A lot has happened since my last post and it leaves me asking: where do I begin? I’m writing this post at 3468 m in a bakery in Namche Bazaar. I have a ton of great pictures but unfortunately the wifi north of Kathmandu is too slow for big uploads.
We woke up at 4:30 am and congregated in the lobby of the Kathmandu Guest House and the room was filled with a palpable excited, nervous energy. I was one of the few who had a good sleep ahead of our flight to Lukla, as the majority of our team spent their night toiling with restless anticipation of the upcoming trek. These feelings of trepidation were brought on by a number of factors: 1) the sketchy flight into Lukla airport in a plane that can only be described as a tin can, 2) the uncertainty of our responses to high altitude, plus the high likelihood of ugly gastrointestinal issues along the way, 3) the long-term forecast calling for rain over the next 7 days of the trek, and 4) most importantly, the excitement of going to see the Himalayas and Mt. Everest up-close and personal!
We arrived at the Kathmandu Airport and piled into the tin can planes. Despite the nervous hype leading up to our departure, the flight to Lukla airport was actually really nice. No turbulence and amazing views of the Himalayas. Landing on the tiny, uphill runway was an incredible experience and was appropriately accompanied by clapping and cheers throughout the small cabin.
After fuelling up on tea we began our 7-hour, 14 km trek from Lukla to Monjo. On this leg of the trek we actually descended from 2840 m to 2556 m and then ascended back up to 2838 m as we arrived in Monjo. All that hiking and no altitude gain! The trail coursed along the side of a mountain that overlooked a large valley and provided us with the first glimpses of rugged Himalayan life. Along the way, we passed many small villages and teahouses, as well as porters carrying loads of up to 50 lbs across the rocky, undulating trail. Very often we had to yield to caravans of donkeys and dzo (a cross between a yak and a cow) carrying supplies like fuel and food to and from Namche. We were advised on many occasions to give these animals a wide berth, as they are known to be temperamental at times. Fortunately, we have so far avoided any serious wildlife encounters on the trail. As well, another big win is that we did not (and have yet to) get any rain while hiking, despite continuous cloud cover.
On the morning of Friday May 6th, we woke up at 6 am and began the first of our daily physiological measures. Following the experiments and a big breakfast, we started our 4-hour hike into from Monjo to Namche Bazaar. While this hike was only 6.6 km, we gained ~720 m of altitude. Our Sherpa guides make sure that we go ‘slow slow’ in order to avoid getting sick from ascending too fast.
Namche Bazaar is an incredible village that is built up on a mountainside overlooking a massive valley. The village resembles an amphitheatre, with tiered levels surrounding a smaller flat surface in the middle. Our hotel is on one of the upper tiers, so we have to climb down to get into down and back up to get home. When cloud cover dissipates (which isn’t often), we can see the massive white peaks of the Himalayan mountains from our hotel. And while we all feverishly snap pictures of these peaks, the Sherpas assure us that the views and the peaks will only get more spectacular from here on out.
Tomorrow morning (May 8th) we depart for a 6-hour hike to Tengboche at 3860 m. At this point, I have yet to feel any negative effects from the altitude with the exception of breathlessness while hiking; however, the real altitude challenge begins over the next few days.
More updates to follow!