Meandering Moo

let your thoughts wander

Two suspension bridges spanning across a wide valley surrounded by trees and green foliage.

Pheriche to Khumjung to Benkar

After Pheriche, we enjoyed our final views of Everest around Tengboche. To get to Khumjung we hiked ten miles, we went down 5,000 feet, and up 3,000 feet (give or take). Hardest day yet!

The trek from Khumjung to Benkar wasn’t so bad. It was still a fairly long day – around 7 hours of trekking – but not as much extreme up and down. We crossed the highest suspension bridge again today, as well as a couple other bridges. We also encountered a group of children we saw on our way out – their high fives very welcoming.

While this experience was amazing, as the trek got closer and closer to being complete I was just ready to rest my tired legs, and excited to enjoy a hot shower again! (At this point it had been eight days since I had any shower at all.) Which was fine higher up in the colder air, and before my hair was getting very greasy and dirty.

Snow covered mountain peaks with the sun's rays shining from behind.

Kala Patthar & Gorak Shep to Pheriche

The word to summarize day nine: tiring. I was awake shortly after 5am, and I met up with Steve, Louise, Hari, and Binod at 6am to trek halfway up Kala Patthar. We received nice views, but it was very cold and a rough up hill trek for so early in the morning without having eaten anything.

It was emotionally taxing as well because Bill was not feeling well and stayed behind. It broke my heart to leave him; 1. I was worried about him, 2. I wanted him to enjoy this adventure to its full potential. It just wasn’t the same without him there with me.

After a few quick photos, it was back down to rest for an hour before meeting back up for breakfast. Once breakfast was finished and we were ready to go, we were off for our 5 hours on the trail – give or take – with a decent lunch break in between.

Upon arriving in Pheriche, we all went to our rooms and rested our tired bodies. Three days to go and (mostly) all down hill from here.

Yellow arrow signs pointing the direction to Kala Patthar and Everest Base Camp with mountains in the background.

Everest Base Camp at last!

The big day finally arrived! And it was a success – the skies were clear most of the day – providing us with amazing views of the mountains, including Everest. It was very slow going for me at first, but Bill eventually took my pack to lighten my load and things got much easier.

Young woman standing in foreground with glacier field and mountain range in the background

We arrived in Gorak Shep around noon, dropped our bags, grabbed lunch, and were on our way to Base Camp within an hour after eating. The trek to EBC was not terrible, but we still all agreed the new base camp was enough for us. While old base camp has the Khumbu Ice Fall as its backdrop, it was also another 20-30 minute trek (downward) to get there. Meaning we would encounter about the same amount of time (or more) to trek back up afterward.

Snow capped mountain peaks surrounding a village in the valley against a blue sky with pink clouds at sunrise.

Dingboche to Lobuche

Around 4:30am I looked out the window to see clear, star-filled skies. Bill and I put on our boots and jackets and went out to get a better look. It was amazing. SO MANY STARS! We also saw a handful of shooting stars and the silhouette of the mountains around us. The clearest view we had had yet – albeit a dark one. About an hour later we were back up and outside to take in the views as the sun began to rise – utterly breathtaking. (Figuratively and literally – the high altitudes with low oxygen were no joke!)

Snow capped mountain peaks against bright blue sky with a village down in a valley in the foreground.

The day continued to be beautiful as we continued on to Lobuche. We enjoyed spectacular mountain views nearly all day. The Thukla Pass was slow going, but we still arrived within our 5-6 hour window. The sun was pretty intense today, but the air was decently cold. While it was a relief to arrive in Lobuche, it was very cold there. So cold we broke out the down jackets and sleeping bags for the evening.

For me, breathing became quite a bit harder once we arrived in Lobuche. From that point forward I decided to cover my face with my buff in order to heat the air before it hit my lungs. My resting heart rate at around 82 bpm was nearly double that which it is normally and caused me to have anxiety/panic attack symptoms.

White horse with two dogs near a stream surrounded by rocks with mountains in the background.

Our lunch of fried potatoes, with egg and vegetables was most welcome after our long hike and was flavorful as well. As we were wrapping up lunch, a nice couple from the Whitsundays sat at the table next to us. We shared a nice chat. Bill and I then took a short stroll – very short – Lobuche consists of 6 tea houses, a small gift shop, a bakery (the highest bakery in the world), a stream, and a few local animals. Including a horse, several dogs, and a few yaks. Our stroll ended at the bakery where we enjoyed tasty chocolate and jam tarts.

Prayer flags spread across an area surrounded by stacked rock cairns.

Rest day in Dingboche

Day 6 was our second rest day. However, it still had a fairly steep hike. The four of us set out around 6:30am. While it was cloudy when we started, there were still good views of several peaks along the way. It was also nice that no one else was on the trail and it was cooler without the sun out.

Brown medium sized dog climbing down the front of a large rock with a small rock covered in prayer flags on top.

Soon after we started up the trail, we were joined by a four legged guide. A dog joined us at the edge of the village and stayed with us all the way up and part of the way back. That is, until he found new pals heading upward. I think it is safe to say he felt we would be fine on our own from that point on, and there were others that needed to be watched over.

We did, however, make Hari worried when he could not find us after he woke up. He and Binod caught up with us on our way down – hot mango in hand. A much appreciated treat!

I believe we all felt accomplished for completing the morning’s trek. But the impending 5 hour trek the following day was sure to be another doozie. The air was getting thinner and thinner as we went.

Large room with plywood walls, a painted ceiling, and a simple bed in the corner.

Deboche to Dingboche

On this day we saw Everest, Nuptse, and Lhotse while standing in front of the tea house in Deboche. Everest was stunning from that angle. Ama Dablam also made a brief appearance. As for the day’s 4.5 hour trek – it started out well – but as the day went on, the air started getting rough on the lungs. Even the flat sections of trail proved to be difficult for breathing.

Squat toilet on a concrete floor with a blue, pink, and purple floral printed shower curtain in the foreground.

The tea house in Dingboche was adequate. The sleeping area was one of the biggest we encountered throughout the entire 12 day trek. The attached bathroom was an Asian style toilet with a shower curtain “door”. I cannot say it enough, “Thank goodness for my pStyle“!

Floral printed plate with a small pizza topped with tuna, cheese, tomatoes, and basil.

For lunch we shared tuna and cheese pizza – I know what you are thinking – “Eww!” However, it was very delicious. When you cannot eat meat because raw meat is carried for days without refrigeration before it arrives in the villages, you must get creative. (We enjoyed it so much, we ate it two or three times while in Dingboche.) We also shared a tuna sandwich and fries.

Tall candleholder holding a lit candle, with a bowl of soup and two large water bottles placed next to it.

The ambiance at dinner was surprising. At 14,250 feet elevation, after trekking for 4 days, we were greeted with hot towels (similar to service we have received when flying business class), and a candle lit dinner!

Looking back, I wonder if the candles were to ensure there was lighting even if the power went out. The tea houses rely on solar power and closely regulate how much is used throughout the day. The light in our room was only in service during the evening hours. If you tried to turn it on before it was dark outside, the light would not come on.

Mountain peaks surrounded by white clouds against a blue sky.

Namche to Deboche

Shortly after leaving Namche Bazaar we saw Everest for the first time! After a few more views of Everest, we were in for a long, tough trek. At one point we gained 500 feet, then descended 1,000 feet, and finished with a 2,000 foot gain. All in 6 hours.

For lunch we enjoyed an egg sandwich and garlic soup (broth with garlic) – simple, but delicious! Then we were off for our 2,000 foot ascent to Tengboche, saw the monastery as we passed by, then had a short downhill to Deboche for the evening.

The room in Deboche was basic, with shared bathrooms, but it was clean and dry – who could ask for more?

Young couple standing in front of a bronze statue of a man holding a pickax in front of cloudy skies.

Wishing for Everest

The first of our two “rest” days of the trek, this day left us wishing for Everest. We woke up to mostly clear skies and decided to venture out for a bit to see if we could find a place to view Everest. Unfortunately, the farther we got, the cloudier the skies became, and we decided to turn back.

Having spent a fair amount of time in mountainous areas, we have come to know that later in the day, the the mountains are more likely to be shrouded in clouds. The Himalayas are no exception to that rule.

Once everyone was awake and had eaten breakfast, it was time to embark on our acclimatization hike up to the Sherpa Culture Museum. This was another location where it is possible to view Everest. However, the skies remained far too cloudy and we would have to wait for another day to have a chance to see the tallest mountain in the world.

After the short jaunt, Bill and ventured off to the market. I love being immersed in different cultures and seeing how day to day activities and popular local foods look. We also stopped in the bakery to enjoy some sweets and “free” WiFi, while watching the hustle and bustle happening outside along the “street”.

Black cow with horns carrying large duffle bags on its back walking down a trail with a line of cows following.

Phakding to Namche Bazaar

On our way to Namche Bazaar, we spent 6 hours and 40 minutes on the trail, crossed five suspension bridges over the Dudh Koshi, gained 2,723 feet, encountered one dzo jam, and finally arrived at our lovely guest house in Namche Bazaar.

After our less than ideal room in Phakding, our expectations were set very low for the tea houses we would encounter further out along the trail. Pleasantly surprised, the tea house in Namche Bazaar had a clean bathroom, beautiful views out the windows of our corner room, power to charge all of our electronics, and a hot shower – it’s like the Four Seasons of tea houses!

Another highlight of the day – being able to wash my hands with soap at the outdoor sink of the restaurant where we ate lunch.

View of airplane propeller engine with mountainous valleys below.

Cleared for takeoff

We departed our hotel at 9am. The day vibrated with positivity. My cough was gone (I had arrived in Kathmandu with a residual cough that I had before we left home.), there were blue skies, and the sun shone brightly in the sky. Back to the airport we went, with hopes of safely arriving at the most dangerous airport in the world within just a few hours.

Upon arrival at the airport, we were all thankful to see the “delayed due to weather” sign was nowhere in sight. This, in addition to our guide having informed us that the early morning flights had already departed for the day, had us optimistic that we too would be in the air that day.

We checked in, had our bags weighed, and were through security before 9:45am. Anxiously anticipating the call for “Tara Airlines Flight 133 to Lukla”, we waited. Ten thirty came and went, and we still waited. Around 11am we were finally boarding the shuttle to our plane. There we waited again.

Close to 11:10am we were told we may have to wait 30 minutes before we could board the plane. There was currently too much air traffic in the area. By noon we were taking off.

Once the signal was given, Bill bolted off the shuttle. He had been hoping to be in the very front seat so he could look out through the cockpit window. In his gentlemanly way, he did allow me to have the seat on the left side of the plane – Hari had told us to sit on the left side to see “the mountain”. Bill was like a kid in a candy store the whole flight.

The flight was beautiful. The Nepali countryside is awe inspiring. Going over the valleys literally had their ups and downs. As we’d just pass a ridge, the plane would drop a bit. One time, there were even a few not so helpful screams from toward the back of the plane.

As we approached the runway, my excitement began to build. I couldn’t believe we were finally doing it! I have to say, it was the most exhilarating flight I have been on to this day.

Upon landing in Lukla, it was off to baggage claim (a small chaotic room). After fetching our bags, we set them outside for the porters to pick up and went to lunch at The Nest. Much to our surprise, the portions were huge!

A quick payment of NPR 200 ($2 give or take) for WiFi to check in back home and let everyone know we had arrived safely, a bathroom break (my first experience with an “Asian style” toilet) – thank goodness for my pStyle – and we were on the trail. Off to Phakding for the evening.

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