Trip to Nepal--November, 2001

Part II

9 Nov.
Frosty and cold (30 F). Breakfast served to us in inn. We began with a pleasant descent with lovely mountain views behind us and in front of us. After some distance, we took a lesser trail upward. The trail seemed to disappear into cliffs, but the trail went up the cliffs requiring steep stepping and some scrambling, using hands as well as feet. Above the cliffs, the trail continued upward at a more comfortable angle. We saw lovely Nepalese pheasants (the national bird) and mountain goats. The trail crested at a ridge with a chorten and great views of Ama Dablan and other mountains. Descended steeply to a river, losing over 1,000 feet of altitude. Our lunch was fixed at an inn by the river. After an hour and our usual large, hot lunch, we headed down a short bit and crossed the river. The river was green because of its load of glacial flour. Then we headed up a continuously steep trail, part of which was snow-covered and slippery. We crested out at another lovely chorten at the lower edge of Phrotse, our destination town. We walked through rock-walled, small agricultural fields to the yard where we camped at 12,700 feet (3,840 m.on the map, for the town). This was the hometown of 2 of our Sherpas (Lhakpa and Ang Tenzi; Gopal is from Phakding). We were camping in Lhakpa's terraced yard. After my tent was up, I crawled into my sleeping bag and went to sleep. Felt rested afterwards. Others in the group walked up the steep hillside to the monastery that was only 5 yearrs old and funded by an Englishman. Tea at 4 in the smokey kitchen of the house. At dusk, a helicopter circled and landed in a yard. Rumor was that it was picking up a sick party of Japanese, but we didn't see anyone board it.

On the trail near Khumjung


Ama Dablan

Ama Dablam. Tengboche is on ridge crest below it. Trail we would take two days later in on hillside below it.


Ama Dablan on right, Phortse to left.


Chorten at pass & Ama Dablan


Mani stones


Mani stones, Ama Dablan & Chorten

10 Nov
Slept until awoken by the tea guy. Frosty and clear. The usual large breakfast served.. Around 8 we started off, climbing a bit then a long descent to the river. Saw mountain goats and musk deer. Around 0915 we reached bridge at 11,900 feet. Following our sirdar's (Lhakpa) lead, we spent some time picking up trash and burning it. (We shared a common sense of wishing everyone would keep their litter on their person.) Then up a steep trail. Slipped a few times on snow-covered parts of the trail. We reached the crest and Tengboche around 1030 after a strenuous climb. Altitude 12,800 ft. (3967 m.).
Tengboche (Tyangboche, and other spellings) has to be the most beautiful place on Earth. Its on a flat part of a small ridge crest with a monastery dominating the town. Surrounded by mountains, including Ama Dablan. Everest, on the distant sky line is not conspicuous because of the stunning mountains in the foreground. Our tents were already pitched on a narrow ridge above the town. We soaked in the view, consuming the hot lemonades brought to us.
It had occurred to me earlier that a significant part of my pleasure from seeing these incredible mountains was because I could appreciate them without any desire to climb them. I had always wanted to climb in the Himalaya, during my climbing days (I had been a member of an expedition that never came to fruition).
After lunch, Gopal led us to the chorten in the saddle above Tengboche and the prayer flags beyond. I stopped here and the rest of the group followed him higher up the hillside.




Part of Khumjung in center, trail leading toward Phortse angling up hillsideon right.



Ama Dablan on right, the mountains in front of Everest to left. Everest rises above ridge.


Tengboche on right. Khumjung in notch to left.


Tengboche in background seen from the ridge above it.


Tea around 1530. Around 1600 we went to the vicinity of the monastery. Visited the monastery exhibit and gift shop. A monk blew a conch to signal the gathering of monks. After a few minutes, he blew again. This went on for awhile. Then a chorus of conch player monks appeared in a monastery window. The young (some very young) monks outside filed into the building, The crowd of trekkers, mostly Europeans, filed in after taking off shoes. We sat or stood against the walls. The older monks had already been in the building. Ritual tea was served and the monks and chanting began, along with musical interludes (long horns and cymbals). We left after 15 minutes as this was supposed to go on for 80 minutes.
It began clouding over and getting cold quickly. A beer before and after supper, but too cold to taste good. In my sleeping bag around 2000 and asleep around 2130. Temperature at 32 F.


Mani stones at Tengboche


Our camp at Tengboche

Me at Tengboche


Our camp at Tengboche. Ama Dablan to right.


11 Nov.
I was awake half hour before tea-awakening at 0600. Cold (26 F) and clear. Breakfast and we were off at 0730.
From Tengboche, a nice long descent to the river. We passed a family of mountain goats and some musk deer. What appeared to be varves were seen high in the valley. Reached the bridge at 0855 at 10,950 feet. Started up the trail on the other valley side. Views of the previous 2 days' trails. Lunch at 12,000 feet at 1145. Thamserku, the mountain SE of us, has spectacular aretes and other glacially carved features.
After an hour for lunch, we continued walking, with the trail more or less contouring around. Eventually, we walked around a bend into the upper outskirts of Namche Bazaar. We arrived at our campsite shortly after 1400--elevation 11,750 feet. Our camp was pitched on a narrow terrace high above downtown Namche.
We walked back up the hill a short distance and visited the region's museum. Afterwards, I made the 400 vertical feet descent to central Namche. Checked email at the costly cyber café. 85 messages. I only read the one from Beth. Bought some artifacts and climbed back to camp in time for supper. Supper included yak steak, pizza, tempura vegetables. After supper, we sorted out the tips we would give to our entourage, following the suggested tip guidelines provided by TM.

On the trail 11 NovemberTrail from Tengboche to Namche. Ama Dablan on right.


Camp at Namche


Downtown Namche as seen from our camp.

12 Nov.
Up at 0600 with the tea and wake-up call. . I would have a strenuous day. The other four were to take two days to get back to Lukla. My itinerary called for me to go from Namche to Lukla in one day. The others would take two days to return to Lukla. So I would have one Sherpa (Ang Tenzi Sherpa) and one porter.
At 0730 said goodbye to everyone and Tenzi and I headed down the trail. Resented the extra 400 feet to get down to downtown Namche. During the steep descent to the river, I felt good and my legs felt as in my younger, mountaineering/mountain geologist days. So, I went down rapidly, springing from rock to rock and step to step. We reached the bridge at the base of the long, steep trail at 0830. Altitude 9,550 feet. We had dropped 2,200 feet in an hour.
We continued climbing, descending, climbing, descending, retracing our route of the first two days. My legs felt relatively weak and I regretted the bouncy descent. At 1040 we reached the yard above Tok Tok where we had camped the 1st night. Our cook team was preparing lunch for the other 4. We stopped and they brought me a hot orange drink. Relaxed and recouped some of my energy. Tenzi said we weren't having lunch there so we moved on.

Ang Tenzi Sherpa
Passed a guy with a Dartmouth T-shirt. We talked a bit. He is Dave McGilner class of ‘88 and a pediatrician in Seattle on his way back from Everest base camp.

Lunch in a typical place in one of the many towns. Leg of beef hanging from the ceiling. Tenzi broke out the "lunch box" with bread from breakfast, cheese, sardines, apple. Milk tea and a fried egg omelet from the establishment. A little Sherpa boy was tormenting his little sister in the small room.
We plodded on. The trail was very busy. Discouraging to see that we were losing altitude overall in our ups and downs and knowing that we would have to climb to Lukla which is at 9,500–essentially the same altitude of the first bridge of the day. We dropped to a low of 8,500 feet. Finally, we got to the last long grade for the climb to Lukla.
At Lukla, we walked through the main street almost to the airport and entered the Namaste Hotel and Restaurant. This is evidently TM headquarters. Time 1500. Muscles and back quite tired. After a while, Tenzi brought my duffle and I was given a room. I mentioned to Tenzi that it was a tiring day. He said "But you very strong." while flexing his arms. I replied "Not strong like a Sherpa." He replied, "You very strong." I like to think it is a complement to have a Sherpa think you are strong. He probably meant strong for an elderly westerner. Followed Tenzi to behind the hotel to give tip to porter and him. Then met with TM man who went to check on flight time, etc.while I sat at restaurant. Had a milk tea. Down jacket on and heater on, but still felt somewhat cold. Eventually, the TM man came back with information.
Wandered around a bit and brought back a large beer. Noted the hotel had a hot shower, took it and it felt great.
Supper at the hotel. Tomato egg drop soup and a plate of fried noodles with tough meat and vegetables–too large to finish. Had a glass of chiang, the local alcoholic drink. Not great stuff.
Very tired. Measuring on the map I had covered over 17 Km horizontally in addition to the ups and downs.

13 Nov.
Got up at 0630. Hauled my bag downstairs. The TM agent took it to the airport while I ate breakfast.
Paid R200 (around $2.50) for the room. At 0800 Tenzi led me rapidly up the steep steps to the airport. The usual chaotic scene. I stood in line until the TM man came with boarding pass and had me go through security to the waiting room.
Helicopters and Twin Otters landed and deported. Finally, the II Yeti flight arrived and around 0900, we passengers collected at the airplane's doorway while the plane, full of cargo, was unloaded. Many cases of Tuborg and bags of onions. One of the onion bags had broken and it took a while to get all of the onions off the plane's deck. Great smell. Finally, they got the seats up and we boarded. The attendant passed out candy and wads of cotton for the ears.
We took off racing down the short, steep runway and, according to my altimeter, we climbed from 9,500 to over 11,000 to clear ridges.
At Kathmandu, got my bag and was met by the TM man. Drove me to hotel and got me settled. Nice room on second floor of hotel.
Took my laundry to another hotel and bought some curios from street vendors. At hotel, sorted through email (over 100 messages).
Drinks at the Maya Bar, dinner at Third Eye. Excellent Indian food: Mutton massala curry and garlic nan. Asleep around 2130.

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To go to Part I