Everest: Part II

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The view from Dingboche.

Part I
Part II (you’re on it!)
Part III
Part IV 

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.

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The very beginning of the hike out of 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.

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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!

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Macrame? Maybe?

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.

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That was the only railing I ever saw on the trail. A lawyer always notices.

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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.

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Here is 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.

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A Phortse resident with the mountains in the background.

This is not one of the culpable dzopkyo. I show him as an example of a model citizen.

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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.

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Orange vegetation during the fall! My heart sang.

The trail was also another fun (read: not fun at all) exploration in repeated ascension and descent.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Dzopkyo enjoying their breakfast before setting off.

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More dzopkyo.

We began our day with a visit to a monastery…

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…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!

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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?

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Look at the tiny person on the trail!

Yes, of course it was! What a silly question. But the scenery made it more than bearable.

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The river to the left is the Imja Khola river.

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.

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Pictured: not trees.

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.

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Some rocks were better than others, of course. Pictured above are mani stones, inscribed with the Tibetan Buddhist mantra of “om mani padme hum.”

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Indeed, there were Buddhist relics everywhere along the trek. Above is a stupa, which are ubiquitous throughout the entire trail.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here is Dingboche from the beginning of the hiking trail. It was cosmopolitan compared to the last two villages we camped in.

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Another stupa on the hike up! The views on the hike were spectacular.

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Here is one view. And then on the other side…

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…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?

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Everest: Part I

Okay, so I trekked to Everest Base Camp in the beginning of October.

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The beginning of the path to Base Camp.

Part I (you’re on it!)
Part II
Part III
Part IV 

I thought it would be fun to do a few entries on it! I took approximately 23984728374^23 pictures, so I’m going to split them into separate entries (and I’ll do a separate entry for Kathmandu at the very end). Let’s skip to the fun trekking part! And as always, click on any picture to make it bigger!

To begin the ascent to Everest Base Camp, you usually take a small plane from Kathmandu (capital of Nepal) to Lukla.

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This is the hot mess that is the local flights part of the Kathmandu airport.

You can do it the Hillary and Tenzing way and ascend from Kathmandu, but that’s just silly. …I, however, briefly considered it when I saw the plane.

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I am frightened of planes. I get scared inside of a jumbo Boeing 777. This plane was tiny and was going to land on a short landing strip on the side of a mountain. There is very little room for error in that kind of situation.


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Pictured: tiny inside.

That the flight attendant ran up the aisle during the short flight to hand the pilot a barf bag did not assuage my fears. But after a short flight with breathtaking views, we landed safely in Lukla, and I loosened my death grip on my seat’s armrest.

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It’s Lukla Airport!

So after grabbing our bags and drinking some tea, we were off on the beginning of our trek! We first passed through the town of Lukla, with its multitude of tourist shops.

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…Because every town needs an Irish pub, I guess?

After walking through Lukla, the trek began in earnest.

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On the road!

I should have known to really appreciate that stone path. It would be the last one I would see the entire trip.

On the first day, we traveled from Lukla to Phakding. A word of explanation on the trekking: we each carried our own backpack and our duffel bag was carried by a dzopkyo.

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The one in the back looks embarrassed by this behavior…

The elegant animal you see here is a dzopkyo, which is a cross between a cow and a yak. Although yaks are usually what come to mind when you think about Everest, dzopkyo are generally the preferred method of baggage handling because yaks cannot descend too far down and donkeys cannot ascend too far up. And that’s how we came to have our bags carried by these weirdos.   

Once we reached Phadking, we tented down for the night and enjoyed the success of our first day.
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The inside of my tent before I ejected everything from my bag.

The first day trek was quite pleasant and not very difficult. …Which lulled me into a horribly false sense of security. Day two was much, much worse. On day two, we made the trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar. And to make things more challenging, I was slowly developing a lung infection! My lungs had been bothering me after the first day in Kathmandu, and I had (perhaps foolishly) hoped it would clear up quickly. Day two quashed all hopes of that and breathing became harder and more painful.

The scenery, however, was worth it. The route to Namche was lush and absolutely beautiful.

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Waterfall!

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In the picture to the right, you can see the omnipresent prayer wheel.

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Women tending to a cabbage field.

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To the left you can see a snow-capped peak in the background with conifer trees in the foreground. And to the right, a beautiful waterfall decorated with prayer flags!

We also met some animal friends along the way…

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This adorable little beggar really wanted a bite of chocolate bar.

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Working donkeys carrying loads on the trail.

We then officially entered Sagarmatha National Park:

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The entrance gate we used.


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The sight that greets you when you enter the park.

It is much more forested than I expected.

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Views of a river. Look at the mountain peaking out in the background of the picture to the left!

We trekked around the river for a while and then found ourselves stepping on stones in the shallow water to cross part of it. And then we came to the most terrifying bridge. A word about bridges on this trip: there are a lot of them and they sway. Up to this point, we had been over several already. But this bridge was high. Very, very high.

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See that red arrow? That upper bridge is the one that must be crossed on the way to Namche (the lower bridge was the original bridge but is no longer safe/functional). It is a looong way down. And a long way up. I took the picture on the left during the break before the ascent to reach the bridge. What followed was a very challenging and brisk 30 minute ascent. If you go on this trip, for the love of god, make sure you get your cardio in. On the right you can see the view from the bridge.

After what felt like hours (and probably was hours) of zig-zagging ascent, we trekked through a very beautiful forest.

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I couldn’t believe how much it resembled the decidedly deciduous forests back home! In the photo to the right, you can see a Nepalese porter carrying what looks like a heavy load up to Namche.

After what felt like an eternity, we reached Namche. My lungs felt about ready to jump out of my body in protest, but we made it!

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What is Namche? It is the largest Sherpa village (really, the largest village in general) on the trail to Base Camp. And it was the most beautiful sight in the world after all the ascending that we did that day.

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And thus the second (and hardest) day ended with the moon coming out over the mountains above Namche and me starting a course of antibiotics for my lung infection that would prove to be totally ineffectual.