Ever closer to Imja.
Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Waking up the next morning to grey clouds and drizel, our high spirits were definitely lower than the night before. But with the infectious enthusiasm of Kamccha our Sherpa guide, a beautiful breakfast and a brisk 2 hour walk early in the morning by the time we got to the Sagarmartha Park gate even the prospect of a 800 metre climb in the afternoon seemed like the most logical, pleasant thing we could possibly think of doing.
The climb passed without much incident save for a constant drizel, ever decreasing oxygen and tiring legs, but that is not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. Just the sheer majesty of the surrounding mountains when glimpsed through the clouds, the might of the rivers, and challenge of the rough tracks made the walk fantasic and it was almost with a little sadness that we got into Namche bazaar, our overnight stop, a few hours ahead of time. A quick trip to the local boot maker to mend a troublesome boot and back to the guesthouse just in time to miss a huge downpour and our afternoon was complete and early night at 3800 metres and our first reacquaintance with real altitide. Tomorrow was to be an aclimatisation day with a quick 400 metre climb and the remainder of the day devoted to rest. And how we would appreciate it later on.
Even though the next morning was supposed to be a restful, we were woken early by Kamccha , with the refain of “the skies are clear”, get up we don’t have much time. So at 6.00 am. groggy from an altitude sleep, cold and slightly disoriented we scrambled( probably and exagerartion) out of bread and started our climb to the local viewing spot. Now at sea level this would literally be a ten minute walk up a short hill to get the blood flowing. Up here the first 100 metres until the blood really did get flowing and get some oxygenwas agaony. The lungs were screaming, the legs were like lead and the mind was wondering what the hell I was doing out of bed. As with all things in the mountains though, if you take time they usally come good and after about 10 minutes the body had adapted and life seemed great again. Particularly with the view we were confronted with when we got to the top. Namche Bazaar is really the first place you can get decent view of Everest from the Nepali side. There a few places lower but you are peering through trees and hoping for no clouds.
When we got to the veiwpoint perched above a gorge carved by the raging river below, it was almost cinematic the way the clouds slowly rose or parted to reveal towering peaks on every side. Small peaks here reach to 6000 metres and it almost seemed churlish to dismiss them. That is until you discover the next one was nudging the high 7’s , even into the 8’s. Big mountains with big stats are the norm up here. Of course as the lower peaks revealed themselves they were impressive beyond anything I had seen but it was the big boy we were here to see and he didn’t disappoint.
Strangely when we did finally see the peak of Everest there was no background music or dramatic arial shots. Just a quiet slow reveal that allowed the mountain to convey it’s sense of supreme confidence and eternal majesty. Yes, I know it is outrageously naff to give the mountain a personality but when you see it in person I defy anyone to say that there isn’t something truly special about that mountain.
Sufficiently mindblown we decended for breakfast as the show finished and the clouds rolled in. The rest of the day was fairly mundane though a complete pleasure nevertheless. Strolling around the village of Khumjung, home of Hilary’s Sherpa’s, we were continually shrouded in clouds but watching the villagers get on with the potato harvest regardless and the spooky, timelessness of the place the afternoon was a sheer pleasure.
Khumjung to Tangboche
Next day we were off again, shroued in clouds, but the paths were well made and in the morining at least we were on a gradual downhill trundle for an hour or two. Once again it would be a week or two before we got to see just how beautiful this valley was on the return journey. For now we had to be content with some fantastic stories, funny, sad and just plain interesting from Kamcha about the Sherpa life and the ferocity of the mountains. But when we reached our tea break at the base of the gorge, bathed in newly arrived sunshine all was well in the world.
The next few hours were spent climbing up to the monastery of Tengboche, 3800 metres and another day closer to Imja. Again we were shrouded in cloud and rain by the time we got to our lodge. we were lucky enough to go into the Monastery and watch the monks in a public meditation session. It was a truly beautiful experience even for this old crusty athiest and the artwork within the walls of this 300+ year old monastery was truly glorious.
I have to say that at this stage i was getting worried that our trip would consist of cloud, rain and fleeting glimpses of the big boys. Thankfully the next day was to prove a turning point and the trip took on a whole new flavour, weather wise…. Oh and the views became spectacular….
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