Perhaps our greatest human need isn’t to be understood, but to understand ourselves. Hours alone with Great Outdoors is my version of church — the best place to meditate, reflect and discover more about oneself. Like journaling, it encourages free-flow versus analytical thinking and often leads to personal revelation. Needless to say, I’m enjoying long days here on the trail.
I’m moving more quickly than recommended, for fear of missing a good-weather window for departure on the tail end. Goal: seven days to make the 85km trek to 5150m altitude… without altitude sickness. Hoping that my hydration and recovery strategy is sound.
Day 2: Phakding –> Namche Bazaar. Crossing the highest suspension bridge on the trail, catching the first glimpse of Everest, and first encounter with another American on the trail — a 77 year old man who won’t give up adventure. Lifelong passion. Amazing.
Day 3: Namche Bazaar –> Tengboche. Monks chanting within Tengboche monastery and dinner with fellow aviation geeks. Two British Airways pilots have become my trail mates, as we keep similar pace. They are traveling without a guide and plan to trek 85km back to the start, at night with headlamps. I shall take a helicopter back and hope to see them at the airport!
Day 4: Tengboche –>Dingboche. Himalayan hospitality, trail camaraderie and simple pleasures continue to permeate the experience. Amazing how locals measure distance by how much time it takes to walk. Altitude is seriously noticeable and pace has significantly slowed. Each day, I rise by 5 a.m. to gear-up, enjoy a hearty breakfast and hydrate with at least a liter of water. I’m consuming around 5,000 calories and three vitamin variations per day. And lots and lots of local hot tea! The day’s trek is complete by mid-afternoon and the evening is spent recovering and socializing with trail mates.
Day 5: Dingboche –> Lobuche. I feel good. No signs of altitude sickness, so my guide and I are skipping “rest day” in Dingboche, directly heading for Lobuche. A long, misty walk through yak fields reminds me of Wuthering Heights.
That’s right – yaks! At this altitude, there is little vegetation or wildlife. Yaks are strong, covered in a thick coat of fur, able to withstand the coldest temps. Because it’s exhaustive to carry supplies to this altitude, many goods are made from yak milk, meat and hides.
We sleep in “tea houses” made of plywood walls and metal roofs. Central heat is only available in the community room, thanks to a wood-burning stove used to prepare meals. Showers are too cold to bear and private rooms are not heated, but the hard cot is a welcomed reprieve for a well-earned night’s rest.
Day 6: Lobuche –>Gorak Shep — > EBC. There it is, the altitude sickness. It’s paralyzing, especially in the face of steep jagged cliffs threatening to engulf me on the fall. We’re in sight of Khumbu Glacier — the most dangerous section of an Everest ascent — and ECB is just beyond. A field of grey rock, it looks desolate and lonely. I’ve made it so far and seen enough, anxious to secure my return to Kathmandu.
Day 7: This week reached my current limit in terms of altitude, climbing intensity, consecutive duration and mental fortitude. Now knowing what to expect, I’d like to better train and return for another trek, perhaps going even further next time.
It was a difficult, rewarding journey. Sincere namaste!