The plan for this day is to start very early with a side trip up to the summit of Kala Patthar before the beginning of the return trip which goes via Pherice.
The weather had changed the previous day and snow had been falling all night. When I got up at 5am it was still snowing outside and was very cold. I went to wash my hands and face and discovered the drum of water for washing had frozen over. Because of this weather, the start of the walk had to be postponed and in the event I didn’t commence the walk to Kala Patthar until after 8am and a very light breakfast.
I was still feeling a bit weak and tired from the lack of sleep and gastro; this combined with the altitude made the walking surprisingly hard work. The incline isn’t that bad but I found myself stopping regularly to get my breath back (I now have some understanding of how climbers on high peaks must feel). In the end I didn’t make it to the top, stopping about two-thirds of the way up as our guide was concerned to leave enough time to get to Pherice. I did take some time to take quite a few photos (including of course of Mt Everest – the photo above is as close as you will get on the trek).
After a quick lunch, the walk to Pherice commenced, retracing our steps from yesterday to Thokla but through a landscape that looked very different thanks to all the snow.
From Thokla a slightly different path is taken that leads to Pherice, a small village in the middle of a windswept plain. Our Tea House here was neat and tidy and I had my first ‘shower’ since Namche Bazaar (actually a large bucket of warm water and a jug) which felt fantastic – it was a bit chilly though running from the out-house to the lodge, past a large pool of ice…
Day 8: Gorak Shep (5140m) to Pherice (4240m) via Kala Patthar (net height loss 900m)
About 6 hours
An early start after a quick breakfast and a coffee at the Tengboche bakery. Until the sun rises above the mountains, it is very chilly, and gloves and a beanie were required for the first part of the walk, a reasonably steep descent through a forest of conifers, birch and rhododendrons to Deboche. This trail was a bit muddy, although an overnight frost meant the ground was still reasonably firm.
After the first of several river crossings (this one across the Imja Khola) there are a series of chortens; one particularly good example also frames a fantastic view of Ama Dablam. The path then proceeds along the western side of the Imja Khola, through a landscape becoming progressively more barren and dusty. Not long after Shomare, where we stopped for an early lunch, the path forks. We took the right fork that initially drops down to a bridge across the Khumbu Khola and then climbs upwards to Dingboche (the left fork goes to Pherice which we would visit on the way back).
Dingboche was a very busy village, full of trekkers. Indeed the accommodation we intended to stay at was booked out, thankfully we (or more accurately our guide) were able to secure an alternative. The day was not over at this point though – after a short tea break our guide got us back on the trail to climb up to Nangkartshang Gompa, above and to the west of Dingboche, as part of our acclimatisation. The views from the trail up are simply magnificent, but we were not able to tarry as the wind started getting stronger and the weather looked to be changing.
That night we had a nice meal and our final beer until we reached Pherice on the way back from base camp; our guide strongly recommending that we not drink alcohol at the higher elevations. I wasn’t to know that this would also be the last time for a few days that I would get any real sleep, with altitude sickness and gastro about to set in…
Day 5: Tengboche (3860m) to Dingboche (4410m) (net height gain 550m)
About 4.5 hours / 12 kms
There was no official trekking today, instead it was a rest day to explore Namche and adjust to the altitude. We did do a bit of walking though, visiting the National Park Museum and getting our first view of Everest from the ridge near the museum. After taking plenty of photos we then took a shortish but sharp climb up to the Everest View hotel, a Japanese owned facility with, as the name suggests, extensive views of Mt. Everest (the photo above shows Mt Everest reflected in the windows of the hotel). The outside dining area was an excellent spot for a drink and rest while admiring the truly stupendous views.
After climbing back down to Namche, I spent the afternoon exploring and enjoying a real (Lavazza) coffee and pastry in the Namche bakery.
No trekking – acclimatization