And so begins the second part of the Everest adventure! Where last I left off, I was in Namche Bazaar. We spent two nights in Namche, hiking up several hours the day after we arrived and then returning down to Namche in order to acclimatize. I, however, did not. By that point, the illness in my lung had progressed to what sounded like bronchitis, and I was having trouble breathing. I briefly attempted the day hike but quickly had to turn back, instead spending a good part of my day in bed, concerned I was not going to make it much farther up the mountain. I ventured into Namche briefly, purchasing both the cheapest Mars bars (88 cents) and the most expensive gummy bears (4 dollars) I had ever seen. Relatedly, I am considering quitting my job to enter the gummy bear import business in Namche.
Thankfully, I managed to pull myself together and keep going (no thanks to either my antibiotics or Dayquil). The next day, we left Namche for Phortse, a small farming village, via the Mong La Pass, which snaked through the mountains. There were some excellent views of various peaks.
We also came upon a woman who was helping her (I assume) husband collect money for the privately-funded maintenance of the trail. I was fascinated by what she was making. The lack of crochet hook or knitting needles led me to assume that it is macrame, but if anyone knows for certain, please tell me!
As usual, the trail was varied and reminded me of demented ribbon candy, with its pronounced ups and downs. I was surprised, however, by all the beautiful and varied vegetation. Even more surprising were the little bumblebees and butterflies that I saw.
That was the only railing I ever saw on the trail. A lawyer always notices.
It was at this altitude that we began to see yaks. Above are a pair of yaks in front of a town on the way to Phortse. Following a brutal ascent, we descended all the way down to the Dudh Koshi River, and then ascended back up to arrive in Phortse.
In the above picture is a stupa with the Buddha eyes painted onto it. In taking this picture and not paying attention to my surroundings, I was almost caught in the crossfire of an angry dzopkyo argument. I thankfully escaped ungored.
This is not one of the culpable dzopkyo. I show him as an example of a model citizen.
We tented down for the night but, as usual, ate inside of a lodge. The lodge shown above struck me as particularly beautiful, so I took a picture. To the right, you can see the stove that heats the entire room. Because there are fewer and fewer trees at this elevation, the proprietors burn yak dung patties for heat. Yes, it is someone’s job to carry a basket and collect the yak dung on the trails. And I’m told that it is (thankfully!) a well paying job.
After a night filled with strange yak noises, we set out on our way to Pangboche, an even smaller village. The trail was similar to the one from the day before, with its snaking turns around mountains.
The trail was also another fun (read: not fun at all) exploration in repeated ascension and descent.
Pictured above is one of many fun staircases up. Commonly, you’d proudly find yourself at the top, round the corner, and find a steep trail down. I think my screams of “WHY?!” echoed throughout the valley.
Like the previous day, I saw multiple yaks.
Here is a small yak having some lunch. At one point on the trail, I stopped to take a picture of something behind me and when I turned back around, I found myself face to face with a giant yak. We both seemed surprised by the other’s presence.
Finally, we descended(!) to Pangboche.
This was the view from my tent– some resting yaks and a whole lotta snow-capped mountain. Because this village was so small, we ate in the tent for the first and only time during the trek. We were treated to some beautiful views when we woke up.
We began our day with a visit to a monastery…
…which we promptly realized was closed! Above on the left, you can see a woman spinning all of the prayer wheels on the outside of the monastery. After this failed attempt, we set off for Dingboche!
As we continued on the trail, snow-capped peaks greeted us at every turn. You might ask yourself at this point: was the trail winding and sadistically varied like all the other days? Was it a constant game of gains and losses in elevation?
Yes, of course it was! What a silly question. But the scenery made it more than bearable.
A brief walk through a forest of trees marked the last time we would encounter them until the descent. Instead, we found ourselves in an ecosystem filled with shrubs and, omnipresent as ever, rocks.
If I never see another rock again, I will have lived a successful life. I cannot even begin to explain how frequently I tripped on rocks.
Some rocks were better than others, of course. Pictured above are mani stones, inscribed with the Tibetan Buddhist mantra of “om mani padme hum.”
Indeed, there were Buddhist relics everywhere along the trek. Above is a stupa, which are ubiquitous throughout the entire trail.
To the right in the above picture, you can see the stupa that sits directly outside of Dingboche. After a not-particularly-challenging trek, we reached Dingboche at lunchtime.
Above are some of the residents and visitors to our camp site. In the background you can see a little boy who was quite fond of playing with giant sticks.
That evening, I decided to attempt some nighttime photography (my first and last attempt at it). I was not displeased with the results, especially since my methods were rather crude. I didn’t bring a tripod, so instead I fidgeted about with the manual focus through mostly guesswork and rested my camera on a stone wall covered in yak dung patties (recall that that is what is burned for warmth). The hand sanitizer I brought was undoubtedly my best investment.
The reality was much darker than the picture shows, so I was quite pleased that I was able to get things relatively in focus. And I’m sure I made quite the sight, fidgeting in the dark with my camera while crouched next to a bunch of yak crap.
The next day we remained camped in Dingboche and went on a relatively moderate 3 hour hike for acclimatization purposes.
Here is Dingboche from the beginning of the hiking trail. It was cosmopolitan compared to the last two villages we camped in.
Another stupa on the hike up! The views on the hike were spectacular.
Here is one view. And then on the other side…
…was this view. This was probably one of my favorite days on the trek. Beautiful views, a comparatively brief and easy hike, and Ritz crackers at lunchtime tea. What else can you ask for?