A Travellerspoint blog

The long way down

In which we get more oxygen, more heat, and our appetites back

I realised I didn't post about the way down from Everest base camp, pretty remiss considering they were some of the best days trekking we had. At the top of Kala Patthar theres only 50% of the oxygen at sea level, apparently if you dropped someone straight into that altitude they would fall into a coma within half an hour and die soon after. Cheery thought. But our amazing bodies acclimatise within 9 days to allow us to reach the top safely. The great part is, as soon as you start going down into more oxygen rich air, you get a boost of energy and warmth. Just what we needed.

It took us four days to descend, first to a beautiful rural valley called Pheriche (see pic in Kala Patthar post), then to Kanjuma, Phakding and finally to Lukla. The day from Pheriche was probably the best, and also happened to be dads birthday.

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We were headed to Tengboche for lunch, which is a village with a very significant monastery.

Inside Tengboche monastery

Inside Tengboche monastery

All of the Everest expeditions stop here for a blessing before climbing the mountain. It is in an incredible setting, with views of Everest, Nhuptse and Ama Dablam.

View from Tengboche

View from Tengboche

After lunch it was a 'Nepali flat' (read very up and down) trail to Kanjuma. We'd stayed in the same lodge on the way up but we were both so ill we could hardly remember it! We made up for it this time though with an impromptu birthday party including an apple pie (inscribed with happy birthday) and copious amounts of local rice beer which is called Chang. It looks like milk and tastes like still fermenting ale. Yum yum. Having been instructed by our guide to be both vegetarian and teetotal on the way up, we went all out and had a can of San Miguel too. Possibly the best tasting beer I have ever had (please excuse how rough we look in this photo... ten days without a shower at this point, be glad you can't smell us too)!

First trek beer

First trek beer

The next few days were much the same, beautiful valleys and mountain passes we finally had the energy to enjoy! One of the most amazing things was looking down into steep valleys, sometimes a km straight down, and seeing flocks of birds, and on occasion helicopters, flying beneath us. Not a view you get very often.

At the end of thirteen days we were really sad to see our Sherpa guides go, they presented us all with kata scarves as a present, and out came the Chang again.

Group shot

Group shot

All in all, an incredible, once in a lifetime experience (seriously, I would never go through that again!) We've come back having lost over half a stone each, so have decided to head west to Pokhara for some warmth and good food.

Posted by teamgb 03:49 Archived in Nepal Comments (2)

Nepal photos from Marcus

Here are some photos I've taken that I hope capture how amazing Nepal really has been.

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Posted by teamgb 01:32 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

Kala Patthar

In which we reach the highest point of our trek and see the best views of our lives

It was a 4am start in the dark and the cold so that we could get to the top of Kala Patthar (or Black Rock) for sunrise. Kala Patthar is in a really unique spot – from the top you get a 360 degree view of the surrounding peaks – including the Nhuptse Ridge, Everest and Ama Dablam. It's a pretty famous view – but you work hard to get it!

It was a very steep, two-hour slog to get to the top – following the chain of head torches in front of us. We were one of the first groups up, and behind us you could see little lights snaking up the trail behind us. The stars were incredible, and as the light started to come the snow on the mountains almost glowed – completely magical.

We reached the top for unbelievable views. When I can find a way of getting photos on here I promise to post some to prove it!

It was absolutely freezing (at least -15) so spent a very short time admiring the views and congratulating ourselves on reaching our highest point – 5545m – then heading down to some warm breakfast!

Update... a few photos...
Everest

Everest

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Pheriche valley

Pheriche valley

Posted by teamgb 22:33 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

Everest Base Camp

In which... we go to Everest Base Camp... and survive a rock fall

After nine days of trekking, we finally made it to Lobuche, our penultimate high camp. Lobuche is another tiny village basically made up of trekking lodges – apparently no one lives there outside of trekking seasons – with amazing views of the Nhuptse ridge.

By now, we're constantly surrounded by white-capped peaks. For the last five days at least we've been able to see Ama Dablam, probably the most beautiful mountain, almost constantly.

So, on Base Camp day, we headed up from Lobuche to Gorak Shep, which is a small village (again, just trekking lodges) which was the original base camp for the early Everest expeditions. At 5100m it is very high, and very cold! We arrived for lunch, had half an hour to get some food in (although at this altitude you don't have much of an appetite) and then set off for the 5 hour round trip to base camp itself. The walk takes you along the end of the Khumbu Glacier – I had visions of beautiful blue/green ice peaks but it's actually covered in rocks and boulders (obvious when you say it).

The walk actually goes along a ridge above the glacier, so you're looking down on the glacier, and ahead Base Camp starts to appear in the distance. From the ridge you can also see the top of Everest – we were imagining all the expeditions (which take exactly the same route we have) approaching Base Camp and looking up at the top, and the notorious Khumbu icefall. It's really evocative.

View of the Khumbu ice fall

View of the Khumbu ice fall

Most people are apparently quite underwhelmed by base camp, but I was quite emotional when we got there. True, you can't see the top of Everest, but you can see the ice fall and the start of the route, and it's very powerful just to be there in that spot. Bloody freezing too though – so we had a few photos and a biscuit, then headed back up the ridge as the light started to fall. Incredible.

group at base camp

group at base camp

On the way back we had a bit of a scare because you walk through a rockfall area – all the rocks that the glacier has pushed up out of the valley are on a slope that leads up hundreds of metres away from the ridge we were walking on. Out of nowhere, something set off a rock fall and some pretty big rocks came flying down. Even Sudip our Sherpa guide was spooked, and he ran back (as did we all). Luckily it was just ahead of us on the path. We found the strength to walk a bit faster after that!

Back at Gorak Shep we were in for a cold night – and a 4am start to summit Kala Patthar the next morning…

Posted by teamgb 22:32 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

Trek trekking

The start of our trek, in which we survive a landing at the world's most dangerous airstrip, get our first view of the world's highest mountain, and get possibly the world's worst food poisoning…

Early on the Saturday morning we set off for Kathmandu airport for our flight to Lukla which is the entry point for all treks in the Everest region (unless you want to add an extra six days to your walk in which case you can trek in). Walking was starting to seem like a better idea when we saw the plane (a sixteen seater twin-otter plane fans).

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plane

The flight was, frankly, terrifying. Very loud, very tiny plane, everyone is packed in and you can see straight through to the cockpit. They do brilliantly still have a glamorous stewardess who brings round cotton wool for your ears, but can't really get to anyone and has to sit at the back looking bored for the flight. Having left Kathmandu though, we did get our first view of some white capped peaks.

The landing was the worst bit. All of a sudden the plane just drops down and the runway fills the windscreen like a wall of concrete (I'm told… I had my eyes closed like any sensible person). At the last minute the pilot brought the nose of the plane up and it was admittedly a very soft, if very short landing. We'd arrived in the Himalayas!

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At the airport we met our Sherpa guides, Puncha and his son Sudip, along with our two porters, Prakash and Ksumba who were going to carry out bags. These guys are amazing – they literally ran up and down the mountain doing everything possible for us, we definitely couldn't have done it without them.

The first day was just an afternoon's trek to a village called Phakding, which is actually lower than Lukla at 2600m. In the lodge that night, they played us a DVD of Into Thin Air (if you haven't read the book – it's all about people dying in the mountains – inspirational).

The second day was a full day's trek to Namche Bazzar – including an epic 3 hour climb up to Namche itself. Dad and Marcus had both got food poisoning the night before so it was a very long, dusty and painful three hours.

Namche itself is almost a metropolis compared to some of the other villages we stayed in – full of trekking lodges, trekking shops and bakeries. Lots of apple pie. We met a few groups on their way down who told us horror stories about the route ahead – including one group of thirteen where only three of their group had made it. Again - inspirational.

I won't bore you all with the details of every day (not least because I was so sick for the next two days I can't really remember it – food poisoning while trekking is pretty miserable!) but a typical day on the trek goes like this:

7am: Wake up call – a cup of black tea from a smiling Sudip is almost enough to get us out of our sleeping bags
7:30am: Breakfast – as much as you can force yourself to eat
8am: Set off for the morning's trek which was normally about 3-4 hours. Bearing in mind that at altitude, we were sometimes walking at less than one mile and hour up hill – you're out of breath after four steps
11:30am: Lunch time, by which point we were starving and needing to shovel down more food
12:15: Set off for afternoon trek
4pm: Arrive at the night's lodge and order dinner
6pm: Dinner – shovel more food
7pm: Bedtime – in layers of thermal underwear, sleeping bag liner, down sleeping bag, blanket and hot water in a water canister (some nights it was at least -10!)

So basically, eat, walk, eat, walk, try and keep warm for the night. Brilliant!

Will post more about our summit days in next post…

Posted by teamgb 22:30 Archived in Nepal Comments (0)

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