Thursday, April 3, 2008

14,137'- Dingboche

Everest with massive winds on the summit as seen from the trail.

Starting to wind our way higher into the Himalayas, we woke this morning to cloudless skies. Our team set out ahead of the massive numbers of IMG (International Mountain Guides) clients that were sharing our hotel last night. After a few minutes, we came to a stop in order to visit a local Buddhist nun. Lhakpa explained that for the last 20 years she had been living in what can only be described as a Spartan shed- one bedroom, one story, made of wood and stone. Unheated, half open to the elements. She looked completely cheerful, despite also looking sun weary and leathered over. She asked Lhakpa where he was climbing, and after he told her she brought out the special blessing guns- she tied a special red string around our necks, gave us an apple, and then a mint throat lozenge. She also gave us three orange colored balls that were powdered and about the same size as a BB. "You eat it" Lhakpa said. Ok, bottoms up. They were sour, tangy and indescribable in overall taste. They were for good luck, so I ate 'em. But I'm not pulling them out as party snacks any time soon.

After about an hour, Everest came into full view- complete with massive winds raging off the summit. Joe commented that we still have close to two months until we are going for the top, which is good- given that today we were seriously feeling the altitude. Francisco said at one point "Yee! And I'm having trouble at 4,000 meters!"

It continued to turn into another lung buster- Lhakpa wanted to go see another Lama enroute, and at one point he said "let's go"- branching off the main trail on one that was noticeably more steep and putting it into high gear. Joe and Francisco wisely declined but curiosity got the better of me in what would become a been-there-done that experience. "Wait.. what?" Why can't the Lama live on the trail? Oh man. here we go. By the time we reached the Lama's monastery, we had put on 600' in elevation and I was a breathless, sweaty mess. We entered the monastery of the Lama and grounded our gear. I met another guide- Tim, from Canada. Really nice, he was much more grounded than some other guides we have come across so far. He has been guiding in the Himalaya since the early 90s and just came off Ama Dablam a few weeks ago. He chuckled at how wiped I was but talked with us about some of his experiences, which are many.

After the ceremony, the four of us rejoined and continued on our way. As we ascended higher, we basically said goodbye to trees.. this is the last of the ones we saw before vegetation eroded into scrub. The remainder of the terrain is rock and wind-swept sand. And man is it windy today.

After a few hours, we topped 14,000' and started dialing in on Dingboche. The trail wound down toward a river and then shot straight back up the side of the opposite hill which was cold, dusty and windy. Not exactly a morale booster, but still- we knew we were close. Here's a picture showing how excited we were when we first saw that the trail didn't stop where we had hoped it would.

Finally arriving an hour later, we grounded gear and had a great lunch at our stop for the night.- the Snow Lion Lodge. How awesome would it be if we really saw a Snow Lion. Our team has a rest day here tomorrow, although Joe is thinking of doing an acclimatization hike up to one of the stupas a few hundred feet above us. He's a madman.

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