Wednesday, March 29, 2006

everest base camp and gokyo-ri trek

well i am back in kathmandu right now. all be it only temporarily. i will reamin here for a further week or so while i get ready and make final prepartions for the upcming climb on everest.
the trek around the everest area was awesome. my father loved it. he had a little trouble on the second day. when we walked up to the village of namche bazaar. an altitude gain of 2700m to 3440m. a little inexperienced with the affects of altitude and how to walk at altitude he was a little out of breathe by the end of the day.
the next day we took a rest day and from then on he just gained more momentum and grew more accustomed to the altitude. no more problems.
we were joined on the trek by my friends tashi lakpa sherpa. tashi is the little brother of my very good and close friend mingma sherpa.he is also the youngest person to climb everest without oxygen.first climb the world's highest mountain at the age of just 18.he is now 19 and has summitted 2 times. both without the use of oxygen.
mingma was to come with me on this years climb but is recoverying from a stomach ulcer and could not make it. this was a huge loss to me. mingma is one of the most experienced and strongest sherpas on the planet. there are 14 8000m moutains in the world. all in the himalayas. mingma has climbed 9 0f them. all without the use of supplemental oxygen...including everest. in comparison i am nothing compared to his strength in the mountains. mingma and all the sherpas of the himalayas are my heroes.
we left the high village of namche bazaar on route to the village of gokyo, which is located at an altitude of 4760m. it took us about 4 days to get there. the week before had seen huge amounts of snow. days and days of it. and this meant that almost all the way from namche we were made to walk through varying amounts of some spots knee deep.
this really tired out my father. but if it bothered him he did not let on. and soldiered through it.tashi and i took turns of walking out in front and staying back with dad. the trail was wet and slippery. sometimes deep snow. other times hard compacted ice.
about half way in the village of machermo(4440m) we took a rest day. to let our bodies recover and also let our shoes dry out too. everydays the were soaking wet. nothing a yak dung fire cant rememdy though.
the next day we pushed on the gokyo. a beautiful little seasonal village located next to a lake. the sun was blazing and we lay in the sunroom and ate loads of food. the next day we would ascend the peak of gokyo ri(5360m) which was taking most of the groups about 3 1/2 hrs to 0reach the top.
that night we sat in the dining room around the yak dung fire stove warming ourselves with some of the other groups. we would wake up around 5.30am and eat a few light snacks. then start up gokyo ri.
the morning started cold. tashi was at our door bright and early. we took off up the ri and it was not long before both my hands and dad's hands were frezzing. i fixed this by banging and shaking my hands to get life back in them.i have had frostbite on 9 fingers before. its not pleasant and i dont want to go through it again.
the waether was beautiful and we worked through the morning slowly up gokyo ri reaching the top in a little over 3 hrs. there was not a cloud in the sky and the view was simply amazing. tashi and i stopped short of the top and let dad summit first. this was his day. when i joined him i gave him a big hug and shacked his hand.
for those of you that dont know gokyo ri offers some of the best views of the himalaya. from the top you can see everything. everest is close by aswell as cho oyu(8201m) makalu(8450m+/-)lhotse(8511m) and kanchenjunga(8596m). i had been up here before and i have not and will not ever get tired of the view. last time i stayed on top for 6 hrs. this time i did a little better...i stayed on top for just 3hrs.
2 days earlier my awesome little canon camera had broken. just stopped...dead. i was forced to take photos with my little canon automatic digital camera. but as luck would have it there was a german man who summitted shortly after us who had a good camera. when i asked if he would be so kind as to put my memory card in his camera and shot some photos he said no problem. and actually gave me his camera to shot the photos myself. i could believe my luck. i spent the next 20mins shooting away. its nice to know that there are still good and generous people out there. i would do the same for others. but not many people would do the same for me.
anyway, we got an awesome view and enjoyed the glorious sun. then started the steep and dangerous descent back down the mountain. this was mainly due to the snow and ice. but within an hour we were back in the sunroom enjoying lunch and a cold drink.
we decided to take a rest and spend the remainder of the day in gokyo. the next morning we awoke really early and started back down towards machermo. it was really cold and i froze the tip of one of my fingers. mainly because i had underestimated how cold it would be when i was back in ktm and had bought only lightweight gloves.
i got the tip rewarmed and its seemed ok. the end result was a small blister on the tip that should be gone in a day or so. i got lucky and saw it as a warning for the upcoming climb. maybe next time i wont be so lucky.
the trail was still covered in snow and ice. but it was marginally better than before. still it made for very difficult walking as your feet kept slipping sideways and it took a lot of energy to try keep them from doing so. my knees by the end of the day were a little tired and sore.
we walked and walked and walked. i just wanted to get off the snow and ice. tired of wet shoes and i knew it was tiring out dad. plus it was starting to warm up and the trail was turning into sloppy mud. and so for almost 11hrs we continued on. again dad amazaed me with his determination and fitness. we made it all the way from gokyo to phortse. in a day. this had taken us 3 days of walking to get up on the way through. but it was worth it. we made to the the high end of phortse and found a nice lodge run by a local trekking guide called pemba sherpa. the dining run was warmed by a pot belly stove and in no time at all it was toasty warm. we had also dropped almost 1000m to 3800m in altitude. which would give our bodies more needed oxygen to help our muscles and bodies recovery. not to mention that we would also sleep much better too.
and the next morning we saw the benefits of sleeping lower. we were all up bright eyed and bushy tailed. today would be another long day. the trail we would take climbed up and then traversed alone a steep range of mountains. the views were amazing. we could see the beautiful mountain of ama dablam(6800m). at one stage i stopped to take a photo of dad and tashi and noticed a huge mountain thar(mountain goat) standing just 10m away. the big male checked me out for awhile, saw iwas not a threat and carried on grazing. i snapped some photos of him too.
we briefly stopped in the village of pangboche for lunch. then continued 2hrs more up to pheriche(4200m). a very cold and windy place indeed. but there is a good lodge there called himalayan hotel run by my friend ang ru sherpa. they serve great food and the place was packed. there was an iranian team celebrating there successful trip to base camp. they were drinking san miguel beers. not a good idea at altitude. it was not long before some of them were very drunk and then the next thing was them leaving little piles of presents on peoples doorsteps. the smelly slippery kind.
the next day our group made their way to the village of lobuje(4750m) not a nice place. there are no real nice lodges except for one expensive one. there is a long and steep hill outside of the half way village called duhkla.the hill is off course called duhkla hill. its a push but not too hard. at the top we stopped and talked with an american couple, who are working as school teachers in a private school in ktm. they joined us to lobuje and stayed at the same lodge as we did.
in a mix up they had bought enough money with them for the trek and were kind of skimping on meals to make it through.not a good idea at altitude. so i offered them a few bucks in return for a nice home cooked meal in ktm when we got back. a fair deal i think.
originally i had wanted to leave the next day from lobuje to kala pattar(the view hill for everest) and come back to lobuje. but i soon realised that this would be too big a day for dad. so we changed the plan to go up and stay at kala pattar(gorak shep 5160m) and come down the next day.
the next day after being smoked out the night before by the stupid kid in the lodge who threw a full bag of yak dung on the stove fire, we walked up to gorak shep. dad left earlier than me. the idea that i would catch him up. i told him to stay on the left side of the middle hill. but 45 mins after i left i still had not spotted him. i thought to myself." gee the old bugger is flying today. he's really having a great day..." but when i asked others coming down if they had seen an old guy dressed in black i soon realised that i had lost him.
i dropped my pack and ran back down from where i had come sign.finally he came into view. strolling down the track. not even a little bit concerned about what had happened.i was quite worried. especially seeing as we had seen several posters up in lodges looking for missing trekkers.
anyway, dad had taken a left turn instead of staying on the left side and walked up too the glass pyramid housing some scientists. a friendly sherpa had shown him the correct way. i was very relieved to see him again. espcially after one of the german trekkers in our lodge last night had been evacuated this morning by helicopter due to severe altitude sickness.
we pushed on for a couple of hours and about 10mins from gorak shep we bumped into our friend from home rob and his group who where also trekking around the everest area.
we chatted for awhile. then continued on. i should note that by this stage our sherpa friend tashi had returned to ktm. he had a prior work committment with another expedition and had to go back to meet the leader. so by now dad and i were just 2. and i was carrying all the gear basically in one big pack. and dad had a smaller pack.
we arrived to gorak shep and took a room in a lodge. then sat down and had lunch. the weather was still hot and sunny. dad had mentioned about the possibilty of going up kala pattar to see everest today. i had seen and spoken with peter hilary (the son of sir edmund hilary) a few days before and he had scored a nice sunset. so i decided to chance our luck and do the same.
so at 3pm we left to climb kala pattar. almost on cue the clouds enveloped us. a local guide told us that the weather had turned against us and that we should turn around. but i have spent months up here climbing and living on the mountain. and my gut feeling was that the weather would go bad for a little while. then clear.
half way up, it was really cloudy and dad asked if we should turn around. i told him,'"have will clear".after 1 1/4hrs hrs i summitted. i had gone really quick to give myself time to get some photos. and just as i reached the top the cloud parted and everest appeared clear in the sky with a beautiful blue back drop. god had rewarding me for my faith.
everest is a beautiful mountain. she is so big. just dominates everything. and with the sun behind us you could see every different colour and crack in here weathered and worn face. and although thousands of years old she stands resilient and as strong as ever. defiant of all of those that stand beneath here. a typical women you might say(hahahahaha)
dad summitted an hour or so later. we snapped some photos and headed down. its was getting cold and dark. dad went on ahead and i stayed behind. i started down 20mins later and son passed him. about half way down i positioned myself for sunset.
now i have been up kala pattar numerous times now. but never have i been so luck to witness what i did this night.
normally the view is clouded over in the afternoons. this day was clear and sunny. as the sun dipped lower and lower the mountain lower and surrounding everest lost their hold on the sunlight and were covered by the shadows and darkness. until finallyjust everest was bathed in sunlight.
as the sun moved lower i watched everest turn into a chameleon. in the space of 6 mins i watched here beautiful south face go from yellow. to gold to orange to rust to bright read. and then it was gone. it was truely one of the most magical things i have ever witnessed in my life. i feel extremely fortunate that everest was so kind and trusting to me to let me see her in such a mood.
i walked back down to the lodge giddy with happiness. i just could not believe i had been so lucky. there was a taiwanese girl with her guide up on kala pattar with me. she had been on her way down and i had stopped her to tell her that if she continued down she would witness something incredibly rare and beautiful. when we got back to the lodge she came over and hugged me. and said that meeting me had the been the best thing of her trek.and thanked me for making her stop and watch the sunset. the photos she had taked were also truely amazing.
that night i was on a high. i slept well and the next day dad i put in a long day to phangboche. then again the next day all the way to namche bazaar.
we had seen a lot of yak trains moving up to base camp and i saw upon arrival to namche that the IMG group were in town. i dropped in and said hello to my good friends mark tucker(the best base camp manager there is) and dave hahn(one of the best guides on everest....ever).we talked about the upcomong climbs. and about the fact that here had been an avalanche on a nearby mtn called pumori when my father and i were up on kala pattar.
2 of the taiwan trekkers had witnessed it whilst walking too base camp and seen 2 bodies fall down the mountain. i had thought this to be a mistake. but later found it too be confirmed true when met with the expeditions liason officer in pangboche. 2 sherpas and 1 member had been swept down the mtn 300m. one of the sherpas was a good friend of mine. tenzing sherpa. we had climbed together last year. the team that had been hit by the avalanche wa sthe same company i had climbed lhotse with last year.
we then went back to our lodge, had something to eat at the bakery and then back to our lodge for dinner.
i had a nice chat with a young english guy who, with a group of friends are climbing everest. they have ridden their bikes all the way form jordan. i gave him a little advice and wished them the best.
the following day dad and put in a long day again all the way back to lukla. the very town we had flown to from ktm to start our trek.we decided to spoil ourselves and took a room in the north face resort. well the room was only 200rps($3us). after killing about 20 blow flys that were inside dad an i took an long hot shower. by now we were pretty dirty and smelly. and with no clean clothes either. dad went shopping and bought some clean socks and undies for about $2us. the size was XL bought it felt like i was wearinga g-string. still we both got a laugh about it. and for the first itme in long time we were clean.
the next day, after a lot of messing around we boarded a plane and flew back to ktm. the trek was officially over and it was time for me to start organising and preparing for the climb. it had been a great trek. my dad had thoroughly enjoyed himself and had completed it easily. the weather had been great and the views simply breathtaking.
anyway its time to pen off now. i will be back on line to keep you more up to date in the next day or so. until them. take care and be safe.


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