Welcome to our Trek in Nepal

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

- Click Here For Larger Image -Summit Day - Me on the Summit, South Face of Lhotse Beyond - May 24

After the passage on the ridge, I plodded on. 50 feet, 20 feet, 10, feet. I arrived at the summit. I knelt down to unclip from the fixed line and re-clip onto a loop of rope that was anchored into the ice on the small summit block. When I stood up, I felt exhilarated. Lhakpa and Kike arrived behind me. This was Lhakpa's first summit. He had a smile that spread across his face.

Lhotse and Nuptse are gigantic directly across the valley rising about 6,000 feet higher than Island Peak. Ama Dablam and Makalu were magnificent. The surrounding Himalayas were as jagged as shark's teeth. I felt as if I were on top of the world. Yet at 20,305 feet (6,159 meters), Island Peak is dwarfed by its 8,000 meter neighbors.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Summit Day - Summit Ridge, Ama Dablam Beyond - May 24

On the summit, I took several photos, including one of Lhakpa on his first summit. It was time to descend. The first part was easy. Just clip onto the fixed line and walk down. The next pitch was steeper where a hard grip on the fixed line was necessary and some hard side stepping with the crampons.

Then I was at the point I could unclip, take those 3 to 4 exposed steps down to the wide area on the ridge. I stopped for a moment and realized how hungry I was. It had been nearly six hours since leaving high camp. I dropped my pack and rummaged inside for the trail mix and energy bars.

Lhakpa and I were snacking and relaxing with relative security at the wide area of the ridge. Another party consisting of a woman and her guides passed us going up the last pitches to the summit. They spent very little time on top. The woman and one of her guides passed us as they descended the last pitches to the headwall. Kike and the other Sherpa guide were removing the fixed line.

I watched intently as Kike pulled out the pickets and coiled the heavy rope. He looked as comfortable on that narrow steep ridge, as if he were standing on a six foot wide sidewalk. Lhakpa and I descended to the top of the headwall. Before Kike pulled out the last of the pickets, the other Sherpa swung down the rope like Tarzan on a vine and rejoined his group. The two Sherpas descended the headwall, leaving the woman stranded at the top. She was frozen with fear and didn't know how to use her descender. Kike came to her rescue. He gave her a quick lesson on how to use the descender, then clipped her onto the rope. She began cautiously backing down the steep chute. She was doing well until she reached the first anchor point. Not knowing how to unclip and re-clip the descender, she was in a panicky situation. Again, Kike rescued her by sending Lhakpa down the line to assist. Lhakpa stayed with her until she was safely at the bottom of the headwall.

Now it was my turn. I hooked my descender onto the rope and clipped on the safety carabiner. I face in toward the headwall, and leaned back putting tension on the rope. As I began backing down the chute, I remembered climbing power poles for Harney Electric as a youth. Who knew that experience would serve as training for mountaineering skills. I backed down smoothly, stopping at the first anchor point to unclip the descender and re-clip it below the picket, followed by unclipping and re-clipping the safety carabiner. Down I went to the second anchor point, again unclipping and re-clipping on the rope. This time, as I resumed my descent, the rope felt different. Looking down, I saw the end of the rope with the picket attached swinging wildly over the moat. The anchor had pulled free form the ice! What sort of problem would this cause? As I continued my descent, I found I had no reason for concern. My weight on the rope caused it to straighten like a plumb bob on a string.

I reached the big block of blue ice above the moat, swung out and down, landing easily on the ice platform. I unclipped from the rope and walked down the route, passing the woman who had all the problems descending. At a flat spot I took off my pack and pulled out the bag of trail mix. I sat on my pack to wait for Kike and Lhakpa. The woman stopped and joined me. We chatted as I watched Kike removing the pickets and rope from the headwall as he descended. I was in awe of his skill and confidence on the treacherously steep slope. The woman, I learned, was from The Netherlands. To this point, her only climbing experience was in a climbing gym in Amsterdam. She was angry with her guide for leaving her stranded at the top of the headwall and totally exhausted from the climb. She had been looking for an adventure and she certainly found it.

Our parties combined on one rope for the march across the glacier. The Dutch woman had a problem getting down the big step and crossing the first crevasse, but she had no problems crossing the long “S” shaped crevasse over the second crevasse. From there it was an easy walk down to the rocky ridge. Everyone unroped and stepped out of their harness. Kike gave me a celebratory snickers bar. It tasted delicious. While I changed into my hiking boots, Kike and Lhakpa stuffed their packs full of ropes, pickets and ice axes. Together the three of us crossed the spiny knife edge and down climbed the route we had ascended in the morning darkness.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Returning Climbers - May 24

K was waiting outside the tent when we arrived back at high camp. I sagged wearily onto a rock, tired but elated. Kaji brought some hot soup and tea. I was famished, but at the same time, I wanted to tell K everything about the climb.

As I rested and ate, the guys were busily breaking camp. By the time the dokos were loaded we were ready to begin the descent from high camp back to Chhukung. The down hill hike was surprisingly easy. Even with tired legs we were back down to base camp in less than an hour and continued on.

A cold penetrating fog settled over us, and the last miles to Chhukung were chilly. We were glad to see the lodge. It had been a very long, strenuous, and rewarding day. Immediately after dinner we retired to our room and were soon asleep.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Chorten Near Pangboche - May 25

This day begins our trek back out of the mountains. We left Chhukung shortly after 8:00. K was still not feeling well. Her energy was low. Even walking up slight uphill slopes was a challenge for her.

The clouds were breaking up as we trekked away from Chhuking, and there was some scattered sunshine, but it was quite chilly. The trail is mostly a gentle downhill slope.

Near Dingboche, we passed an American trekker whom we had chatted with at Chhukung. He seemed a bit disoriented and wasn't feeling well. We directed him to a trail that would lead to the village where he could hang out until he felt better.

The trail dropped lower as we approached Pangboche. The air seemed thicker. The scent of juniper hung in the air. Soon we were seeing trees, and flowers became more apparent. Often our progress was halted when we had to step off the trail to allow yak trains to pass on their way to Everest Base Camp

We were walking through a forest of pine and rhododendron as we approached Denboche, arriving at the Paradise Lodge by 2:00. We took advantage of the lodges shower. It felt good to get cleaned up.

After tea, I made my journal entry, writing about the experience of climbing and summiting Imja Tse. I only wish that K had been well enough and strong enough to enjoy the adventure with me.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Entry Gate at Tengboche Monastery - May 26

We left Denboche in anticipation of our visit to the Buddhist Monastery at Tyanbuche (Tengboche). It is a 400 foot climb up a broad well traveled trail to the shrine.

The monastery sits on the open hill top surrounded by majestic ice capped peaks in all directions. The entry portico is ornately carved and painted in brilliant colors.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Close-up of Gate - May 26

A close-up of the gate guardian shows how intricate the detailing is.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Call to Prayer - May 26

Inside the gate young monks were rushing about. From the third floor corner window the long sonorous notes were being blown from conch shells calling the monks to prayer. With Kike, we climbed the stairs and passed through the enormous double doors.

Just inside the entry is a sacred relic, the footprints of the Buddha embedded in a slab of stone. It is believed that the Buddha sat and meditated for many days with his feet on this stone. We respectfully took off our boots and left them in the foyer. The wooden plank stairs leading to the upper floor was polished smooth by countless feet. Inside the sanctuary, Kike handed us small rugs that we were to sit cross legged on.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Lama - May 26

Every surface of the sanctuary was elaborately decorated and brilliantly painted with exotic tapestries hanging from the ceiling. A golden Buddha statue and many carvings were at the head end of the room illuminated by dozens of flickering butter lamps. At the opposite end of the room is an enormous drum hung vertically in a pagoda frame. The monks were seated in two rows facing each other with the Lama at the head seated on a raised dais. A few pilgrims, westerners, and other visitors (including K and me), were seated cross legged on prayer rugs along a side wall.

When the last of the monks were settled in their appropriate places, a cadence sounding like drumsticks on a block of wood began. The monks began chanting. It sounded like two or three chants in harmony. It was enthralling. As we left the great hall the tones of drums and horns followed us in an exotic cacophony of sound.

Again outside, Kike directed us toward the back of the monastery. A funeral ceremony was about to begin for a Sherpa woman who had died in a fall on Lhotse the same day I had summited Island Peak. Helicopters were arriving with high ranking government officials. This woman was highly regarded throughout Nepal. It brings to reality the fact that survival in the mountains can be a precarious thing. It is also sad to think that this woman died while in her prime, and with a family and a bright future. We paid our respects by placing kataga scarves on her casket and solemnly departed.

Leaving Tengboche, the trail drops down a series of stone steps and switchbacks. The air seemed thick and sweet with the scent of pine. The trail reached its low point at Thamersku (elevation 10,500 feet) where we stopped for tea. K was frustrated by the frequent long breaks. I encouraged her to relax. Besides, she hadn't fully recovered from her bout with altitude sickness.

From Thamersku the trail is a slow uphill grind, made even slower because we were behind a long yak train. At a wide stretch of trail, we picked up our pace and passed the yaks. Another yak train was stopped at the top of a rise. Weaving our way through the herd, we came upon a distressing sight. One of the yaks, overloaded and overworked had dropped dead on the trail. Two Sherpa women were unloading the dead yak and having some choice words for the beast for being so inconsiderate as to die like that. We hiked on.

Another hour and we were back in Namche Bazaar. We were soon getting settled in our room in the Kala Patar Lodge. I shaved, and then we went out to do some shopping. K found some lovely jade bracelets for the girls at work. I bought some prayer flags and an embroidered patch to commemorate the adventure on Island Peak. At a coffee shop (not Starbuck's), we treated ourselves to a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. After so many days on the trail, it tasted heavenly.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Kenjuma on the Hillside - May 27

After breakfast and the usual preparations, we left Namche and began the long descent down the switchbacking trail. At most of the switchbacks, stone steps have been constructed to facilitate the grade change. Down, down, down we hiked, switchback after switchback dropping nearly 2,000 feet to the first (and highest) of the suspension bridges. There are several small ups and downs as we hike along the Dudh Khosi. The green of the plants and trees at this elevation are vibrant. Farm plots are larger. There are more and varied flowers. Yet, I miss the pristine air of the high Himalayas.

We rested at a lodge in Kenjuma where Kaji brought us some refreshing cold lemon to drink. The last miles to Lukla were hot and sweaty.

Climbing the granite paved path and steps, I vowed to buy a cold drink for Bim and Pirim when they arrived with their heavily laden dokos.

Arriving at Lukla, we walked past the open air shops, sleeping dogs and chickens, to the Khumbu Resort, our destination for the day.

Upstairs in the large dining room we rested and waited for Kike and the porters to arrive. Kaji brought us a cold drink.

Bim and Pirim arrived sooner than expected. I got to keep that promise I made to myself and bought them a cold drink. But still no Kike. Kaji suspected that Kike probably stopped for a rice beer, or two, or three.

Our room in the Khumbu Resort was very civilized. It had indoor flush toilets and indoor shower. The water wasn't hot. It was barely warm., but it certainly felt good to get clean.

When Kike finally arrived, we gathered everyone together in the large dining room. It was our turn to do something for each member of our group. They all contributed so much to making the trip such a success. We thanked each of them individually and gave them their gratuities. K gave Pirim her boots. To Bim, she gave her old Sierra Designs shell jacket. I gave Lhakpa my old Sierra Designs shell jacket. They were all pleased with the gifts. We were pleased and happy to have experienced the adventure with them. I know I will miss their friendly smiles and generous sprits.

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- Click Here For Larger Image -Sita Airlines - May 28

A wake up call wasn't necessary. We had awakened early and repacked our duffels for the return flight to Kathamandu. We went upstairs to the dining room, but no one was about. So, we helped expedite our breakfast. We were hungry and ordered the “American Breakfast”. (Why is the item on the menu with the largest portions called the “American”?).

Kike arrived followed by Kaji and Lhakpa. They presented us with kataga scarves which I will always cherish in the memories I have of this trip. Kaji and Lhakpa hoisted our fully loaded duffels for the short walk to the Lukla Airport.

A siren sounded indicating that the planes were leaving Kathmandu and would be arriving at Lukla soon. We had plenty of time to check our luggage and watch for the flights on the short up sloped runway.

Agni Airlines arrived first. It took only 10 minutes to unload the cargo, load the passengers, and take off. Sita Airlines, our flight, arrived next. While bags of rice and other goods were unloaded, we were herded into line to expedite the boarding. The flight attendant signaled us to board and the eighteen seats were quickly filled. The take off was memorable. The plane taxied to the uphill end of the runway. The pilot revved the engine to full throttle. The plane quivered and quaked and vibrated all over. When the pilot released the brakes, the plane shot down the runway lurching right and left, then lifting off the tarmac with about 100 feet before the cliff that is the end of the runway.

The flight to Kathmandu was uneventful. Gelu greeted us and helped gather our luggage. Not all of Peak Paldor's gear was on our flight, so Kike waited for the next flight to collect the remaining gear.

Gelu guided us through the throngs of people in the airport to a waiting van. The luggage was quickly loaded and the driver deftly cruised through the frenetic Kathmandu traffic. Bicycles, rickshaws, motorcycles, scooters, and taxis all vying for the same space. I found the scene to be both entertaining and terrifying. Being back in the city we missed our Sherpa friends and the simple pristine aspects of the mountains.

K and I settled into our room at the Vaisali Hotel. For lunch we went to Rumdoodles, where we could satisfy our cravings for fresh fruits and vegetables.

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