Nepal…. Final Thoughts

Over the course of 15 days we hiked, along with 14 other Americans, 2 western guides, 6 Nepali guides and several porters from Lukla to Everest Base Camp (EBC) and back.  We also took a two day side trip to Thame (partly for altitude acclimation).

The high point (literally and figuratively) for me was Kala Patar.  At 18,500 feet and located just outside the highest “settlement” in the Khumbu valley (Gorak Shep) it is a traditional viewing point for Mt Everest.  We had stunning weather that day and the view was amazing.

My photo from Kala Patar (18,500′) with peaks labelled.
Hiking

The hiking was not that hard. We hiked a total of about 90 miles with our longest  just over  11 miles and most days half this. But it was very steep and 3,000 foot days were not uncommon and ….. it was, by our standards, very high. We spent three nights above 16,000′ which was a new experience.

Hiking summary

The trail was very rocky and sometimes very steep but in good condition most places and we saw several crews doing major trail repairs. The suspension bridges (we crossed at least 10) were very stable and in good condition.

Crossing a bridge behind some donkeys

The trail was reasonably busy (this was the high trekking season) but not uncomfortably so. We did have to wait several times a day to let yak or donkey pack trains or porters pass by.

Health

Everyone got sick. Several people (including me) had intestinal issues. These usually lasted no more than a few days (with medication). Speaking of medication, it was easy to get Cipro and Diamox at the pharmacy in Namche.  And almost everyone developed the “Khumbu Cough”, a dry raspy cough, some worse than others.  It seems to be caused by a combination of the cold, dry air and the altitude.

At Lobuche (16,140 feet), three hikers, including Roberta, and one porter developed AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and had to go down. The porter was unconscious and had to be carried partway down before he recovered enough to walk. Two of the trekkers were very sick, vomiting most the night, before heading down to the clinic in Pheriche.

Accomodations

See my other post about the accomodations ( Accomodations ). Think hostel with no electricity, heat or running water and you get the idea.

Guides

Our guides were amazing.  The famous  Vernon_Tejas was our lead guide. He has more experience at high altitude than just about anyone else in the world and his wife, Carole, is an expert on Nepali culture.  Our Nepali guides were friendly, knowledgeable and spoke passable english.  They made for a safe, enjoyable adventure.

Vern Tejas
Food

Rara soup. Dal bhat. Rice. But also pizza (Tuna Pizza??) and spaghetti. The food was a bit monotonous but filling. Drinks consisted of “hot lemon” (think hot lemonade of varying sweetness), hot tea or hot water. Sometimes coffee in the morning. Strangely enough we got used to drinking hot water.

Part of a pretty typical menu
Weather

We had wonderful weather- mostly sunny days. As we went higher it got colder of course.  Above 12,000′ feet it was definitely below freezing at night. We used our full size parkas to run to the toilet in the night. During the day it was usually in the 50’s, perfect for hiking.

Morning in Namche (11,500 ft)

 

Tengboche to EBC

Day 7 (Oct 29) Pheriche, 13,900

Arrived in Pheriche at 2:00 after hiking for about 5 hours. Plan is to spend two nights here getting acclimated.

Stunning view of Ama Dablam on the way to Pheriche

The inns are getting a bit rougher, no plumbed water pipes. The toilets have buckets of water for flushing and the sinks just have buckets of water with spouts for hand washing. And, of course, no heat and it is getting colder as we head up.

Team coming off one of the many suspension bridges on the trail

We both feel good – no elevation effects so far. Bert is taking 200 mg of diamox a day and I am still not taking any.

Day 8 (Oct 30) Pheriche, 13,900

Morning acclimation hike up the hill east of Pheriche to about 15,000 feet then back down for lunch. We changed inns and….. this one has bathrooms in the room! Holy heck!

Our 15,000’ acclimatization hike – it’s getting colder!

In there afternoon we walked to the Himalayan Rescue Association clinic for a presentation by doctor Andy Nyberg. HRA is a non-profit NGO that have been operating a clinic here since 1973. Then we got a brief tour of the very small (three rooms) clinic and bought some swag to support the clinic.

Doctor Andy tells us all the ways we can die up here!

I have decided to start taking some very low dosage Diamox (65 mg) before bed for the next few nights. Will increase to 125 mg if I don’t see any affect or have trouble sleeping. Tommorow we head Lobuche (16,170’).

Day 9 (Oct 31) Lobuche, 16,160

Left at the usual time (8:00) for Lobuche. Easy stroll up the valley to start.

The team heads up to Lobuche

Bert’s back is acting up – talked to Carole and she got a hot water bag that Bert used during breakfast and at lunch when we got to Lobuche.

Darlene (Doug’s wife) wanted a helicopter rescue when she arrived in Lobuche but Vern and Carole talked her out of it. Her oximeter reading looks good and her only real symptom is mild nausea. She will spend the night and decide what to do but Doug says he thinks she will head back down to Pheriche tomorrow.

A high point on the way to Lobuche.

After a late lunch a lot of us followed Vern up the Khumbu glacier latéral morain just outside of town to view the glacier.

It’s yaks, donkeys or people and the people definitely carry the heaviest loads!

Day 10 (Nov 1) Gorak Shep, 16,960

Bad news! Bert was very sick last night Vomiting all night – clear sign of AMS.

Bert on oxygen in Lobuche.

Early this morning, along with Jane (who also vomitted all night) and Darlene, headed down to the clinic in Pheriche. She was diagnosed with severe AMS .

I continued on. Had a pretty tough morning to get to Gorak Shep mainly I think because I got very little sleep last night. I am taking about 250 mg of Diamox over the course of the day in 62.5 mg increments.

On the way to Gorak Shep

After lunch we hiked up Kala Patar. Didn’t think I would make it the whole way but it went surprisingly well – maybe lunch helped. All the way to 18.500’! Gorgeous views of Everest and the Khumba glacier and ice fall. Even saw an avalanche!

18,500 feet! That’s Everest over my left shoulder.

Day 12 (Nov 2) EBC, then Lobuche, 16,160

Long day – very tired but I slept well. Shared a room with Doug (Darlene’s hubby), Took about 1.5 hours to hike to EBC and we stayed for about 30 minutes in glorious sunshine taking pictures.

Everest Base Camp, 17,500 feet!

I finally heard from Bert and she is doing well so we will hook up tomorrow in Dingbuche.

The Khumbu glacier and ice fall below Everest.

Hiked back to Gorak Shep for lunch then back to Lobuche (and that thick 16,000 foot air!) for the night.