So now that I’ve finished the whole sequence I figured I’d post the whole listing here on one page in order, it will make it easier for people finding it for the first time to access, enjoy:
Posts Tagged ‘nepal’
Tags: breschears, cho oyu, everest, everest base camp, gokyo, gompa, gorak shep, kathmandu, khumjung, life, lukla, mong la, namche, nepal, renjo la, sherpa, thamel, trek, trekking, yeti
Tags: everest, gomap, gorak shep, life, lukla, namche, nepal, steve, trek, trekking
It’s funny in writing something like this, trying to remember everything, even with journal notes, things come to you later, you realize you didn’t get in pictures that you like. You can never catch the feeling or the depth of the friendships that can be created so quickly. One person whose image hasn’t appeared is our friend Steve. Steve of course is not her given name, being born a woman in Hungary and all, but she is Steve, first a picture of my friend Steve:
And now a video to show you what the whole Steve thing is about:
Steve is a truly amazing woman, this was her second trek and she was a zen-like trekker, calm quiet, Steve took everything in her own time. Not to mention that she was fascinating to talk to and was being tracked and protected by the Hungarian Secret Service, at least that was the joke. We kid her a lot that they had her on satellite imagery at all times, and then one day while we were resting under the eaves of a lodge on the trail to Na, a black helicopter came flying up the valley. It really seemed like since she was off satellite coverage they had sent in the choppers. I miss Steve.
You have seen some of the other characters we were with, Stretch, Mark, Philippe and a couple of pictures and a mention of Tom being sick. However, I believe I could write a 16 part series about my friend Tom, it was his second trek as well and he is one of the funniest humans I’ve ever encountered. He routinely kept me laughing and when I couldn’t go above a snail’s pace he spent the day walking with me. With Tom things were up and down, although he kept my spirits up, it was because of him that I ended up at war with Australia.
Our guides were magnificent and truly I wouldn’t trek with anyone else, Kim and Lhakpa are the best. Kim’s company can be found at
and Lhakpa is branching out on his own and has a new company he has started and can be found at:
If you go to see them bring Kim Jolly Ranchers and Lhakpa beef jerky and of course ziplocks and duct tape, they’ll appreciate it.
There are times in the mountains when life can’t get any better, and times when you can’t believe you’re going to finish the days walk. You can build life-long friendships climbing a single hill and totally forget where you are and what you are doing. One of my favorite moments among many was coming up over the ridge to Gorak Shep and looking at the mountains in front of me. Seeing these peaks rising 10,000 feet in the sky I stood there admiring them and then started to laugh. Yes, I was looking at peaks nearly 10,000 feet above me, but I was already 17,000 feet up, such is the power of the biggest mountains in the world.
I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to the Himalayas but I’m glad I went, the peace I gained in the rare air lasted me almost 10 months after I got back to “civilization.” The other thing that is hard to find space for are just pictures, so to wrap up this little odyssey just a set of pretty shots from the Himalayas, enjoy!
A picture holding a package of mountain gold.
And finally the shot I use as the header for my other blog, The Ministry of Happiness.
Tags: everest, kathmandu, life, nepal, thamel, trek, trekking
The morning felt like a morning at 17,000 feet, I didn’t have much energy, I could hardly eat and then I remembered that I drank the night before. Happily our guides did a great job of getting us scheduled on a flight and actually getting it, that can be a problem in Lukla, we mounted up and got ready to do round two of Lukla. The runway slants down on takeoff and if you are overweight, or if you don’t get up enough speed you go from a flight to demolition derby with the bottom of the valley, and the valley has a tendency to win.
So once again we were often cotton and candies and the pilot stood up on the brakes and pushed the throttle to full, then jumps off and here we go. Actually it was a great takeoff; we were airborne probably 5 feet before we ran off the runway. The flight back was beautiful and sad as we were saying goodbye to the mountains. Kathmandu airport was its normal hectic self and we even someone leaving right from the airport so that added a level of nuttiness. We then went back to our original home in Nepal the Kathmandu Guest House, and since I was remiss in the first post here are a couple photos of the hotel:
It was nice in some ways and not so nice in others to be back in civilization. We got in and checked in, took long showers, changed into clean clothes and then went down and had lunch. Unfortunately I had started developing a chest infection and wasn’t feeling really well, by that night I felt really bad and ended up spending most of the next several days in bed coughing my lungs out. Happily the drug store next to the hotel hooked me up with some antibiotics and got me on the road to recovery. The Kathmandu Guest House is in the Thamel area of Kathmandu, it’s an area full of hotels, restaurants and shops, I’m including some of my favorite shots form that area, I did feel well enough to do a little shopping and take a few pictures:
Tags: bigfoot, cho oyu, dhole, Gokyo Ri, life, machermo, nepal, tom slick, trek, trekking, yeti
On this day the group will be leaving to go over the Renjo La Pass (17,800) feet and down into the Thame valley. I had been thinking a lot about the pass, I’m not a good descender and there was a possibility that the descent would be icy and I just wasn’t feeling confident about it. The last thing I wanted to do was talk myself into a fall so I made the decision to go back down the Gokyo Valley and to Namche with a plan to meet the group in three days in Mende. My friend Phillipe had not been feeling well and he decided to make the trip down with me and one of the guides, Lhakpa. Breaking from the group meant no Yak support and so instead of light day packs we were carrying full packs, still not a ton of weight but definitely more than we had been carrying up to this point.
It was a sad morning saying goodbye to the group and we watched them as long as we could as they slid up the side of Gokyo Ri, heading for what looked like an impossible path to reach a notch in the mountains.
Finally it was time for us to go and we retreated down the Gokyo Valley, this time staying on the opposite side of the river which gave us new villages and vistas. We were heading for Dhole but our first stop was at Machermo a place I was very excited to be getting to. Why you ask? Well on the maps of the Khumbu Valley there is a notation at Machermo, “site of Yet attack in 1974, 3 yaks killed and woman thrown in stream.” Being as interested as I am in the Yeti, Machermo was certainly a high point on the trip for me, unfortunately I’m unable to locate my Machermo photos at this time, but they weren’t that exciting, just me by the village sign. The other thing both related to the Yeti and very interesting was the area just outside of Machermo, for the first time on the trek we found ourselves walking through actual forest including something that looked a lot like Spanish Moss on the trees. This really seemed like the first habitat we encountered that could actually support a large creature like the Yeti. For more on the Yeti check out the link below:
We made Dhole (13,254) in the afternoon, it’s a sleepy little village and we had a great afternoon sitting in the sun, having a beer and watching crows stealing food off of the packs on the backs of the yaks coming through the village. The lodge at Dhole had very little heat in the common room and none in the sleeping area and it may have been the coldest night of the trek. Getting up at 3AM to urinate and the water in the squat toilet was actually frozen, I was very thankful for my mummy bag that night it was going to be a cold morning.
Tags: cho oyu, everest, gokyo, gokyo lakes, himalaya, lake tahoe, life, nepal, phortse, trek, trekking
The morning was spent making the trek back down from Dingboche to Phortse, retracing our steps once again to meet up with my little beard pulling friend. A nice night back in Phortse but the lodge is crowded, the snow has created some log jams both going up and coming down the trails. Being at a lower altitude feels amazing especially when just days before this was the thin air we were getting used to.
The next morning we said goodbye to one of our group who was sick and would be heading down to Namche and then the rest of us hit the trail moving up again. The trail to Na was by far my most difficult trail of the entire trek. I don’t like exposed trails, I mentioned that earlier, and on the trail to Na we spent a very large portion of our seven hours of walking on the edge of about a 1000 foot drop off, with the trail winding out around outcroppings and the conversation for most of the day unfortunately centering on the guy who disappeared on this trail the year before. The physical part of the walk was not an issue, it was the mental drain of having to focus so intensely on where to put foot after foot after foot. By the time we reached the river drainage that led up to the lodge at Na I was spent, the last half hour was a long slow slog. The high point of the day as well as the most embarrassing moment was watching a 50-something grandmother come up over mountain trails carrying her 4-year-old grandson and moving at least as fast as I was, it put things into perspective.
The lodge at Na was a bit of a throwback to old trekking days, the outhouse was well outside of the lodge and a good distance away, the Yak dung stove smoked up the lodge and the rooms were chilly and our Yaks were huddled up against the wall under our window. However like the rest of the region it was beautiful, the shot below is the trail coming up the valley:
We lit out of Na, across the river and started upward again toward the Gokyo Valley, saw what were quite possibly snow leopard prints in the snow, very cool. We took a rest stop at the entrance to the Gokyo Valley on a little bridge over a raging river. I had been looking forward to seeing the valley, there are five sacred lakes in the Gokyo Valley and we quickly came upon the first. It looked a bit like a damned up wide spot in the river but was absolutely beautiful set against the snow. A little further up the valley we came to the second lake and it was magnificent, the lake is long and over a 100 feet deep. Looking back down the valley from the head of the lake and my favorite peak was gleaming in the sun, this instantly became my favorite spot in Nepal.
We spent a little time resting by the shore of the lake and then made our way up to Gokyo and the third lake. The first view of Gokyo (15,700 ft) was awesome:
The third lake was like a small Lake Tahoe set in the Himalayas, the lodge we were staying at sat up over it with a magnificent view and had attached with it the outhouse with the best view in the world:
The lakes as I mentioned were sacred lakes so there is no one on or in the lake in any way. The lakes remain perfect and calm framed against the snow-covered shores of Gokyo Ri (17,585) and in the shadow of Cho Oyu one of the world’s highest mountains at 26,900 feet and pictured below:
We had a rest day in Gokyo and I spent the day shooting, here’s a sampling enjoy:
Tags: base camp, breashears, everest, everest imax, gorak shep, icefall, Khumbu, life, nepal, trek, trekking
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~John Muir
I was feeling better this day as evidenced by my appetite returning with a vengeance, I ate a big breakfast, a big lunch and snacked constantly all day until dinner where I ate well. The walk was long and beautiful, down through Dingboche again lunch at Thugla and then up a really tremendously large hill behind the lodge. At the top we were in a field full of markers that commemorate lost climbers, it was a truly somber and beautiful place. We stopped there and took some time to recover from the hill and take in the monuments.
We proceeded up the valley to Lobuche(16,190 ft) and got settled in for the night. We had noticed that David Breashears was also staying at the lodge and it created quite a little buzz in our group. If you don’t know who he is you can check him out at the link below:
The group got even more excited when Breashears came to join our group, turns out he had previously met with one of the people in our group. David was kind enough to sit and talk with us for quite a while and tell us about his glacier project. David is taking comparative photographs of glaciers, essentially taking the same picture that was taken decades before and comparing them to determine how much the glaciers have retreated. It is an interesting project and I was fortunate enough to meet with David again this fall and they are really making a lot of progress with the photography and the development of the website should be pretty amazing. You can get a little more information at the following link:
The next day was a hard walk, it was windy and cold and we moved slowly up the mountain along the valley containing the Khumbu Icefall.
These were my exact thoughts when I hit Gorak Shep (16,975):
“This place (Gorak Shep) is stark. It’s a climber’s place lots of reminders of past expeditions and treks. Seeing some familiar faces from the trail, met a beautiful Spanish girl who is heading for base camp at Island Peak. It’s cold here, and going to be a cold night’s sleep.”
The day was also my friend Mark’s birthday, Mark is an incredible hiker and even with a pretty severe chest infection led our group most days. He’s pictured here below:
We had put together a little bit of a celebration for Mark scrounging together some candy, chocolates, cheeses etc… and a couple of us who knew in advance were carrying small presents for him. The manager of the lodge even put together a little present for him. Unfortunately as I went back to my room I got the sudden urge to go to the bathroom, I say unfortunately because the urge trailed the action. I moved as quickly as I could under the circumstances and spent the next couple of hours squatting in the lodge’s bathroom. My lack of energy two days previous now made sense, it was when the intestinal infection I had picked up took hold and zapped my energy. That I had picked up the infection was not a shock, it’s common in fact and I came prepared with ciprofloxacin and that little miracle antibiotic would cure me in less than 24 hours. The real issue was my soiled long-johns, it was cold and base-camp was up next and there wasn’t a lot of heat in the lodge. The solution was to do some impromptu tailoring by cutting the soiled portion of my long-johns away with a knife. It wasn’t pretty and surely not to become a fashion (sorry I called you Shirley), but it was necessary to stay warm in the mountains. Sometimes adventure isn’t pretty.
The second surprise of the evening was that the snow that had started as we reached Gorak Shep was picking up. The reason this is surprising is that November is typically a pretty dry time in the Himalayas and one of the reasons the treks run at that time of year. I slept hard that night and let the medication work its magic. The one thing I really liked about Gorak Shep was the view at sunset:
Tags: ama dablam, everest, himalaya, life, namche, nepal, pangboche, peak, phortse, sherpa, trek, trekking
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu
We headed out of Namche on what passes for flat in the Himalayas, this then led to a climb, a very long climb up to Mong La on the top of a mountain for lunch (12,795 ft) this was the highest elevation I’d ever achieved and it felt great. I needed the rest at that point and we had a leisurely lunch. Then it was down, down, down to the river and then up a really magnificent hill to Phortse at 12,400 ft and a really great lodge. My favorite part of the lodge was the owner’s grandson who was a bit of an urchin and who was utterly fascinated by my beard which he proceeded to try and pull off of my face.
Also had my first experience with an Asian squat toilet, they’re hell on the legs, must be one of the reasons the locals have such strong legs.
The next morning I made the mistake of running up the stairs and suddenly felt lightheaded, so I grabbed my pack and went outside to try and get my breath back and feel a bit better. About 10 minutes later one of our guides, Lhakpa, comes jogging around the back of the lodge to get me, the group was already well up the mountain ahead of us. The adrenaline burst took my mind off how I felt and I slowly climbed my way back to the group.
We spent the rest of the day on exposed trails heading to Pangboche, a really difficult day hiking for me as I started out feeling off and running late. Plus exposed trails really wear me out mentally, not to mention that we ended the day at Pangboche (13,040 ft), and during the day on the hike we hit (13,500 ft) my new highest point, a recurring theme for the next couple of weeks.
We’ve been passing a peak from different angles over the last couple of days and it is quickly becoming my favorite, it’s called, Khan Tiega and it is pictured below:
Took a very cold shower in Pangboche and then walked out to take some shots of some truly magnificent vistas behind the lodge, an example below.
We would be doing an acclimatization day in Pangboche and the optional hike was to go to base camp for Ama Dablam, the mountain shown below. The peak of Ama Dablam is over 22,000 ft and features a huge ice climb.
Upper base camp at Ama Dablam which we visited is at 14,800 ft, which is higher than any mountain in the continental United States, so I decided to go and here I was only a few days into my Himalayan experience standing at a point higher than anything in the continental US. It was an accomplishment that hit me at the time, one I was proud of and also hit me because I was feeling the effects of the altitude and was happy to drop back down the 1500 ft back to Pangboche.
My actual notes for the day:
“It was cool to see base camp at Ama Dablam today with all of the tents set up. Walking through the valleys it was amazing clouds, snow and 6-8000 meter peaks (20-26,000 ft) and so quiet, except for the sound of the occasional far off avalanche.”
Tags: ama dablam, everest, himalaya, khumjung, lhotse, life, namche, nepal, sherpa, trekking, yeti
Today we start to go uphill, after doing some walking and crossing several suspension bridges we really started to climb, and at the two and a half hour mark we stopped at what I started calling a Himalaya Rest Stop, where several local women were selling fruit to the trekkers. I was excited to make friends with one of the ladies and buy the “last banana” at least the last one until we were up the trail I’m sure. The stop had a much bigger significance however, it was the first spot where we had a view of Mt. Everest.
As the day closed we arrived at Namche Bazaar (11,315 ft) essentially a giant swap meet in the middle of the mountains. Namche is the place where Tibetans who have walked over the mountains, often in sneakers, come to sell their wares. The village also has internet shops, bakeries and most importantly hot showers and the last sit down toilets on the trail.
Getting to Namche was great and I was thankful for an acclimatization day the next day as I wasn’t feeling great, but then again, 11,000 feet, a tough day walking and a bit of sunburn will do that to you.
The next morning has me very excited, I’m a big believer in Bigfoot and its Himalayan cousin the Yeti, to the point that my brother and I produce a website related to this and related topics, www.dystopiantimes.com. I’m excited because today we will visit a Gompa in Khumjung where they monks have a purported Yeti Skull.
Acclimatization day does not mean rest day, in fact the goal is to go up a thousand feet or so and then come back down to sleep lower than you climbed. We climbed up above Namche with amazing views in the clear November skies including Ama Dablam, Everest and Lhotse. The crazy thing is way up here on the mountain at 12,000 feet we came across a dirt airstrip and actually got to see a plane take off, it was wild.
We walked to Khunde for lunch and visited one of the mountain health clinics and then the big attraction for the day, the Khumjung Gompa and the Yeti Skull. Arriving at the Gompa we had to make a donation to get the caretaker to open the case with the skull in it, but once he did we got to get up close to the small glass container that contained the skull. Unfortunately the glass and the lack of light made getting a good shot almost impossible so here’s my best one below:
I’m a big fan of cryptids like the Yeti, but I’m also a scientist and the fact is the Khumjung skull is not a Yeti skull, it has been previously investigated and it turned out to not be the real deal, the link below can give you more information.
The history of the skull:
A link to a picture of Sir Edmund Hillary with the scalp and it’s debunking:
All in all it was still a thrill to be in the land of the Yeti and be talking to people who truly believe in its existence. Here’s a piece on another Yeti expedition to the Himalayas and some really interesting results:
On the way back to Namche we stopped and took some photos including my favorite one of me in the Himalayas and here it is.
Tags: everest, himalaya, himalayan, life, lukla, nepal, trekking
We landed at the Kathmandu Airport (elevation – 4300 ft) with all of the associated crowds and insanity, standing in line to get our visas, customs, changing over money and then trying to find our connection and ride to the Kathmandu Guest House (KGH). We did find our connection and a large crowd of gentlemen happy to help us with our bags for a tip of course. The other thing that happened, of course, was we had to wait for another flight and other guests before going to the KGH. While waiting we got familiar with all of the operations at the airport including the taxi line, and it became obvious that gas prices are high in Nepal as the taxi drivers were not willing to waste money idling.
During the ride from the airport we would find out there was a general strike on, we saw marching crowds in the street and the traffic was unbelievable. At one point our van driver actually leaned out fo the window and tried to push the vehicle next to us out-of-the-way. Then suddenly traffic would part for a cow in the middle of the road, it is a Hindu country after all. Finally we made it to the KGH, checked in and met our guide briefly, we were told when dinner would be and were left to relax and nap. Eventually we crawled out to the dining area and met a couple of folks from our trek and sat down for a beer and a snack. It felt good after traveling for two days to finally just sit and relax with nothing to do. We had dinner at a place called the Road House, met the whole gang and got instructions for the next morning, a very early morning call for our flight to Lukla. We did a quick bit of last-minute shopping, had a beer and crashed for the evening.
Up and out pre-dawn we piled our bags and ourselves barely into the van and made our way to the airport. The airport was already bustling with other trekkers and we hustled through the ordinary madness of the airport morning to finally find ourselves waiting on the tarmac for our Yeti Airline’s twin engine otter to be ready to go. It was a spectacular morning as the sun came up and gave us our first clear views of the big hills.
We boarded the plane, listened to the props start to fire up and a lovely tiny flight attendant in full uniform came through the cabin, I believe she actually sat on some of our luggage in the back the plane was so full. She came through the cabin with a tray that contained cotton for earplugs and Japanese Melon candies, actually one of my favorite candies. We rolled down the runway with the engines roaring and took off, flying the route to Lukla with the Himalayas out my window, it was truly spectacular and Lukla loomed in the distance.
Now let me tell you a little something about the Lukla airport, it is the exact minimum length an airport can be. When you are landing in Lukla the runway ends with the vertical rock face of a mountain. When you take off from Lukla, you take off downhill and the runway ends in a 1000 foot vertical drop off. About 10 month before our journey a plane full of German trekkers had not quite made the take off and crashed in the valley. We had been warned, this would be the most intense part of our trek and this is what I was thinking about, looking up through the aisle and out the window past our pilots to see the runway below us. When you land in Lukla you come down to the runway at a desperate angle and can see the runway screaming at the windshield at what seems like an impossible speed. You hit the ground violently and then you see the pilot literally jump on the breaks as the co-pilot drops the throttle and you start swerving back and forth as you fly up the runway. Just as you think you are about to hit the face of the mountain the pilot whips a right turn and drives into the unloading zone. If you don’t like to fly, don’t go trekking in the Himalayas, this was as intense flying experience.
The link below has a perfect set of images of what the trip into Lukla looks like:
It was both a joy and a relief to make it to Lukla (9350 ft), we ate a quick breakfast and hit the trail, our first day walking would effectively take us downhill with our first day ending in Monjo at (9300 ft). We hiked for 5 hours at a calm pace and arrived at Kailash Lodge, a really nice place, albeit with a cranky hiker on his way back down, the lodge even included in-room hot showers. One of the things that you hear before you trek is how horrible the conditions are going to be, smoky lodges with bad beds, no chance to shower, human fecal matter on the trail and terrifying wooden bridges across the gorges. It’s not true for the most part, over my 22 days I saw only one small wooden bridge, only one slightly smoky lodge, enough showers to feel comfortable and absolutely no human waste on the trails. The beds, well hell, you can’t complain about anything that can reasonably be called a bed, even if it is a wooden frame with a piece of foam for a mattress.
Here below are my exact thoughts that I wrote that afternoon as I made it to Kailash Lodge:
“It was beautiful all along the trail, big mountains, crazy blue rivers, yaks, shrines, paintings, the bridges are all steel cable so not nearly as terrifying as I expected. Sherpas carrying insane loads, happy, dirty, crying and playing children, smiling people greet us, Namaste.”
A good meal, a shower, a snoring roommate and a surprisingly good night of sleep.
Tags: bob seger, everest, kathmandu, life, nepal, scorpio, singapore
As I was planning my time off I mentioned to a buddy at work that I was thinking about Everest and he said, “I’m in.” A lot of people say these sorts of things, hell there were at least 6 people who had hoped to join us on the trek, but in fact, he was in. We began the planning process shortly thereafter, reading, researching, looking at all of the trekking companies and guides available was a bit of a daunting task. Some of the things that became important to us were that the guide had some flexibility built into the schedule, that the company was more concerned with the experience but kept the goal in mind, and finally that they had some sensitivity to the local people. We had narrowed the search down to a few companies when my buddy saw a picture of one of the guides and boom; he decided we were going with them. Now to her credit, our guide Kim is a beautiful woman, but even more importantly the group she works with met all of our criteria and then some. Let me save you a ton of research, if you are thinking about trekking in the Himalayas, then you want to go the following link:
The Project Himalaya team takes great care of their clients and the locals they hire, they pay them well and treat them with respect. It was a pleasure trekking with them and I’ve recommended them to many friends. Now in planning this trip one thing was apparent, I was goin to Kathmandu, and of course for the full year before this trip Bob Seger echoed through my mind, here’s a link to put it in your head as well:
The day finally came, after all of the training, gear purchasing and planning we were heading to the airport in San Francisco to leave, it was the end of October, 2009. Now you get your Nepal Visa at the airport in Kathmandu unfortunately my ticket agent for Singapore Air at the counter didn’t know this, nor did she believe me. Neither did her supervisor and finally after a 5 minute discussion the clerk from the next window, who had processed my friend in like 30 seconds came over and took the responsibility. So a piece of advice, have your visa forms and pics accessible when you check in to avoid any issues. I will say this, that one small glitch was the only negative thing I have to say about Singapore Air in every other way they were awesome.
One of the nice surprises that came about in the planning was that we had to overnight in Singapore on the way to Kathmandu, I’d never been there before and had a great time doing the one-day Singapore tour. I really recommend the botanical gardens, Singapore is a crowded and interesting big city and I had a blast there and plan to go back. Of course we got caught in a horrible thunderstorm at the gardens but 3 lovely lady Brits helped the time and the storm pass with us under an overhang. Below are a couple of pics from Singapore
Finally we boarded the plane and flew into Kathmandu, God how I love the insanity of airports in the developing world. It was great to be on the ground after 22 hours of flying and we were ready to start our journey.