- Melissa Arnot
- Alex Barber
- Bridget Belliveau
- Jake Beren
- Zeb Blais
- Katrina Bloemsma
- Katie Bono
- Adam Butterfield
- Anne Gilbert Chase
- Lance Colley
- Sean Collon
- Leon Davis
- Elias de Andres Martos
- Pepper Dee
- Paul Edgren
- Mark Falender
- Leah Fisher
- Lindsay Fixmer
- Eric Frank
- Steve Gately
- Josh Gautreau
- JM Gorum
- Casey Grom
- Billy Haas
- Dave Hahn
- Walter Hailes
- Mike Haugen
- Bryan Hendrick
- Andy Hildebrand
- Joe Horiskey
- Nick Hunt
- Tyler Jones
- JJ Justman
- Levi Kepsel
- Andrew Kiefer
- Mike King
- Adam Knoff
- Caleb Ladue
- Ben Liken
- Zach Lovell
- Josh Maggard
- Paul Maier
- Linden Mallory
- Lindsay Mann
- Andres Marin
- Jeff Martin
- Stoney Molina
- Robert Montague
- Chase Nelson
- Billy Nugent
- Brent Okita
- Tyler Reid
- Kel Rossiter
- Geoff Schellens
- Shaun Sears
- Mike Soucy
- Garrett Stevens
- Jason Thompson
- Mark Tucker
- Mike Uchal
- Pete Van Deventer
- Alex Van Steen
- Ed Viesturs
- Christina von Mertens
- Mike Walter
- Seth Waterfall
- Solveig Waterfall
- Peter Whittaker
- Win Whittaker
- Bryson Williams
- Dan Windham
- Robby Young
Entries From Everest Base Camp Trek 3-12-12
The team convened in Kathmandu today to kick off our Everest Base Camp Trek and climb of Island Peak. A heavy rain blew through Kathmandu last night, clearing the skies this morning for gorgeous views of the surrounding hills and the peaks of the Himalaya looming in the distance. Everyone arrived as scheduled today, easily retrieving bags and passing through customs. We loaded all of the gear into the back of the van and plunged into the busy streets of Kathmandu, navigating between the taxis, buses, rickshaws, street vendors, and pedestrians on our way to the hotel. Life in Kathmandu happens on the streets, from buying daily groceries to sipping tea and we slowly made our way through it all, taking in everything as we navigated the streets.
We will do the final round of packing our gear for the mountains tomorrow before heading out to visit the streets and landmarks of Kathmandu. After months of preparation and days of travel we are excited to be here with the trip finally underway.
RMI Guide Linden Mallory
On The Map
We left the hotel well before sunrise this morning, driving through the nearly deserted streets of Kathmandu to the domestic airport. We hauled all of our gear through the narrow entryway and into the terminal, found our flight to Lukla, and as the sun rose just before 7am we were already taking our seats in the plane. Yesterday afternoon’s clouds and light rain dissipated overnight and the morning sun shone through clear skies - perfect flying weather. We buckled our seat belts tight, took the cotton balls offered by the flight attendant and crammed them into our ears, and then took off from Kathmandu. True to their name, the STOL (Short Take Off Landing) airplanes we fly in get airborne in a matter of a few hundred meters and we were soon flying above the outskirts of Kathmandu and over the hills of the Terai - the middle section of Nepal and the foothills of the Himalaya. Flying east we had incredible views of the Himalayas out of the side of the plane and we spent the entire flight staring through the windows at the countryside below and the mountains hanging in the distance.
The flight was amazingly smooth, hardly a spot of turbulence - uncommon for flights around mountains of this size, and we soon banked a hard turn to the north and descended into the Khumbu Valley. The airport at Lukla is a short strip of tarmac noticeably slanted and the landings there are always…exciting. The approach takes the flight directly at the hillside until the entire mountain fills the view through the cockpit window and then in the span of several football fields the planes go from airborne to stopped. The pilots pulled off the smoothest landing I have ever had in Lukla and within minutes we were stepping off of the plane and onto the footpaths of Lukla.
Needing a little bit of time to get all of our gear from the flights we sat down in a tea-house near the airport and had breakfast, tea and coffee before hitting the trail.
Lukla sits several days walk from the nearest road head and only footpaths connect all of the villages up here - there isn’t an automobile for dozens of miles in any direction. All transportation takes place on the stone lined trails, carried by animals or on your back. It is a far cry from the chaotic traffic jams of Kathmandu and a welcome relief to hear no horns or engines. Leaving Lukla, which sits about 1500’ above the valley floor, we made a long, gradual traverse down to the Dudh Kosi river. The trail passes through fields of recently planted crops of cabbage, carrots, potatoes, wheat, and other vegetables and between the stone walls of small villages dotted along the way. Every so often the trail splits around giant boulders carved with Buddhist prayers or wraps around the stupas and prayer wheels.
For fear of falling into romanticism too easily, I’ll simply say that it is a beautiful walk with sights and sounds to be seen in every direction. Hanging above it all are the giant snow covered peaks of the Himalaya. At 15,000 - 20,000’ they are minor mountains compared to their neighbors to the north, but seen from the valley floor far below they are impressive. We walked for several hours through the fields and villages, crossing occasional suspension bridges across side rivers.
By mid-afternoon we reached the village of Phakding and settled into our tea-house. Sitting right along the edge of the Dudh Kosi River - which means Milk River due to its milky blue color from the glacial sediment it carries - our tea-house is tucked away in a quiet spot with views up and down the valley. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the sun in the grassy terraces in front of our rooms before the mountain’s shadows brought the evening chill. We sat down in the dining room around the wood burning stove and had an excellent first meal in the Khumbu, enjoying some delicious momos - the local dumplings.
Tomorrow we head further up the valley to Namche Bazaar, the cultural and economic center of the region. The team is in great spirits.
Everyone is feeling healthy and well and we are all very excited to at last be on the trail.
On The Map
We hit the trail early this morning, contouring along the hillsides of the gradually narrowing valley, occasionally crossing back and forth above the Dudh Kosi River on long suspension bridges. After a couple of hours of walking we hit the entrance to Sagamartha National Park, the park that encompasses the upper region of the Khumbu Valley, including Mt. Everest.
After pausing for tea and snacks, we tackled the big climb of the day - the 2,500’ ascent up mountain side to reach the village of Namche Bazaar. The ascent is a series of switchbacks and long traverses through pine forest. Being south facing it is typically very hot and dusty but by the time we reached the climb, clouds were forming and kept the temperatures very comfortable. Everyone hiked well, making good time up the trail and by mid afternoon we rounded the corner and walked into Namche Bazaar.
Situated at 11,300’ in a shallow drainage perched on the hillside, Namche is the center of trade and commerce for the upper portion of the Khumbu Valley. It’s location at the convergence of several trade routes - some all the way to Tibet - and the fresh water springs in its heart made it a meeting grounds many centuries ago and it remains the largest town in the region today. The entire town is built in a series of horseshoe shaped terraces up the hillside. At over 11,000’, it is easy to feel the altitude when just walking around. We walked through Namche’s narrow streets to our teahouse and arrived just as the clouds began letting occasional snowflakes fall from the sky.
We are heading out on a day hike tomorrow to several villages nearby before returning for Namche for the evening. The group is in great spirits and more than eager to check out the offerings of Namche’s many shops tomorrow afternoon when we return.
On The Map
Taking advantage of the clear weather this morning we took a day hike above Namche. The steep steps right out of the door of the tea-house quickly got hearts pumping and we climbed out of the cold morning shadow in Namche into the morning sun above. The trail we followed ascends steeply up the hillside, making dozens of short switchbacks as it gains the flat plateau above. By the time we arrived the top, at over 12,000’, we were breathing hard, feeling the effects of the new elevation. Thankfully, the trail flattened out and walked across the gentle plateau through clusters of juniper trees and fields of grass cropped short by grazing yaks.
We reached the edge of the broad bench of Namche and were greeted to incredible views of the mountains higher up the valley. Hardly a cloud hung in the sky and we could clearly see Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Nuptse, Taboche, and Cholatse - all famous peaks of the region. Above them all stood Everest, it’s recognizable triangular summit hanging in the sky above. The winds in the upper mountains were blowing strongly this morning and the peaks had plumes of blown snow trailing off their summits and ridges. We gazed out at the mountains for a bit and then continued walking to the Everest View Hotel where we found a seat on the back patio and treated ourselves to a cup of tea while enjoying the views.
Afterward, we continued on to the village of Khumjung, a large village near Namche and where the Sir Edmund Hillary School is located - serving kids all over the region. The school was quiet since they are in the midst of their final exams but a few young boys were outside playing in the school grounds. We passed through the school and made our way back along a stone lined trail to the edge of the bench above Namche and dropped back down into town, completing a large loop.
We spent the afternoon back in Namche, taking advantage of the down time to grab a hot shower, track down an espresso at the local bakery, and peruse the many small shops on Namche.
Tomorrow we leave Namche and head further up the valley to the village of Deboche.
On The Map
It was again very chilly this morning as we packed up our bags and prepared to leave our teahouse in Namche, but as soon as we started hiking the steep steps that lead out of Namche warmed us up quickly. The first few hours of the trail traversed along the hillside beyond Namche, contouring along the steep slopes above the river far below. Occasional stupas with prayer flags streaming for their gold topped spires dotted the ridge lines we traversed. The trail was bustling with activity; trains of yaks carrying loads to and from the villages higher up the valley plied the narrow path along with children heading to school, trekkers, and the average Khumbu “commuter” walking between the villages. It was another crystal clear morning and the views of Everest and it’s neighboring mountains were incredible.
Finally reaching the end of the traverse in the village of Kyangjuma, we paused for some tea, much to the delight of the local Sherpani women selling jewelry along the side of the trail. With our packs a bit heavier, we descended through the pines to the river crossing at Phunki Tanga, a small village of only a few buildings sitting at the base of our big climb for the day. The trail from there ascends through pine forests, rhododendron trees, and into junipers in a seemingly endless series of switchbacks. The southern exposure of the hillside is fully exposed to the midday sun and we were soon very hot, hiking in t-shirts and shorts - a drastic change from the cold temperatures of the morning. We settled into a steady pace, slowly ticking off the switchbacks one by one, until all 1800’ of the climb lay below us and we created the ridge into the village of Tengboche. Tengboche is dominated by the large monastery overlooking the center of the village, and equally by Everest and Ama Dablam which loom largely in the distance. A breeze was blowing down from the valley above and we quickly pulled on our warmer coats as we passed the monastery’s front gate.
In Tengboche we treated ourselves to a slice of apple pie at the local bakery before descending the other side of the ridge a few minutes to our next tea-house in the village of Deboche, tucked away in the forest of rhododendron just below the monastery. The team is acclimatizing well and everyone felt strong today on the trail, easily navigating the trail while keeping up the light hearted jokes and banter which has become the norm on the trail. We are sending our best to everyone back home and appreciate all of the comments and good wishes left on the blog.
On The Map
We’ve enjoyed a very leisurely day here in Deboche, taking full advantage of our rest and acclimatization day. The morning broke clear and calm. From the windows of the tea-house we could see the summit of Everest and the surrounding peaks and we gazed out at the panorama of mountains over a breakfast of apple pancakes. After breakfast we grabbed a water bottle and few warm layers and walked through the rhododendrons of Deboche to the Buddhist Nunnery tucked inconspicuously off the trail on the other side of the village. We spent some time exploring their Gompa, with it’s large prayer wheel and room for meditation and prayer all housed in a small compound.
We then climbed the hill back up the ridge top village of Tengboche, which we passed through yesterday, and continued further up it’s ridge to a view point. Following a small path that see little travel, we passed dozens of long strings of prayer flags strung along the ridge, the five colors of the flags fluttering in the wind blowing up the valley, until we reached a small chorten. Below us the Tengboche Monastery stood on the ridge, surrounded by the skyline of sharp mountains stretching off in every direction. We relaxed up there, enjoying the views and the warm late morning sun while also taking advantage of the higher altitude to give our bodies some exposure to the new elevations before dropping down again.
Upon returning to Tengboche, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the cafe and bakery in the village, resting and reading while we passed the time. While there a trekker from Germany came in with a large gash on his head - while he was climbing the hill to Tengboche a passing yak herder threw a stone at one of his yaks to urge it on, however his aim was off and the rock hit the man squarely in the back of the head. Luckily for him, the doctor in our group sprang into action, quickly fixing him up and sending him on his way - relief and gratitude written clearly across his face.
The clouds settled in by later afternoon, covering the village in a thick fog that was punctuated only by the sound of the horns blowing from the Monastery announcing the afternoon prayers. We followed the monks into the large and ornately decorated prayer room at the center of the Monastery, framed around a statue of a sitting Buddha two stories tall. The monks settled into their blankets and poured steaming cups of tea while we found a seat along the edge of the room. Then a deep hum filled the chamber as they began to chant their prayers, each one accentuating a different syllable but beginning and ending each mantra in perfect unison.
Leaving the monastery we descended the fifteen minutes back to our tea-house and settled in around the fire while the clouds blew through the trees outside. It was a restful and enjoyable day, the ideal break from the hiking we’ve been doing before we head further up the valley to the village of Pheriche at 14,000’ tomorrow. We have appreciated all of the comments and send our best to everyone at home.
On The Map
The weather is settling into a predictable routine here in the Khumbu Valley, the morning breaks clear and calm and by late afternoon the clouds sweep up from lower in the valley and settle in around us. This morning was no different as were found a beautiful and clear day awaiting us when we awoke. We packed up our bags and headed up the trail, leaving the forest of Deboche behind us. The first stretch of walking was cold as we traversed the shaded side of the valley, but after crossing a short bridge above the raging river below, we found the morning sun and quickly warmed back up. The trail climbs from Deboche, gradually ascending along the hillside past row after row of mani stones - the rocks carved with Buddhist prayers - and through occasional archways, decorated with paintings of ancient stories.
We entered the village of Pangboche where we stopped to visit Lama Geshe, a renowned Buddhist Lama of the region. Formerly living at the Tengboche Monastery, he now lives in a small unassuming building in the small village and is frequented by climbers, trekkers, and travelers alike seeking his blessing before their journey. We sat down in the small living room of his home with him and he offered us a blessing for the rest of our journey, chanting the prayers, tossing rice in the air, and draping a kata scarf (prayer scarf) around our necks along with a small piece of red rope into which he has sent his prayers. It was a very lighthearted ceremony, Lama Geshe breaking his rhythm every so often to laugh in a deep voice, or chuckling as he tried to pronounce our names. I always feel calmed by time spent at Lama Geshe’s and we emerged from his home ready to continue onwards.
We continued up the valley, gradually gaining elevation as we ascended above the river. After several hours we began the steep but notable climb over a small saddle well over 14,000’. The winds picked up by this point and were whipping past us as we crested the gap and descended the other side into Pheriche. Just as we reached our tea-house here the clouds crept over the pass as well and soon settled in around us. Our tea-house is one of the nicest to be found in the Khumbu and the owner Ang Nuru worked hard on improvements over the winter. Needless to say, the group was thrilled to find hot showers, warm rooms, and a beautifully decorated and comfortable dining room. We will spend the day here in Pheriche tomorrow, helping our bodies acclimatize to the new elevation before we move higher. The group continues to do well and sends their best to everyone back home.
On The Map
While we were expecting a chilly night of sleep, it was surprisingly warm in Pheriche. The colder temperatures rumored in the valley this spring didn’t affect us as much as we anticipated, much to everyone’s pleasure. Without needing to reach the next village before the weather set in, we took our time at breakfast, going through several thermoses of tea before we headed out for a hike. Leaving Pheriche, we climbed directly up the tall hillside behind town and across a rolling plateau to a ridge running from the higher hills above. Pausing there we had clear views southwards back down the Khumbu Valley towards Tengboche and eventually Namche. To our west the valley continued up further before turning sharply north and into the final cirque of mountains where Everest Base Camp is. To the east ran the Imja Khola Valley, framed at the top by a ring of mountains surrounding Island Peak - the climbing objective for a few of us next week after we visit Base Camp.
We climbed a bit higher up the ridge, eventually stopping in a spot protected from the gentle but still biting breeze. Staying up there for awhile, we looked at the panorama of great Himalayan peaks and giving our bodies the feel for the higher elevations to come. We descended back to our tea-house by midday and spent a few hours relaxing the the sun room - a greenhouse like room built on the second story that heats up quite quickly during the day - before heading next door to the Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic. Volunteer doctors staff the small medical facility here, offering medical care for the local population as well as trekkers affected by the altitude. They gave us a very informative briefing on altitude and demonstrated the use of a Gamow Bag - a portable hyperbaric chamber used to simulate lower elevations.
The team remains in great spirits, managing the newer altitudes well and keeping the trip lighthearted and convivial. Tomorrow we climb further up the valley to the tiny village of Lobuche, sitting alongside the toe of the Khumbu Glacier. It is exciting to be approaching our destination and we are looking forward to the days ahead.
On The Map
Another beautiful day greeted us this morning. After breakfast we reluctantly said goodbye to the accommodations and staff of our tea-house in Pheriche and set off up the valley. The trail ran through small clumps of juniper and back and forth across streams running down from the hillsides, reaching a collection of stone buildings and fields where yaks are pastured in the evenings. The vegetation continued to thin out, the grass getting shorter and eventually the juniper bushes disappearing from the landscape as we made our way higher. Eventually we began the ascent to Thokla Pass, a climb up the toe of the moraine created by the forward push of the Khumbu Glacier. Although a moderate climb in length and height, the elevation makes it challenging and we spent the better part of two hours picking our way up the hillside.
Partway up is the small “village” of Thokla, in reality little more than two tea-houses sheltered from the winds that blow up the valley, but the perfect breaking spot for trekkers and yak herders making their way up the climb. We sat in the sun for a few minutes resting and sipping on tea before resuming our ascent, reaching the top of Thokla Pass at well over 15,000’ by midday. Built along the ridgelines of the pass are dozens of small chortens, each one paying tribute to climbers and Sherpas that have lost their lives on Mt. Everest. With views out to the surrounding mountains and prayer flags streaming from the many memorials, it is a solemn place that commemorates many famous climbers.
Continuing from the top of the pass we ascended into a shallow valley that runs parallel to the Khumbu Glacier, finding our way among the boulders and rocks that border a small stream that was completely frozen over, even in the midday sun. After another hour of walking we reached our tea-house in the village of Lobuche. Tucked into a small recess in the side of the valley, Lobuche was traditionally a summer grazing grounds for herds of yaks but now is more popular with trekkers and climbing expeditions on their way to Everest. Although the landscape is quite barren around us, our tea-house is warm and comfortable in the midday sun. We have all been surprised at how warm the temperatures have been the past few days. We settled into the tea-house and spent final part of the afternoon sipping on tea and reading, focusing on breathing well, even at rest, as we adjust to these higher altitudes.
Tomorrow we head to Gorak Shep, the last village before Everest Base Camp, and hope to climb to the summit of Kala Patar above it in the afternoon if the weather cooperates. The team continues to do well and sends their best to everyone at home.
On The Map
Leaving Lobuche this morning we continued up the Khumbu Valley towards Everest Base Camp, following a shallow depression between the moraine left by the glacier pushing downwards and the mountains on the other side. The trail climbed gently, gaining a few hundred feet over the first hour and we all felt good as we walked in the morning sun. Eventually we reached the rock covered Changri Nup Glacier, flowing into the Khumbu Glacier from the west, and we picked our way across it’s rocky surface, climbing up and down through the large gulleys on the surface. After reaching the other side we descended into Gorak Shep, the last village before Base Camp. Sitting in a shallow bowl wedged between the Khumbu and Changri Nup Glaciers and the slopes of Pumori, a large 7000m peak above, Gorak Shep feels a bit like a long lost desolate outpost in the mountains. The tea-houses are notably less luxurious up here and the cold a bit more biting, but when the winds start blowing and the temperatures drop at these altitudes the spartan teahouses begin to feel much more welcoming.
We stopped at our tea-house in Gorak Shep and had a quick bowl of soup before setting out to climb Kala Patar, a rocky highpoint on one of the ridges above Gorak Shep that offers spectacular views of the mountains. It was warm and calm as we began the climb and the roofs of the teahouses soon shrank away behind us as we climbed higher, replaced by the rolling landscape of rock and ice of the Khumbu Glacier and its’ surrounding peaks. Near 17,500’ the afternoon winds picked up and the periodic gusts whipped past us, quickly dropping the temperatures and causing us to pull on warmer hats, gloves, and jackets. But the winds were not enough to deter us as we scrambled up through the large boulders of the final 200’ to the prayer flagged summit of Kala Patar. In front of us we could see from the summit of Everest all the way down to Base Camp sitting along the Khumbu Glacier at its’ base. Around us the peaks of the Himalayas stretched out in every direction. The skies remained clear, except for the small cloud trailing off of Everest’s summit and the low hanging valley clouds creeping slowly upwards from Namche far below us. Despite the winds it was a beautiful view and we spent a good while up there taking it all in. Finally, as the cold began to creep through our layers, we turned around and made our way down the small and rocky trail back to Gorak Shep.
With the sun starting to set over the mountains, we are back in our tea-house for the evening. The months of training and the days spent acclimatizing on the trail are paying off for the team as we reach these higher elevations. Everyone is handling the challenges of living at these altitudes well and we are looking forward to completing the final portion of our trek into Everest Base Camp tomorrow where we will spend the next two days. The team sends their best to everyone at home.
On The Map