Photographic Summary – Everest Basecamp And Chhukkung Trip October 2014

Alright, alright, alright…this may be a good opportunity for me to take off my shirt. No, maybe it isn’t. Because this is the photographic summary of the Himalaya trip and not the photographic summary of a middle-aged male stripper at Sarah Finkelstein’s bachelorette party. So here we go.KongdeSunrise

This is the view of the first really big mountain massive we spent time with. The Kongde – the mountain that sits just south of Namche. It is huge and is right into every visitors face. This image of Kongde, however, I took very early in the morning from Tyengboche, a day’s march away from Namche. It had snowed a little the previous day.

RescueHelicopter_1When we had our acclimatization day in Namche, we hiked up to an Everest View Point. As we sat there soaking in this spectacular scenery one of the many rescue helicopters landed and then took of again. Pretty cool. The latest generation of rescue helicopters can climb much higher than previous generations could. The older helicopters topped out at around 6000m. These latest generations actually can go much higher. There feature triple main rotor heads with shorter and deeper rotor blades and run at higher RPM, thus producing more lift than the traditional more slender two blades. Anyway, it was pretty cool to see the pilot take of and then pitch forward to shoot down the mountain side, shamelessly utilizing the ground effect. From Namche we trekked on to Tyengboche a buddhist monastery just below 4000 meters. Here I saw this very large prayer wheel.

TyengbochePrayerwheel

At the monastery I attended the afternoon service with the full out music from cymbals, horns, drums and the throat chanting. But also with the incense smokers. MyrrhSwayer

Our next teahouse after Tyengboche was Pheriche. On the way we walked past many areas where the local lay stones with religious carvings and adorn the place further with prayer flags.PrayerFlagWIPViewToTyengbocheOnce in Pheriche we found the Mount Everest Memorial, commemorating all this who have died pursuing their dream or working on the mountain. When you look closely you can read George Mallory’s name. The more touching moment for me was, when I read the names of those who died in May of 1996.EverestMemorialCone

From Pheriche we ascended higher up to Louche, where we got up close and personal with the Khumbu glacier. Day7-Tobuche-KusumKongri

On the way from Pheriche to Louche, looking back towards Thamserku and Kusum Kongri.

Day7-Khumbu

Khumbu glacier tongue, extending for kilometers, looking towards Thamserku, KUsum Kongri and Tobuche on the right. From Lobuche we headed towards Görakshep, the only point where we slept above 5000m and from where we ascended to the highest point of this vacation – Kala Pattar at 5550 meters.DrinkingYak

A Yak drinking from a glacier lake at Görakshep. The view from somewhere along the way to Kala Pattar. The perfect triangular mountain o the left is Lhola, followed by the black top of Mount Everest and Nuptse in the foreground. On the bottom left you can see a bit of the Khumbu icefall through which climbers must make it on their way from Everest Basecamp to Advanced Basecamp above the icefall.Day9-LhoLa-Everest-Nuptse2Next will be images from Kala Pattar, showing Pumori, Mount Everest, Nuptse, Lho-La, etc.Day9-LhoLa-Everest-Nuptse LhoLaKhumbu

bove: View towards Everest Basecamp, Khumbu icefall, Lengthen, Khumbutse and Lho-La.

Pumori

Above and below: Pumori with prayer flags.

DCIM100GOPRO Day9-LhoLa-Everest-Nuptse2

Above: Lho-La, Mt. Everest and Nuptse. Below: Nuptse – my favorite mountain. In the words of Stefan (of SNL Weekend Update Fame):”This mountain has everything!”

Nuptse

After this first major milestone – I am avoiding highlight, because every step up  this point has been a highlight – we trekked back via Pheriche to Dengboche and Chhukkung.

D10-DingbocheStupa

Above: Stupa in Dengboche; Below: View from outside Dengboche towards Lhotse, Above: Shirts and Imja Tse (aka Island Peak).

D10-AmaDablam-Thamserku-KusumKomngri

Above: On the way to Dengboche with the base of Ama Dablam on the left and the faces of Thamserku and Kusum Kongri

D11-ImjaTse-Lhotse-Makalu

Below: Ama Dablam beckons eternally with ever new and seductive poses and views. This  particular view is about half way from Dengboche to Chhukkung.

Ama Dablam

And this about closes the photographic summary – let’s call it part 1 for now, because I am still processing images and might likely post a few more.

Stay sharp

Markus \m/

 

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Thanks Giving Is Nothing Without Friends And Family

It is another Thanks Giving and it almost snuck by unnoticed. But we caught it and held on to the memories. Because of all the holidays that we have experienced and or participated in ever since we left Germany, Thanks Giving is by far my favorite. It is hard to explain why I love it so much and why it has so much meaning to me, but I will try.

Thanks Giving starts after the first Labor Day – the first Monday in September. Within a week or two the planning starts and invitation are made to “come over” for THXG. From that moment of when we knew where we’d be, I was looking forward to the four-day holiday. Depending on where you are and how deep you are with the people inviting, one might be asked to bring something or not. For you see, Thanks Giving is THE FAMILIY HOLIDAY. It is all about family….and eating and catching up…and watching the football game….and then watching the Thanks Giving episodes of whatever the hottest NBC Thursday sitcoms are. About eating, it is actually more grazing. The Thanks Givings we have been to, usually had twenty people on average at any given time. The reason I say it like this is, because some boyfriend / girlfriends or just friends would pop in and out, while some uncles would disappear for a nap. It’s has always been very casual and laid back.

When we lived in the upper Midwest, we might have snow on the ground already and it was definitely below freezing.

And now, this is our 5th year where we are NOT with friends and family on this holiday. Instead we are in Bangkok, where Summer just won’t end. It is still freaking hot and humid. Traffic has gotten worse in the last four weeks. The only thing that reminds a yearning soul that it is Winter, is that it is dark outside by 5:45 pm. Other than that nothing. Unlike last year, we still sleep with the AC on, we have the windows closed, because else the humidity would liquify us (and who wants that?). And I went to work yesterday toiling and trying to get new product defined, designed and developed. An even though the company we did all this work with was great and we ate together, it is not Thanks Giving, the experience is different. And I noticed that difference and I was a little sad, that another year without us being able to participate in Thanks Giving with the people we love passed.

And with that little reminiscence and declaration of love to our friends in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, I wish you all a Happy Thanks Giving.

Yours Markus \m/

German Restaurants Abroad

I know, you are waiting for the Himalaya Photographic Summary. I have done it in the past on bigger trips. But I am still processing images. So bear with me a little. To pass the time, I have a few small observations on German restaurants abroad – outside of Germany. They paint a picture of Germany, that even I am too young to remember.
– The most current music in the vast majority of German restaurants abroad is from the mid seventies….OK, 1970’s. Why? – I don’t know. This is an embarrassment. We do not sit in our Schaukelstuhl (Rocking Chair) listening to the Les Humphrey Singers, Rex Gildo or Marianne Rosenberg. Now, to be truthful, it’s not Rammstein day in and day out either, but the portrait that German restaurants abroad paint in that respect of Germany is excessively homely, old-fashioned, flat out a lie.
– The way we Germans dress is not by wearing Lederhosen (dudes) and dirndls (chicks). Every German restaurant I have even walked by perpetuates this stereotype. Poor Thai staff, Chinese Staff, Indian staff, Nepali staff having to wear this stuff, just to look the part….you cannot be serious! I work with people from Bavaria, the state that claims to represent Germany most truthful abroad and they have never shown up in Lederhosen or dirndls. heck, they haven’t even broken out in song spontaneously. Germany is a place of high industry, not an permanent re-enactment of the “Sound Of Music” where everyone is a second cousin once removed of the Von Trapp family. This is a myth. It’s like saying all Americans are Cowboys or all Chinese live the Kung Fu way and Afghani children come out of their mom’s womb firing a Kalashnikov in joy screaming “lalalalalalalalalala”. Not true! Not true at all!
– Table decorations, we are aware of the fact that flowers are a natural product and pretty much perfectly renewable. They are NOT made from plastic. We know that. I cannot comprehend, why the proprietors of German restaurants abroad, then think to recreate “ze ozentig feeling, we must use plastic flower arrangements, zat are so old, sat ze color has faded a long time ago”. That does not make any sense. Germany an no 2014, does not look like East Germany anno 1985 which was an excercise in shades of gray, and not the exciting shades of gray, believe you me.
– Finally, pictures on the walls. Where do you buy copied paintings of roaring stags in a forest, near a river or waterfall. This is my personal killer. Germans have excellent taste. See the prints of roaring stag paintings wee popular after the war, maybe during the “Wirtschaftswunder” a time that is best compared to the good ole’ days of “Leave It To Beaver”. The same thing with prints of paintings of a middle aged woman with a hat on that features tennis ball sized red pompoms on it. This is a traditional Black Forest hat, that most ladies these days in that region wear maybe once a year at a moonless night.

So, there I got this off my chest. Proprietors abroad, please join the rest of Germany in 2014. The war is over, so is the 1954 Wirtschaftswunder and we have just won the World Cup for a fourth time – oh the things you have missed while living in your time capsule.

Thank you and you too (German restaurant proprietors abroad) should join my readership and me in our daily quest to stay sharp.

Und Tschüss (traditional farewell phrase anno 1992, doh’!)

Markus \m/

I Ran The BKK Half-Marathon…

….. despite of fears of not finishing.
The plan was that I would do well this year at the BKK half. I ran, I trained, I was doing well. My plan was to convert the 3 weeks in the Himalaya, where I would either challenge myself and grow my performance potential or fade away with God know what….high altitude sickness, whatever. But I did well in the Himalaya – as you have read here numerous times. But then I came back and instead of getting my usual three times of running in a week, I got in one lousy time on the Saturday after our return. Plaqued by fatigue and the aftermath of a cold and Khumbu cough, Idid not run or swim or work out any other way. As time passed, I realized I needed to change my expectations from P.R. to “I hope, I will cross the finish line, dammit.” So, at 3:00am, I rose to make the 4:00am start time.
IMG_1183.JPG Getting to said start line was more difficult that I thought. The taxi drivers in Bangkok have turned to first-grade assholes – well not all, but the vast majority. They won’t drive people places anymore. I don’t know what they want, but picking up clients and then driving them from A to B is the job description, there is not much more about it. So, do your damn job.
Anyway, when I finally got there, there were others at the start line, too – as depicted in the above photo. These were the people ahead of me waiting for the fun to go off. Depressing, because it means you have to weave through thousands until you can eventually run your own race. But wait there is more.
IMG_1184.JPG. These were the poor schmucks that were behind me, they had even more people to run past. Anyway, I chose a slow pace, due to that fear of falling apart because of lacking training – 6:15min/km, nothing to brag about.
At 7km, I thought that this was a nice jog and that I am ready for the finish line now. But there were 14 more kilometers to go. True to Thai organization, the kilometer markers were placed…..what the word? At random. It beats me why it is so hard to drop a distance marker exactly one kilometer apart. Maybe there is no App for it, yet, because Thais love their iPhones, but that is a completely separate entry. I will just say, that when I see couples in their teens and twenties go out, they both stare at their phones, where as when I was younger (yes, here it comes) we made out had and heavy. I do not see how an iPhone can be even remotely as exciting as making out. People there is not smartphone required when you are making out with the chick you are currently in love with. But that’s all I want to say at this point.
So, my running got harder, pain, fatigue, doubts make their appearance. But then I thought “Screw it, I have seen people that have a reason to be moaning and it’s not me.” It’s these guys. Porters in the Khumbu valley, carrying convenience for the rest of us up the mountain in comfortable +40kg loads. They have a reason to bitch moan and complain ”
IMG_1187.JPG
IMG_1188.JPG
This guy, who’s getting his forehead wrinkles massaged out, has no reason whatsoever.
IMG_1186.JPG
So suck it up and run!

And that’s my BKK Half Marathon story. Oh, yes, I finished in 2:15:17, like an old Diesel truck.

Cheers and stay sharp.

Markus \m/

Sidenote 5: The aftermath

I thought, I should write a little about the aftermath of this trek, too. While on the trek, our lives were beautifully simple: Wake up between 6:00 and 7:00; have breakfast around 7:00 – 7:30, set off between 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning. While you walk time passes incredibly fast, because there is so much new and so many impressive views to see. In no time it’s lunchtime. You eat and drink a little and you move on. More stunning scenery, more speechlessness and you have already arrived at the day’s destination. You drink quick tea or a Sea Buck Thorn Juice (that stuff is GOLD), followed by a nap and then it’s almost time for a dinner. We, like everybody else were usually in bed by 7:00pm. You sleep for a good 10 hours, albeit with interruptions – something that your kidneys produce a lot more urine to cope with the altitude, thus everyone pees a lot.

Because the scenery is so great and everyday has new views in store, you are subconsciously a little on edge in anticipation what the next day will bring. At the same time, your body tires from the constant fresh air, the altitude, the hiking up and down (pretty massive ascents / descents) and simply the distances covered, but you don’t necessarily notice that.

When we arrived back in Bangkok, after about a day, when I finally realized it was over and let go a bit, I fell asleep on the couch. Naps quickly extended to 3 hours and I could eat whatever I wanted, no weight gain. In fact I lost 3 kilos over three weeks, although I ate like a black hole.

The aftermath is that a thorough tiredness kicks in and you have to give your body a little bit of time to adjust to whatever your “normal” lifestyle is. In our case it meant we went back down to 3m above sea level, highly polluted air, noise and chaos to people who by- and-large don’t care about anything and the brain (if present) is usually on idle or snooze – oh how I long for the days of simplicity, bliss and mutual looking out on our trek. But tat is all part of the experience and I would not want to miss any of it.

In summary, do not be surprised if you are deadly tired after your trip. And do not be surprised if that tiredness materializes a few days after everything is over and you didn’t really expect it.

Stay sharp and enjoy life while you can.

Markus \m/

 

Sidenote 4 – Equipment And Extra Expenses

Equipment – what to take, what not to take and how much can you economize on toilet paper. These questions will be answered in this entry. Let’s start with the following. For a 14 – 21 day trip of actual trekking with out any extraordinary peak attempts you should be well served with the following per person:

Packing List 2 – 3 weeks of trekking

  • 1 Comfortable big backpack, you carry yourself (when you buy a new one, take your time and load it to the weight you expect to carry – I had 16 kg)
    • OR, alternatively
  • 1 small comfortable backpack (for your immediate daily stuff during each day’s hike) AND a big duffel bag that holds all your others ruff listed below, carried by the porter.
  • 1 normal pair of hiking/trekking pants (long, detachable legs may make sense up t possibly Tyengboche, beyond that it may be a bit nippy)
  • 1 pair of warmer hiking/trekking pants (long)
  • 1 fleece sweater or fleece vest (Polartec and/or windstopper fleece preferable)
  • One Windstopper jacket (light)
  • One rain jacket (Gore Tex, preferred)
  • 1 Down Jacket, light (we have the Mont Bell Ultralight Down Jackets, they are pure down and fit into a small stuff bag – very warm and convenient)
  • 2 pair of liner socks
  • 3 pair of thicker socks ; I wear liner and thicker socks in my hiking boots. Has avoided blisters for me.
  • 3 cotton T-Shorts (short sleeve)
  • 2 long sleeve T-shirts
  • 1 technical long sleeve T-shirt – something that wicks sweat away and does not leave you wet and cold.
  • Underwear: Men – 5 underpants / Women – 8 underpants; 4 undershirts
  • 1 Jogging pants, something for inside the tea houses
  • 1 baseball cap or similar
  • 1 warm hat, that covers the ears
  • Bandana and/or HUD (a sleeve that fits around your neck and can be worn over the face, too.
  • Gloves thin – I had some running gloves (Saucony mittens)
  • Gloves warm – I had Windstopper fleece finger gloves AND just in case a pair of Keprotec overmittens (thin, but impenetrable for wind and water. I use them for snowboarding)
  • 4 handkerchiefs + Paper Handkerchiefs
  • 1 roll of toilet paper (per person; I recommend you start from day one to use it consciously)
  • 1 Sleeping bag – warm!!!. Down s very warm, but when wet, takes for ever to dry and is heavy. Synthetic fibers can be lighter and dry quickly when wet. Synthetic is also usually a bit cheaper.
  • 1 Liner (cotton or fleece) – if you are really cold.
  • Walking poles – while weight is not an issue when you are in the store, it is a big issue when you are walking with them at altitude. (We had the Black Diamond Carbon Cork, they are light weight, stiff, sturdy and reliable)
  • 1 Headlamp with fresh and spare batteries. The tea houses have usually poor lighting in the hall ways when you walk at night to the toilet…..which you will do numerous times a night.
  • Gaiters, if you intend to do any passes (Tokyo, Chola, Renjola, Kongma) or just as a precaution, if it drops snow – which can happen.
  • 2 Sigg bottles – you need to drink a lot along the way – everyday
  • 1 tube of superglue, especially if you have La Sportiva hiking / trekking boots. Apparently the Italian company has a great sense of style and good looks, but NO IDEA about material science and how to attach materials for more time than they spend at a dealer store – this warrants a dedicated separate blog entry!
  • 1 small bottle of antibacterial gel
  • ~1 snack bar per day – get good stuff, stuff you like.
  • 1 tooth brush + 1/2 tube of toothpaste
  • 1 small bottle of soap / shower gel. You can get small, sealable bottle at REI or Amazon. Then just fill your favorite gel in there. Before you lock the cap on, squeeze the bottle a little. As you ascend the external pressure drops, causing the slightly squeezed bottle to assume its original shape. If you do’t squeeze, you run the risk of the bottle opening and magically distributing its contents ALL OVER your every belonging.
  • 1 small towel for splashing ice cold water in your face in the morning  (quick dry preferred)
  • 1 bigger towel (quick dry preferred) to dry off if you have splurged on a hot shower – the quick dry towels don’t take up much space, they can get washed quickly and they dry you off quickly
  • Magnesium tablets
  • Isotonic drinking powder
  • Sun protection with HIGH protection factor
  • After sun gel
  • Lip balm with high UV protection (in Europe anywhere and in America at Amazon there is Labiosan, you look like a clown, but it works extremely well)
  • Band Aids
  • Sports Cream (we brought Muai Thai Salve)
  • First Aid pack
  • A book to read in the tea houses
  • Map of the area you are hiking in – optional
  • Camera with a UV filter (without it, your images will likely look washed out, due to the high UV exposure at altitude.

Extra Expenses:

  • Internet access: between 100 Nepali Rupees – 500 Nepali Rupees
  • Battery charge: between 100 Nepali Rupees / hours – 500 Nepali Rupees for a full charge –> keep in mind, that electricity comes from photovoltaic arrays and that the current is fairly low. The systems usually operate at 12-24V. Charging your iPhone from 20% to 80% can take up to 3hrs.
  • THE HOT SHOWER: between 100-400 Nepali Rupees. These showers are a treat. They are extremely hot, but with very little water pressure, while the surroundings are usually VERY cold. You, too, will dance under the shower to ensure you don’t leave skin too long exposed tot the cold surroundings. Definitely part of the experience.
  • Extraordinary luxuries: softdrink, candybar, toilet paper; cost depends on where you are. The first villages right after Lukla will try to milk you. Between Namche and Pheriche / Tingboche prices are lower, but they increase with altitude and distance from Lukla. Everything you buy is brought up and in on human back – considering that, $5 for a role of TP is cheap when you buy it in Görakshep.

I think that covers everything

Stay sharp

Markus \m/

 

Sidenote 3 – How To Book? Agent Vs Agent And Guide/Porter Yes or No

Alright, you have read the entries of our daily experiences and impressions from our Himalaya trip and that got you asking yourself:”Self, how about we do that, too?” And then self answers back:”I wonder how they booked all this.” Today’s entry will expand a little on the Thank You and props I gave to our guide, porter and the agency we booked with.

We booked local. This mean, we chose to book the entire trip through a Nepali agency (Alpine Exodus) in Kathmandu. Here was our train of thought. There are tons of agencies everywhere in the world who offer trips to anywhere in the Himalayas. But how do they do it? They link themselves into the value chain and take probably a significant chunk of the profits, while outsourcing the organization to ….you guessed it, a local agency on Nepal.

This means that if you book through a European or American or other agency that is located in a country with flush potential clients (Japan, Singapore, China come to mind):

  1. You will likely pay more, that booking with a local, reputable agency.
  2. The local agency, that the outside agency sub-contracted with will see fewer proceeds
  3. Your main contact sits likely a few time zones away and decision-making in case of an emergency is likely delayed because the two agents need to discuss how to handle whatever situation came up.

Let me address the two main concerns you may have.

  • The language barrier: Our agent speaks perfect English and even a few words of German. We did all inquiries, request and agreements prior to the trip in English via email and there was never any issue, that could be traced back to a “lost in translation” problem. In fact, Krishna was always super prompt in his replies and very concise.
  • The culture difference: That is something that occurred to me later, after someone actually asked me, why I trust “these people”. Well, the trust problem is I think not limited to Nepalis, but to anyone you have never met in person or with who you have not established a relation, yet. Besides, you will have a guide and one or two porters,  this is a great opportunity to simply be trusting and leave the worries behind – it’s your vacation.

 

Finally a word or hiring a guide and a porter or not. I was glad we hired a guide and a porter. Having a guide is great. You can ask questions about where you are right now (as in what is the name of this mountain and how high is it? Has it been summited, yet? Have you summited it? How long does it take to go up there? Is it difficult – would I be able to make it? Is it a technical climb? Are here tea houses or is it all tent? et., etc., etc.), about life in the area? In short you have someone who provides you direct access to a different culture and why would you not want to experience that, since you already made the trip to Nepal. SO, I recommend a guide.

That leaves the porter. For me it was a matter of male pride, to carry my backpack (with all the excess nonsense I thought was desperately necessary before the trip), so that I could gage my fitness level for the challenges that lay ahead. Barbra had a porter, who carried the bulk of her stuff. This made it easy for her and because she did not have a lot, we did not excessively tax our porter. A good porter serves though a third purpose. The second being, to be a second opinion on the questions you ask your guide. The third is a vain reason, but if you don’t overload your porter, he will speed a head to the teahouse and get you a nice room…may be even the nicest available. Because the rooms in the tea houses go on a first come first serve basis in general. Thus, I recommend go with at least one porter and don’t overload the guy with shit you really won’t need.

 

Alright. That’s that.

Stay sharp and go visit this beautiful country with its majestic and magnificent mountains, valleys, wildlife and flowers. It’ll blow your mind in a healthy way.

Markus \m/

 

P.S.: The agenacy we went with is called:

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