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Nepal, Everest Base Camp - October 2004.

"One thing we had plenty of time to survey, and that was the view. In its extent it was of course, magnificent. Great peaks that had towered over us with their impressive and snow-clad heads a week ago were now but so many waves on the ocean of mountains below us. Except for Everest itself there was nothing within view so high as we were ourselves. [. . .] Mountain peaks are nearly always at their best when one is below their level: but whilst they lose their individual glory when seen from above, there is an exhilaration about a view of tremendous extent such as was ours that day. - After Everest, T. Howard Somervell.


02 October 2004 - Arrive in Kathmandu

 

A terrific thunderstorm. By minibus we travel through the heaving unfamiliar streets of the city, amongst the cars, motorbikes, scooters and rickshaws surprised by the simple fact that they too drive on the left. A loud clap of thunder announces our arival at the Malla Hotel.

03 October 2004 - Kathmandu

 

Narrow streets and alleys, public squares, passing from sun to shade, metalwork, ornate wooden carvings and shattered brick, the smell of petrol stoves, street butchers, markets, motorbikes, rickshaws and car horns, street vendours, pretend sadhu's, tourists and uniformed schoolchildren, shrines, temples and stupa's, pigeons, sparrows and bird song.

04 October 2004 - Kathmandu to Lukla, then to Phakding. (2650m)

 

An exciting flight with Gorkha Airlines. Learn't that an aircraft crashed at Lukla ten days ago, its landing gear didn't deploy properly and with the pilot commited to landing the aeroplane crashed on the airstrip. Soldiers dragged the passengers from the wreckage; no deaths or serious injuries.

05 October 2004 - Phakding to Namche Bazaar. (3440m)

 

Along the banks of the Dudh Kosi through pine and rhododendron forest. Schoolchildren, dressed in maroon uniforms say hello as we pass on the steep busy path to Namche Bazaar. We catch our first glimpse of Mount Everest.

06 October 2004 - Namche Bazaar to Teso. (3505m)

 

Spent some time amongst the traders in the bazaar, visited the Sherpa museum and the National Park Headquarters. Passed a large caravan of Tibetans and their heavily burdened yak on the trail to Teso.

07 October 2004 - Teso. (3505m)

 

A day of acclimatisation. Walked to the monestary above the village of Thame. Met with Ang Rita Sherpa known as "The Snow Leopard" after his style of climbing the Himalayan peaks. A veteran of ten ascents of Mount Everest he is one of the great climbing Sherpas.

08 October 2004 - Teso to Khumjung. (3790m)

 

Saw plenty of yak driven homeward by their Tibetan masters, many yak had prayer flags tied to their unkempt shaggy coats. Saw a Monal, the national bird of Nepal, a male; oily black in colour. Visited the hospital at Khunde, the Hillary School at Khumjung and the monastery their with its "yeti skull" relic, quite beautiful.

09 October 2004 - Khumjung to Thyangboche. (3867m)

 

Had a morning walk up to the Everest View Hotel. This incongruous Hotel is owned by a Japanese couple who helicopter their guests into a nearby airstrip, oxygen is available in all rooms. Drank tea and soaked in the views of distant Mount Everest.

10 October 2004 - Thyangboche to Dingboche. (4298m)

 

Left Thyangboche and descended through meadows and rhododendron forest, past the Buddhist nunnery at Deboche, to the Imja Khola. Then up along the north bank of the river with spectacular views of Ama Dablam.

11 October 2004 - Dingboche. (4298m)

 

A day of acclimatisation under the watchful all-seeing eye of the Buddha. I have a headache from the altitude - a single paracetamol, tea and hot garlic soup is the quickest of cures.

12 October 2004 - Dingboche to Lobuche. (4930m)

 

The tent was frosted over when I awoke, it is the coldest morning so far. A rescue helicopter picked up somebody from another trekking group, they had suffered a pulmonary odema. The problem is that the airstrip at Lukla had been fogged in for a few days so groups arrived late and with little time to aclimatise, pressed on. We pass by several memorials to Sherpas killed on expeditions to Everest and continue along the moraine of the Khumbu Glacier.

13 October 2004 - To Kalar Pattar (5545m) and back again

 

Got to the summit of Kalar Pattar shortly after 10.00am - a little slow! The view of Everest is spectacular, but, the view of Ama Dablam is even more so. As you gain height Ama Dablam gracefuly rises into view and as you descend it slowly lowers its head.

14 October 2004 - Lobuche to Pangboche. (3985m)

 

Snowing all day. Talked to an Austrian guy in a tea house. Bad weather had held him up in Kathmandu for five days and he had been in the air three times but unable to land at Lukla, with only five days of his holiday left and not feeling very well he was heading back. Camped below Pangboche amongst juniper trees in the snow, quite cold.

15 October 2004 - Pangboche to Thore. (3985m)

 

Gave up shaving today. Saw some Mountain Thar, Musk Deer and a very big Eagle. Stopped for Lunch at Konar, a delightful place with many small streams, stone buildings, walls and water powered prayer wheels. But, there were no people - a little spooky!

16 October 2004 - Thore to Gokyo (4790m)

 

The hamlets of Thore and Thare run into one another, it's hard to tell which is which. I'm told that Thore starts at the house with the blue door and Thare ends there, however, all the houses here seem to have blue doors. We ate breakfast in a tea house with its mud floor, polythene windows and dung powered stove.

17 October 2004 - Gokyo via Gokyo Kang to Macherma (4465m)

 

Here is one of the worst long drop toilets I have ever come across, not quite sure whether it was the thought of that or the altitude that gave me a sleepless night. Ascended Gokyo Kang (5483m).

18 October 2004 - Macherma to Kyangchung

 

We descend along the banks of the Dudh Kosi making many small ascents and descents through small settlements.

19 October 2004 - Kyangchung to Phakding. (2650m)

 

There was a frost this morning which was a little unexpected. The five colours of Buddhist prayer flags signify the elements: yellow-earth, red-fire, green-wood, blue-sky & water and white-iron.

20 October 2004 - Phakding to Lukla

 

We passed out of the national park and out of the sight of the great mountains. The occasional snow capped peak peared over the wooded hills but these we were told barely stood over 4000m. We had spent nights sleeping at greater altitude than those stumpy rocks. We had a farewell drink at the Waves Bar and raced back to the camp before curfew.

21 October 2004 - Lukla to Kathmandu

 

A helicopter taking off from the airfield at 06.00am woke us all. We said our goodbyes and made for the airstrip terminal to check in and wait on the weather. A Gorkha Airlines Dornier landed and we raced across the tarmac of the runway as cargo was unloaded and our baggage was stowed on board. Without the engines stopping we scrambled on board, the door was closed and we raced down the short runway before the prop-driven plane took off steeply to avoid the high surrounding mountains.

22 October 2004 - Kathmandu

 

Visited the Temple of Pashupatinath on the Bagmati River, the holiest Hindu ahrine in Nepal; and Bodnath, the largest stupa in the country and destination of Buddhist pilgrims from all over Nepal.

23 October 2004 - Depart Kathmandu

 

Spent the morning shopping, had lunch on a shaded terrace, drank Everest Lager and spent the rest of my time in Nepal flying small paper kites with the hotel staff in the gardens of the Malla Hotel.