[OcelotNews] Ocelotians in the Khumbu (Everest) area, Part 2

KD7NDG at Winlink.org KD7NDG at Winlink.org
Fri May 21 05:23:00 PDT 2010

Dear Friends & Family,    20 May 2010, Khumjung, Nepal

This was getting too long so we split it into 2 parts.  Please read Part 1 first.  It ends in Gorak Shep, on Everest's doorstep...

12 May 2010, trip to Everest Base Camp, 17,600' or 5360m
The trail to Base Camp isn't very long, but it's either on the moraine or on the Khumbu Glacier itself.  Both are difficult in their own ways, especially when you're sucking in every oxygen molecule you can find.  But the views are stunning!  Impossibly high snow-covered peaks surround us & the glacier was full of interesting formations.  Large rocks will often shade the ice under them, so it won't melt when the rest of the glacier does, and the rock ends up at the top of an ice pinnacle.  30 years ago the trail traversed much more of the glacier & was a bit dangerous in the afternoon, as melt-water streams could expand to block the trail, but today the trail goes further along the moraine & spends much less time on the glacier.

Base Camp was a vast sprinkling of small orange tents & strings of prayer flags.  There are about 35 groups up here & hundreds of people, with a constant stream of yaks & porters bringing in supplies.  We had invitations to visit 3 different groups but we only got to 2 of them.  First was the son of the Man Who Skied Down Everest (the movie came out in the late 70's).  Gota Miura had summited twice & was now doing a solo cleanup climb, pulling garbage & left over gear back down off Everest for disposal (the 6th such cleanup expedition at Base Camp).  Gota is Japanese & doing his doctoral dissertation on high-altitude hypoxia.  He gave us invaluable help when we were having issues adjusting to these altitudes.

We also visited Pushkar Shah, an amazing Nepali who spent 11 years bicycling around the world & is planning to cap it off by summiting Everest.  He visited 150 countries on his 11-year World Peace tour.  In a way, this parallels our own journey - trying to bridge different cultures, to get them to know & understand each other better.  Hopefully this increased understanding of the values that each culture holds will help improve international relations.  Pushkar's website is http://www.PushkarShah.com

13 May 2010, hike up Kala Pattar, 18,200' or 5550m (our highest point on this trek)
Kala Pattar (Black Rock) is a hill at the base of Pumo Ri, but it offers one of the best views of Everest & the whole Khumbu valley.  It took us 2 hours to climb the 1,300' (400m) at this altitude but at the top we were treated to stunning views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, & the mountains on the other side of Lho La that are actually in Tibet.  The icy wind was howling so we could only stay for 30 minutes, but we took LOTS of photos in that time.

When we came down we had a nice, warming soup lunch & then packed our bags & hiked back down the Khumbu valley to Lobuche at 16,200' (4,910m).  This is the start of our 2-day trip over the Cho La Pass to the Gokyo valley.  That night we met the very interesting Jack Starmer.  Jack runs a private aid organization (with almost zero overhead) that brings together Nepali & western medical volunteers who run 5-day health camps at remote Nepali villages.  In those 5 days the 30 or so volunteers service 3-4000 Nepalis, including some surgeries.  Jack's website is http://HealthCareNepal.org

14 May 2010, Dzongla, 15,850' or 4830m
Our walk to Dzongla was a treat, mainly because most of it was mostly level - a novelty for Sherpa trails.  It contoured around a ridge, high above the busy Everest highway below, & then turned NW towards the pass.  It went gently up above a large lake below, with tufts of blooming purple & yellow dwarf rhododendron & low juniper bushes, as the valley slowly came up to meet us.  The guest house was pretty basic, with only a few tiny rooms & only very basic facilities - I think our Sherpas ended up doing most of the cooking.  But it started snowing again in the afternoon & the neighboring guest house was closed so we were glad to have a roof over our heads at all!

15 May 2010, over Cho La Pass (17,600' or 5370m) to Dragnag (15,400' or 4700m)
Despite last night's snow flurries & clouds, the day dawned brilliant & by 6am we were fed & on the trail to our toughest pass.  We left the yak pastures after only a few minutes to begin a 1,600' (500m) climb up a very vertical rock cliff where we were using our hands to pull ourselves up huge boulders.  Two hours into it, Sue & Amanda were so happy to see our cheerful young porters bounding back down the cliffs.  They'd dropped their loads at the top & then come back to relieve us of our day packs which had felt heavier with each step.

The top of the cliff was not the top of the pass, but merely where the rock gave way to the glistening snow of the glacier.  Crossing the glacier was like walking on a gently sloping snow field with intricate, crunchy ice formations under foot.  At this elevation we were taking one full breath for each step, perhaps 30/minute (I was too scared to take my pulse, but both pulse & respiration were pretty much maxed-out).  Slowly we gained the top of Cho La, where we sat on warm rocks under waving red, blue, yellow & green prayer flags.  We snacked on granola bars, nuts & raisins, & icy cold water, while marveling at the wild rocky crags above us & the immense Himalayan peaks to the east & west.  At 10 we began the risky descent down a boulder/scree slope which is stable only in the morning before the warming sun melts the night's ice that holds the rocks in place.  For the next 4 hours we worked our way down the rocks, & then thru blessedly green meadows of juniper & dwarf rhododendrons to our next lodging at Dragnag.

16 May 2010, Gokyo, 15,700' or 4790m
Being footsore from the grueling Cho La, we "slept in" till 7:30, & after a leisurely breakfast took off for the settlement at Gokyo, which lay just across the massive Ngozumba Glacier.  Local knowledge was useful here, as the maps show only the old trail which is now blocked by a deep blue-white glacial lake.  The new trail at times seemed impassable to all but humans, but along the way we passed evidence of horse and yak trains that had made their way over the ice & rocks, up & down the lateral moraines.  From the top of the western moraine we looked down on the stunning deep blue of Dudh Pokhari, the largest of the 3 Gokyo area lakes.  From nothing more than a cluster of rock shelters & yak pasture 30 years ago, Gokyo has grown now to a village of 5 guest houses on the eastern shore of the lake.  We stayed at a lodge run by a Sherpa widow & her 2 teens, & felt pampered with hot teas, tasty pizzas (made on chapatis), & spicy Sherpa stew.

17 May 2010, hike up Gokyo Ri, 17,600' or 5360m
Always gluttons for punishment & seekers of better views, we spent our "lay day" in Gokyo pulling our tired bodies up 1,900' (600m) to the top of Gokyo Ri.  The top was festooned in hundreds of strings of prayer flags & stunning views of glacier-clad mountains.  We clambered around boulders taking pictures of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, & the awesome snow/glacier wall of Cho-Oyu on the Tibetan border.  We returned to the lodge in time for a late lunch and a typical trekking afternoon spent recovering in the dining room, chatting to other trekkers, taking photos of the cloud-dressed peaks, & anticipating dinner!

18 May 2010, over Renjo La Pass (17,600' or 5360m) to Lungde (14,400' or 4380m)
Today we headed due west from Gokyo to tackle Renjo La, a relatively newly opened pass.  We climbed the short steep loose gravelly eastern side, to enjoy new views of Himalayan peaks to the west.  Concerned that we were facing another killer slog down a scree slope to the east like we'd had on the Cho La we were amazed to face a long, impossibly steep but extremely well built rock staircase!  Five years ago a Sherpa in Lungde used Community funds to hire people to build a staircase that is wide enough to allow horse & yak trains to transit the pass.  Our aching knees attest to the long day to Lungde - more than 7 hours of walking, dropping 3,200' (1000m) to our distant guest house.

19 May 2010, back to Khumjung, 12,400' or 3780m
Today was another LONG day, as we descended from Lungde along the white roaring Bhote Kosi river that drops from Tibet into the Khumbu.  The trail tended gently down as we passed through very old villages that are not yet spoiled with trekkers, where the roofs are still built of slate & rock instead of the ubiquitous corrugated sheet steel.  This valley was closed until maybe 15 years ago, as the Nepali's were concerned about the security of the border -- this trail leads to one of the "easiest" passes into Tibet.  After 9 days in the high alpine land of rock & ice it was refreshing & beautiful to find ourselves back in pastures, meadows of blooming dwarf rhodies & newly greening potato fields.  We side-tracked across the river into the village of Thame not only for lunch but also to choose the lodge we will use for our stay during the Mani Rimdu festival in a few days.

>From Thame we chose to trek all the way back to Pema's home in Khumjung -- another 4 hours of traversing down the valley.  We went back down through the tree-line & our surroundings changed gradually to glorious rhododendron, fir & birch forest.  Just when we were ready for the trail to stop it went up, up, up to Khumjung which is bursting with spring color in the surrounding hills, hillsides glittering with blooming yellow rhodies & the new green of the potato plants in the walled fields.

Today, 20 May 2010, is our 31st wedding anniversary.  30 years ago today we were camped in our little dome tent outside Dingboche, where Pema & her late husband Nima presented us with an elaborately decorated fruitcake (cooked in a pressure cooker over the fire!) & a small bottle of Khukri Rum to go in our hot chocolate.  Tonight Pema honored us with a huge meal of her delicious Momos - spicy meat filled pastries served with a spicy tomato sauce topping.  While we've had momos elsewhere, Pema's are always the best!  The celebration included our guide Tenzing (reunited with his wife, Pu Doma, & their 2 kids) & our 3 porters.  Laughter & story-telling lasted well into the night, as a good celebration should!

Clear Views & Magnificent Mountains  --  Jon & Sue (& Chris & Amanda)    s/v Ocelot
http://HackingFamily.com    http://svOcelot.com

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