trail winds down a staircase of huge stone slabs, covered with ice in parts, then drops steeply to a lake below the pass that faces another razor-toothed buttress of snowy peaks.
A lot of work has gone into this part of the pass. The large stone slab steps are quite impressive. The stone steps turn into a wide and obvious dirt path which takes you below a lake, before dropping you into the sandy valley of the Renjo Khola.
After a long day of hiking and taking a slight detour via the Bhoti Khosi valley, we reach Lumde.
Namche Bazaar, Khumbu, Nepal
Saturday, April 29, 2017
Wow, after yesterday we are gearing up for a long day back to Namche. We combined the last four days of our trip into two to allow for more time in Kathmandu. We are finally heading down.....well mostly down....there seems to be a lot of up on the way down....go figure
This morning dawned bright and we headed off. There was a lot of damage over on this side due to the earthquake in 2015 and some of our the trails were affected, although we were able to avoid most of the trouble spots as we worked our way towards Namche.
The more we continued down the more holy Stupas and Gompas began to appear. It took us 7 hours to get to Namche, we did stop for about an hour for some rest and food before the last push. We expected to come into Namche on a certain trail but fortunately we ended up near sock-ie. (Jhanet will elaborate later) on a beautiful evening. We found a lodge and when we requested a room with a bathroom attached the women told us she was all out. Then as we were about to leave she said she had a room with 5 beds and a bathroom we could have. Guess what!!! It had a shower, a hot shower.....our first in 17 days, how magnificent. Cleaned, warmed up and tired we headed for bed....oh there were heated blankets as well.........
The trial from Lumde passed through some beautiful stonewalled villages and quite possibly the nicest bridge crossing thus far. We've had more than about 8 bridge crossings, all crossing the same river.
Now for sock-ie
When we first stopped over in Namche at the beginning of this journey, we stayed in a lodge where our room had a mountain view and from my bed, every morning, I'd see the wind sock. This would be my first view and also the first thing I would mention in the morning. A daily wind report. So, sock-ie was born.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Yesterday afternoon we reached Namche and got clean. Now it was time to do a little shopping. We started with the most important commodity.....Yak cheese. When we came through here on the way up we found a local Sherpa shop who was selling yak cheese at a really good price. We returned to the same shop and to our sadness they had no cheese. We tried several other shops and it seem everyone was out, very sad! Now we did the tourist things and purchased a few items before starting down to Lukla. Nothing like adding a little weight to our packs for the final push.
The hike seemed very surreal. The trail was completely empty, no Yaks at all and hardly any humans. We had a few donkey trains pass us and some Sherpas, but that was it. Even the villages were deserted. It is interesting how different the route looks on the way back.
The last half hour of the trial was a constant climb and slightly unexpected. It really took all we had left.
This was a very long day and to add to the excitement we had a nice thunderstorm with hail, rain and wind that followed us for the last few hours. Both Jhanet and I were spent! We found a lodge in Lukla, had dinner and then found out what time we needed to be at the airport. 6am for a 7am flight back to Kathmandu.
Monday, May 1, 2017
6am....no breakfast and the amazing steeply angled runway of Tenzing-Hillary Airport. What a great airport, it's completely and utterly organized chaos. People pushing and shoving all trying to get tickets and check their baggage. We already had our tickets so only had to fight to drop our bags. Once done we went through security and waited for the first planes to arrive. At about 6:30 planes began arriving at about 10 minutes apart. It's was crazy. It takes a plane about 10 minutes to land, unload, load and take off again. All of the flights need to happen in the morning due to the winds increasing throughout the afternoon. Our plane arrived we loaded up and within a few minutes we were airborne. All of this takes place without any electronics involved. Pure human, manual labor.
I love this airport..........
We landed in Kathmandu around 7:30 am, headed to our hotel, had breakfast and after a much needed hot shower, followed by a nap, we had our first fusion meal in an actual restaurant.
Kathmandu, Central Development Region, Nepal
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
After resting a good part of the day yesterday we were ready to start touring the city. First we planned to visit the Swayambhu Stupa. We headed off through the crazy streets looking at all of the different sellers of anything from goat heads to entire chicken carcasses. After about 30 minutes we came across the beginning of the stairs to the Stupa (365). Then we saw them........lots of monkeys! Everywhere. They were actually quite calm and non-aggressive. We continued up and finally reached to top. This area had quite a lot of damage due to the earthquake and restorations are still ongoing. If you are a tourist you needed to pay 200 Rs to enter the holy site. We payed and entered and we're bombarded with wares to buy. It's odd to see such a holy site being used as a market.
Swayambhu (Devanagari: स्वयम्भू स्तूप; Newar: स्वयंभू; sometimes Swoyambhu) is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city
Swayambhu is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. They are holy because Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Swayambhu Stupa stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and head lice grew. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys.
Remember before when I said the monkeys were calm and non-aggressive, well not all. I did end up getting ambushed by two monkeys who decided they wanted to coconut in my hand and were hanging off of my shirt for a few seconds. Luckily Jhanet was there with the GoPro to catch all of the action.
Kathmandu, Central Development Region, Nepal
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
After the self guided trek, we decided to hand the reigns over and arranged for a guided tour today of the Changu Naraya temple, Bhaktapur-a UNESCO heritage village and Patan Durbar.
Changu Narayan, is known as the oldest temple in the Kathmandu Valley, and is most certainly a feast for the eyes. The ancient structure has origins reaching back as far as the fourth century and It was rebuilt in 1702 after a major fire occurred. It houses one of the best collections of ancient stone sculptures in Nepal in its surrounding gardens. This was the case pre 2015. The amount of structural damaged caused by the earthquake is enormous. The gardens are no longer accessibleand the temple is being held up by supporting beams. Extensive restoration works are still being done. Even with all the damage, this is a magnificent site.
Our next stop is Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur is known as the 'City of Devotees', the 'City of Culture', the 'Living Heritage', and 'Nepal's Cultural Gem'. It is one of the 3 royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley. A large amount of the population are Newari. Tragically, Bhaktapur was effected by the earthquake in 2015, a great deal. The devastation on the temples are clear to see, yet it remains a magnificent site. Large temples with detailed wood carvings and imposing stone statues.
Our final stop was Patan. Once a fiercely independent city-state, Patan (pronounced pah-tan) is now almost a suburb of Kathmandu, separated only by the murky Bagmati River. Many locals still call the city by its original Sanskrit name of Lalitpur (City of Beauty) or by its Newari name, Yala. Almost everyone who comes to Kathmandu also visits Patan’s spectacular Durbar Sq – even after the 2015 earthquake, this remains the finest collection of temples and palaces in the whole of Nepal.
Kathmandu, Central Development Region, Nepal
Friday, May 5, 2017
Well we both survived the Everest Three Passes Trek. This was a hard trek and one that we will always remember. We did this trek unsupported (without guides and porters) and would recommend this to others who are planning this trek. Yes it means you actually carry some weight but if you pack smart the weight is not too much.
We have kept good records of all that we packed along with our itinerary for reference and if anyone has any questions we would be more than will to share what we have learned during our travels.
Go slowly and do not rush....the altitude will shut you down completely and the cost of a heli ride back to Kathmandu is extremely expensive.
Make reservations with your lodge for Lobuche & Gorak Shep the night or two before you arrive, (this area is extremely busy) and the lodges fill up, many people are turned away-especially if you do not have a guide.
Cost per day: 40 USD for 2 people
Below is our Itinerary (it was slightly different that originally planned) but this worked well for us.
Day 01 Lukla to Phakding
Day 02 Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Day 03 Namche Bazaar - (Khunde & Khumjung) - Rest Day
Day 04 Namche Bazaar to Pangboche
Day 05 Pangboche (Ama Dablam base camp) - Rest Day
Day 06 Pangboche to Dingboche
Day 07 Dingboche to Chukhung
Day 08 Chukhung (Chukhung Ri) - Rest Day
Day 09 Chukhung to Kongma La Pass to Lobuche
Day 10 Lobuche to Gorak Shep Everest Base Camp (return)
Day 11 Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar (did not do - weather) to Dzonglha
Day 12 Dzonglha - Rest Day
Day 13 Dzonglha to Cho La Pass to Gokyo
Day 14 Gokyo (Gokyo Ri, 5330m) - Rest Day
Day 15 Gokyo (Lakes) - Rest Day
Day 16 Gokyo to Renjo La Pass to Lumde
Day 17 Lumde to Namche Bazaar
Day 18 Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Day 19 Fly to Kathmandu
I have also included the list of gear we took. The only items we were hoping to use that we didn't was our tent and sleeping pads which only added 3lbs to our overall weight. In total we each carried 12 kg (26.5 lbs) w/o water.
Tent (not needed on this trek)
Jet boil Pots(2 mugs)/cloth
Knife (swiss army) w/case
Water Filter (Sawyer Mini)
Water tablets (chlorine dioxide- 150 liters)
Bottle (collapse) Nalgene
First Aid Kit
extra day pack
Hand warmers/Toe warmers
Lip Balm (2)
Warm Gloves/Light weight Gloves
Long John's Top(2) Long John's Bottom (2)