Neil and Robin|
Everest Trek: Jiri - Namche - Gokyo - Kala Pattar
# Days: 24
Avg Hours Trekked per Day: 7h
Number of Nights over 4,000m: 9
Highest Sleep: 5180m
Highest Elevation: 5357m
Number of Showers: 2
After some significant baking indulgence (mmm lemon cheesecake half off after 7p!) in Kathmandu we decided it was time to hit the trail again. Inspired by a couple of crazy 50-something French Canadians, we chose the trek less travelled - 10 days to Namche Bazaar to see 'the real Nepal' (most sane individuals fly).
Before we knew it, we were dipping into our medical kits on a daily basis and digging deep for every French swear-word in our vocabulary as we discovered why so few choose this route. Each day seemed to start with a 1000m climb to a peak and finish with a 900m drop to a river valley. By Day 7, we were actually below the elevation from Day 2. By the time we got to Namche Bazaar, we had vertically gained more than 10,000m total (more than the height of Everest!)
After getting a few ailments behind us, we started to feel pretty proud of ourselves for keeping the aggressive pace set in our Trekking Guidebook. One night, we were patting ourselves on the back after a really tough 7.5h day (that finished in the dark) when a British bloke drifted into our Guesthouse and casually mentioned that he and his trekking-mate had a long day:
British Bloke: We're a bit knackered, it's been a long day
Us: Yeah, us too, we know what you mean. Where'd you start today?
British Bloke: Just above Bandhar (as he buys a quart of beer)
Us: That's where we were two days ago, you just did our last two days in one day!!
British Bloke: Right then, Cheers.
We sat dumbfounded trying to compute how this guy and his girlfriend could possibly have doubled what we thought was already an aggressive pace. We concluded we liked our pace just fine and any faster is just 'silly' ;)
As the Brits blew by us the next day we discovered that "the girlfriend" was actually a guy who happened to be the reigning two-time world champion alpine racer. The guy we had met the previous evening was training for an 8000m peak in April. Our universe was restored! By the time we finally reached Namche Bazaar, the hot shower and bakery were a welcome break as we tried to psyche ourselves up for Gokyo Ri.
As we approached Gokyo, the incredible woolly-mammoth-esque Yaks began to be a regular site, adding to the other-worldly ambience of the region. The Yaks, as it turns out, are a self-contained eco-system. They haul cargo back and forth to the market, provide Yak cheese to eat (mmm), and heat every restaurant above 4000m with their burning dung. Not to mention, they're quite an obstacle to get around during mid-night dashes to the outhouse!
Gokyo Ri (5357m) was a new height and the highlight of the trek with incredible panoramic views of the entire Everest Range. We liked it so much, we decided to top it off with the 'scenic' route to the famous 'Scoundrel's View' of Everest the next day - big mistake!! It took us three days to feel recovered from this exertion...Luckily, because the pass (Cho La) was closed, we had nowhere to go but down for a couple of days.
As we made the turn towards Sagamartha (Everest) and began to stay and visit the homes of all the local Sherpa heroes, we really didn't have to dig too deep for inspiration. We would stop for lunch and see a life-size poster of the first Nepali woman to summit Everest and talk to her sister about it. At night, we'd get our host to recount his stories of guiding Sir Edmund Hillary and Jimmy Carter on their return treks to the region. Of course, all this nostalgia was accompanied by tales of recent and past tragedies, which served to keep our awareness way up.
After a vicious dog-fight in the centre of town, we picked up a new companion (or, more accurately, he picked us) to escort up to Kala Pattar - a feisty canine we came to know as 'puppers'. He stuck with us through the cold nights (under our bed) and the long days. We grew quite attached to him, especially when we got fogged-in and lost the trail. Unfortunately, our pinnacle trek up the famous Kala Pattar was clouded in. After waiting two-and-a-half days for clearance, like the true mountaineers, we had to accept fate and head down.
Stopping in the picturesque village of Tengboche, we were witness to a special service at the monastery by the Buddhist monks. They were celebrating the Buddhist New Year and with the arrival of so much new snow, there was a festive feeling once the ceremony ended. Watching such a large number of monks race to put on makeshift skis and bomb down the hill in their robes was a rare and memorable event right up there with meeting ice-age looking yak trains trudging back through the snow from the Namche market.
To say the least, the sight of airplanes landing at the Lukla airport was a foreign, yet welcome vision by the time we got there. We had thoroughly enjoyed our odyssey through the mountains, but were more than ready to fly back to Kathmandu and all its hot showers, pizzas, Indian food, indoor toilets, and all-around general comfort. We had probably reached our own personal height of lifetime fitness and were ready to celebrate!
Unfortunately, our adventure didn't quite end there. Robin had come down with a nasty fever and chills...
Click HERE to see more Nepal pics...