Tuesday 27th March to Thursday 29th March 2018 - Day 1 to 3
On Tuesday the 27th of March we left the luxury of the Hyatt hotel in Kathmandu. Usually on an Everest Basecamp trek you would fly, by plane, to Lukla then trek to Namche Bazar. Our tour was different! We arrived in Namche Bazar in spectacular style, by chopper, swooping onto a postage stamp helipad on a cliff top just above the town. We should have flown there directly but due to the weather conditions we first stopped at Lukla airstrip. The ride was awesome, giving us our first view of Everest, albeit just the summit in the distance.
There are sixteen of us in the trekking group plus Jacob a guide and Russell the boss man. Due to the amount of kit we all have to take, the passengers have to be weighed with all their luggage, then it is decided who will be on which flight. there's not much method applied to how this data is gathered and it's all a but if a faff.
With only 5 people in each helicopter, and two helicopters at our disposal, there would be many runs. Some of the group had a 0600hrs hotel departure, and had a lot of waiting around. I was lucky, with a 0730hrs hotel departure.
Eventually we all met up at the Namche helipad, and we all hiked to the Kala Pathar hostel together. It didn’t take long, perhaps half an hour.
With being in Namche as an altitude acclimatisation rest, at 3400 metres, there was no trekking until Wednesday afternoon, we all chilled and explored Namche Bazar for a day.
Himex the expedition company, bring their own chef and foreman, Ghanu and Lacssu, to try and ensure their clients have hygienically prepared food to minimise the illness risk and to ensure things run smoothly. The food is very good, three meals a day and plentiful lemon tea! These guys are the best! So diligent, and friendly.
Lacssu is affectionately known as Little Boss, with Russell being the Big Boss! Lacssu has worked for Russell for 20+ years, he is always working but always has a big smile for you, I love him!
Most of the group didn’t get much sleep on the Tuesday night in the Namche hostel, for various reasons, several including myself were suffering from headaches and nausea due to the altitude. For me, during the day the headache subsides, but returns in the evening. At first I thought it was my sinuses playing up, but with this pattern continuing for nearly three days, I had to concede it was the first signs of altitude sickness. As things stand on Friday morning, I only had a headache from around 2am to 5am, so I’m hoping I’m slowly acclimatising, we are now at around 3600 to 3800 metres, in Khumjung.
We set off for our trek from Namche to Khumjung straight after lunch on Wednesday, a bit too soon after lunch for my liking! I had a big appetite and was stuffed. That morning we’d had to pack our kit bags and leave them out for the porters to load up on the yaks, so they could be taken to the next stop. There is so much organising and coordination that goes on, F1's got nothing on this! It’s quite amazing that by the time we arrived at Khumjung our bags were there.
The weather had started to close in for our trek to Khumjung, with an eerie mist creeping up the mountains. As is normal here, the views were spectacular, even with the low cloud.
We were told to take it easy on the trek and not push ourselves, especially as Jacob, Ross and Dan are acclimatising for an Everest summit bid, so they need to follow strict procedures. I was glad to hear we were going to go slowly but it became evident Russell’s slow trekking was not my slow trekking! He and a fast group disappeared off, I was somewhere in the middle, with a slow group coming up the rear. Russell waited at two intersections to make sure the slower people took the right one, but then waited no more and disappeared off. So with my terrible sense of direction I hadn’t a clue where to go.
Farnie, a younger guy in our group helped us with selecting the right trail, but at some point he must have stopped and waited for some others and I continued, but then found myself in the mist, with not a person in sight, I was quite frightened and had no idea if I was going the right way, I didn’t want to wait in case I was on the wrong trail so kept going, eventually some trekkers came the other way and pointed me in the right direction.
We all met up eventually, and dropped into Khumjung together. We were staying at the Hostel owned and run by the legendary Phurba Tashi Sherpa. He has summited Everest 21 times, along with many other 8000 metre plus mountains.
The Khumjung village is serene, functional and beautiful, as was Phurba Tashi's own hostel, it really is just perfect. Russell and Phurba Tashi have worked together for many many years. The hostel is run by Phurba Tashi and his family, Russell is like family too. Russell and Himex have been instrumental in bringing infrastructure to Khumjung, they have piped water, electricity and telecommunications, plus many other benefits of modern living. Himex also built a cultural centre at the school.
You can't stop progress, like everywhere else in the world, kids leave the villages for a university education and greater employment opportunities. The cultural centre runs a program to teach the kids the traditional ways of the region, and this class is part of the curriculum. The school is attended by kids from as far away as Namche Bazar, and walk there each day, alone!
I didn’t see any form of motorised vehicle in the village, everything is transported by human or yak. Khumjung is in a national park, I'm hoping it progresses sympathetically to their culture.
Where Kathmandu is mainly Hindu, the Khumba region is all Buddhist, so the temples, monasteries, stupas and mani stones are all Buddhist. Which I like very much, having got quite into Buddhism around ten years ago.
We were staying at Phurba Tashi's for two nights, leaving for Phortse on Friday after breakfast. Thursday was a rest day to acclimatise to around 3600-3800metres, depending whether you believe the maps or apps.
There wasn't much rest on the rest day, we woke up to the regions first snow of their winter, it's actually spring, but it's their first snow, just 30mm or so.
This day was Gabby's 50th birthday, and she had been talking about riding a yak, so as a surprise Phurba Tashi saddled up his lively beast and took Gabby for a spin. That she thoroughly enjoyed.
We went on a sight seeing trek, to catch a glimpse of Everest from a viewing point. On the way we walked through Khumjung to the school, it was great to see that snowball fights and making snowmen is a world wide activity on first snow!
We arrived at the viewing point, alas Everest was shrouded in cloud. We then moved on to trek to Sir Edmund Hillary's memorial above Khumjung. Russell gave us a talk on Sir Edmund's achievements, and basically his summiting Everest was just the tip of the iceberg. He took the region to his heart and dedicated himself to bettering the lives of the locals, with schools, hospitals and infrastructure. That is his legacy, to be the first to summit Everest along with Tensing Norgye was what enabled him to do this.
The memorial needs a bit of attention, I hope the authorities have plans for a restoration.
We then moved onto the Everest View Hotel at 12999 feet it isn't quite at the highest altitude for a hotel, but the third highest. Being Gabby's 50th birthday, so not only did we stop for coffee, we also had champagne! The cloud kindly cleared to expose the summit of Everest, so our second view, the first from the helicopter, again in the distance.
Dave is doing the trek to raise money for a special needs school, that is close to his heart. Having flown out with his best mate Adrian for the trek, unfortunately Adrian had to pull out in Khumjung, due to illness. Dave has been struggling to continue, and is having to dig real deep to keep going. If you'd like to boost his morale, a donation to his charity would certainly help! Even a fiver will do!
You can find a link to Dave's just giving page here
It was a lovely hike through the snow, on the return journey the sun was hot and the snow was melting. I could have done with the rest really as due to the headache, I'm getting little sleep, but I was chuffed to see the Sir Edmund Hillary memorial.
We returned to the hostel for some lunch, then took a short walk to the beautifully restored Samten Choling monastery in Khumjung, that had been damaged in the earthquake a couple of years back. It is said to be the second oldest Gompa (Buddhist building) in the Khumba region,apparently built by early sherpas originally. It is now a satellite monastery, where monks visit on special occasions. It's very colourful and beautiful, and is rich in religious artefacts and scriptures.
The Gompa also has on display, the scalp of what is said to be an abominable snowman, a Yeti, something which is used in religious festivals
After this we returned to the hostel for some rest! I had planned to edit a YouTube video, alas my tablet had pitched, deleting all my apps including Movie Maker, so I won't be doing any editing or publishing during this trip. Which is rather annoying!
The next morning, Friday, we were due to leave for the next leg of our trek, to Phortse, so sleep was needed as it's a steep up, down, up trek.
Unfortunately after Thursday's activities, two of our group were feeling unwell, probably symptoms of altitude sickness which the Natasha had had from the off, but her husband Mike also started feeling very bad. They were escorted back to Namche Bazar on foot by a porter and Ni, the doctor that accompanies us.
Another of our group, Adrian, had to be choppered out on Friday morning from Khumjung, due to some sort of urinary infection. I hope he gets fixed up at the hospital and returns to the trek.
We also have a satellite group of five trekkers, that we affectionately refer to as 'the Kiwis', four are from New Zealand, one is from the US. They are also trekking under the Himex banner, but are a day behind us, so we keep bumping into them on our two day stop-overs. Alas one, named Tea Bag?? has had a nasty fall on their rest day in Khumjung. Some sections of the trail are quite steep, we await an update on his condition.
Kala Pathar Lodge, Namche Bazar
The few toilets smell, sparse shower facilities, two beds per room, no heating or electric points. There are two electrical points in the communal room, which doesn't have heating. 500 Nepali Rand for WiFi, which is OK at times, 200 NR to charge one device. Having said that it's a decent lodge, with duvet and pillow being supplied.
Tashi Friendship Lodge, Khumjung
The toilets don't smell, no shower facilities that I saw, two beds per room, no heating in the rooms or electrical points but a wonderful stove in the communal room. 500 for WiFi, which is OK at times, 200NR to charge one device. A nice place to stay with amazing views. Note a pillow is supplied, no duvet.