Leaders: John Kottos (Leader), Janet Mercier (Co-Leader) Participants: Kenneth Avery, Rhonda Stacy-Coyle, William Duncanson, Patrick Murphy, Robert Buchholz, James Nupp.
Sunday, March 24th: Nepal finally!!!Today we collected everyone at the Kathmandu Airport as they flew in at various times of the day, not an easy task considering the notorious Kathmandu traffic, a cacophony of cars, trucks, motorcycles, moto-rickshaws, and roaming cows (holy cows) going about their normal way. Dipak was our designated greeter fetching and escorting the wide-eyed travelers to “Kathmandu Guest House” for the much needed rest. Some of us ventured to a nearby restaurant for dinner before hitting the bed.
Monday, March 25th: This was the day to enjoy as a team a leisurely breakfast, exchange currency, secure our trekking permits and get ready for Tuesday’s early flight out of Kathmandu into the Everest Mountain region. Dinner at next door Northfield Café was the crowning touch of the day with the consumption of delicious local dishes accompanied by “Everest Beer”. All seemed fine until later when John came down with some lower GI issues and fever, running to the toilet all night.
Tuesday, March 26th: We had an early rise to catch our 6:30AM flight to Lukla (9,350ft). John was not in good shape but determined to go ahead as planned. The checking-in at the airport went smoothly and the flight on time, no weather issues. The views from our Dornier-228 prop-plane (15 seater) were spectacular. The landing at the Lukla Airstrip was exhilarating and simply memorable, to say the least. Local porters were lined up outside the airport asking us to carry our rather heavy packs (30-35lbs). Most westerners carry a day pack having the porters carry their heavier ones. We kept our packs and kept on going. Some of us started feeling the altitude, but nothing significant.
We had a quick breakfast after landing and we moved on. The original plan was to stay in Ghat (two hours walk) however plans changed due to John’s condition. We stayed in Cheplung (8,750ft) about an hour’s walk from Lukla. We enjoyed some spectacular views along the way and all around Cheplung. Some visited a Gomba (Buddhist shrine) on the steep nearby hillside.
Wednesday, March 27th: Today’s destination was Monjo (9,315ft). John’s condition improved significantly, the combination of a good night’s rest coupled with the effects of medication. The weather was sunny and warm, the atmosphere somewhat hazy but good enough for picture taking. Our views were a fusion of steep wooded slopes, dotted housing settlements, prayer flags, farming lots, yak trains carrying supplies, Dudh Koshi River slicing through it all down below. The crowning touch was those snowcapped peaks in the background. What a site that was.
Crossing a number of hanging bridges made the trekking more adventuresome. The span of those bridges was anywhere between 300-500ft, and at various heights off the ground. Colorful prayer flags and scarves were hanging from them dancing in the wind. Trekkers, porters, mules and yaks were crossing in both directions.
The group stopped at Angsante’s “Sangri La Teahouse” in Phakding for a small reunion and lunch with lots of picture taking and laughter. John had met Angsante in 1999 when she owned a Teahouse in Cheplung, which tragically burned to the ground in 2006. It was a nice reunion, including complimentary lemon tea. We continued on to Monjo where we arrived late afternoon and settled into “Mini Tibet Teahouse”.
Thursday, March 28th: Today the weather was somewhat cloudy, the temps warm. We left Monjo for Namche Bazar (11,285ft) after a hearty breakfast and lots of lemon tea. Lemon tea became our staple at breakfast, lunch or dinner and it seemed to become most everyone’s favorite drink. We checked-in at the “Sagarmatha National Park” entrance for the formalities and we moved on. More bridge crossings and breathtaking scenery along the way before reaching the first real challenge, a steep uphill section below Namche Bazar. It took us about two hours to reach the upper side at the outskirts of the town.
We entered Namche mid-afternoon and went straight to Tsedam Sherpa’s store. John has known Tsedam since 1999 and had made arrangements for our group to stay at his Teahouse (Zamling Guesthouse). We settled into our new quarters and spent the rest of the day exploring Namche, a very picturesque and colorful village surrounded by giant mountains. There is a bank, stores, and a large number of guesthouses in town. The bazaar day takes place every Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. We enjoyed the luxury of having scrumptious pastries and a variety of western coffees at “the original” Namche bakery shop, now a landmark.
Friday, March 29th: Today was acclimatization day. The plan was to hike a few hours above Namche and visit places offering spectacular views of “The” Himalayan giants we traveled so far to see. It was not long after we hit the trail and around a bend when the overpowering Ama Dablam (22,500+ft) appeared in all its glory. The cameras kept clicking for a long time. It is such an impressive mountain standing alone towering over the adjacent (now lesser looking) peaks. We continued on the trail as more breathtaking views kept unraveling before our eyes. We had lunch at a teahouse overlooking some of the distant giants before continuing uphill into the village of Khumjung and into the Everest View Hotel. Unfortunately the visibility was limited due to the cloudy, hazy atmosphere. Everest was there but it could not be seen clearly today. We were hoping to see it the next day from Tengboche. We returned to Namche in time to experience the magic of the famous Bazar where everything imaginable is brought in from far away to be sold. Then back to Zamling Guest House for another evening of our “hot towel treatment” ritual before devouring those delicious dinners. We loved those hot towels.
Saturday, March 30th: Our destination was Tengboche (12,660ft). The day was sunny and rather warm, visibility fair. The trail meandered along the cliffs with some ups and downs, prior to dropping significantly later on all the way down to the river. There we stopped for lunch at a teahouse before crossing another bridge and continuing the steep uphill struggle to Tengboche. This was the second challenging section on the trail. We all managed to do well and reach Tengboche mid-afternoon, but we felt the weight of those packs. The weather got colder and we soon encountered our first snowflakes.
We checked into the “Trekkers Lodge” and went to the only bakery in town for coffee and baked goodies before visiting the monastery. Tengboche would have been a good spot to see Everest however the weather was not cooperative. We could only see a blurry mass of mountains in the distance, obstructed by clouds.
We had dinner at our lodge and we asked for clean water to replenish our empty Nalgene bottles needed for next day’s trekking. The owners pointed us to this white bucket full of water, so most everyone filled their bottles followed by the “Steripen” procedure used to sanitize the contents. It was Ken who shortly thereafter discovered his water in the bottle smelled like Kerosene and Bill concurred. Everyone ran for their bottles and to our dismay the unmistakable smell of kerosene was there, clearly a case of the white bucket having been used for both water and/or kerosene depending on the needs of the day. Our bottles were ruined. The owners tried to rinse some bottles to no avail, the smell would not go away. Communication with the owners was poor due to language barrier and John had to call Tsedam’s daughter in Namche to translate. We walked away from this ordeal with ruined Nalgene bottles, but a fresh supply of sealed bottled water for next day’s needs. That was the highlight of our day.
Sunday, March 31st and Monday, April 1st : Today’s destination was Pheriche (13,900ft). We took off early vowing not to stay at this place upon return. The weather was cool but mostly clear. We briefly stopped in front of the Monastery where Everest could now be seen at the distance. We continued to a steep downhill section before leveling off. We went through the town of Pangboche late morning, passing by a store displaying a cluster of Nalgene bottles. They were selling for 550 rupees a piece but we skillfully bargained the owner down to 450 rupees. We walked away thrilled by our bargaining skills, having no idea Nalgene bottles were selling as low as 200 rupees in Namche. So much for our bargaining skills! The owner must have been laughing all the way to the bank.
The trail changed to a fairly steep uphill section right outside Pangboche. Mighty Ama Dablam on our right standing like a sentinel observing the action on the trail. Unlike 1999 the whole trail was at times overwhelmed with traffic including some large commercial groups of 20-40 trekkers often blocking the trail. Some of those commercial group trekkers were out of shape and they did not belong up there. We saw helicopters flying overhead repeatedly, carrying sick trekkers to lower elevations. The constant helicopter traffic was another noticeable change since 1999.
We arrived at the “Himalayan Lodge” in Pheriche late afternoon with a brief lunch stop at Shomare. It was at Shomare where Bob indicated he wasn’t feeling good, having nausea and lower GI issues. Upon arrival at Pheriche and before dinner Bob’s situation got worse. Our original plan was to trek the next day to Tughla (15,150ft) which was only a short distance away, however due to circumstances it was decided to spend two nights in Pheriche for rest and acclimatization. Additionally, Pheriche has the advantage of a clinic staffed by western volunteer doctors. Rhonda was not feeling that great either, so they both visited the clinic next morning where the doctor put them on medication. The group hung around Pheriche, some ventured uphill into the higher path which overlooks Dingboche and Imja valley with Island Peak in the background.
At dinner that second evening and with our sick comrades not getting better it was finalized they had to stay at Pheriche, near the clinic and the helipad. They were to remain there until our return. For the remainder of the group there was a change in the itinerary basically eliminating the second full day at Gorak Shep, so that we can return to Pheriche in a reasonable time for the sake of our two sick comrades. So, the final destination for the now group of six was to be Kala Pattar and skip visiting the Base Camp. The views from Kala Pattar are far superior to those from Base Camp not to mention BC can be seen from the heights of Kala Pattar. Everyone was onboard with this change.
Tuesday, April 2nd: Today’s destination was Lobuche (16,000ft). The weather was clear the temps cool. We left soon after breakfast trekking on the flats of Lobuche Khola before ascending to Tughla. We had lunch at Yak Tea House in Tughla before starting the ascent toward the tombstones of climbers who lost their lives on Everest. This was the third challenging section of the trail. We stopped at the tombstone flats for a break and to read the memorials of those unfortunate climbers. We continued our ascent and arrived at Lobuche late afternoon. We checked into “Himalayan Eco Resort”. John announced having oxygen intake issues in uphill sections of the trail and contemplated staying behind in the morning. The temps had dropped and the night was cold.
Wednesday, April 3rd: Today’s destination was Gorak Shep (16,860ft). John decided to continue. The weather was clear the temps cool. As usual we had breakfast at 7:00 and on the trail by 8:00 – 8:30AM. The first section of the trail was pretty level, with the ups and downs coming later on, as we were approaching Gorak Shep. We arrived at our destination early afternoon and checked into “Himalaya Lodge”.
The plan called for resting in the afternoon, climbing Kala Pattar the next morning before heading back to Pheriche. However, there was a change in plans, taking advantage of the excellent visibility so it was decided to climb Kala Pattar that afternoon. We left the Lodge by 1:00PM and started the arduous ascent. The views of Mt Everest, Nuptse, Lotse, Mehra Peak, Pumori, Khumbutse were utterly spectacular. John and Janet decided to stop at the half point enjoying the views cameras blazing while the others continued to the summit. This was the place we came to see and there it was, in all its glory. The visibility was great, no wind, only some distant threatening clouds.
We returned to the Lodge for the much needed hot fluids and nutrition. We were tired but very happy and we knew we still had a long walk ahead of us the next day. The temps soon dropped significantly, a very cold night.
Thursday, April 4th: We took off for Pheriche very early. We arrived at the “Himalayan Lodge” mid-afternoon only to find out Bob and Rhonda had left that morning for lower altitudes per doctors’ instructions. We had dinner, hot towel treatment and off to bed for the next day’s adventure.
Friday, April 5th: We had a leisurely breakfast and took off for Tengboche. We arrived there mid afternoon and checked into “Hotel Himalayan”, away from our favorite kerosene-laced water “Trekkers Lodge” place. This was a much nicer teahouse with excellent food and service.
Saturday, April 6 th and Sunday, 7th : The trekking to Namche was uneventful. We arrived there around 2:00PM and Kami (Tsedam’s daughter) told us Bob & Rhonda arrived there two days before. We had lunch and checked into our rooms. Bob and Rhonda soon came back from the town and we were all a big family again. We all enjoyed our “real” hot showers, just like home.
Next day it was full of fun and shopping. We found out who the secret shoppers were. Pastries and Cappuccino’s or Café Latte’s were in order, not to mention some Everest Beer. This was a much needed rest day filled with humor.
Monday, April 8th: Today we headed down to Phakding and stayed at “Sangri La Guest House” where Angsante took care of us with delicious food and hot drinks. We were still decompressing from the higher altitudes and exhaustion. Even though we were still somewhat tired we started feeling better. Some in the group felt John had pushed us too hard that day to reach Phakding.
Tuesday, April 9th: This was the day of trekking back to Lukla. We arrived mid afternoon and checked into “Namaste Teahouse” which is owned by a friend of Tsedam, who had also been in charge of confirming our flights and was to help with the departure next day. We took the opportunity to visit one of the bakeries in town and enjoy the ambience of its sunroom. We enjoyed our last views of the surrounding mountains, the profusion of rhododendrons and last minute shopping.
Wednesday, April 10th: Today was back to Kathmandu. Our departure procedure was rather confusing and adventuresome; thank goodness Kami was there with us to provide assistance through it all. We notified our friend Dipak in Kathmandu of our departing time so that he could pick us up at the airport there. All went well and we were happy to be back at the “Kathmandu Guest House’ by late morning.
Thursday, April 11th Friday 12th Saturday 13th : These were days for the group to visit points of interest in Kathmandu. We visited Pashupatinah (Hindu cremation grounds), Bodnah (Buddhist Stupa), Swayambunah or aka Monkey Temple (Hindu & Buddhist temples), Bakhtapur (Ancient Kingdom) and Durbar Square in Patan (Ancient Kingdom). Our flights out on Saturday were at different times, but all went well.
Leaders’ closing notes: This was a successful trekking trip with an excellent group of participants. The sense of humor was uplifting and got us through some tough moments. Even though most everyone had been hit with something (lower GI, altitude, headaches or a combination of things) the sense of camaraderie, teamwork and responsibility were ever present. I’d go anywhere on the planet with this team.
Everest & Khumbu Glacier