Welcome to our Trek in Nepal

Sharing the Culture and Beauty of this Mystic Land - May 2007

- Click Here For Larger Image -Glacier Crossing - May 18

We left Gokyo at 1:00. The route retraced the trail we took to Gokyo for about 1 1/2 miles of easy walking along the rocky shore of Third Lake. At the junction, a red arrow painted on a rock pointed the way to Tagnak. There we turned uphill.

The trail isn't steep, but uphill slopes slow our pace to that of a Himalayan glacier. At the top of the moraine we stopped for a breather and gazed across the rubble covered ChoOyu Glacier. There were many tarns of different colors ranging from muddy gray to opaline blue. Crossing the glacier, we were surprised to find an expanse of soft beach sand, complete with wind drifted dunes.

The route rose and fell and weaved its way around glacial rubble to where we climbed a tall moraine then descended down to Tagnak (elev. 15,275 ft.). There are three structures at Tagnak and two of them are lodges. There are the usual stone fences and long strands of prayer flags extending from the roofs of the lodges to where they were anchored high up on the rocky cliffs.

It was sunny and pleasant when we arrived at the Tashi Friendship Inn. Two young women whom we had seen leaving Gokyo earlier were sitting at a courtyard table. We took off our packs and relaxed as well. We were chatting when someone mentioned seeing a mountain goat grazing on the hillside above the inn. I quickly changed lenses on the camera and zoomed in on furry brown creature. It looked nothing like the white fleeced goats of our Cascade Mountains. Its long silky fleece hung loosely as its coloration blended with the surrounding rocks. I didn't photograph the animal. It wouldn't have shown up in a photo, but I did enjoy watching it through the lens of the camera for a few minutes.

As the sun got swallowed up by the clouds, the temperature quickly dropped. It was time to move our gear into the inn. Heads up! I have had to learn to duck to pass through doors on this trek. I have already creased my skull several times, but the doors in the Friendship Inn are the lowest yet.

This had been an easy day. Tomorrow will be more challenging as we go up and over ChoLa Pass at 17,430 feet.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -K with Cho La Pass beyond - May 19

At Kike's suggestion, we got an early start. We departed Tagnak at 6:30. It was chilly as we started. Frost coated the small bushes. The trail paralleled a pretty little stream up a drainage way. The cold made breathing and hiking uphill more challenging. I found my rhythm after about half hour. K was having difficulty breathing the thin cold air.

A pair of large birds were spotted on the hillside pecking at seeds. They had a call almost like a peacock and markings like a Chukkar and would spread their tails like turkeys. I couldn't get close enough for a photo, however, Kike assured me that there would be other opportunities to photograph the birds at Island Peak camp.

Another half hour of hiking and we were above all vegetation. The tops of snow covered mountains peeked over a ridge line, enticing us to get higher to where we could see the panoramic views. When we crested the ridge, the scenery was breathtaking. ChoLa Pass was across the valley, with ChoLa peak to the right. A spectacular gleaming white pyramidal mountain was to our left.

After a short rest (and several photos) we shouldered our packs and followed Kaji, dropping down the trail 350 feet to the valley below.

There had been fresh snow on the pass. As we scrambled up and over snow slick boulders, we wondered how our porters were faring in these conditions. Clouds blew in and again the cold misty fog rolled up from the valley and engulfed us. Kaji did an excellent job of route finding, as we cautiously edged our way upward. The route curled around a cliff face. Here the snow was deeper and easier to kick in firm steps. A fall here would be deadly. We could see the crest of the pass 150 feet higher. It took us another 20 minutes to climb that distance.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Descending from Cho La Pass - May 19

Three large cairns festooned with prayer flags mark the crest of the pass (elevation 17,430 feet). Lhakpa had reached the pass earlier and fired up the kerosene stove to make some hot coffee for us. The warmth of the coffee was a welcome luxury.

Bim and Pirim had already started their descent. I watched as they crossed the snowfield in a sprinkling of snow.

A well beaten track in the snow led us down. Soon we were crossing slippery slush covered rocks. There were some tricky spots that required some scrambling skills. As we dropped lower, the slush gave way to wet gravel. The snow changed to cold rain. The trail leveled out in a broad basin. The rain stopped. Here the walking was easy as the trail curled up and over a small boulder strewn hill and dropped down the other side to Dzongla (elevation 15,814 feet).

Dzongla is a small summer yak herders layover. It consists of two tiny inns, three ruined huts and some yaks. The rooms were so small, we had to take turns unpacking. A sheet of 1/4” plywood suspended 12” above the dirt floor separates our room from the next. Shortly after we unloaded a group of three Canadian mountaineers arrived. They would be our neighbors.

After the cold hard hike, we were famished. We polished off a large bowl of soup and a veggie pizza in the cozy dining room, and settled in our room for the night.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Taboche - May 20

Our stay at Dzongla will be remembered as a “trekking experience”. We were glad to be moving on.

After breakfast, everyone was preparing to leave. We wished the Canadians a safe trip and warned them of possible ice over ChoLa Pass. They wished us good luck for our summit attempt on Island Peak.

It was cloudy and cool when we left Dzongla. A high cloud deck allowed us to see the stark rocky faces of the mountains that surround the area.

From Dzongla, the trail has a gentle decline. We walked through a herd of peacefully grazing yaks. After a few minutes of hiking the gentle decline became a gentle incline. The trail has several ups and downs, then begins a long contour. The clouds were breaking up allowing for some partial views of ChoLa Chi, Those, and Ama Dablam. The sun penetrated the layer of clouds and warmed us quickly. As we continued along the broad alpine ridge, we had improving views of the mountains and stopped often for photos.

The trail switchbacked down a steeper section to Yukla and Thukla (elevation 15,015 feet). Here is where our trail intersects with the trail to Everest Base Camp. Many Yaks and Dzopchioks are harnessed and loaded. It is the end of the climbing season at Everest and these yaks are headed to Base Camp to haul all the gear and equipment down from the mountain.

We crossed the raging torrent of the Khumbu River that crashes down from the Khumbu Glacier on a makeshift, but sturdy log bridge. The trail makes a short climb and begins a long gentle decline down a windy plain of short cropped turf. We encountered many trekkers heading in the direction of Everest Base Camp. The trail continued on a nearly level contour until we went up a short rise to a weathered chorten. Below lies Dingboche, our destination for the day (elevation 14,380 feet.)

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Chorten and Mani Stones at Dingboche - May 20

At the Peak 38 View Lodge, we had lunch in the courtyard. The sun was shining, but we only had glimpses of Ama Dablam rising thousands of feet directly across the valley from our lodge.

After a shower we decided to take a walk to view the Chortens we had seen from the ridge above Dingboche. Again the cold fog rolled up the valley as we walked toward the chortens. Approaching the largest of the Chortens, we encountered a large pile of mani stones. K placed a stone on top of the pile for good luck.

Prayer flags that once adorned the Chorten had been whipped and tattered into threads. The Chortens have been decayed by years of harsh Himalayan weather, but the all-seeing eyes remained. We made a slow walk back to our lodge. After yesterday's accommodations at Dzongla the rooms here seemed spacious. The toilets, although not state-of-the-art, were functional, especially by Himalayan standards.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Close-up of Ama Dablam - May 21

This day's hike was short. We left Dingboche before 8:00, walking past stone fences that protect cultivated patches of barely. The trail follows a small stream that provides water and irrigation for the residents of Dingboche. The trail is a gentle incline.

The elevation gained is almost effortless. After an hour of hiking we stopped at a yak pen to rest and take photos. Ama Dablam was nearly free of clouds. We could see most of Island Peak with Nuptse and Lhotse beyond. A small cloud clung to the summit of Island Peak. We were hopeful of good weather on our summit day.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Close-up of Nimbus Ridge - May 21

The long, knife like serrated edge of Nimbus Ridge to the east, has a beautiful, fascinating, and fluted appearance on its glaciated flank.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Yak and Nimbus Ridge from Chhukung - May 21

One of our porters, the one that left Namche Bazaar with our climbing grear, was not at Dingboche. It seems he had taken another job going back toward Namche. Now Bim and Pirim were carrying double loads. They were carrying the climbing gear, the tents and their personal stuff. That certainly explains why they were stopping to rest more often. Another hour of hiking and we arrived at Chhukung (elevation 15,518 feet).

Chhukung has three inns and a lot of stone fenced yak pens. A herd of yak was in the pen next to our lodge, the aptly named Panorama View Lodge. We dropped our packs off in room 6 then returned to the dining room for a cup of hot lemon. The clouds were building to the west and fog was creeping up from the valley below.

K and I had hopes of hiking up to the view point on Chhukung Ri before all views were obscured. As we headed up the trail, Kike called after us to be careful. By the time we reached the view point we had only a small window view through a frame of bulbous clouds. We knew that Lhotse and Nuptse were ahead and Imja Tse (island Peak) was to the right. Looking back, Ama Dablam was nearly obscured by the billowing clouds. This view point (elevation 16,360 feet) would be spectacular on a clear day.

We took some photos and hoofed it back to the lodge, arriving just in time for lunch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing, reading, writing and acclimatizing. There wasn't much else to do since the fog had engulfed everything. We knew there were famous mountains surrounding us. We saw them when we arrived, but our universe had been reduced to what we could see within the stone fences of Chhukung.

Since we were down to only Bim and Pirim as our porters, Kike requested that we lighten our duffels as much as possible, taking only what we would need to climb Island Peak. Anything left behind would be stored at the lodge in Chhukung. We were happy to oblige. Pirim said he weighed about 60 kilos. Bim is shorter but stockier. Their fully loaded dokos weigh about 60 kilos (probably more). It is amazing to think that these small, but powerful men, were to carry that amount of weight up the mountain on such rugged trails.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Trail to Base Camp - May 22

K had a rough night. It probably had something to do with the cabbage, carrot and yak cheese pizza we had for dinner. I was having some breathing problems, an affect of being at altitude. The diamox I took helped. But, K had very little sleep.

After breakfast, I brought out the small duffel filled with the stuff we wouldn't need at Island Peak. This duffel would be stored here at the Panorama View Lodge.

In the dining room, I found Kike making arrangements with the proprietor of the lodge for huge bundles of rope that would be used as the fixed lines on the mountain. This would be even more weight that our porters would be carrying. I was already impressed by the strength and toughness of the Sherpa Porters, but this was unbelievable.

The porters and Kaji had already departed for Island Peak Base Camp. We waited while Kike concluded business with Tenzing, the proprietor of the Panorama View Lodge. It was a beautiful, sunny morning as we started up the trail. The prettiest morning we had had to this point.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -K with Island Peak beyond - May 22

From Chhukung, the trail starts up a gentle rise. At this elevation, even a gentle slope slows us to a glaciers pace. The route rises and falls over glacial moraines. We had magnificent views of Ama Dablam, Nimbus Ridge, and the Nimbus Icefall to our right. Lhotse and Nuptse was on our left. Imja Tse (island Peak) at 20,305 feet (6,159 m) was dwarfed by the 8,000 m giants surrounding it.

We had hiked for 1 1/2 hours when we came to a large granite cube. This is a porters rest station. After a short break we had continued on for a few hundred yards up a slope when K realized she had lost one of her gloves.

With hardly a word, Kike dropped his pack and headed back down the trail searching for K's missing glove. Even though we told him K had other gloves, he was on a mission. We knew that he would hike all the way back to Chhukung to find the glove if necessary.

K and I pulled on our jackets and sat in the rocks out of the wind to wait for Kike's return. Porters, yaks, and climbers, returning from base camp, passed us heading toward Chhukung. Then in the distance, we spotted Kike practically jogging as he returned. He had found the glove on the trail. When he got to where we were waiting he paused only long enough for a drink, then we continued toward Island Peak.

We rounded a bend on a dry sandy stream bed. A recently deceased yak lay near the trail, her month old calf looked lost and bewildered. Kike said that soon someone would come and take the calf back to Chhukung, where it would be cared for. We know that Sherpa Buddhists will not kill the animals, but if one should happen to drop dead, then it is alright to butcher and eat it. This is the source of the meat in the Sherpa Yak stew.

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