Hiking in the Everest region: Days 1-5, Lukla to Dingboche

We did it!!! Pulling together the blog has taken a bit longer than expected, thanks to a combination of us being extremely tired and too busy eating for two days, followed by a nasty bout of food poisoning which cruelly had us confined to bed for the next two.

I’ve typed up my diaries from the mountain and I’m afraid they become more erratic as we get higher and more tired, and I hit a bit of a grumpy vibe around day ten. Sorry in advance for how many times I mention the cold, too. It really was bloody freezing…

Jamie’s working on a video of the trip, but in the meantime all our pictures are in the next three blog posts.

Day One – Lukla (2810m) to Phakding (2610m)

I feel like a bit of a cheat writing an entry after today as it’s been so short! We made it to Lukla after just a couple of hours delay and some confusion with our tickets – the boarding passes, e-tickets and departures board all showed the same time but a different number. Apparently that’s standard for Nepal.

Bit of an adventure bouncing through the thick clouds on the tiny little double propeller plane, and even more of a shock coming in to land with trees flying right past our ears. Lukla is apparently the most dangerous airport in the world so we’re feeling very lucky to have made it here at all! Especially considering the flights were cancelled entirely the last two days.

 

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The trail itself was nice and easy, mostly downhill with beautiful views of the mountains in the distance, although it did rain most of the way. Hoping the rain is just an afternoon thing and will clear tomorrow.

 

Just one short stop to pick up our registration cards and to eat some very overpriced Maggi noodles You can tell we’re definitely in the mountains now!

It’s bloody freezing already and I’m writing this while sat huddled next to our first yak dung stove chatting to Binod and a couple of porters who have stopped in for the night. The porters here are unbelievably strong and carry two or three backpacks supported by a strap that goes over the front of their heads. I’m already envious of the people who passed us on the trail with tiny day bags, but I have to say I wouldn’t have felt comfortable with someone carrying my bag like that. The porters also ferry supplies up the mountain and we’ve passed young children and old ladies carrying huge loads on their head. Binod has just told us that they are paid per kilogram so there’s one older guy here tonight who is 55 and has just carried 50kg of weight up the mountain. Insane!

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Day Two – Phakding (2610m) to Namche (3440m)

A very tough day today with over 800m of climbing, most of it right at the end!

We set out bright and early at 6.30am after a hearty bowl of porridge, which we had to force down thanks to some early morning nausea from the Diamox (altitude medication). Lesson learnt – don’t take it without food.

The first few hours were beautiful, cobbled paths through the mountain villages and the first glimpses of snowy peaks in the sky. Lots more yaks and some cute puppies on the way!

 

The scenery down ‘low’ is quite different to how I’d imagined – big green pine trees on the steep hills overlooking the valleys, icy blue rivers and some very bouncy and very high suspension bridges crossing them. These are particularly good fun when you have to squeeze past a porter coming in the opposite direction. Don’t look down…

 

We can really feel the effects of the altitude already and we keep having to stop frequently to catch our breath. The last two hour climb to Namche had us huffing and puffing the whole way – quite frustrating when it’s the kind of climb that you’d normally be able to keep up a steady pace on.

 

We had some issues finding a lodge as Namche is totally packed at the moment, but we’ve found ourselves a nice place now. No more attached bathrooms so I suspect we might be saying goodbye to that luxury.

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Dhal Bat is ordered for dinner and we’re waiting for them to light the yak stove. Still bloody freezing – how are we going to cope!! We also seem to be getting through a LOT of food – possibly more than is strictly necessary, but oh well. What’s the point of a two week trek if you can’t binge on carbs!

All in all, feet and legs are sore but we’re feeling strong, well-fuelled and refreshed after a baby wipe ‘shower’! Looking forward to an acclimatisation day tomorrow when the lack of air will hopefully start feeling more normal.

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Day Three – Namche (3440m) to Khumjung (3760m) and back

The hike to Khumjung was lovely, although it was uphill for two hours to get there which was possibly a bit too energetic for a ‘rest day’. We stopped half way for the views from a beautiful panorama lodge with views of Everest. Made it all a bit more real and exciting!

 

Khumjung is a picturesque little Sherpa village which feels very different to the commercialised Namche. We had tea at a lodge owned by a friend of Ewan and Binod, visited a monastery with a real life ‘yeti skull’ and even helped to herd a baby calf who got stuck on a ledge.

 

 

A nice downhill and we made it back within four hours, in time to catch the daily documentary at the Namche Liquid Bar. We thought we were going to watch something about Everest but turned out it was Touching the Void – a documentary about two mountaineers who get caught out and nearly die. Not the most cheerful viewing and can’t say it helped my nerves, but oh well. Even more terrified of Cho La now!

Spaghetti for dinner and we’ve introduced Binod to Yahtzee, which he absolutely loves (I still won though, obviously). I never thought I’d meet someone whose love of games matches mine but I’ve definitely found a kindred spirit in Binod!

Day Four – Namche (3440m) to Tengboche (3867m)

Today was tough. Really tough. It started out gently with a ‘flat’ (or Nepali flat, which means constantly up and down) route for an hour with views of Everest and Ama Dablam. Lots more yaks and saw someone training for the Everest marathon (ridiculous).

 

The afternoon was really tough, however, with a seemingly never-ending climb into Tengboche. Jamie seemed to be almost enjoying himself after having struggled on the Namche climb the other day, but for me it felt like it would never end. Finally made it here at 12.30 this afternoon after starting at 6am. The clouds start to come over at about 12/1 everyday so we’re having to start and finish early to avoid them. We’ve changed our plans to go to Everest first now which also means that the lodges are a lot busier and we need to get in early to get a good spot.

Absolutely starving! Just had some noodles and fried rice, but still starving. Food is relatively pricy so we’re trying to find a good balance between eating enough and not eating all our money. Someone told us that you burn 4000 calories a day at altitude. Not entirely sure that’s true, but I’ll take on the challenge nonetheless.

The other annoying issue is water – it’s £2 for a litre of boiled water now so we’re using iodine tablets (which are fine, although they smell like boiled eggs and make the water look like wee) but they take 30 minutes to a work so it’s a constant wait for water to be ready. You need 3-4 litres a day up here, but Diamox is a diuretic so we’re running to the bathroom every ten minutes as well. Our room is outside tonight and the only bathroom is a squat in a tin hut so I’m really praying we make it through the night without having to brave a -5 toilet run.

We’re not the biggest fans of this lodge but we’re stuck inside for the afternoon anyway thanks to bad weather outside. The Sherpa lady who runs it is very scary and hasn’t been friendly to Binod. She won’t tell him where his room is and initially refused to let him have hot water, even though he has a sore throat (Nepalis normally get free hot drinks and dal bhat in the lodges). There are a couple of big tour groups here who it seems run the show and I don’t think she’s particularly impressed by having a group of budget independent trekkers.

Day Five – Tengboche (3867m) to Dingboche (4410m)

We’re officially above the tree line! And the cold is starting to get relentless. It’s hard enough to sleep at altitude anyway, let alone when you’re wrapped up in thermals, a fleece, hat, down jacket, -10 sleeping bag, duvet and still shivering. Really didn’t appreciate our outdoor room last night but at least we only had to get up once in the night to brave the ice cold toilet.

 

The hardest morning so far after a bad night’s sleep, especially because it was so misty that we couldn’t even see anything at first. It perked up eventually though – lots of old woods, balcony paths and views of the Inja Khola river beneath us. Apparently we won’t see another tree until our descent in 10+ days from now. Eek!

 

Much happier with our choice of lodge for tonight – indoor rooms and an indoor toilet. Not that that means much really with the lack of heating, but every little helps.

Had a tasty dal bhat for lunch and we are now huddled in our sleeping bags trying to stay warm. Left Binod captively listening to two guys who are planning to summit 8000m + peaks in the region. One guy did Everest last year and two others tried but had to turn back because of bad weather. Apparently there’s also a guy who plans to be the first Danish person to stand on top of Everest unassisted and with no oxygen. Nutter.

Feeling much better after a little snooze this afternoon and, incredibly, a plate of salami and gouda which some crazy Americans (or at least their porters) have hauled up the mountains with them. They are a bunch of guys who live in Bangkok and are here on holiday. They’re great fun, but basically walking stereotypes of the middle aged college bro and not the kind of people we were expecting to find here. They’re already talking about just getting a helicopter back out of base camp instead of walking down…it’s only $5k after all, as the one guy told us.

Binod has introduced us to Dhumbal, a Nepali card game. Great fun but it’s impossible to beat him!

Read about the next phase, including Base Camp and Kala Pattar here.


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