Day 8 – to base of Cho La Pass

Today was to start with an “optional “ walk up Gokyo Ri (5360m) – but with the promise of good views of Everest and better views of the Gokyo lakes the option of omitting it did not warrant a second thought!

A wake up call at 5am and I had had a great nights sleep with only 1 diamox trip to the toilet! Breakfast was a super-sized bowl of porridge and jam followed by toast and washed down with “black tea”.

Leaving at 6.15 it took about 2 hrs 30 mins to the peak – an ascent of 600m, with great views of the lake, the sunrise on the peaks to the north and west as well as close up views of snow Cocks (an overgrown partridge), as well as yaks rising from their slumbers.

A very tough walk to the top from where we had good views of Everest and Nuptse and for me a harder walk down because of my knees.

We arrived back at the hostel exhausted but exhilarated and filled our bellies with carbs ready for the afternoon trek across the glacier to Dragnag at the base of the Cho La Pass!

Our bags came a different way and I can’t blame them as parts of the glacier were interesting going! It is covered in a mix of scree and a very fine powder like grey talc which puffs up with each step. The glacier is in retreat and as such hardly moves, our walk across it took about an hour and a half cross what was in effect piles of scree and talc with a few pools of glacial water and odd sections of ice that had been exposed.

Very happy to arrive in Dragnag where an early night is in order as we have a 4.30 wake up tomorrow morning for the Cho La Pass. Yaks cannot make the crossing and as such we are spilling our bags into what essential items we need for the next 48 hours and what can greet us closer to EBC.

Good food, a quick wash and time for bed!

Day 7 – Gokyo

A bad night’s sleep as I was cold and no blankets to add – awoke to glorious clear skies and a heavy frost. Thankfully we had brought our washing in last night and dried it in front of the yak dung stove which emits an incredible heat! Others were less fortunate and found their socks and tops stiff with frost!

Gokyo, our destination, for the day sits on the shore of the highest and largest of the three lakes which are a beautiful blue giving the appearance of a tropical beach although the temperature of the water is rather closer to freezing rather than bath temperature! Rising up from the northern side is Gokyo Ri which we will climb tomorrow morning.

As for our journey, a short sharp stretch uphill and then we followed the valley side crossing the river high up with a strong wind following us leading to a fishing W cerise in freezing waters to retrieve a hat.

As we passed between the increasingly attractive lakes, I found a very pleasant spot on a flat slab of stone next to a cascade of mini waterfalls with fabulous views – where I found myself reminiscing, in particular about Dad.

On reaching the middle lake Patrick and I threw caution to the wind and decided to climb to reach an elevated position to take photos, this proved to be well worth the effort despite the altitude.

The hostel was well positioned with a great bakery immediately behind it which sold a fantastic range of cakes including a rich chocolate cake in huge slices – it would have been rude not to try it!

After a much needed lunch to pile in the carbs I slept for an hour and then we had an acclimatisation walk up to the ridge behind us where we had good views of the Ng Zumba glacier. It is or was 36 miles long but is now in retreat and is hardly fed from the top (if at all). It appears as a grey river of stones with occasional ice walls which are dark grey.

It would be fair to say that today has been a real struggle for me as a result of the lack of sleep last night and exhaustion along with the altitude. However a solution appears at our hosel for the night – there is a thick duvet in the bed and a pile of blankets so I should be as warm as toast tonight – if my afternoon nap is anything to go by!

Day 6

A lovely nights sleep under a heavy blanket which was much needed given that the night time temperature is dropping as we gain height. Thankfully, despite being on Diamox only one trip was needed to the toilet – one of the side effects is the need to go frequently others include tingly extremities!

During the night it rained heavily and with three external walls to the room we woke up to A slightly damp environment – a note to self to pack everything into bags and shut them before going to sleep.

No showers this morning, so we moved to the dining area to try to warm up but if anything it is colder than the bedroom so – much rubbing of hands to warm up.

The daily breakfast routine starts with a check of 02 levels and mine finally settled in at 88%. Quite happy with that. Of course we have the Sherpa call for “black tea black” in their frenzy to serve us all at one!  This was soon followed by porridge and then Tibetan bread which might best be described as a sweet Pizza Express garlic bread without the garlic – delicious coated in honey!

The start of the walk was a re-run of our acclimatisation walk the previous night, but this time without our legs having been warmed up and the added weight of our day packs. It was a steep and long climb which then led to a much more gently undulating walk to Machermo where we were to stay.

Some great views on our way and some wildlife to be seen including musk deer and various raptors. Plant life changed as we climbed as we were now above the tree line so we were surrounded by rhododendrons, sadly no orchids to be spotted today after the good number seen the previous day.

The walk took us through the most spectacular scenery which hard to describe – the photos below do not do it justice!

A relatively short day’s walking brought us to our lodgings in time for lunch and in glorious sunshine it was time to hand wash some dirty clothes. At this altitude (above 4000m) even washing the clothes led to breathlessness.

After a good lunch it was time for an acclimatisation walk up the ridge behind us – known locally as the north face. A great walk with fabulous views some of which are shown below

4pm brought us to the local hospital for a talk on AMS and how to avoid / deal with it. The hospital is run by volunteer doctors for the autumn and spring seasons and is part of a charity that helps porters with medication, kit and accommodation when needed – thankfully ours are well kitted and looked after by Exodus.

Come the evening it was time to move to the dining room which was heated unlike the bedrooms. A good place to finish drying the clothes I had washed earlier! Also time to check our 02 which despite the increased elevation the 02 level has risen 1% to 89%. However, based upon the AMS talk we went to earlier, this a fairly useless figure to look at – particularly in isolation! Nevertheless an interesting stat to check.

Day 5

We spent the night in Kyanjuma, slept well and first thing in the morning (5am) Phil went first with the shower and having been warned the hot water took a long time to reach the shower block waiting 15mins – on returning he warned me that there was a delicate balance between freezing cold water and scalding hot water. Perhaps I should have asked more!

The shower room was a detached building about 10ft square with a small palette to balance on whilst having your shower. The shower head was small and set high on the wall above the controls – all looked well. I turned on the tap and was greeted by a small and fine spray of warm water, limited but sufficient to wet you provided you shifted around. I duly soaped myself and shampooed my hair ready to warm up again. Stepping back into the water to remove the soap it had changed from warm to hot which was fine but then turned to scalding. Perhaps naturally assuming the two taps were hot and cold respectively I stepped aside with my eyes closed due to the shampoo running down my face and twisted one and then the other to discover it appeared that both were hot taps and the water was getting hotter. I could now barely touch the taps let alone clean the soap off me. The room was filling with steam and my only option was to use the towel to clear the soap. An interesting start to the day!

We gathered in the dining room with the now traditional frenetic call of the Sherpas calling “Black tea black tea” whilst running round making sure everyone has the right drink to start their day! A good breakfast followed with seconds of toast from Tasha our host, who went on to say shower is easy just turn the cold tap – the consensus was she probably has never used the shower!

Our trek started with a steep slope up with good views back of our accommodation from the previous night and wider views improving as the cloud lifted. As we climbed a relatively exposed path I started to feel dizzy I decided now was the time to start taking the Diamox. Whether it worked or was psychosomatic I was feeling better within half an hour and haven’t looked back since – only a half dose at the moment though!

The route took us through hamlets as we made space for the dzos and yaks to pass, keeping well out of their way:

Lunch brought us a long drop that came no where close to the significantly more pleasant one we used the day before which was both clean and pleasant smelling unlike many of the European style ones here and back at home!

As we left we spotted a mountain goat high above us on the mountain with its coat being blown in the wind. Wildlife spotting Continued this time with charging yaks – I’ll post the video when back.

The route climbed higher and we passed various waterfalls and then spotted male and female pheasants – the male having iridescent blue plumage. They are the national bird of Nepal.

Dole was our destination which despite our hopes turned out to be mobile signal free despite a walk up to gain some 125 metres to ensure we slept below the highest point reached. All was not lost though as we found beer in the “yeti bar” a short distance from where we were staying – albeit that the time spent in the bar meant that it was dark for our walk back though fields with yaks and various drops to avoid!

Day 4

I was awake for various parts of the night hearing dogs barking and cans clattering. It wasn’t the noise that kept me awake but a dull headache possibly as a result of the climb during the day. Whilst I haven’t started taking Diamox yet, which aids against AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness, I am keeping its use in review!

Other than the night noises, the background silence here is incredible compared to the constant sound of cars, planes and trains at home. There is the odd helicopter overhead as it delivers people and foods up to EBC and back, but for much of the time the background noise has been the sound of water and birds.

Awaking at 5am to grab an early shower the first light was appearing and we could see the impressive mountains on the opposite side of the valley that had been hidden from us in the low cloud the previous evening. Returning from my shower the sun was just catching the top and, as it rise, gradually exposed more and more of the beautiful view as we packed our bags.

Breakfast was the now standard porridge with honey, toast and an omelette along with black tea. Leaving at 8 we wrapped up warm against the morning chill although the day soon warmed up as did we as we started to climb some 400m above the village bring us better and better views as we went.

Today’s plan was to do a circuit of 6 hours climbing and then dropping back down to almost the same level we were at in Namche taking in views of Everest, Lhotse, Ama Dablam and more.  My highlight of the day was our trip to The Everest View Hotel (3880m) which was carefully orchestrated so that we didn’t have the views we sought until we turned a corner round a wall some distance before the Hotel and then we had in front of us the isolated majesty of Ama Dablam to the right with Peak 38, Lhotse and Everest lining up to the left. This is one incredible view that I have wanted to see for more than 30 years – it takes your breath away although Everest itself is largely hidden and Ama Dablam dominates the view!


Day 3 – Namche Bazaar

Up early to a very damp room with condensation streaming down the windows. A wet towel (from yesterday’s shower) greeted me as I pulled back the curtains, making the black tea that accompanied the Exodus wake up call was welcome!

A glorious start to the day with clear blue skies. A quick cold shower and a dry off with the wet towel and then off for breakfast of porridge with a large quantity of honey, an omelette, toast and tea. An ideal start to the day!

After departing shortly after 8am, we start to climb almost immediately following the western side of the river which we will cross several times during the day over increasingly spectacular bridges.

By lunch (in Monjo) my towel had dried, having been tied to the top of my day pack, enabling me to replace it with my solar panel (21watt Anker) held in place by a couple of karabiners. A good charge from the walk even with tree cover and cloud cover later on as we climbed up to Namche from the High Bridge.

After lunch we are treated to views of the sacred mountain Khumbi Yul Mi (Khumbila) – which translated means God of Khumbu, this being the Khumbu Valley at the head of which is the Khumbu Glacier and the Khumbu Icefall just above Everest Base Camp.

A short stop for one of a few geocaches in our route before continuing upstream to the junction of two rivers with a pair of dramatic bridges that can be seen tantalisingly from some distance. The crossing was one of the many anticipated highlights of the trip and did not disappoint! We took the upper bridge known logically as the High Bridge. Thankfully it didn’t have quite the Millennium Bridge wobble of some of the others we had crossed but was satisfyingly high with impressive views.

From here it was a long and arduous climb to Namche Bazaar that brought back memories of the “Kili Shuffle” as the pace is necessarily slow. After a couple of ours climbing we reached the Namche check point for trekkers suggesting we are almost done for the day- No! We carry on uphill and reach a promising cluster of buildings but have sill further to go! We continue further up and reach a view of what is the heart of Namche with a Stupa in the foreground next to a stream in which the locals are washing their clothes.

The village is set around a natural bowl and is a trading centre for the local area. It is also a popular point for trekkers and climbers with a good number of shops / hotels etc as well as a bank – probably the last we will see until we come back though on our way home!

Unfortunately my description of the village is based on the guide book as when we arrive the place is shrouded in cloud.  Hopefully tomorrow will bring better weather and the chance of a photo or two…

We are staying at The Green Tara Hotel which on arrival appeared to be heavily guarded but, despite the horns, we entered safely for a welcome tea and an enticing menu of local food. Whilst meat is on the list it is off our agenda – so an almost veggie week for me (I have packed some cured meat for emergencies!).

After ordering and before eating a few of us head into the shops to purchase some essentials and I rekindle my bartering skills on a long sleeved base layer as the thick merino wool ones I brought are far too hot at this altitude!

A few statistics about the day:
Height gained – 784m
Height ascended 1057m
Height descended 273m
Distance travelled 11.4km
Time Phakding – Namche – 8 hrs 32
Average speed 1.4kmh inc all breaks

Day 2

Having expected to be getting up for a leisurely 8.30 departure and struggled to get off to sleep until about 2am the knock at the door at 5am cane as a bit of a surprise.  Neither Phil nor I were aware that good news had come through the previous evening in that Exodus had secured the first available seats on flights to Lukla.  This meant that we had the potential to be on a 6am (extra) flight if the weather was good.

The news from the door knocking was that we had 5 minutes to get up, dressed, packed and downstairs to get the minibus!!!  Rather like rabbits in the headlights we made it on pure adrenaline and were shortly driving through the somewhat bumpy roads of Katmandhu to try to reach the plane.

A rush through the baggage checks and into the departure lounge where we were almost immediately called for our flight – we were off!!

Whilst there was still a reasonable level of cloud, amazing views were available to the Himalayas.  The landing was quite an experience given the limited forward view that the pilot has of the ramped runway, with little or no option to bail out.  We were in expert hands and landed well after having seen our first glimpses of Everest!

Safely arrived at Lukla

Posted by Hamish Watson on Friday, 13 October 2017

Once in Lukla the trip began in earnest with a pleasant walk down from 2800m to 2600m.  We arrived mid/late afternoon having seen our bags being carried on the yak / cow cross seen below (pure yaks don’t like low altitude and are therefore used at higher levels only):

These beasts of burden wear bells round their necks and can be heard from a distance along with the calls and whistles from their minders, that said you do pass the odd corner and meet them unexpectedly.  They plod on almost trancelike along the flatter areas and choose their footing with more grave than their size suggests.  We give them plenty of space and stick to the mountain side as they pass rather than risk being pushed off the path on the opposite side where there are significant drops.

We have already been over various suspension bridges easing ourselves by the bovine bag carriers; as the bridges bounce under our step.

The glacial waters are milky and the rocks are heavily worn with large well rounded pebbles and rocks lining the banks.

Our stop for the night was Phakding.


Trek – Day 1 (in theory at least!)

A slightly rude awakening by the alarm at 5am local time followed by what might well have been the last shower for just over 2 weeks.

No time for breakfast as our bags were weighed in the hotel reception before we headed off to the airport for a domestic flight to Lukla which is inaccessible by road to start our trek!

We had been provided with a breakfast including various pastries in a paper. The moist pastry took ownership of the tissue paper wrapping, such that two become one! Not wanting to waste these precious items, the cake and tissue paper were consumed – with no obvious I’ll effect to date!

We now know Katmandu airport intimately having having spent more that 8 hours there seeing every part from every angle. We know the cleaners and their routines, we can advise on the coolest areas to sit in to avoid the heat of the day.  We know the repeating programs on the TV and I have now seen Bear Grylls remove his clothes to bathe in a thermal Icelandic stream more times than I care to remember!

Small opportunities arose to snooze whilst lying on the cool floor under a wobbling ceiling fan in the heat of the day, although these were interrupted all to frequently by the bark of the tannoy announcing every departure apart from those to Lukla which were delayed due to bad weather.

Food was a welcome escape from the delay with the local cuisine being tried in the form of an egg chow mien, with a high garlic content. A further distraction was to be found in the not so nail biting one day international between Hong Kong and Nepal which saw our host nation collapse all to soon enabling “Bare” Grylls to return to the screen once more!

By late afternoon our positive approach to waiting for the weather to clear had turned to the need to accept we would be returning to the airport again tomorrow to await better weather.

Back at The Royal Singi we showered and changed, made the most of happy hour in the bar and agreed to try to hire a helicopter the following day to take us the short distance to Lukla – if the fixed wing flights continued to allude us.

A good evening followed as Phil and I made our way to Thamel to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the streets and shops having meandered by the Royal Palace. I showed my lack of skill at bargaining as Phil saved me from talking the price up – much to the bewilderment of the shop owner, before enjoying watching the world go by as we ate a delicious curry from a roof top restaurant.

The trip to Kathmandhu

Delhi was warm and hazy but the skies cleared a little during our 2 hour flight northeast to Kat with some great cloud formations to be seen!

As we started our descent, the Himalayas came briefly into view, thrusting through the clouds, way off to our left.

A traditional Nepalese meal tonight complete with dancing as the 16 of us gathered together for the first time!  Wild boar, chicken curry, vegetable curry, lentil soup and what we think may have been a lemon flavoured yak milk yoghurt!

Tomorrow will start early with a 5 o’clock wake up call as we head to the airport for the infamous flight to Lukla!



Stop 1 – Delhi

Arrived in Delhi safely and have already met up with another pair of trekkers.

Note to selves – what goes in London doesn’t necessarily go in Delhi – the two are poles apart! As a result can see some shopping needing to be done in Nepal!

Waiting for the onward flight having experienced the joys of an Irish Bar – soaking up the culture or at least an  ale by 8.15am  GMT…  will now sleep having no t managed to so far!