Day 10: Pangboche to Dingboche

Elevation: 4,400m

We woke up today to spectacularly clear skies, unveiling the nearby peaks of Kangtega and Thamserku. We took breakfast of tea, porridge and Tibetan bread outside and viewed the mountains over the monastery adjacent to our lodge, which made for a very Himalayan morning.

 

After breakfast we set out on a trail towards Dingboche, which roughly follows the Imja Khola. Khola means “small stream”, but the raging torrents below us looked big enough. Though only a short trek today, about 4 hours, we climbed well above the tree line and ended in a completely different landscape than we started in. Gone are the lush forests of fir and rhodonendron dripping in hanging lichen, replaced with stunted juniper shrubs and huge erratic boulders covered in lichen and moss. Exploring this area feels like walking on another planet. We pause to rest briefly and our professor gives a lecture on alpine and glacial environments, providing some context for the shifting landscape.

 

Dingboche is a village unlike the previous two we overnighted at, in that it is much more driven by the tourism economy. Fortunately for us, however, this means that our lodgings are more comfortable, and there’s no limit on the Wi-Fi. After lunch, a few of us explored the surrounding area more. I personally paid more attention to the sun than usual today, as I borrowed someone’s portable solar charger to charge my phone. I also noticed that solar cookers and solar water heaters were very common in Dingboche. In a town above the tree line, one can imagine there is a more pressing need for energy besides traditional biomass like wood, and more sustainable than fossil fuels.
Tomorrow is another day of trekking to higher altitudes to further acclimatize before backtracking to the trail towards Base Camp.

– Andrew R

 

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Day 9: Phortse to Pangboche

Another phenomenal day of hiking as we made our way from Phortse to Pangboche in only around three hours. The landscape was lovely, with the trail cut along a mountain pass, with sheer cliff on one side in many places. We saw plenty of tahr along the way, some which we startled off the path. (Note: two days later a man saw a snow leopard along this same stretch of path, most likely hunting tahr young, which are one of its main prey items. Though I didn’t see the video of it that the man had taken, apparently he was shaking so hard that it was difficult to see anything).

 

Along the way I chatted with one of our guides, whose trekking pace reminds us all of strolling in the garden. Though that may seem painstakingly slow, there is a method to the madness. By walking slowly, we are better able to breathe the low-oxygen air (Pangboche, at 3860 m, has 64% of oxygen available at sea level), but also prevent lactic acid build-up in our bodies and prevent our heart rates from elevating, which improves acclimatization. As we walked, our guide continuously stopped to congratulate friends and acquaintances who had summited Everest and were now heading down at the end of the mountaineering season. Mountaineering guides are easily distinguishable due to their deeply tanned faces and pronounced goggle tans. Helicopter companies are also doing great business right now as they take equipment and climbers, who are often reluctant to trek out, to Lukla, where they will catch planes back to Kathmandu. Since we’ve been here in the Khumbu Region we have already heard of three deaths of Everest climbers, one of whom was a Sherpa and friend of one of our guides. I’m such a hazardous and unforgiving region, it seems as if most locals have been affected by loss of this nature in some way. On our way to Pangboche, we also got a great view of the Tengboche Monastery, where mountaineers receive blessings from the head lama for a safe summit. We are visiting this monastery later on our trek.

Once in Pangboche, we visited a different monastery, Pangboche Gompa – the oldest monastery in the region. It was established in the 16th century, rebuilt in 1667, and was undergoing repairs from earthquake damage when we entered. Construction was certainly different than what we are accustomed to in Canada – everything is done by hand. One man was sawing wood into 2x4s, and another was planing wood with a razor attached to another piece of wood. Others were cutting rock into rough rectangles with chisels and mallets. Our monastery guide said that repairs were slow due to regulations put forward by the government due to what I believe concerned the monastery’s heritage preservation, though the exact reason was lost in translation. Fortunately, the main building sustained little damage. It was incredibly colourful, with murals of various manifestations of the Buddha covering the walls. Some paintings were so old their colours had faded almost completely away. There were grand almost throne-like chairs for the head lamas and walls with cubbies containing cotton scrolls of ancient texts translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan that the monks read to the villagers during an annual festival that takes place in autumn. The most noteworthy relics contained in the monastery are the supposed skull and hand of a yeti, which are replicas of the originals that were stolen in 1991. We also visited the head lama in his living quarters off the main room of the monastery, where we each received a blessing for a safe trek. With the blessing we received braided cords to wear around our necks for protection. Some of us also visited the largest religious statue in the region, which depicts a disciple of the Buddha in the region. It was a mystical experience, with dogs auspiciously emerging from the mist.

 

The lodge owner here has summited Everest 12 times as well as numerous other mountains. It’s amazing to think that the man bringing you tea is a world-class mountaineer. I wish I could speak Sherpa as there are so many people I’ve seen that I’m sure have amazing stories. Beyond the mountaineers, I would love to speak to those that have seen Nepal open up to outsiders after the Raina dynasty ended in 1951. Since then, the country has been through rapid change, from the emergence of democracy to the growth of trekking and mountaineering tourism. To hear accounts of this evolution firsthand would be incredibly interesting.

– Emily

Day 8: Day in Phortse

Yesterday we trekked from Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Phortse(3830m) via the Mong La pass (3975m).

In Phortse , we are staying in the Lodge owned by Panuru Sherpa, who is a well renowned mountaineer that has worked on expeditions on peaks including Everest 14 times, Cho Oyu 14 times, and a number of other ascents on Ama Dablam, Lhotse and more. While staying in the Lodge, his wife showed us a photo he posted on Facebook that day- of him on the summit of Mt. Everest for his 14th time, having climbed the Northeast ridge from Tibet that day.

In the morning we met for Brekfast, this was going to be an acclimitisation day in Phortse. We left the lodge and passed by the Khumbu Climbing center, a project ran by American mountaineer Conrad Anker to train Sherpa high altitude porters and guides for work on Everest and other expeditions.

We proceeded to hike up to the outer edge of the village and then through a Rhodedendron forest slowly making our way uphill to a summer Yak pasturing village. Many comments were made about feeling like being in a video game or a fantasy film. The village consisted of stone walled Yak enclosures and small homes, but we were basically the only people there minus one sherpa and his few Yaks. A small group of us continued up a little bit higher, and encountered a large group of Himalayan Tar (mountain goats) that were very close to us. They seemed curious but not scared. This hike got us up to 4000m metres and benefited our acclimation pretty well. Most of us had higher o2 sat then we did the night before.

Phortse has been one of the coolest places on the trek so far and its very cool to be off the main tourist track and see things that most Everest trekkers will never see.

Until tommorow,

Geog 430c

Day 7 Namche to Phortse

The day started again by the giants showing their broad peaks through the clearing clouds at 6 am. What an absolute treat. When the clouds part to reveal the mountains you get a sense of utter smallness. After another wonderful breakfast served by our wonderful mountain guides we packed up and set out! Unfortunately we were again a few people short but they are on the mend and should join up with the rest of the team tomorrow. Today the journey is to “Phortse”. This village is home to a few special things. One, the owner of the lodge we’re staying at has summited Everest 13 times. And two, Conrad Anchor is building a climbing school here to train sherpas to be technically skilled climbers. That is if leading mountain expeditions is what they wish to pursue. Curiously, the school has been under construction for over 4 years and there seems to be no answers as to why it is not finished yet. With commercialization of the mountain the draw to become a high altitude Sherpa is growing. The money is good and you only need to work a few months out of the year. However there are still multiple deterring factors. The hike today started at 3440m at Namche. Along the departing trail out of Namche Mt Everest was in view again! We climbed up to 3975m for lunch at Mong La. It was a tiny town and the clouds surrounded us. The wind howled and it was a bit eerie. After lunch we scaled down into the valley where we followed the stream called Dudh. We saw yaks hauling heavy loads and felt a little bad about ourselves barely able to carry our own weight plus tiny packs, not to mention seeing all the portors hauling more than their own weight. We followed the river until the path lead to a bridge crossing. And again the trail lead upwards to Phortse at 3830m. It was a decent climb. No one is ever really prepared for the mountains, they are beyond any gym membership. We saw a few animals today: the himilayan tahr, himalayan eagle, the danphe (Nepal’s national bird), the musk deer, yak, cow, yakbe, red billed chough … walking on the trail today the ridges were very exposed and the danger and barrenness of the mountains was undeniable. It’s truly fascinating to see how humans and animals have adapted to this environment. This landscape is unforgiving, gorgeous, deadly. It is ying and yang, and walking through it you really get a sense of its challenges. Today we learned that someone had passed away on Everest, and again it makes you think deeply about the struggles of surviving in the mountain environment at high altitudes. We ended the day with a delicious home made dal bhat. It consists of lentils, potatoes, boiled veggies, rice and pickled chilies. Tomorrow we have an easy hike into a seasonal yak village. Can’t wait. 

-Tanya

Day 6- Rest day in Namche

Namche is a town one would consider a perfect fantasy. The chill running through my body and the bright light penetrating though the curtains slowly woke me up. I rushed to open the curtains. I didn’t want to miss the mesmerizing scenery of the reflection of the sun rays on the mountains. A few hours later, we head for a small hike towards sagmartha park. On the hike, I was thankful for my legs and body for carrying me through this walk. I was in the moment, not taking things for granted, observing the locals and seeing the world through different lens. I remembered thinking about how special this walk was as it will allow me to reach my destination, which is basecamp.

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Four hours later, we stoped to take a break and enjoyed the view of the mountains surrounding us. I then decided to sit by a water stream that runs through the town, and I noticed a couple of ladies washing clothes by hand. Also, many women were wearing beautiful traditional clothes and jewellery. Our day ended with a delicious meal, where we each got to express our throne, which is a challenge we experienced during the day, a rose, which is a positive, and our hopes for the future.

Overall, through this entire journey on the Himalayas, I hope to grow, become a positive agent of change and view the world from a different perspective.

By: Laura Rodriguez

Day 5: Phakding to Namche Bazar

After a good night’s sleep (for most of us) we had breakfast and got on the road for our first full day of trekking. Over eight hours, we made our way from Phakding (2640 m) to Namche Bazar (3440 m) for a total elevation gain of a rather brutal 800 m. The first three hours of the trek were “Nepali flat” and included our official entrance into Sagarmatha National Park. Sagarmatha is the Nepalese word for Everest. The second half was what Sanjay referred to as “Junior Killer Hill”, which was exactly as painful it sounds, especially as we could start to feel the elevation gain. The trail we walked was well-established, though we had to take care to watch for rocks and other tripping hazards. Who knows where one would end up if we were to fall! Traffic on the trail was quite light as it is officially the shoulder season for trekking, so we escaped the ant line of trekkers that can be found in March, April, September, and October. Porters passed us balancing loads on their backs that seem to weigh more than they do, casually texting or chatting on their phones as they tore across the mountainside. These people are unbelievably hardy and we could not stop exclaiming in awe every time one passed. We also had to avoid caravans of donkeys and dzo (a yak-cow crossbreed), sticking to the cliff side of the trail so we would not be pushed off. I was also particularly excited to see a Sherpa with a very pronounced goggle tan, which could only mean he had been mountaineering.

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Coming into Namche was unbelievable. Andrew, Max and I exclaimed over how it felt almost like a Himalayan version of Rivendell, the elfin city from Lord of the Rings. We turned a corner and there it was in all its glory, complete with a beautiful gate bordered by water channels and prayer wheels. The lodge in Namche is downright luxurious, with adjoining bathrooms and heated blankets! The perfect treat before we head further up into more rural and remote settlements.

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Though it was only our first day on the trail, we already have some new hobbies developing. They include (but are not limited to):
– Stepping in fresh donkey poo
– Peeing every five minutes due to the amount of water we have to drink because of the altitude
– Measuring our blood oxygen saturation levels
– Fantasizing about various snacks
– Taking naps on rocks
– Exclaiming over stray dogs and cats
I would also like to report that Eddie has received the first trail name of the trip, which is “Hangry Eddie”. It is especially appropriate as it can sound like “hangry yeti” when said properly, which is pleasingly Himalayan.

 

Overall, this region is amazing. Sherpa villages nestled into the mountainside are dwarfed by the sheer scale of the mountains. So far the mountain peaks have been obscured by lingering cloud cover, but even still their majesty is apparent. This place is enchanting, with another spectacular view around every corner.

 

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Deep spirituality also permeates the landscape as we continuously encounter and walk clockwise around religious structures such as chortens, prayer wheels, murals, and rocks with mantras such as “om mani padme hum” etched into them. Giant boulders also dot the land where they have been deposited by glaciers. Hazards such as these precariously placed boulders, cliff faces, and suspension bridges that stretch from mountain to mountain are adorned with prayer flags as an appeal to the gods for safety, and it common for houses to be gathered around monasteries for further risk aversion. So far, some of us are more affected by the altitude than others, but an acclimatization day in Namche tomorrow will hopefully help us all feel up to par. Along the trek lodges get fairly remote, so don’t be alarmed if we can not communicate every day. Every night we are mostly in good spirits but tired and oftentimes go to bed shortly after dinner. We are all excited to continue the trek and look forward to sharing our experiences.

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– Emily

 

Day 4 – Lukla

We woke up early in the morning to catch our 6:00 am flight to Lukla. The Kathmandu airport was hectic with many tour groups were rushing to the check-in desk. While we were passing through security, one of our group member was ambushed by a monkey at the airport, where it made multiple attempts to snatch his breakfast out of his hand. The monkey latched on to his leg like koala bear and would not let go until he rigorously shook his leg.

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After our group pass through the security, there was a sea of people waiting at the gates, all hoping their flight would take off on time. Our group waited at the airport for 6 hours but then weather wasn’t cleaning up. In order to make our timeline, we ended up taking ahelicopter to Lukla instead. Our group was excited for the opportunity to be able to observe the mountain landscape in close proximity.

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After we landed in Lukla, our group grabbed a late lunch at a lodge near the landing pad and then we started on our trek journey to Phakding, which was about 3 hours long. On the trail, we saw porters transport large items and supplies up and down the mountain for the tea house along the trail. Tourism drives the economy in the area. It makes one appreciate the power of capitalism, motivating the local people to make multiple trips a day.

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