Calm before the storm
So the time is nearly here, holidays start after work tomorrow, and I’m packed… or at least I think I am…
Climbing a mountain is not something I do every day so I wasn’t sure what to bring. I guess I’ll figure some of that out when I get there.
I’ve a strange sense of calmness considering the type flight that lies ahead. I’m sure that will change once I get within sight of the mountain plane but for now I’m slightly eager. Guess I’m thinking of ticking the box and getting it all done.
Probably a bit stupid going to climb a mountain and being more concerned about the flight than the climb with altitude sickness etc. but that’s me I guess. Here’s to hoping I make it back to tick some more boxes after!
Flight to Lukla and start of trek…
I seem to have a habit of fearing something so much that when it comes time to do it I get excited by it. Maybe it’s the challenge, I am not sure, but the flight was good, probably better than my two previous flights with the big Boeing 737s!
Even though I’ve always had a fear of flying, I’ve always liked the landing. Maybe it’s knowing that the flight is coming to an end, I don’t know! But anyway landing in Lukla… the most dangerous airport in the world was enjoyable and I got it all on video too!
Fifteen minutes into the trek (we hadn’t even left the town of Lukla) I went over on my ankle, it didn’t hurt too much but I was already thankful that I chose the boots with the ankle support over the shoes…
I didn’t wear my knee support on day 1, I thought it would be relatively easy and I suppose it was but by the end of day one, although I thought I could go further, I could still feel the knee hurting a bit.
We trekked from 2800m down and up again to 2800m after about 5 and half hours including a lunch break on day one. No altitude problems to deal with as my guide tells me the altitude zone is 3000m and up.
The trek was supposed to take 2 and half hours but we got it done in 1 hour 40 mins. We seem to be making good pace, every day we are passing many many people but nobody ever passes us… we are now at an altitude of 3400m.
In my head I complain that we didn’t just come here the day before.. an extra 1 hour 40 mins would have been fine but there’s method to the madness.. without me asking, my guide explains the reasoning with aclimatisation and during day 2 we take a trek to a monastery 3800m, where we see the skull of a yeti…supposedly (I’m not going to be the one who calls the Buddhist monks liars..) and then we travel back to our hotel at 3400m and stay there for the night. My guide explains that this short trip was a good test for how I was coping with the altitude. I passed.
On night 1 there was no wifi and I just read my book, not a problem, we are on the side of a mountain after all but for night 2 if I’d didn’t get wifi I would have been finished my book already and I have a few days left so I thought I’d have some wifi action and leave the book for further up. Change is as good as a rest plus it’s nice to talk to some of my friends back in Qatar considering I’m out here on my own..
I haven’t had any problems with altitude yet and on this night have my best sleep yet. Tomorrow is yet another test. We travel to 4300m.
Trekking day 3
Day 3 started off in a bit of a frustrating way… there were some really steep steps right outside our hotel (which I already walked yesterday) and I was feeling out of breath already I thought the altitude was going to get me, but alas once we got to the top of the steps I was fine again.
We started our trek from Namche at 3400m and walked along a relatively smooth path (considering we are on a mountain) that an old man has dedicated his time to smoothing. He is 77 and still doing it! You make a donation along the way to show your appreciate and trust me its worth it!
That path took us to an elevation of 3600m but my guide pointed out to me a river further down the way that we would cross at 3300m before we ascend again. Sometimes it can be a bit annoying when you start going down hill because you know you have to go back up… but thats the way it is. I suppose the best way to look at it is I know the trek was to take 7 hours so up hill or down hill that isn’t going to change.
We trekked for a solid 4 hours and 30 mins until stopping for lunch, the weather has been the best it’s been since I got here. My guide (Buddy) informs me that we only have an hours trek ahead of us after lunch. We are ahead of the game again. But as we are having lunch the snow starts… part of me is thinking well it’s about time, you know I was kind of expecting it considering where we are and part of me is thinking my jacket is with the porter, this could be tough.. it was fine in the end and in 1 hour we arrived at 4300m (that’s 900m in one day), it’s recommended that you do not ascend more than 500m in one day so we will have to wait and see if the altitude catches up with me later or not. For now I feel great, so let’s hope it lasts.
P.s. I found an Irish pub in Namche yesterday, today my hotel/lodge is called good luck hotel! Il take the irish luck as long as I can get it!
Trekking day 4
It snowed for a good bit on day 3 so I was expecting a tough day for our 4th day of trekking, and it truth it didn’t disappoint but for different reasons the expected.
The morning started pretty well with the trail itself being pretty much clear of snow . This made it relatively easy to trek, while I was expecting to be trailing through snow all day. Of course there was the odd slippy patch but nothing major. I actually spent a bit of time wondering where to build a snowman! One of my friends mentioned it as a joke but I thought it would be a bit of craic to build one. There was plenty of opportunity to be fair but my bull head just wants to get to the destination so we kept ploughing through but when I got to basecamp i.e. final destination, the thought escaped me.
Our aim for the day was to get to Gorkskep (last place before basecamp) and then take a trip to basecamp before staying the night in Gorkskep. But as the day went on this changed… firstly we never stopped for lunch so we made it to Gorkskep earlier than originally anticipated and then we basically raced to basecamp to get good pictures before the clouds came in. At this point we had a bit of extra time left in the day so the decision was made not to stay in Gorkskep but rather head back down to the next small village, effectively starting our decent on day 4.
This was all well and good in theory but the race to basecamp left my knee a bit worse for wear… if this didn’t get better day 5 might turn into a long day…
In summary day 4 was the peak of the trip in terms of reaching basecamp it was the most painful of the trip in terms of trekking for 8 and half hours and hurting my knee and possibly the most dangerous of the week considering we went from 4300m to 5364m in only a few hours but we live to fight another day!
Trekking day 5
Day five had a promising start as the snow had discontinued altogether and we had already made the start on our decent by staying lower down than Gorkskep.
For the first time on my trip there was not a cloud in the sky. This made for some amazing views and scenery but I couldn’t help but think how mice it would have been to get this yesterday at basecamp. Ah well.
The trek back to Namche was a long enough day again, made even longer by my sore knee. Everyday so far we were trekking ahead of schedule. Not today. I think our first element which took us to lunch lasted the guts of 4 hours which would normally have been maybe 20 mins shorter at the pace we had been doing all week.
Speaking of lunch, it must be noted that toasted tuna and cheese sandwiches may be on my new favourite foods list. Maybe I was just thankful of the break that day but it was good!
We continued our trek back along the smooth path (thanks to the previously mentioned 77 year old man) and this part of the trek, time wise, was pretty good.
When I want to do something I get the head down and push through until it’s done, it’s generally my nature and sometimes this is to my own downfall (knee….) but I made a point to myself that at no time would I ask the guide to stop for a break, although I probably needed several at different times every day. I always told myself that I keep going until he stops and then I take my break. It’s probably the main reason we kept up the good pace for most of the week but on day 5 this changed. I had to stop a couple of times with my knee and once because I was out of breath. Maybe part of the motivation was gone since we had already reached basecamp and started our return. I was determined to get back on track for day 6 if I could though!
When we reached Namche the views were incredible. Again, it was nice to see it all without clouds getting in the way.
I was really looking forward to getting wifi at this hotel (sad I know) because I’d been out of contact with friends and family for a couple days, but when we arrived the wifi wasn’t working… typical! Eventually it started working but didn’t get as much time as I wanted considering I was basically trekking on my own, I wanted to pass some time chatting to friends. Makes the non trekking element of the journey a little less lonely I guess.
So for day 5 in summary we trekked for about 5 hours 45 mins, and went from an elevation of 4900m to 4300m. Day 6 was set to be the last day and it was to start by means of going to the viewpoint on top of Namche and watching the sun rise over Everest and the rest of the mountains.
Trekking day 6
After day 5 I wasn’t sure how day 6 would go but one thing way for sure – it was the last day of the trek!
We started off by going up to the viewpoint in Namche to see the sun rise over the mountains and it was beautiful but although it was only a 10 minute walk up and down my knee was really sore so I wasn’t confident of making good time for the rest of the day…
After breakfast we set off and the first hour or so was a struggle but after that the knee seemed to improve, maybe it was just getting numb from the pain or maybe I was getting excited by the idea of crossing the ‘finish line’. Either way we ploughed on through and went from Namche to Lukla in 5 hours dead. Not a bad effort and we didn’t stop anywhere for a break at all.
At one point my guide met someone he knew and stopped for a quick chat (this happened often) and I kept walking but this time after a good distance there was no sign of him which is very unusual because he is very fast and always caught up quickly. I began to wonder if I’d taken a wrong turn but kept going anyway as I didn’t think there was a place I passed that I could have made a wrong turn.. eventually he showed up but it was actually nice to trek for about 45 mins or an hour on my own. Very fulfilling.
Finally we reached Lukla and the trek is done. All that is left is to make it off the runway tomorrow and land in kathamandu hopefully!!
The trek was an experience of a life time of that there is no doubt.
Apart from reaching basecamp and trekking about 125km in 6 days to an attitude of 5364m, I crossed 7 suspension bridges, 2 (small!) cliffs, got headbutted by a yak, seen 5 avalanches and flew in and out of ‘the most dangerous airport in the world’.
Now that it’s all done with its time to go meet my friends and relax for a few days in Pakhara and Chitwan before heading back to the real world. Here’s to the next adventure. It will be hard to top this one!