Thursday, April 3, 2008


At 8am, Lhakpa, Joe, Francisco and I set out from Namche Bazaar for Tengbuche. Willie stayed back to fight off a slight cold he picked up thanks to Kathmandu pollution and to make sure that our permits are finalized. Within five minutes of leaving Namche, I felt like a lung was going to pop out of my mouth. It was steep, and you truly felt the altitude- even after two days at elevation. So not a nice way to leave first thing this morning.

But then, the trail quickly leveled off and we meandered along, putting on close to 600' in elevation as the trail slowly wandered around and into the Dudh Kosi river valley. The word Dudh means milk in Nepali, and this river maintains is silty white color from its glacial source as it carves its way down through the valley toward the sea.

Off to the right, we occasionally made out Aba Dablam and before the clouds moved in for good, pieces of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse were visible in the distance, rising to the sky. At one point I asked Lhakpa what he thought the first time he saw Everest- was he freaked? Was he excited? He told me that when he first saw Everest, he decided he wanted to climb it.

The day was a bit chillier than we had expected, and clouds came and went all through our trek. Topping out at 11,900', the trail then dropped over 1,000' down to the river through Rhodedendron forests, kalma moss, and pine tree clusters before we arrived at a small village called Phunky Tenga. "I want to bring you... to Phunky Tenga.." wonder if we could make a song out of that. We stopped here for lunch and recharged before kicking it again and putting in another hour push up to 12,800". We were all pretty happy with how strong we felt and even with another lung buster switchback leg to this tail we were cruising, iPods cranking.

Initially, the trail was packed with trekkers and climbers but that thinned out as we approached Thengboche but it truly was an international scene. At one point, I passed a group of 5 and as I said hello, received back "Aloha", "Bon Jour", Namaste", "Hi", and "Buenos Dias". Today we met or bumped into climbers and trekkers from Iran, Russia, France, Germany, and the US. Most people speak English so it's easy for us, but Francisco seems to be a curiosity for some reason. He's from Guatemala but everyone seems to think he's from somewhere else. The Iranian guy spoke in Iranian to him, Nepalis think he's Nepali and there's a wide array of guesswork as to what his nationality is. He's really good natured and so it's just as funny to him as it is to the rest of us.

We arrived at Thengboche somewhere around 1pm and Francisco and I immediately went to check out the monastery. Too cool! Thengboche is home to the region’s largest monastery, a destination for monks of all ages throughout the country to practice and study Buddhism. We met a monk who gave us a history lesson on the Buddhist Temple we were able to gain entry to and told us that his desire is to be a lifelong monk there. His father is an "Ice Doctor"- one of the guys who goes into the Khumbu Icefall every year to fix lines and had just recently come through enroute to Base Camp. Then Lhakpa took us on an extremely special and unique visit to the Lama- essentially the head spiritual advisor for the Khumbu Valley and who is responsible for that entire Temple complex. Seeing the Lama was a very important stop for Lhakpa and he invited us to come along, which we knew was special. The four of us were then admitted to the Lama's private quarters where we removed all hats and shoes. We offered donations to the Lama, who accepted them and blessed our trip. Lhakpa and the Lama seemed to be quite at ease with each other and as for Francisco, Joe and I, we were just happy to be included. The Lama asked us to bring a Tibet flag to the summit.. we laughed. I'm pretty sure he was serious.

We then descended 400' down to Deboche, deep in another forest of rhododendron and inside the Imja Khola river valley, a tributary to the Dudh Khosi. We'll call it a day here and then set out again tomorrow. The team is strong, moving fast and no altitude issues. Keeping our fingers crossed it continues that way.. and that it warms up a little. Frikkin' cold...

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