Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Trekking - Namche Bazaar to Lobuche

Day FourNamche Bazaar (3,440m/11,286ft) to Tengboche (3,867 m/12,687 ft)

With something of a rest day under our belts and fresh off showers (since two days is still considered fresh), we started out for the tough trek to Tengboche.  The day began with a mid-morning tea stop in Kyangjuma, then a downhill walk to lunch.  There seemed to be a pattern where, immediately after lunch every day, we would begin the most difficult part of the day's hike.  This pattern often had us pretty sluggish to finish lunch!  After lunch on day four, a tough 600 m/1,968 ft. climb took us just over two hours up to Tengboche.  We arrived to Tengboche pretty tired, but the sight of one of the highest bakeries in the world just beside our teahouse helped our moods.  Although the mocha cake was as dry as the Great Thar Desert, who's complaining?  We were at almost 13,000 ft. after all!  There is also an important Buddhist monastery in Tengboche, and we spent some time in the afternoon wandering around admiring the paintings.  David made friends with a baby yak corralled in a pen outside.  Card games, a good dinner, and a warm chocolate pudding capped off the evening. 

Rhododendrons are Nepal's national flower - we were lucky that they were in full bloom during our trek
Yaks making their way down a steep bit of the trail.   The only way to get around on the trail to EBC is by foot, yak, horse, or donkey.
Just after arriving, pretty exhausted, to our teahouse in Tengboche

Day Five: Tengboche (3,867 m/12,687 ft) to Dingboche (4,530 m/14,800 ft)

The walls of our teahouse in Tengboche couldn't have been more than 1/4" thick, but waking up and pulling back the curtain to see the sun peaking over Mt. Everest definitely made up for seeing our breath all night and feeling quite a bit of breeze in our cold room.  We started the morning with a really beautiful hike that was mostly downhill through a gorgeous canopy of trees.  Our lunch stop was in Pangboche, with a perfect view of Mt. Ama Dablam.  One of our guides, Bharat, had heard that a Russian expedition would be going for summit on Ama Dablam that day, which meant we might be able to see them near the top around midday.  Several of us used binoculars to search the top of the mountain with no luck, but all of a sudden Kaley said, "I think I see some climbers!"  And sure enough we were able to spot three tiny climbers, who looked like they were making their way toward the summit.  Very exciting!  We arrived that afternoon in Dingboche, where we settled in for two nights for another acclimatization day.

David and Jason leaving Tengobche and heading into the tree canopy
A Himalayan Tahr (mountain goat) looking down on the trail
A bridge crossing between Tengboche and Dingboche

Day Six: Acclimatization day in Dingboche (4,530 m/14,800 ft); day hike to Chhukhung (4,730 m/15,518 ft)

Our first task in Dingboche was laundry.  David and I thought that we had become experts on doing laundry by hand, but it's easier said than done at 14,800ft!  After washing underwear at dawn in a metal basin, I think it took us both about 30 minutes to get feeling back in our fingers.  We really don't know how water can still be liquid at that temperature!  After breakfast we headed out for another "climb high, sleep low" acclimatization hike.  The day hike took us up to Chhukhung for lunch and then back down to Dingboche.  It was a pretty steep hike up and we had a strong wind in our faces on the way back, but we knew we had a hot shower waiting for us when we returned (our first in four days).  We hustled not wanting the gas to run out.  That night we celebrated Jason's birthday with marathon games of cards (hearts was the game-of-choice), beers, and a Buddhist prayer shawl.

David and Jason on the walk to Chhukhung
Celebrating Jason's birthday with some card games, beer, and a Buddhist prayer scarf

Day Seven
: Dingboche (4,530 m/14,800 ft) to Lobuche (4,930 m/16,174 ft)

The hike from Dingboche to Luboche was stunning!  We were above the treeline, but we stayed in a valley most of the way, so it wasn't too windy.  We took plenty of time to marvel at our surroundings -- mountains that towered at amazing heights.  Just spectacular.  Before reaching Lobuche, we walked through a large area of monuments to Sherpas and other climbers who have died while climbing in the Himalayas.  We knew immediately that we were entering a very, very harsh and challenging environment.  That afternoon, before and after dinner, we hunkered down in the main room of our teahouse to stay warm near the fire and play more cards.  Day seven may have been the longest marathon yet -- at least six hours of hearts, rummy, and even some poker!  

On the trail between Dingboche and Lobuche
Monuments to climbers and sherpas on the EBC trek
The monument to Scott Fischer, one of the guides who died in the 1996 Mt. Everest tragedy

Next stop:  Everest Base Camp . . .

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