Day 12 – Gokyo (4700m) – Gokyo Ri (5357m) – Gokyo (4700m)

The day started with about 3mm (~1/8″) of ice on the inside of our room window. In the room it was freezing cold, although that is nothing new in the tea houses and frankly, i like it that way. An opportunity for the sleeping bag to pull its weight. We got up early, had breakfast.The inn-keeper of our tea-house. He was a really cool dude. He had three women working for him running the show, which allowed him to “sleep in” behind the counter. He was a great host and we had two great afternoons and evenings filled with conversations in this tea-house.Morning at Gokyo Lake Morning at Gokyo Lake with stupa. Hello darling, have we had a good night?

After breakfast and after I had spent enough time admiring our most excellent surroundings we headed up Gokyo Ri. Ascending Gokyo Ri is deceiving. It looks so close and easy, but then again you start at 4700m and you need to ascend 650m. In addition, you want to arrive on top with great visibility and on top of that, if you are wired like me, you turn an ascent like this into an athletic competition, a way to physically prove yourself…..which seems to become more important to me as I age.Some where between Gokyo with its beautiful and “refreshing”lake and the summit of Gokyo Ri. We pushed on talking less and breathing more until we finally reached the summit (under 2 hours, for those of you who are interested).The pyramid in the center is the big one Mt Everest. Next to it you see Nuptse and Lhotse. And a little more to the right, the pyramid is Makalu followed by the Lobuche peaks. The view was unforgettable.Makalu and prayer flags. Mt Everest and prayer flags. The massive that is Cho Oyu. Barbra enjoying the Grande Cinema – really so cool to have been there and to have done this.Panorama 1 From Gokyo Ri Panorama 2 from Gokyo Ri from Mt Everest to Cholatse.

Yes, you are right, we are already at the end of this entry.

Take care, stay sharp

Cheers Markus \m/

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Day 11 – From Thagnak (4700m) to Gokyo (4700m)

This was a great day to hike. I would finally see my favorite mountain up, close and personal – Cho Oyu – the Emerald Goddess. We set off from Thagnak and walked on a more or less flat path. The sun was up but our trail was till shaded from the high mountains surrounding us, so it was pretty cold. After about forty-five minutes we reached the glacier tongue which has its origins at Cho Oyu.

And there she was – the Emerald Goddess, smiling at me.

Cho Oyu at the end of the glacier and to the left you can see the glacier tongue, which we have to cross, to get to Gokyo. Looking the other way toward Khumbu valley.

While the distance from where we were to Gokyo was probably less than a kilometer, it still took us about one and a half hours, because we had to zig-zag our way across in order to avoid crevasses….also I stopped frequently just to take pictures.Cho Oyu – full frontal, so beautiful and peaceful. To me ChoOyu is just a beautiful mountain. Ama Dablam is a mountain’s Mountain – standing there solo, being the center of attention for anyone who hikes up the Khumbu valley. Mt Everest is the highest, but he hides behind Lhotse and Nuptse. Makalu with it mighty pyramid top. All these mountains are great and unique mountains. But none of them has the beauty and the looks or Cho Oyu. If I ever decide to humbly venture on top of an 8000m peak, it would have to be Cho Oyu. But, this is in the yet to be determined future and we were in the middle of a glacier traverse. I admit I had not rad much about Gokyo, so all the bigger was my surprise when we had reached the other side, that Gokyo is a Lake Side resort – and I am not kidding. It is the Riviera, sans the big, bleached blonde hair, the Bugatti shades and the old men with young girls.From the left you see, Gokyo Peak and Gokyo lake, Downtown Gokyo and Cho Oyu dominating the background. This place was awesome. We descended, moved into our room and had a nap.This was a vacation after all. After our nap, we walked about the village and enjoyed the views.Lake Gokyo, there was still some ice on the lake and trust you me, when I tell you it was freakin’ cold. On the male temperature scale, it was a second belly button.At this altitude and in the presence of so much peacefulness and beauty, it is also possible to erect little stupas that defy physics and time – just serene.

As I said, it was a great day. Writing this makes me yearn to go back (and I do not make a lot of use of the word “yearn”) and enjoy and explore this area all over again.

And again, we are at the end of an entry.

Stay sharp dear readership.

Cheers Markus \m/

 

 

The Ol’ Oracle

My dad, the old football oracle was once again right (an believe you me, this admission is hard for a son). Two an a half weeks ago we were talking in the car about the prospects of Germany defending its World Cup title. Yours truly, Mr-Walking-On-The-Sunny-Side-Of-The-Street, Mr-The-Glass-Is-Half-Full (even though there is only condensation on the glass), well, me a person with a generally optimistic outlook on life, I said:”We will punish Mexico 4:0, we will send Sweden back to the lockers with a valuable 3:0 lesson…and South Korea…well South Korea, I don’t count practice games.” My dad, the ol’ football oracle chuckled and dryly replied, “They will not make it! They should be happy if they make it into the knockout round.” I laughed in the face of such dire pessimism. He expanded with just one sentence:”They are not hungry…..the gentlemen millionaires.”

If you have followed the World Cup, then you know, that I had to eat my words and that my dad, was succinctly to the point. I will not throw in my 10 Baht and explain what happened and why. Fact is that the German team from 3006, 2010 and 2014 would have schooled the 2018 team with double-digits to zero victories. In all three group stage games, it was as if they had forgotten the beautiful and entertaining “Hooray Football” that made them fan darlings in 2006, 2010 and ultimately won them the World Cup in 2014.

And so to finish the eating of words I say to my dad:”I bow my head in deep humility and with great admiration. May you be correct many more decades. But, I would like to express with the utmost confidence, that our hockey team, the Mannheim Adler (Olé, Olé, Olé, Olé, immer wieder MERC) will definitely grab the national championship in the 2018/19 season – NO DOUBT!! Mark my words.”

And that’s that. Onwards and upwards.

Stay sharp and remember Optimists have a lot more to lose, but they are also much better prepared for success !-)

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 10 – Dzongla (4730m) To Chola Pass (5380m) To ThagNak (4700m)

So where are we? Two days ago, we crossed Kongma La Pass. Yesterday we had a relaxing day from Lobuche to Dzongla. And today, we tackled the second of the three passes – Chola Pass. The view looking back towards Ama Dablam. Dzongla is already a good hour behind us. Dzongla is in a wide valley nestled between the Tabuche and Cholatse mountains and the Lobuche triplets on the other side. We left early and in pretty brisk conditions. The path climbed gently over yak herder trails for about an hour and a half. Then we came to a pretty vertical section, that we needed to climb through. The climbing here was easy from a technical viewpoint, but the altitude, the backpack and a few snowy / icy patches made it a little more demanding and adventurous. From here on we moved on over and along a big snow field until we got to the final easy climb up to the pass.The ascent to Chola Pass was great. However, as often customary and unfortunately dictated by physics, where ever one enjoys an ascent, one must descent, too, sooner or later. But before we descended, we shared some food at the pass and soaked up the views.On top of Chola pass Looking West from the pass. Today’s stage will lead us across the old glacier moraine (brown slopes). Barbara on “top of the world”. Yubaram at the pass – all relaxed and smiles.

We descended quickly and traversed the moraine. There is a point, when you just want to arrive at the tea house, take your boots off and relax. This desire gives a trekker wings and unleashes hitherto untapped energy reserves. So, when we finally had made it to the teahouse in Thagnak, I…..bathed…….and then I photographed. The bath in the creek was super-refreshing and cleansing on so many levels. Yes, I bathed upstream from Thaknak and not down stream.

As the afternoon drew on, clouds started to move in and shrouded the area in mystery and drama. While wandering around and taking pictures, I met a fellow trekker from Taiwan, Brian. We should encounter him a few more days and share a few cool experiences. But for today, this is it.

Stay sharp

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 9 – Lobuche (4900m)To Dzongla (4830m)

From Lobuche to Dzongla was an easy, relaxed and almost flat 2 1/2 hours trek – beautiful. The path first descends oh-ever-so-gently, leading the observant trekker past the Lobuche basecamp.Lobuche is not a single peak, but a small range of three peaks all above 6000m. The range is marked by Lobuche West, Lobuche and Lobuche East. To the East Ama Dblam makes an appearance. And just a few minutes further down the path from here the valley we are walking through opens up to the East opening up to Pheriche and Ama Dablam. Looking south, the view is dominated by the massive mountains peaks of Cholatse and Tobuche.And looking north up the Khumbu valley, Nuptse is taking center stage with the summit of Mt Everest peeking out behind it.As I said above, this was a short day, a recovery day. Which means that this entry is already over.

Stay sharp

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 8 – Chukkung (4700m) – Renjo La (5535m) – Lobuche (4900m)

This stage led us up and over Renjo La Pass. It is also the day where we spend the most time above 5000m. In hindsight, it was the longest and most strenuous stage. We had perfect weather and we had great views, ranging from tunnel vision all to way to panorama vision. But it all started our early but easy. We ascended from Chukkung through rock fields on narrow paths.Once we were above 5000m, the Nuptse (left) and Lhotse (right) came into view.Clouds were gathering below us, but since we had gained quite a bit already, we were so-to-speak above all that and had this great view of Cholatse and Tabuche as we looked back. But we had only been 2 or 2 1/2 hours into the stage, and Renjo La Pass proved to be very elusive – a gift that kept on giving. However, the long ascent to the pass rewarded us with more views. Ama Dablam from somewhere during the ascent. The ridge of Nuptse and summit of Lhotse onthe right.

On a trek like this, we stop every so often just to do nature justice and soak it all in. Yes, we could move faster and achieve shorter trekking times, but then we’d be seeing less and we’d be spending less time being surrounded by these majestic mountains. It is our vacation after all and not a competition against some imaginary opponents.When we arrived finally at the pass, we were pretty tired. In Chukkung, Barbara, Yubaram and I had spoiled our stomachs with eggs. So, all of us had significant problems that led to frequent “pit stops behind rocks” on the ascent as well as on the descent. From the pass we looked down the other side into a very steep ravine that ended at the Khumbu glacier moraine, which we had to cross to reach the day’s destination: Lobuche at 4900m. I’ll be frank, descending sucks badly. But I get ahead of myself. Makalu (pyramid in the back) from Kongma La pass. Lhotse from Kongma La Pass. Descending to the Khumbu glacier moraine and then crossing it took about 2 1/2 hours. When we had finally climbed up the moraine of the other side and the – after the 2015 earthquake – newly erected little mountain village of Lobuche was in sight, something else caught my eye – smoke. I walked there to see what was going on and saw, that a considerable amount of trash had been collected in a depression between Lobuche and the glacier and had been lit up to burn. Look at all this stuff….plastic, plastic and more plastic.

To me that was very disturbing and still is. When you see the luxuries that are available today in the Khumbu valley, I wonder whether we as humans have completely forgotten to make sacrifices at all. Pringles, Coke, water bottles, Twix, Mars and Snickers bars, hamburgers, steaks all these items are available all the way to Görakshep at +5100m, carried up on teh backs of porters. And similar to the trash pile of depleted oxygen bottles one most 8000m peaks, no one cares to bring this stuff down, neither the tea house owner, nor the outfitters, not the clients. The supply porters would probably welcome an opportunity to carry trash down the mountain, to supplement their meager income.

I would like to see more forward thinking by the Nepali government and especially by the outfitters and agencies to ensure that this great mountain range does not become even more of a become a trash dump than it simply has to be due to the sheer number of visitors over two seasons every year.

Stay sharp

Cheers Markus \m/

Day 7 – Acclimatization And Chukkung Ri (5550m)

We packed lightly and left early. Barbara decided to set this one out and sleep in. The hike from Chukkung to Chukkung Ri climbs from 4700m to 5550m over about 2hours. Up to 5000m I do not feel much of the altitude, but above that the air gets thinner fast, which means heavy panting – or as my old running buddy Adam would call it:”You are breathing through your eye sockets.” That is in fact what you do. But unlike running the ski hills or the ski jump in Bloomington, MN, you are rewarded with truly breathtaking views along the way and especially from the top.We stopped a few times as we ascended to soak up the great views of the area that lay behind us and the areas that lay ahead of us. To the left is the shoulder of Ama Dablam, in the far distance should be Kongde. The ascent to Chukkung Ri can be split into two major stages. In the first stage the path ascends north offering great views of Island Peak. The trail then flattens out and veers left to the West. As soon as the turn to the West is complete the second stage starts. The path becomes considerably steeper and goes straight up the mountain, to a saddle.Almost at the saddle – the saddle is where you see the prayer flags. This part is very steep and the lack of oxygen slows a (tourist) hiker down.Just shy of the saddle, I am looking at the peak of Chukkung Ri. We hurried, because we were afraid that after all this effort, our reward would be spoiled by clouds moving in – Now that would have been a bummer.Once we had reached the top, we enjoyed outstanding views – yet, not unobstructed because of the clouds, but spectacular because of the clouds.Looking East towards the mighty pyramid that is Makalu, at 8481m the world’s fifth highest mountain.Looking South-East towards Ama Dablam and Ambulaptcha Looking North towards Mount Everest and Lhotse to the right and Nuptse to the left.

The peak of Chukkung Ri, looking East. Frozen prayer flags on top of Chukkung Ri – with the clouds came the cold. And cold it was.

And that’s it for today. On Day 8, we go over our first pass – Kongma La Pass. Until then stay sharp.

Cheers Markus \m/