Day 16: Lukla – Kathmandu – Bangkok

We got up early today – well not that early. About 5:15. We packed up everything, met with Madan and Asiz and proceeded to the small departure hall. The check-in procedure is similar to a cattle auction, but a little more chaotic for the untrained eye – like mine or Barbara. But for the initiated, it all makes perfect sense. Madan, weaved, swerved and negotiated, talked and accomplished – what I wouldn’t have hoped for. Three tickets for the first plane out with Sita Air. Madan, Barbara and I were on the same plane. Aziz went to his home village…..on foot, a two-day walk.

LuklaSunriseSunrise on the morning of our departure from Lukla to Kathmandu. We landed save and sound in Kathmandu, got our luggage, were picked up by our agency and dropped off in the hotel in Kathmandu. Since, we were a few days early – we didn’t need any of our slack-days – we asked our airline, if they had a seats open to fly home a day or two earlier. They did, but only today. After a short deliberation, we decided to leave instead of staying an extra four days in Kathmandu. And this really brings me then to the close of this trek. At this point I want to say, that it was the trip of a lifetime. I want to give credit and thanks to all this who have made this possible.

Firstly our agency: Alpine Exodus and in particular Mr. Krishna Dahal. Krishna is the owner of Alpine Exudus and as such very deeply involved in all aspects often business. Krishna received and treated us from day one when we landed at Kathmandu airport like a couple of Fabergé eggs. He was perfect and I can only recommend him to anyone wanting to have a similar experience as we did. He booked the hotels while we were in Kathmandu and the flights from Kathmandu to Lukla and back. He chose and booked the guide and the porter for our trip. I am adding his contacts information here for your convenience.

Mr. Krishna Dahal / Alpine Exodus
P.O.Box 24119, Bhagawoti Street
Thamel-29, Kathmandu, Nepal
info@alpinexodus.com

PERFECTION ALL AROUND.

Thank You so much.

Then my friend Ajay, a Nepalese native, who hooked me up with Krishna. Ajay himself has done the Annapurna Basecamp trek and the Everest Basecamp trek with Alpine Exodus.

And finally our local company for this trek, our guide Madan and our porter Asiz. You were outstanding. You made this trip extra special. You answered every question and took care of all daily logistics while on the trek. We always had a good room to sleep in and meals were generous and on time. We had good laughs together. We enjoyed this time with these two young guys very much.

And really finally, I want to thank you my readers. Seeing the hits increase everyday and reading your comments, was great while on the trek.

So, all that’s left to say is stay sharp and Namaste.

 

Yours Markus \m/

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Day 15: Namche – Lukla

Guess what. Yes, we are still descending. And because, yesterday was barely tiring, we thought we’d do another long one today. From Namche (3440m) to Phakding (2605m) and then back up to Lukla (~2800m). And let me tell you when Namche was always “Just around the bend” yesterday, then the final stage from Phakding, where we had lunch to Lukla, was the longest two hours ever in my life – it would not end. I think, that  Lukla was always way closer, but that the bastards moved the village every time we got within 50m. Then one of the local would call to his mates:”Namaste dudes, the foreigners are coming, they still seem in high spirits. Let’s have some fun and move the village quickly and then watch them deflate a bit – should be a good laugh.” I am not saying that the local are mean spirited, by no means, but I have on the entire trip not seen on movie theatre, an opera or a theatre. Hence, I think they have found a way to create some live entertainment – move Lukla and then watch the reaction on the tourists faces.

Seriously, The people have all been very friendly and fun. Starting with our guide (Madan) and our porter (Asiz) and finishing with the two little cute kids we met in Pangboche – Elina and her brother. Despite, what looks to western eyes as poverty or lack of conveniences, I think that people are generally pretty happy where they live. In fact, I must admit that I look at the life in the Khumbu valley with a certain envy – because life is pretty stripped to the essentials. But then, who am I kidding, I love life with all its amenities, too – even life in Bangkok, which can sometimes test a man’s nerves to the maximum.

Here we leave from Namche with one last look at Kongde and the Stupa near the bazaar place.

NamcheKongde

One last look at Mt. Everest from the same place where we saw Mt. Everest a few weeks earlier for the first time with awe.

MtEverest

The Nuptse-Lhotse chain of peaks taking up most of the shot, like a bodyguard to the highest mountain in the world, which only shows its summit. And on we went, descending, ascending, following the trail to places that should have been Lukla but then they weren’t.

AlmostLukla

 

Wander, wander, wander, follow the trail

 

DCIM100GOPRO

Walking on one of the many rope-bridges, that cross the Khumbu river. For the faint of heart – gone are the days when these bridges were made of vines and you felt like Indiana Jones in the climax scene of the “Temple Of Doom”. No, it’s all steel and concrete, no need to buck. Nonetheless, I felt compelled to provide a view of what it looks like when you are actually on these bridges.

RopebridgeSeeThruYou can see stainless steel boards with gaps, just to let you see the icy cold river below – to not eliminate excitement completely, if you will.

Eventually, we reached Lukla (the village movers must have gotten tired and sure they have had their fun with us). Of course when we reached Lukla, the mountains had one last surprise for us. You see, flying into and out of Lukla is a still actual flying. You fly by sight. No sight, no flying. So, when the clouds move in and the pilot can’t see where he is going, the Lukla airport gets VERY quiet, trekkers get very bored and the only ones benefitting from this delay are the restaurant and bar owners – because people start to do stupid stuff, like play drinking games at altitude.

LuklaAirport

In our teahouse were a Russian team and an American team – on separate tables, how cold war – and they started to get liquored up on beer/Whiskey and vodka (to pass the time, contemplate which group drank what?). And as they chugged down one bottle/can after another, they started playing their tunes via these annoying little portable speakers – oh what fun. The Russian, some disco techno thumping and the Americans some Dixie Chicks sobbers. At first I was bit annoyed, but then I thought this is great in a very small scale. The two “superpowers” in the east and west and the Europeans in the middle of it, while these clowns can’t even talk to each other to agree one another about what kind of and how to play the music while in the same room.

We took one last image of the four people that spent the last 17 days together and have become rather fond of each other. We took the image in the Scottish Bar – yes, Lukla has a Scottish bar. Scots are so much more accommodating than a Nepalese Teahouse filled with superpowers and they have by far the coolest accent!

TheTeam

Hm, so this concludes the actual walking part of the trek from Lukla to Everest Basecamp, to Chhukkung and back to Lukla. It has been so incredibly beautiful, relaxing and insightful, I am still processing.

Until the next stay sharp

Yours Markus \m/

 

 

Day 14: Tyengboche – Namche

Today was another day where we headed back home in big strides. The feeling that this vacation is coming to a close is settling in. I am not exactly sure if I am happy about that. For me it has been pretty momentous. A lot of childhood memories have met with reality. This place, the Khumbu valley with all its famous rock and ice formations is very special, despite the loads of people who come to visit (just like us). We rose early from Tyengboche and started the long and steep descent to the Khumbu river. DCIM100GOPROA Yak at the Tyengboche Monastery. In the background is Lhotse with Mt. Everest just showing its summit. The imposing mountain on the right is Ama Dablam (The mother cradling her child). To me Ama Dablam is like a Supermodel – just a little too perfect. Ama Dablam is a female mountain, with perfect makeup and hair al the time. This mountain looks perfect from every angle and that is precisely why I do not like it as much. To me Nuptse is a great mountain. The western face is all rejection and scars, yet, its northern ridge provides the observer a little bit of hope that a summit is maybe not as far out of reach. Nuptse is a frank mountain, its shape states clearly:”You want to summit, You must earn it. No Free Rides!” But I digress. We were descending.

DCIM100GOPROAlong the trail, looking north where we came from and where we made so many memories. To the right is the massive Kusum Kongri – also a very beautiful mountain. When I say mountain, then it should not be understood in an Alpine sense. In the Alps a mountain, say the Wildspitze (in the glaciers between the Pitztal and the Ötztal) is a fairly limited area with essentially one peak. Here Kusum Kongri, or Thamserku – only 6000ers – are always a huge mountain ranges with sub-peaks and their own ridges and passes. Think of the difference as follows. In the Alps a mountain is a single family (Wife, Husband – often only a single, possibly one or two children). In the Himalayas every mountain is like a royal family (King, Queen, princes, princesses, cousins, hangers-on, servants, concubines, court jesters, an army and so forth – every mountain here in reality is a big production.

DCIM100GOPROWhoohoo, we were getting close to Namche. On the way back Namche felt like it was always right around the next bend or ridge. This stage was a lot of up and down. Officially we were descending 500m – net loss of 500m. In reality, we climbed quite a bit only to descend more and more. the last bit to Namche is more or less flat – operative words being “More Or Less”. Nonetheless, we eventually made it back to Namche. Once in Namche, I played around with the little GoPro camera we had bought just a few days before we left on this trip. I am not quite sure what to make of it. The Fisheye focal length is a tad extreme for me. I prefer my sturdy rangefinder. But, I can see why the GoPros have become so hugely popular. They are small, lightweight, fit everywhere and because of their extreme wide-angle, it doesn’t really matter if you are pointing the camera in the right direction, you will capture the action one ay or another.

DCIM100GOPRONot a mountain range, no it’s my south face at Namche, enjoying what’s left of the day against the teahouse wall – life can be oh-so-good, really.

We went later into the Cafe 8848 for good Latte Macchiato and a generous and good piece of cheese cake – I mentioned it before, coffee time is the best meal of the day.

 

So long, stay sharp.

Yours Markus \m/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 13: Chhukkung – Tyengboche

Today, we started the long trek home. We took our sweet time to descent the solid 800m via Dingboche (coffee, cake), Pangboche (lunch) to Tyengboche (dinner, sleep).
Bit we’ll start from the beginning. First there was nothing, not even a void or even a little singularity. Then god violated one of the cardinal rules – she made something from nothing……No not that far back.
No, we woke up to a beautiful sunny day with unfortunately extremely cold temperature of -20C….is this a way to run the universe? IMG_4763-1.JPG Ama Dablam (left) and Tabuche (right).
So we set off at a quiet steady pace, letting the fact that we have started the parting process slowly sink in. But we did not let tue Blues get to us. Because at Dingboche we luxured in the French Café with a Coffeemate Latte (who would have thought) and a piece of Blueberry Cheesecake. I am not kidding – in the words of James Lipton (of Inside The Actors Studio fame):” It was a DELIGHT” at 4200m at 9:45 – perfect for a second breakfast.
IMG_4761-0.JPG
Strengthened, fed and recovered we ambled on towards Pangboche, the place where today’s stage was supposed to have been over. Bit oozing strength, thanks to that cheesecake we decided to only have lunch at Pangboche and push on to Tyengboche instead. Lunch at Pangboche was OK. The entertainment was much better – the owners’ two children.IMG_4759-1.JPG Elina 4 yrs and cute as a button.
IMG_4760-1.JPG Elina’s little brother 2yrs old – a little devil, whose name I could not understand with all the snot running from his nose.
Onwards and downwards to Tyengboche, where we finally reached agter another 2 1/2hrs…pretty tired.

Cheers and stay sharp
Markus \m/

Extra Bonus On Altitude Sicknesses

So you have heard about AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness and its two more severe forma called HAPE – High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, where fluids build up in the lung and HACE – where fluid builds up in the skull causing pressure on the brain. But, and tuis is not a joke, there is also HAFE – High Altitude Flatulence Expulsion. Essentially, everyone farts a lot more than if at sea level. It’s a real disease. IMG_4729.GIF
-thank you to addletter.com for posting the blackboard writings generator-

In the words of Nelson Muntz:”Smell ya later, dingusses.”

Markus \m/

Sidenote 2 – On Consequences

On this trek I have been confronted with the incredible beauty nature has to offer. Whether it is the sunrises or the sunsets, the way the mountains change shape as we walk around them or the patterns the clouds make as the day passes. But I was jolted back a bit to reality as we walked past the many different memorials erected to remember known and unknown climbers who died in these mountains. Evidently, death is the most severe and ultimate consequence of moving in the high mountains and tuis it may be more on people’s minds as they trek and climb here. The less severe consequences, like losing a limb, losing a comrade, facing sudden fear are less so on people’s minds. If you get caught in the rain in the woods in Germany or anywhere else in the flat lands (except of course in a desert, where flash floods kill people) you might get soaked, here there is a pretty reasonable chance you can end up in a life-or-death situation quickly.
Seeing the memorials of Scott Fischer for example, who died in the well-documented disaster on May 9-11 1996. He was an experienced mountaineer, yet in order to push his fledgling expeditions company he might have gotten a little overconfident and lost a little respect which may have ultimately lead to his demise on Mt. Everest. But seeing these memorials drove home the point, that real people die for real in these mountains. You don’t play chicken here and respect should always super cede cockyness.

Cheers
Markus \m/

Day 12: Chhukkung – Chhukkung Ri

I woke up this morning again feeling lousy. Coughing and congested, not fun. Despite the cornflakes and noodle soup diet for the last 2 days, I was surprisingly strong going up to Chhukkung Ri. We stopped short of the summit because it was in the clouds. The views we were offered were still great. IMG_4725.JPG Yours truly in the Forrest Gump Bench Pose against the “baby of Ama Dablam”. IMG_4726.JPG
Our climbing sherpa (Ang Ghami, left) and our trekking sherpa (Madan, right) watching climbers summit Island Peak and climbing Ama Dablam through binoculars.
IMG_4727.JPG The two guides and me staring towards Island Peak. The summit of Makalu can be seen above the mountain guide’s head (middle). IMG_4728.JPG Ama Dablam seen from the “warm” terrace of our Chhukkung tea house.
Regarding the goal of climbing Island Peak, I have decided NOT to start the climb. For two reasons.
1) While I feel fairly strong, I do not feel I have sufficient strength margin to accommodate anything unexpected such as big temperature drops, high winds, wait times, etc.
2) the weather forecast is not particularly exciting for a summit attempt.

I am surprised at my decision, because I was really looking forward to it, but mistakes and wrong decisions get punished here rather severely.

Okeydoke, stay sharp
Markus \m/