Saturday, November 5, 2011

Last day before out of range

Weather continues to look extremely gross, but at least it's not bitter cold and despite the clouds we are all getting nice facial burns thanks to the intense UV rays found up here at over 13,000'.

Today proved thoroughly enjoyable, we struck out frmo Namche at a respectable 9am, wandering the upper corridors and finally emerging on the trail, slowly plodding along and taking advantage of the mild temperatures to keep moving at a strong and steady pace. The guys were laughing, frequently, at my comments since a cloud bank continues to shroud the valleys. One (of several examples is: "right around this corner is one of my favorite views on this route"... to only see a mass of clouds whipping by, would be met with "yeah, thanks Doug:. :) It's all in good fun, the guys are all meshed and functioning as a well-oiled machine, critical up here. Everyone supports each other and especially cheer on good ol Mel, who actually celebrates his 71st birthday in a few weeks. That guy continues to plod along, impressing everyone with his Little-Engine-That-Could mentality.

Along this particular portion of the route, the path drops ~1,200 feet down to the river and then in an incredible mind game, immediately rises close to 2,000 feet up to Tengbuche Monastery. Along the way we dodge cranky yaks and falling rocks, winding via the climbers path to put on altitude and shave 30 minutes off our time. We topped out and then spent close to an hour exploring the monasteryitself, snacking down on apple pie at the local bakery with Buddhist chants still fresh in our ears. The monastery is a work of art, and has been for hundreds of years. Lovingly maintained by the host of monks that live, study, and worship here, paint is fresh on even the most ornately detailed carvings and figures. Monks chop wood outside, sweep the front steps and practice a dance ritual in the inner courtyard. They are completely at ease with our presence, blurting out a toothy grinned "namaste" when they see us. While the original monastery burned down in a fire roughly 25 years ago, this reproduced version is taking on the sort of rich patina one would expect given it's location in the Himalaya. We take it all in, go grab some pie to reflect and casually talk until it's time to move on.

One thing of note is that a vast improvement over 3 years ago: people here have mastered the art of making light, flaky breads. Gone are the heavy, doughy and tasteless breads that clump in ones stomach after forcing down... something to seriously celebrate.

15 minutes later we arrive at Debuche and gear down. We also receive some good news: Tshering, my climbing Sherpa was able to somehow get into Lukla despite flights being grounded yet again for the 5th day. He will connect up with us tomorrow, somewhere around Pheriche. From there we carve off- weather dependent and begin the technical aspects of this trip. Unsure when the next posting will be, I hear there is no telephone signal at Island Peak as it's in the shadow of the Everest-Lhotse-Nuptse massif.

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