Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wandering Towards Everest

It wasn't really our intention when going to Nepal to join the multitudes on the path to Everest Base Camp. It just sort of worked out that way; GB's village was close by and you know it was just there. It was an awesome surprise to find that there are so many options in this area to get off the beaten track and knock around a bit on easy terrain well above 5000metres. We chose the well-known "Three Passes" route, which swerves around amongst the hills and valleys below Everest. The aerial representation below shows our route as far as the Gokyo valley.

Namche Bazar must be one of the most famous villages in the world. There is something about its setting , sheltered in a snug ampitheatre from the mighty mountains around it, that sticks in the memory. It helps of course that Mt Everest is just up the valley and that Namche is the capital of the famous Sherpa people. Tourism has brought plenty of wealth to many Sherpas, the richest control trekking or guesthouse empires and live in grand houses in Kathmandu. Everyone is in on the act, guesthouses litter the track like discarded snickers bar wrappers, and Namche has grown to accomodate our western consumer needs. A lovely spot, but we passed through quickly heading for a guesthouse on the track near Khumjung.

Sam and Penny getting out of Namche in a hurry

And contemplating the massiveness of Thamserku

First sighting of Ama Dablam (right) and Everst (pyramid just left of centre)
The majesty of Ama Dablam - from our guesthouse in Khumjung

If Namche is the hub and commercial centre of the Sherpa people, the hidden valley of Khunde and Khumjung is their heart and soul. These were the villages that Sir Edmund Hillary fell in love with and centred his lifes work around. We went for a morning stroll around the villages, feeling uplifted without our packs on a beautiful morning with amazing views all around.

 That day we headed on up the valley as far as Pheriche taking the track up the western side of the Dudh Koshi, through the awesome little village of Phortse which we really loved. We only saw a handful of tourists the entire day including a couple of English (I think) Doctors who had been manning (womanning?) the clinic at Pheriche for the last few months. They were wearing MACPAC's and it turns out they are based during the winters at Whakapapa skifield. Walking past Phortse we got a great view across the valley to Tengboche and the vast face of Thamserku behind. At one point we spotted a little herd of Himalayan Thar happily feeding on a small spur...not quite as persecuted as those that roam the Southern Alps.

Harvesting time in Phortse

Prayer stone amidst the potato fields

Phortse with Pharilapche behind

Himalayan Thar browse on spur - Tengboche in background
We arrived in Pheriche just after dusk, coughing our way into the yak dung powered settlement which sits in the valley floor and suffers an unfortunate inversion layer given the circumstances. We stayed in a lovely guesthouse which had an improvised wood-burner in the middle of the common room, this was to become standard and necessary over the next week or so. We were now at 3810metres altitude and it was getting pretty damn cold at night. From Pheriche we branched off from the main track and headed right up the Imja Khola in the direction of the well known "trekking peak" Island Peak and the high passes that lead to the Makalu area. We only went up valley as far as the guesthouses of Chukkung before hanging a left and crossing Kongma La back to the Dudh Koshi. This is a terrifically scenic area with views of Ama Dablam and surrounding mountains, Makalu, Lhotse and from the Kongma La itself, endless mountains to the west. Quite possibly the scenic highlight of our entire five month holiday!

A white wall above Chukkung

Ama Dablam towers above Chukkung
Sam begins the long climb to Kongma La
The Nuptse to Lhotse ridge blocks out a view of Everest

Penny has her day of suffering - this was steeper than it looks

What can you say about that mountain!

Nearing the top - Makalu appears in the centre background. Makalu is the 5th highest mountain in the world. On our trip we saw 8 of the ten highest mountains.

Penny with a few steps to go, pass at 5535metres

At the top looking west, Arakam Tse on left, Rolwaling dead centre in the distance, Lobuche glacier coming down to join the Khumbu

The crew, looking back the way we had come, Penny and her ginger beard men
The descent back the Khumbu was relatively quick, tho we couldn't say the same for the dubious scramble across the groaning glacier, where loose rock and yawning ice ponds gave us something different to think about. But what a day, next: on to Everest.

1 comment:

Bob McKerrow said...

Amazing photos and a wonderful yarn.