Everest Base Camp Trek & Island Peak Climb: Sightseeing and Acclimatization in Namche
Leaving the teahouse and walking through Namche in the cool morning shadows, we climbed up the west side of Namche’s amphitheater past the Monastery. Walking along it’s walls, painted in a deep red and lined with rows of prayer wheels, we emerged into the morning sun that was slowly creeping down the hillside. Within no time we were pulling off hats and extra layers as the sun warmed us while we hiked. Following a series of switchbacks, we eventually gained the ridge above Namche and followed it to the north, climbing about 1200’ until we crossed the short dirt Syangboche airstrip, now used only periodically to transport freight.
The hillside relaxes into a broad, rolling plateau beyond and Syangboche and we made our way through thickets of juniper trees and past grazing yaks to the eastern edge where the valley falls steeply away to the Dudh Kosi raging below. From there Everest, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam stand proudly at the head of the valley, already shrouded in morning clouds. Admiring the peaks far above us, we picked our way along the edge of the steep hillside, forcing ourselves to keep an eye on the trail as we stared up to the mountains, until we reached the Everest View Hotel, a large Japanese built hotel that even boasts pressurized rooms for guests arriving directly from Kathmandu by helicopter. Having reached it by our own two feet and feeling well acclimatized, we went straight to their patio out back and enjoyed a cup of tea with the impressive Everest panorama to stare out upon.
Further down the valley behind us the morning clouds were building and soon clouds swept over us, obscuring the views as we pulled out our jackets and quickly packing up. From the Everest View Hotel we walked through a forest of rhododendron and large moss covered boulders to the village of Khumjung - the largest in the area. Despite it’s size Khumjung is the opposite of Namche, spread out across a shallow but broad valley with fields neatly tended to between the homes and a very calm and quiet. With spring arriving several Sherpa families were out sowing their fields with buckwheat, walking behind the plows pulled by yak and sowing the seeds by hand. Khumjung is also home to the Hillary School, founded in 1961 by Sir Edmund Hillary and responsible for bringing education to several generations of Sherpas. Morning classes were ending as we arrived and dozens of young Sherpa came running through the gates at full speed, almost knocking us over as we entered. After exploring the schools grounds for a bit we continued to the neighboring village of Khunde, an equally tranquil community where the Hillary Hospital sits. Seeing over 11,000 patients a year, it is the major medical facility for the area yet receives no support from the government in the process. The hospital was bustling when we arrived and we had the chance for a short tour of the small facility.
With the clouds still whipping over us, we walked back to Namche, crossing the plateau as we followed a narrow stone path that wound among the rhododendron, rocky outcroppings, and white washed chortens until we dropped into Namche on a steep trail winding straight down the hillside. We spent the afternoon sipping tea and relaxing in Namche before we depart for further up the valley tomorrow.
RMI Guide Linden Mallory