Having totally failed to clean-up the rough notes I made during our trip in Dec, 2017 / Jan, 2018, I've decided to dump them out 'in the raw' just so they don't get lost...
Associated pages: Nepal Trip Planning; Nepal: Jiri - 3HPs - Jiri; Photos.
NZ to Jiri
Days < 01: NZ
Car transmission failed. Potentially expensive repair prompting thoughts about going car-free (or car sharing service?). Post-Nepal car trips in jeopardy as well. Bugger.
Spontaneous heel injury whilst standing in hall (i.e. no trauma). Limping for 2 days.
A surprising number of replace-once-per-year supplies, that were critical to last minute prep, all ran out this week, requiring resupply without access to a car.
Day 01: NZ - Kathmandu
Balinese volcano on flight path.
Big delay out of Auckland meant we landed in KL 30-mins before our Kathmandu flight was due to depart (from another terminal, obvs). We just made our connection (last people to board), but it turns out our bags did not. They might arrive tomorrow evening, and be dropped to us the day after...
Day 02: Kathmandu
Limbo Day 1 (bags might arrive in country this evening, but all plans on hold until ?)
A good breakfast of boiled eggs, beans and fried potatoes on toast, plus lots of coffee.
First outing: investigate Ratna Park Bus Station, and then obtain our TIMS and NP entry permits. Former was resolved to our satisfaction. Latter, not so much. The Sagarmāthā NP tix office is open Sun-Fri every week, except for this Sunday (today) 'cause it's a full moon and thus some kind of Sherpa holiday. And the TIMS guy basically told us not to bother shelling out for his card as the Sagarmāthā locals had instituted their own system (which he had no faith in) and scrapped the TIMS process within their park. Result: zero passes/permits (i.e. we'll get them on the trail).
Returned to base to catch our breath, then off to find the Monkey Temple over the river to the West. Temple is a magic place at the top of a very step climb.
Returned to base via a pleasant sojourn inside the Kathmandu Guest House (how the 1% live) complete with a pair of Everest Lagers each.
Day 03: Kathmandu
Limbo Day 2 (bags might arrive at hotel today?)
A good breakfast of boiled eggs, beans and fried potatoes on toast, plus lots of coffee (i.e. similar, in substance but not form, to yesterday).
First job for the day was to see if we could get our bags back. Initial phone enquiries to the airport, via our hotel reception, at first indicated all was on track, but as the protracted conversation progressed to bag delivery, some doubts began to emerge. After a couple of flip-flops as to the whereabouts of the bags we decided to go out to the airport to see what was going on. Once there, everything was rapidly resolved, and we were walking out with all our luggage intact inside 10-minutes. Hurrah!
Back at the hotel, and after a celebratory Coke on the roof, our next job was to get tickets for the bus to Jiri. This was pretty straight forward, made easy by stumbling onto the correct ticket booth on our first try. Ticket cost for the 10-hour journey was 580R - roughly the cost of a single, large beer in a nice bar.
Tix (and Zippo fluid for our hand/boot warmers) obtained, we returned home to repack for the trail.
Heading out for an afternoon wander around Thamel, we found ourselves 'inside' the New Orleans Bar with a brace of Everest Lagers. Bliss!
A Pot Noodle dinner and a beer on the roof, rounded out the evening. An early night to rise for an early bus.
Day 04: Kathmandu - Jiri
Up at 05h00 in order to catch the 06h00 Super Express to Jiri. Pitch black walk through the streets of Kathmandu to the bus station. No difficulty locating our bus after bagging up our packs (fully sealing your pack inside a sacrificial rubbish sack is highly recommended - upon being reunited with our luggage in Jiri, it looked like it'd been dragged behind the bus, rather than contained inside the luggage compartment). Taken in hand by an efficient conductor and a driver that took his Super Express duties very seriously.
Bus departed at 06h10 and arrived in Jiri at 15h30. The mid section of the route was very rough, having sustained significant damage in the 2015 earthquake. And at every populated place along the road, every man, woman and child, young and old, were engaged in rebuilding houses. It's difficult to believe that anyone was engaged in any other work. And given that 2-years have elapsed since the quake, one has to wonder where/how they have all been living up until now.
In Jiri🌐 we selected the Dolakha Sherpa Guest House for the night, and celebrated getting this far with a brace of San Miguel beers.
Jiri to Namche Bazar
Day 05 (01): First Real Trekking Day: Jiri - Shivalaya - Deurali - Bandar
Room+Food 2790 (Dal Bhat 400; milk tea 50)
Weather perfect - cool and clear.
Breakfast of banana pancake and black coffee. Yum. Away by 07h55.
Jiri - Shivalaya🌐 3h00. Shivalaya far more pleasant than the down-at-heel Jiri (Switzerland of Nepal, according to a local!?). Shivalaya nestled in confluence of several waterways.
Shivalaya - Deurali🌐 3h10. Got collared for GSCA pass (2000 Rs) upon leaving Shivalaya. Met or overtook several sets of people (2 Dutch, with guide and porter; 1 Kiwi doing a day walk from Shivalaya; and a pair from Aus and Canada). Was 'pleasing' to hear them all comment on the difficulty of the trail - Dave and I thought it equivalent to the run up to Kime🌐 and back.
Deurali - Bandar🌐 0h45. Passed over the first lodge option and settled for the basic-but-serviceable Shobha Lodge & Restaurant. The hot shower was greatly appreciated despite its crudeness. First trial of the laundry system as well. Dal Bhat for dinner.
Day 06 (02): Bandar - Kinja - Sete
Room+Food 2260 (Dal Bhat 400; milk tea 70)
Up at 06h00 for a 06h30 breakfast (vege omelette) and a 07h30 start off down the hill. Another perfectly clear morning.
Sidled to Kinja🌐 in 3h30. Got a bit lost trying to drop from the trail onto the road at one point, and Dave had to rescue me from an aborted spot of rock-climbing, but all was well after a significant back-track. The South African father-and-son that we lodged with last night were regularly in sight throughout the day.
Kinja: Pot of milk tea (380R) and the last of our ginger cake for elevenses. Suitably fortified we began the mega climb to Sete🌐. Dave's time 25 years prior was 2h40, so we were pleased when we knocked it off in 2h50.
Day 07 (03): Sete - Lamjura Pass - Junbesi
Another stunner of a day. Our established morning routine (up at 06h00, pack; breakfast 06h30; post-breakfast fannying-about; on trail by 07h30-ish, today 07h45) is working well. First up, a mega climb to the Lamjura Pass🌐, the highest point for us before Namche Bazar.
About 15-mins in we encountered our first rural livestock event with a herd of behorned cows coming down the trail. The climb to the pass was sustained, but not as hard as the climb up from Kinja. In every patch of shade a skin of frost clung to the ground despite the pleasant air temperature. The approach to the pass was quite a drawn-out traverse, passing a large stuppa/churten, before cutting through a relatively nondescript notch. Here we came upon a man carrying an entire shop on his back.
The descent from the pass was pleasant, but our hope of finding a tea stop proved fruitless. We passed many people on their way up, and one old gentleman, upon discovering that we were Kiwis, told us how he had met Ed Hillary, and knew his son, Peter, well. Eventually we parked up outside Tragdobuk for a Mars bar and some water. Continuing on to Junbesi🌐, we passed a dramatic (and decorated) drop into the valley. In Junbesi we sought out the Ang Chhokpa's Lodge & Restaurant, another of Dave's stops from 25-years-ago. A splendid room, with its own super hot shower, was 300Rs - bliss.
We had a wee explore of the town post-freshen-up - all very pretty. The large school that claims a chunk of the centre of town is (I think) the largest school built by Ed Hillary. It looks a bit broken post-2015-earthquake.
Day 08 (04): Junbesi - Nunthala
Room+Food 3150 (Dal Bhat 500; milk tea 80)
Regular morning routine, with delicious banana-and-lemon pancakes with honey. Post-breakfast chat with lodge owner revealed that Ed Hillary (patron of Junbesi School) used to visit each year, and would stay in this lodge (he even had a named room). It also turned out that the lodge owner was here at the time of Dave's 1992 visit. Away by 07h30 - another stunner of a day. Short descent to cross the river then up through the forest. We spent the day leapfrogging a younger couple from Oz, a Swede and Matt, the Kiwi we'd run into just after Shivalaya.
The view from the Everest View Lodge (and more particularly the Stuppa a few corners beyond) was breath-taking - crystal clear views of the mountains, including Sagarmāthā (Mt. Everest). We stopped for milk tea at Ringmu🌐, where we met a Kiwi on his way down/out, who had some useful info on some bits above Namche Bazar. Crossing Taksindu Pass🌐, and especially the descent to Nunthala, involved brutal underfoot conditions (rock). We met several donkey trains coming and going. One train I stopped to film as they went past were carrying empty gas cylinders, one of which clipped me and tore off my roll mat.
At Nunthala🌐 (AKA Donkey Poo Town) we selected the Shangra La Lodge - pretty basic, but light, clean rooms. Dal Bhat (400Rs) for dinner. All the strays in tonight (Canada/Marcala, Oz/Eddie, South African father-and-son). A great sunset, with pink peaks, and a fine panoply of stars completed the day.
Day 09 (05): Nunthala - Bupsa
Standard start. Pair of pancakes with peanut butter and jam. Away by 07h40.
Another stunner of a day, but a little too hot for crushing hills. Several pretty villages were on our path today - Jubing and Kharikola🌐 (11h00, first tea stop) in particular.
Some hard climbing today, and a great deal of rough rock underfoot, made for a tough morning's hiking.
Arrived at the lovely Bupsa🌐 13h10 and had more tea. Decided to call an early day, as the next stop (Puiya🌐) was too far away to reach before sundown. Cold shower then laundry then coffee in the sun - very pleasant to have an afternoon to relax a bit.
Dal Bhat for dinner in a dining room looking out over the Dudh Koshi valley - our route for the next few days.
Day 10 (06): Bupsa - Cheplung
Routine start after pancake breakfast. Momentary panic locating Dave's walking poles (left at neighbouring establishment when having tea yesterday). On the trail by 07h40. Stiff climb to Puiya to start the morning. There by 11h00 for tea. Another hot, sunny day, so it was nice to spend good chunks of the day in the trees (with frost still on the ground in some places). The slog from Puiya to Cheplung was long and hot. The many donkey trains were interspersed with our first 'yak' trains. At Cheplung🌐 we plumbed for the Hill Top Lodge - tidy, modern and with fresh roast coffee. I went off-script with dinner: fried rice with vege + egg.
Day 11 (07): Cheplung - Namche Bazar
Routine start after vege omelette breakfast. All running a bit late - a request for a 06h30 breakfast thoroughly ignored by our hosts. On the trail by 07h50.
Fairly swift progress to Jorsalle for NP passes and tea (11h40). Away again by 12h10. Crossed the Dudh Koshi several times. At the last bridge, the climb to Namche began. Halfway up we purchased the local TIMS substitute. Not too swift to Namche, but overtook several groups, which made us feel pretty pro. Arrived at the 'Green Tara Hotel'🌐 at 14h30 - we killed it today!
Much sorting out of gear and washing ensued. Laundry teed up, then out to the Himalayan Java Cafe for espresso, brownie and free WiFi. Back to the hotel for a celebratory lager and super dinner.
Day 12 (08): Namche Bazar
Had our first 'acclimatization day' today. Vege omelette breakfast, and out the door by 07h45. In order to 'climb high, sleep low' we set out on a 6-hour hike in the hills above Namche (with no backpack today).
The route went via Syangboche🌐 airstrip, Khumjung, Khunde, and the Hillary Chortens🌐 and viewpoint. Absolutely stunning views under stunningly clear skies. Heard our first avalanche/rock slide today - very ominous sound - like a thousand lead-lidded coffins slamming shut.
Upon return to base we headed out to find a late lunch (our first lunch for the trek so far). A lot of establishments had closed for the season, and we ended up in a small cafe-come-icecream shop. I sat at the counter and went through every single thing on the menu and got a "sorry, Sir, all finish" with every-frickin-thing! Chips was all they had - they were good, though! Back in the hotel with a plan to leave some bits-and-bobs in storage, we were alarmed to discover that our hotel would be closed by the time we returned to Namche in 14-days time. Luckily our host was able to arrange storage for us at the place next door. Dal Bhat and apple pie for dinner. Yus! Thankful, again, for earplugs overnight - the Dogs of Namche are a rowdy bunch...
Namche Bazar - 3 High Passes - Namche Bazar
Day 13 (09): Namche Bazar - Tengboche
Trek, Phase 2 begins!
2 x Room+Food(+Beer+Laundry) 8950
Yummy egg+cheese toasties for breakkie today. On the trail by 07h50. A shortish day today - 4-5-hours to Tengboche🌐 (a net altitude increase of 430m).
An easy traverse and descent to Phunki Thanga (great name) for milk tea. Crossed the Dudh Koshi river and then began the sustained climb to Tengboche. Arrived at 12h35 and sought out the Tengboche Guest House, run by the wife of the man who ran the Green Tara in Namche Bazar. Landed a tiny but cosy room near the dining room. Decamped to the sun porch for a spot of R&R. We broke the sunbathing with a brief foray up a flag-strewn ridgeline, and a cursory explore around the gates of the monastery. Back to the sun porch for apple pie and coffee. Dal Bhat vege and momo for dinner.
A very special bonus was the culmination of a day-long Buddhist puja to bless the guest house. 12 monks spent the day chanting and conducting ceremonies in the common-room, and these continued through our meal. After we had been finished a little time, the monks themselves were served their food (yak stew? LOL). This was followed by a kata ceremony, where the host handed over a wodge of cash wrapped in a kata to each monk. The mood then changed to a less formal, more chatty one, before the monks headed off to a nightclub, or something. One oddity was a table set up like an offering table, with many yak butter candles, and ornate towers of rice, and a single can of Tuborg lager.
Day 14 (10): Tengboche - Dingboche
The thermometer said 0.4°C in our room when we awoke at 06h30 this morning. There was an understandable delay in doffing sleeping bags - all in the name of pre-heating clothing, of course. We had forgotten to pre-order breakfast, so we were eventually motivated to get a wiggle on at 07h00 lest we missed out (we are one off two pairs staying, and the Japanese couple were ill, and thus no-shows for breakfast). On the trail at a very tardy 08h55 today!
Today's track was a bit of a grind through some pretty barren landscape. There were good views of Ama Dablam🌐 to begin with, but by midday it was largely hidden by a nearer ridge. Stopped for milk tea in Pangboche🌐, and also took in the monastery which houses the yeti relics (or the Weta Physical replicas, anyway).
Our home for the next two nights was the sunny Moon Light Lodge🌐 - just us and one other guest (Randall from Singapore). Dal Bhat for dinner (no, really!?) Interesting chats with our host this evening - he enjoyed telling the tale of a Chinese tourist taking a shortcut to Namche a few weeks back, who ended up spending the night out 'in the jungle'. As a follow-up story, the same tourist got muddled exiting Namche for Tengboche and ended up in Khumjung - our host thought this very funny (which it kind of is, given the general ease of route-finding here).
Day 15 (11): Dingboche
-1.3°C in our room this morning - toasty!
Super breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast with fried potatoes. Today is our second acclimatization day, so we elected to climb Nangkartshang Peak🌐 (5073m) above Dingboche. This was our first crack at getting above 5000m, so was a big test of our acclimatization so far. No worries getting up (took about 2½-hours) nor down again (about 1¼-hours). After a bit of a clean up, we stretched out in the sun in the lodge common-room and relaxed for a bit.
The next thing we knew 10 people turned up, some part of a formal group, the rest an informal group that had met on the trail. We picked up a few tips from them about the EBC part of the trail (including some info about dodgy food at Gorak Shep). Good Dal Bhat for dinner, but less personal service than last night before due to the number of people. In bed by 20h00.
Day 16 (12): Dingboche - Chukhung
-3.7°C in our room this morning - holy moly!
Same delicious breakfast as yesterday. No rush today, as the walk to Chukhung is a relatively modest 3½-hours. We set out at 08h40, just as the sun was cresting Ama Dablam. The trail was pretty rough, and crossed and re-crossed the ice-covered Imja Khola stream/river a good number of times. Being in the sun was very pleasant, though. We reached Chukhung🌐 at 12h10 and checked into the Chukhung Resort Lodge, a stone building, side-on to the sun, which will hopefully hold some heat overnight. After an extended session of washing and sorting out gear, we went for a wee wander to see what we could see. We were keen to find the entry points for the Chukhung Ri and Kongma La tracks, which are a bit obscure - especially the latter. We came away with some, but not all, answers.
On the way back, we spotted some familiar faces through the window of the lodge next door to ours, so we dropped in to see what they were up to. All four were set to cross Kongma La tomorrow, having knocked off Chukhung Ri today. They told us how hard the day's walk had been, which gave Dave and I something to think about. Back at the lodge, we ran into a student from Auckland who had designs on climbing Island Peak by himself, but was laid up ill. The Dal Bhat was pretty good, and we whiled-away the evening in the company of the Kiwi, and three randoms from Europe.
Day 17 (13): Chukhung
A rather balmy +3.4°C in our room this morning - what a luxury! Today is our final acclimatization day, so there was no rush to get going. I finally headed for the dining room about 07h00 to find everything locked up, and our B-team hosts still in bed. To be fair, we hadn't ordered our breakfast the night before, but it was a bit of a poor showing. Given that we needed a very slick getaway to the pass tomorrow, it did not instill great confidence. So much so, we decided to move to the rather-more-slickly-run lodge next door (to which we'd also directed Ben & Glenn, who were due to arrive today). That relocation completed, we set out to tackle Chukhung Ri🌐, the 5546m peak behind the village.
There are two routes up, and we selected the longer, more gradual one. At 5100m the two trails meet, and at that point we decided that the Ri itself looked far too risky to tackle - the final several hundred metres were an undulating spine of rock with a spire at the end - not 'in scope' for an acclimatization day-walk. We returned to Chukhung and were just getting changed when Ben & Glenn rocked up. We nattered over milk teas for a while until our vege momo lunch arrived. Ben & Glenn are now one day behind us, but we'll likely see them again in Lobuche. An afternoon in the sun unfolded. And once the sun had gone from our possie, podcasts under a duvet was next.
Our dining room this evening was a work of art - quite a step up from previous lodges, and quite a surprise right at the end of the road, as it were. And in an attached building were (allegedly) not one, but two, full-size snooker tables, brought in pieces by porters from Namche Bazar. WTF!? Excellent Dal Bhat vege for dinner whilst casting an eye towards a great looking Indian movie called 'Time Story' AKA '24' - I wonder if there's an English dub? Lights out by 20h30.
Day 18 (14): Chukhung - Lobuche, over Kongma La!
Today we did our first pass! And, bloody hell, it was a big day! We woke at 05h45 (me with a fresh cold - yay), were scoffing chocolate pancakes by 06h15, and were on the trail by 07h00. Glenn accompanied us across the tiny wooden bridge, that spanned about ⅓ of the frozen creek, and along the first 10-minutes of the non-obvious Kongma La trail, until he was confident of finding it the following morning. The track to the pass was generally good for the first half, but things deteriorated as we negotiated our way around a rock bluff that straddled our path. The second half was long and tough. I found it quite dreamlike, in a way, hypnotised by the relentless plod of Dave's boots in front of me (I don't think it was the lack of oxygen, more likely a touch of fever/delirium from my cold).
Just below the pass we stumbled upon something incredible. A large, deep lake, mostly frozen over, was being heated by the sun. The stress this inflicted on the ice caused cracks that fractured with the most eerie sound. I'm hoping the video I shot of it picks up the sound. The final scramble to the pass🌐 was very exposed, but the views from the top were breath-taking (literally!). I hid the first of the hollymolloy.com medallions a few meters below the prayer flags that mark the pass. We made the pass in 5-hours, and paused only briefly as we were keen to separate ourselves from a trio who were hot on our heels (and specifically from the very erratic Chinese man that had attached himself to the friendly Belgian couple).
The descent was sustained, but a much simpler affair than the ascent. The only tricky bit was negotiating a frozen waterfall that had encroached on the path. At the bottom was one final obstacle - the Khumbu Glacier and it's 100m high lateral moraine. The route across was non-trivial - the glacier is obviously a dynamic object (indeed we witnessed several gravel, ice and rock collapses), but no-one removes the old cairns as they become obsolete. This makes picking the route across quite a challenge. 3½-hours after crossing the pass, we were in Lobuche🌐. We made a beeline for the tidy-looking Oxygen Altitude Lodge, and checked in. We were quite wiped out, but the bodies were still in good order after their big day. After washing and changing, we had a little doze before dinner. Good Dal Bhat vege, and a bottle of Coke to celebrate our achievement. Lights out by 20h45.
Day 19 (15): Kala Patthar!
Today was Kala Patthar🌐 day! And by doing it from Lobuche, return, we could leave the backpacks in the lodge - sweet! Breakfast of vege omelette and coffee, and a bit of a lazy start, saw us on the trail by 08h30. Today was our first day of significant amounts of cloud. The first part of the trail, between the mountains on our left and the lateral moraine on our right, was easy enough. But after an hour we were led over the terminal moraine of the Khumbu Glacier, and things got rougher and tougher. We ran into several familiar faces on their way back down that morning, and several good chats ensued. We got to Gorak Shep🌐 at 10h40 and stopped for tea. At 11h10 we started our climb of Kala Patthar.
The climb itself was sustained, but we were well acclimatized and made steady progress. We reached the very top of the flag-wrapped spire at 12h50. I placed a prayer flag onto one of the flag lines. The view from this spot was phenomenal. The top of Sagarmāthā (Mt. Everest) was in the cloud. At 13h20 we began our march down and we were back in Gorak Shep by 14h00. The slog back to Lobuche saw us home by 16h10. Just before Lobuche we crossed paths with a lone old Sherpa who enquired as to what we'd been up to that day. He was quite surprised to learn we'd tackled Lobuche to Kala Patthar return in one day - he labelled us "strong", which I was thrilled about! Back at the lodge we ordered dinner (fried rice and fried potatoes - no Dal Bhat vege tonight!) and went for a snooze. Dinner was good, and we sat around in the common-room until bedtime.
Day 20 (16): Lobuche - Dzonglha
Today involved a sub-three-hour walk, so there was no rush this morning. After breakfast we went for a wander to see if we could find Glenn & Ben and confirm they had made it safely over Kongma La yesterday. We found them a few lodges over and had a good natter before they headed on up to Gorak Shep. It's unlikely we'll see them again. We finally got on the road at 09h15. Apart from a gratuitous off-piste excursion, the trail was very straightforward and we were in Dzonglha🌐 by Midday. We were a little disappointed to discover the Mad Chinaman was already installed at the only open lodge.
Before getting changed, Dave and I went and practised putting on, and using, our instep spikes - an absolute necessity on Cho La pass tomorrow. We then settled into our room and split a plate of fried-potatoes-and-cheese for lunch. The afternoon sun followed the contour of Cholatse🌐 all afternoon, so we had a lot more sun than had looked on the cards.
And then, over the next few hours, the whole world showed up! Faces we hadn't seen since Dingboche, or since Kongma La, all arrived to stage for Cho La. Of the dozen or so people in the room only three were new to us. The small common-room was soon full of noise and warmth. A very pleasant evening in the middle of absolute nowhere! I again broke with the Dal Bhat vege tradition and had tuna fried rice.
Day 21 (17): Dzonglha - Dragnag, over Cho La!
Not as long or as high as Kongma La, Cho La🌐's special challenge is ice. Lots of blue, blue ice.
After a feverish 'sleep' I awoke this morning with my cold deep in my chest - perfect for a day of extreme altitude endurance testing. Alarm went off at 06h00, and breakfast was pre-ordered for 06h30. But despite such a disciplined beginning, we weren't actually on the trail until 07h30 (the tail-end-Charlies today). All began smoothly, but soon got steeper, and even steeper. The final blast up to the glacier was a test, as was the descent to get onto the ice. We had instep spikes for the climb up the glacier, which were the next best thing to full crampons, but others had a plethora of tools. One guide and client even shared a pair of microspikes (one each), the guide having earlier claimed that bare boots would be sufficient (dick).
Climbing the glacier was hard work - it was solid, blue water ice and required a firm stomp with each step. After getting to the top, a 15m vertical scramble had us at the pass. I hid the second hollymolloy.com medallion and then shot some video and took some photos. The chilling wind had us on our way in short order.
The descent over scree began well enough, before deteriorating into an endless boulder field. We were both very sick of boulders by the end of it. The final sting in the tail was a longer-than-expected walk down to Dragnag🌐. We stopped there for milk tea and then decided to stop for the night as we would have been likely to have run out of daylight before reaching Gokyo. Fried momos restored us and a warm bucket wash revived us. A wee snooze before Dal Bhat vege for dinner. A big day!
Day 22 (18): Dragnag - Gokyo
A bit of an R&R day, in some respects. A fairly standard start had us on the trail for 07h30. We made the Nzgompa Glacier in good time, and then spent a ridiculous amount of time meandering, seemingly at random, trying to cross the bloody thing. It was our third and, very thankfully, final glacier. We were inside our lodge, the Gokyo Resort🌐, by 10h00. After a Masala tea and a plate of apple fritters each, we felt ready to tackle the day walk up the valley to the Gokyo Lakes. However, after taking an hour to reach the first of these above Gokyo (actually the 4th lake), the wind had left our sails, and we headed for home. On the way back we ran into Ester and Rubin, who had come all the way to Gokyo from Cho La the afternoon before.
Back in the lodge we dozed for a bit, and then used the last of the sunshine to sort out various domestic jobs. The sun dropped behind the hills about 15h45, so we headed down to the smaller of the 2 dining rooms for hot chocolate and to order dinner. I drew extreme opprobrium from David by ordering pizza :-). We dallied in the common-room, beside the fire and listened to podcasts until food time. The pizza was splendid! We closed out the day with hot lemon drinks, and were in bed by 20h30.
Day 23 (19): Gokyo - Lungdhen, over Renjo La!
Today was the day for Renjo La🌐, our third, and final pass.
I awoke feeling better than I had since waking with a cold on Kongma La Day. I've still got the cough, but the fever appeared to be gone. We breakfasted on the 'Julius Cheeser' and black coffee and felt fortified for our day.
On the trail by 07h30, things began with an easy traverse to the far corner of the lake. Then the trail switched up a couple of notches in the form of zig-zagging up a steep, loose-gravel ridge. Next up was a circuitous route around various bluffs and a final blast up to the pass. We made the pass by 11h00. I hid the last of the hollymolloy.com medallions (for this trip, anyway) and took some photos/videos.
All the 3HPers were on the pass together, so it was a bit crowded. Dave and I set off first, but the others all overtook us before long. The trail down had been extensively 'humanized' with steps and walls, etc., which was most appreciated. One highlight along the way was another part-frozen lake, much like the Kongma La lake. For reasons unknown, Rubin stripped to the waist and had his photo taken standing out on the ice.
The 1000m descent was sustained, but generally pleasant. Our destination for the night was Lungdhen🌐, which we made by 14h15, but the entire village appeared to be locked up. The very last building we came to, however, turned out to be the one-and-only open lodge (Khongde View Lodge). We checked in and went through our afternoon routine. The sun disappeared behind the next row of mountains by 15h45. We made a beeline for the common-room for hot chocolate, but the lack of heating soon had us back in our room/sleeping bags.
Returning for dinner, we exchanged stories with a pair of Singaporeans who were setting out to do 3HPs clockwise (discouraged due to acclimatization difficulties), one of whom was already suffering from AMS. Dinner was mixed fried rice each and a shared plate of German fried potatoes(?). In bed, podcasting by 19h45.
Day 24 (20): Lungdhen - Namche Bazar: Xmas Day, 2017
A fairly normal start today, but our host decided we could not have breakfast before 07h00. We were fully packed by that hour and took our packs to breakfast (apple pancakes). Our original plan for today had been a short hop (3-hours) down to Thame, but our Singaporean housemates had informed us that the whole town was shut apart from a single lodge. Upon learning this we decided instead to aim for Namche Bazar (3 more hours) and then have a full day off tomorrow - yay!
For some reason the 17km/6-hours of trail, even though mostly downhill, seemed very long - perhaps a touch of cumulative fatigue was beginning to show? Another reason for Trekking Day 21 to be a rest day. We wandered into Namche Bazar in just over 6-hours and made our way to the Sherpa Village Lodge, where we had some gear stored.
We whiled away the afternoon, first in the pleasant Sherpa Village Lodge common-room/restaurant, and then our room. I had tuna pizza for dinner, and several beers were consumed by way of celebration of our 3HP 'success'.
Day 25 (21): Rest Day In Namche Bazar
No alarm this morning, but we were up-and-about by 06h30 out of habit. A delicious breakfast of rosti-with-fried-eggs and coffee.
Our first activity for the day was a visit to the Sagarmāthā NP Visitors Centre - just us and around 1000 trekking groups. The Centre was really worthwhile, but the shear numbers of people were a bit distracting ("can I see base camp from here?"). I particularly enjoyed the Tenzing Norgay displays.
As we had not explored much of the village during our stay two weeks ago, we made more of an effort today. We checked out the town 'water feature' which appeared to be a work-in-progress. I was particularly excited to see the man with that portable AC generator hooked to a domestic power socket, plus an angle grinder, joined by jamming bare wires into the socket, whilst all was balanced beside a channel of flowing water - a man with no fear. We repaired to 'Cafe 8848' for coffee+cake+WiFi. Whilst there we clocked that they were scheduled to show a movie, 'Sherpa: The True Heros of Everest' at 15h00. We returned to base to sort shit, and returned to the cafe for the movie. It was really quite good - very 'warts and all', like a proper doco should be. Returned to the lodge for more shit sorting plus podcasts. Same, same for dinner.
Namche Bazar - Kathmandu
Day 26 (22): Namche Bazar - Surke
Standard start had us on the trail for 07h30. We walked down past the 'water feature' and discovered that half the prayer wheels (which were merely a set of bits yesterday) were assembled and spinning - fast work! The first part of the trail was the steep descent to the river. We 'checked out' of the park via the two ticketing gates and meandered on. We were pretty tired by the time we'd walked the 20km to Surke (7h30).
Dave had a moderate fall just before Surke. Opened his scalp up on a rock. We cleaned him up and pressed on to the lodge. I rustled up some rum&Cokes to ease the pain. A couple of other chaps arrived and we stayed out chatting well after sun down. Dal Bhat vege for dinner and a relatively late lights out.
Day 27 (23): Surke - Kharikola
The relatively low altitude (plus rum) meant our best sleep in weeks. So much so we slept in until 06h50 (despite having set the alarm and ordering breakfast for 06h30). Not great banana pancakes for breakfast. On the trail by 08h10. Two tea stops, in Puiya and Bupsa. Very rough trail today - feet were quite pummelled by the time we got to Kharikola (15h30). Plus there were about 1.6-million donkey trains to contend with. Selected the Solu Khumbu Guesthouse for the night. Our hosts were very welcoming. Dal Bhat vege each, and fried noodles to share, for dinner.
Day 28 (24): Kharikola - Ringmu
Our first discovery of the morning was that our host had been married to Ang Passang, who summited Sagarmāthā (Mt. Everest) with the Mingmu from the doco we watched the other day. The second thing we learnt was that Ang Passang had died in an avalanche on Sagarmāthā (Mt. Everest) 10 years prior. This brought a sombre air to breakfast.
On the track for 07h30, first waypoint Nunthala, where we had stayed on the way in. It was further than we thought, and nowhere seemed open for tea, so we made do with Nuun by the trackside. Next up was the seemingly endless climb to Taksindu pass. We did manage to source a few sustaining snacks (choco-kids and kit-kats) along the way. By the time we reached the pass, all thoughts of pressing on to Salung were given the heave-ho - Ringmu would be far enough for today.
We got in at 15h30 and checked in to the (slightly odd) Yak and Nak Lodge. Milk tea and apple pies perked us up. The sun was gone by 16h15, so it was into sleeping bags with podcasts until dinner time. I had a curry variant of Dal Bhat plus some spicy fried potatoes. Our host and her son ate with us, which was a first. We also sampled the famous Ringmu apple brandy - it was so awful I couldn't even finish mine. Beddy-bye's by 20h30.
Day 29 (25): Ringmu - Junbesi
A nice, short day. On the trail by 07h50. No donkey trains today - yay. Tea stop at Everest View Lodge (cheesy tea - ewww) - said goodbye to Sagarmāthā (Mt. Everest). Namaste Lodge in Junbesi for lunch and night. Delicious lunch of vege fried noodles and vege fried momo. First hot showers and shaves since Namche Bazar - bliss! Khukri rum + Fanta. Much playing with small child - first catch with a rubberband ball, then Wrestle-Mania cards. More delicious food for dinner - I went for tuna vege curry and fries with a hot chocolate chaser (plus more Khukri).
Day 30 (26): Junbesi - Kinja
On the trail for 07h30, after a breakfast of lemon pancake and delicious gooey cheese omelette and (relatively) good coffee. Topped out on Lamjura Pass at 10h15. Tea + biscuit (coconut crispees) stop at Dachu 12h30. Sete 13h30. Kinja 15h10. New Everest Guesthouse. Ruslan (vodka) + Coke x 2. Khukri (big bottle!) + Cokes x 4. Dinner 'vege egg fried noddles top cheese' (shared) and 'fried rice vege egg'.
Day 31 (27): Kinja - Shivalaya: First Day of 2018, and Our Final Trekking Day!
Today is the first trekking day that began with a overcast sky. Scrummy 'Swiss Roast [Rosti] Egg Top Cheese' for breakkie. On the trail by 07h45. Early on we came upon a narrow swing bridge. Just as we were about to begin crossing, a fuchia-robbed woman appeared out of the dawn mist. She was carrying a box. We paused to let her cross. As she reached the centre of the bridge she paused. To sniff the morning air? To listen to the boisterous river? No, to dump the contents of the box - mostly plastic waste - into the river. Just lovely.
Bandar by 10h30. 'One of the top three shitist climbs' up to Deurali by 12h15. Lunch at Highland Sherpa (Choice Cola and tuna momo). Off again by 13h15. The long drop to Shivalaya completed the day's walking, and the trek.
We lodged at the Kalopathhar Guesthouse (where we had stopped for tea 4-weeks ago). The only other guest was a deeply weird, bearded Australian gentleman who shouted us a beer, spouted bollocks about the universe and then harangued us for asking our host about the difference between the Nepalese and Western calendars. He was genuinely mad and a bit of a dickhead.
Day 32: Shivalaya - Kathmandu
Horrendous, 11h15 bus ride to Kathmandu. Up at 05:00, on the bus by 06:00, aided by our host. Only one toilet stop all day. Saw a fresh-ish head-on truck smash, which probably didn't end well for the driver. Got flipped onto a city bus for the final 15-minutes into Ratna Park, but again the bus gang made sure we were OK (and even paid our ticket). Walked from Ratna Park to our hotel and checked in (a day earlier than arranged). A minor hiccup when the room we were allocated turned out to have a single, Queen-sized bed, but all was resolved by being redirected to a top-floor room with two beds and a balcony. A quick scrub down and we were out the door for a slap-up meal + beer at the New Orleans Cafe - splendid! Lights out by 22h00.
Day 33: Kathmandu
After a solid hotel breakfast, our first job of the day was a massive gear sort out. Packs, poles, and boots were scrubbed clean on the hotel roof terrace; laundry was sorted - some packed as is, some sent off to be laundered (to allay The Great Pant Shortage, mostly). Then there was a good bit of just sitting around in the sun, before we ventured out for lunch.
The much-vaunted GAIA Cafe was over-priced and underwhelming. Next up was a spot of souvenir shopping: I picked up a pair of pashmina for Andy and TC, and Dave finally found a Wind Horse (on a hand-painted scroll). A brief return to base for additional gear cleaning/packing, then out again to see The Garden of Dreams in the late-afternoon light - very pretty. Shame the Kaiser Cafe was so over-priced.
We wandered back into Thamel via a few rooftop bars, before winding up at The Third Eye Indian restaurant for a scrummy dinner. A nightcap of Everest lager on the hotel roof terrace finished the evening.
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