The final four days of the trek involved re-tracing our steps back to Lukla, stopping at Tengboche, Namche Bazar and Phakding.
These days also provided an opportunity to recuperate from altitude sickness and associated loss of appetite and lack of sleep. My mild case of altitude sickness disappeared as soon as we reached Tengboche – the headache I’d had for the past four days went and my appetite returned with a vengeance. I also managed to get my fist good night’s sleep for five days, and the following night in Namche Bazar was even better with almost 10 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
We celebrated the final afternoon and night in Lukla by playing pool with our guide (a Lukla native), as well as consuming several beers, at one of Lukla’s bars, followed by dinner with our guide and porter. A quick coffee at Lukla’s fake Starbucks (had free wi-fi and better coffee than the real thing) completed the evening and the trek.
There was one last item of “excitement” though – being the take-off from Lukla’s airport the following morning. There’s no messing around, straight down the hill and pray that the wheels have left the tarmac before the end of the disturbingly short runway. Surviving this we had one final night in Kathmandu (with a good dinner at K-Too Beer & Steakhouse in Thamel) and that was it, for this trip at least.
Overall, this was a hugely enjoyable two weeks and some of the best walking I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing. The issues with altitude didn’t detract in any significant way from the trek, and I vowed I’d be back to Nepal, which I am pleased to say I will be later in 2012…
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
An early start and another short, sharp climb to kick things off – heading eastwards and then turning north-east to pass the Tenzing Norgye Memorial Stupa. The path from here through to Kyangjuma afforded superlative views of the Himalayan mountains.
There’s a steep descent to Phungi Thanga, where we stopped for a tea break, before another long slow climb to Tengboche.
Tengboche is a magnificently situated monastery, one of the oldest in Nepal. After climbing up a ridge to the east of Tengboche to visit a couple of Chortens and take in the views, I returned to visit the monastery for a service at 4pm which was open to, and indeed packed with, trekkers.
Once the sun passes behind the mountains it gets very cold, so in the evening I donned my down jacket and took a stroll around the area, again admiring the amazing views, including Mt Everest, before finishing the day at the bakery with another excellent coffee..
Namche Bazar (3440m) to Tengboche (3860m) (net height gain 420m)
About 4 hours / 6 kms