After returning from Chitwan I spent another night in Kathmandu at the Yak and Yeti Hotel before meeting my group of climbers.  This night I had a fantastic huge steak dinner with Bill from the UK. 

My friend Marek organized a few of his friends on this trip using a Polish Climbing group.  He set me up a bit by taking a few liberties in describing me and what I do to the guides.  The guides expect an American Special Forces commander to organize his own transport and just appear out of nowhere.  When I show up to the Samsara Hotel the entire climbing group is present in the lobby.  I march in with my gear over my shoulder, drop my gear and am greeted by Marek (who is drunk from his flight) with bear hug, Kristov and Bill.  I am quickly and briefly introduced to the guides Peter and Ola and then am immediately immersed in 3 arm wrestling contests....which I win.  This all of course impresses upon everyone that doesn’t know me that I AM Special Forces.  Throughout the trip Polish conversations debate whether I am Special Forces, a spy or a hitman.  These guesses are reinforced by the fact that Bill and I am so organized and by the pictures I show of my new Cadillac CTS-V.  When they confront me later in the trip I let them continue to believe I am all of these...I’m the man.

Marek and Kristov goes out drinking and says they’ll meet us for beers later.  My roommate for the trip is Bill from the UK.  We go to repack our gear into what we are taking up to the Himalaya and what we are leaving behind.  I decide not to take my very heavy expensive camera gear which made the trekking much easier.  When we come down for beers, Marek needs sleep.  When dinner time arrives, Marek and Kristov wakes and sees 6:00 on the clock, panics that he has missed the morning departure, grabs all his gear and runs to the lobby.  That was good for a laugh.  After dinner they discover they had left their gear in the lobby, laugh #2.

Day 1 Kathmandu to Lukla (2840m, 9317ft) to Monjo (2835m, 9300ft)

We wake up at 4am and head to the airport to catch the first flights to one of the most dangerous airports in the World, Lukla.  This airport is situated on the side of a mountain with a cliff off one end of the runway and a mountain wall on the other end.  The runway slants about 15 degrees, you land going uphill and takeoff going downhill.  We had a very smooth landing.

We head into a tea house for....tea.  We sort our gear for what we will carry and what the porters will carry.  Then we are off for a few hours up/down hike to Monjo.  Only a half mile from the airport there is a “Starbucks”.  We have lunch at 4 and dinner at 6.  The menu is set for the entire region, so you have the same choices in each tea house.  It is recommended not to eat meat up here (there are only a couple meat items on the menu anyway) because the meat is carried raw on the backs of porters from Kathmandu.  There is no refrigeration.  There are only a few things reliable to eat on the menu so I have a lot of tomato soup, fries with egg, and toast with egg with little variation. 

Day 2 Monjo to Namche Bazaar (3440m, 11286ft)

The nights are very cold, already around 35 degrees.  It will get colder as winter approaches and as we gain in altitude.  Even inside we have one night that was around 5-10 degrees.

The hike to Namche Bazaar from Monjo is mostly uphill.  Along the way we gain our first glimpses of Everest but it is very far away.  Namche Bazaar is the central meeting/gathering/trading place in the region.  The town is built into the side of a mountain and is situated as a horseshoe.  Namche is quite large and has tons of shops with gear, art, supplies and toiletries.  It also has two helicopter pads and most important a couple bars.

More tea.  All afternoon tea.  You must stay hydrated up here so I drink 2L during the hike each day but need 2 more and we drink that all in tea.  I had a beer or 2 to wash the tea down properly.

We are in Namche for 2 nights.

Day 3 Namche Bazaar to Thame (3800m, 12467ft) to Namche Bazaar Acclimatization Hike

This is a nice easy rest day.  We take a leisurely 4 hour hike along the river to Thame and back.  In Thame a few of us share a pot of tea.

In the afternoon we sort through some gear, climbing gear is going a different more direct route.  We pick up a few toiletries and cooking gas for one night. 

I pay around $5 to take a 15 min shower.  There was a bit of shower drama here as one of the ladies jumped the line when lunch was problem.....but then she proceeds to enjoy a 45min shower while we all wait.

Bill and I opt for a couple guinness at the Irish Bar which is pretty much all you need at this altitude.  We have a nice chat with the owner and buy a couple of his t-shirts.

Day 4 Namche Bazaar to Phortse Thanga (3680m, 12073ft)

We head up above Namche Bazaar to another airport, this one smaller than Lukla and grass landing strip.  We watch a plane land, change passengers and then take off again.

We head above this to a spot where we get some nice views of Ama Dablam. 

We head to Khumjung where we view the Yeti scalp and stop at a nice bakery. 

Then we continue up for quite a while before we drop down along the river to Phortse Thanga for our usual several liters of tea, lunch at 4, dinner at 6.

Day 5 Phortse Thanga to Machherma (4470m, 14665ft)

Today was just a long hike up to Machherma.  All the tea houses have a central dining room where everyone gathers for hours of drinking tea and socialization.  In the center is a stove for heating that is loaded with a bit of wood to start the fire, lots of yak dung and kerosine.  The same guy who breaks the yak dung into the stove has a second job, he also brings you your food  :-/

Day 6 Machherma to Gokyo (4790m, 15715ft) and optional hike Gokyo Ri (5357m, 17575ft)

Another day going up and up to the lakes of Gokyo.  When we arrive at the lakes Marek, Kristov , Bill and I took a lot of picutres and video.  But I neglected myself, failing to put on a jacket or hat.  When I arrived at Gokyo I was drained of energy from trying to generate enough heat.  Ola tells me to put on a hat and rest, so I go to the room and get in my sleeping bag and under a blanket and it takes me 20min to warm up.  I took a short nap and then come out to the dining room where the yak dung stove is warming the room.  I felt much better but I decide not to hike Gokyo Ri.

Day 7 Gokyo to Phortse (3810m, 12500ft)

Today we descend all the way down the valley to Phortse.  I hike today with Ola and we have a nice long chat.

Day 8 Phortse to Pangboche (3930m, 12893ft)

Today we have a rest day where we take a short hike to Pangboche.  I am not the first to arrive but since my porter has delivered my gear I am able to take a shower first.

While we are up here trekking/climbing, down below in Lukla the airport has been fogged in for days.  Over the next few days the stranded grows to 4000 people and the hotels become overrun and they are running out of food.  This makes global news.

Day 9 Pangboche to Thokla (Dughla) (4620m, 15157ft)

Now we are heading up another valley toward Everest Base camp and that will take a couple days.  In Pheriche we stop for the climbers memorial with the names of all those who have lost their lives on Everest.  This is made of stainless steel in the shape of a cone that has been cut in half.

Day 10 Thokla (Dughla) to Gorek Shep (5140m, 16863ft) and climb Kala Patthar (5550m, 18208ft)

Day 10-11 are perhaps the most enjoyable and rewarding of the trip.  We head up and up to Gorek Shep.  A couple people only hike 30 minutes and then return to Thokla. 

On the way we stop at “Dead Yak Hill” where Cairns (little Chortens) have been erected to memorialize those that have died on Everest.  Perhaps the most famous and most visited is for Scott Fischer.  Of interesting note, no chorten has been erected for Rob Hall.

When we arrive at Gorek Shep we eat a 2pm lunch and then head up Kala Patthar.  The air is getting thin here and that makes us go slow.  Bill doesn’t climb and Marek and Kristov are too slow for me so I go up at a guide-like pace.  At the top the rocks are bigger and more jumbled so it would be easy to twist an ankle or break a leg here.  When you go all the way to the top you sit on a pinnacle where your left and right and behind is a 1000m drop, don’t trip on the prayer flags here.

The views here are incredible and I got great pictures and video of Everest that include the South Col, Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori, the Khumbu Ice Fall and many other mountains surrounding us. 

As the sun sets fog is rolling in so I start running.  On the way I got some picutres of Everest in the orange glow of the sunset above the fog. 

Day 11 Gorek Shep to Everest Base Camp (5364m, 17598ft) and Thokla (Dughla)

In the morning I hike up to Everest Base Camp with Bill for a different view of Everest.  You can only see the tip of Everest poking it’s head above the other mountains from a certain elevated spot.  The Khumbu Ice fall is just amazingly large and dangerous.  Then we head back to Gorek Shep and continue back down the valley to Thokla for a night.

Day 12 Thokla (Dughla) to Dingboche (4410m, 14468ft) and hike to Bibre Kharka (4570m, 14993ft)

Today it is very cold when we get up and my gloves are slightly damp as I didn’t dry them properly last night.  Because of this and because we are returning down the way we came everyone moves quickly today to get to Dingboche.  The lodge has a bakery and I take advantage with a Chocolate roll.

After lunch I take a hike up to Bibre Kharka where there is a Chorten for fallen Polish climbers.  It is said to take 2 hours each way.  I stick with the guide at a quick pace and arrive in 65min.  I take some pictures and relax a little for 20 minutes.  Then I get it in my head that I want to get back down so that my round trip time is only 2 hours.  So I start trail running and immediately a 20 year old Nepalese cook joins me and we run in the areas that are safe and walk (my choice not his) in the areas that are rocky.  This was great fun and I get back in 2 hours and those that are in the lodge can’t believe I am back so fast.

I take a well needed shower.

Day 13 Dingboche to Pangboche (3930m, 12894ft)

On the way from Dingboche down to Pangboche Bil and I find a German Bakery and stop for some amazing Black Forest Cake.  They have some music on.  The crowd (all 4 of us) started singing when the Eagles, Hotel California came on.

Day 14 Pangboche to Tengboche (3860m, 12664ft)

We hike down to the river and cross and then back up to Tengboche.  It is a nice leisurely hike and me and Bill have a long talk.  Tengboche is my favorite town on the trek with a beautiful monastery.  We go to a puja for 15-20 minutes before growing tired of the repeated chants and feeling a bit repulsed by the regurgitation.  After settling down a bit we find a bakery for a snack.

Day 15 Tengboche to Namche Bazaar

Several hours of hike back to Namche Bazaar for a shower. 

News is that Lukla Airport has good weather and planes are flying.  This is great news for those stranded.  For us, we need the weather to be nice 2 days from now.  It doesn’t matter how many people are waiting, we have our flights scheduled for then and so we get priority.

Bill and I head down to the Irish bar in the afternoon for a couple Guinness.  I play Bill in a couple games of pool.  The owner wants to play me and he loses the first game and I surprisingly win the second.

After dinner Ola and I head down to the Paradise Bar where some of the others have gone.  Darren has heard that I play pool (hahaha) so he challenges the table.  We win a couple of games which is a riot because the guys we are playing are actually quite good and we seem to be....ummmm....not.

Day 16 Namche Bazaar to Lukla

Today we have a long hike down to the river and then up to Lukla and the Airport.  I hike with Ola today and we have a nice long discussion.  At the tea house and sick of tea the discussion turns to coffee.  Oh how I am sick of tea.  Oh how I miss coffee.  Ola says she’d love a Macchiato from Starbucks so I decide to rush out and get one.  It’s about a half mile away but when I get there I find out it isn’t a Starbucks but a knockoff, there is no Macchiato.  I bring back cappuccinos which were delicious. 

Day 17 Lukla to Kathmandu

Early in the morning the flights are flying so we head to the airport.  We go through ticketing and weigh in, hand check of our checked bags, security, hand check of our carry on (where they confiscate the rock I took from Everest Base Camp), and then wait.  When the flight is arriving we line up outside.  The plane comes off the runway, stops, opens the doors and everyone gets off quick while bags are unloaded.  Then we load as our bags are loaded.  It takes 1:20 from open door to close door and we are headed to the runway.  Best ride in the park, downhill we charge like a roller coaster and then pull up.

Enough Talk.  I know you want the pictures.

Everest Base Camp, Nepal

The value of our life is not solely measured by its length, but also by the depth of our hearts.

And breadth of our experiences.  And indeed the heights that we achieve.

October 24, 2011