For Joe

Joe, there are apparently people much much more patheic than you and me when it comes to playing pool. They even seem to have a serious anger management problem fueled by frustration over their own incompetence in this beautiful past-time:

  
Bob Marley Cafe&Hotel, Muktinath, Nepal

Alright, stay sharp and manage you temper god fu$&#ng dammit.

Markus \m/

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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

 

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/

Sidenote 1 – Thin Air

So far it’s been uneventful for me dealing with the altitude. Evidently, we prepared for this trip. Generally tall people have a little harder time adjusting. I am 191cms. During the day I have no problems. I make sure I drink lots of water, hot lemon and a drink I found today: Sea Buck Thorn Berry Juice. I am not sure if it is legal, but it feels like rocket fuel and it grows is around Pheriche.
The toughest part for me personally is in the evening during dinner. All guest are in one big room. This is also the only room with a wood stove. And the room is kept pretty tightly closed.
This means there are two huge oxygen consumers and not enough new oxygen coming in. As a result, I get a headache that subsides as soon as I am in my sleeping bag.

Markus \m/