Upon arrival into Lukla we made our way around the runway to a restaurant where we ate breakfast and had a quick briefing from our expedition leader Tim Mosedale.
After going over the particulars of hygiene, trail safety and tea house etiquette, we put on our packs and started moving.
When heading into the Khumbu from Lukla, the trail descends so the highest point for the first 1.5 days was Lukla itself.
Below is a bit of traffic at Lukla airport once we had landed.
We made our way along the route following the Dhudh Kosi river through Ghat, over to Phakding and up to Monjo which would be our destination for the day. Hill Top Lodge was the name of the fine establishment and the place was great, especially when compared to my first night in the Khumbu last time. The rooms were on the first story therefore off the cool damp ground. We all slept well, had a hearty breakfast and continued to move further along the trail.
Straight after leaving our accommodation we came to the entrance of Sagarmatha National Park. There is a large archway with prayer wheels acting as the gateway to Everest and her surrounding peaks, immediately before a large rocky staircase which descends into the lush national park below.
Along the trail I could see lots of structures which were still damaged from the 2015 earthquake. Cracks through walls, entire buildings collapsed and damaged stupas. There were also positive signs, many of the damaged buildings I saw on my trek out in 2015 were now repaired and back up and running. There is recovery albeit slow.
Our next destination was Namche Bazar. On previous days we moved over some impressive suspension bridges which criss-cross the Dhudh Kosi river but the final bridge before heading up to Namche is by far the best. High up on the valley walls, span two suspension bridges, the top one being the newer which is now used by most. It makes for an amazing sight and an adrenaline pumping crossing with the white waters of the river rushing by far below. In the film Everest, they did a nice fly by past this bridge in the beginning.
Once over, we moved up a steep zigzagging section which finishes at a lookout where trekkers and climbers stop to catch a glimpse of Everest for the first time. I was in the exact same spot exactly two years ago. The steep section was a breeze this time round, I recall having a very tough time getting up there in 2015 when we jokingly named it ‘The Namche Headwall’. This year it was more like a casual forest stroll. I took the obligatory shots of Everest and once again was daunted by the thought that it was still 5 vertical kilometres above us!
Straight after the lookout we had to present our climbing permits at a Check point, after some ruffling of papers the curt clerk with a POLICE jacket on gave a nod and we were on our way.
Arriving into Namche brought a smile to my face, it is the last proper village on the way to Everest, has some great shops and brings back some good memories. Plus there are some great bakeries, one in particular is Everest Bakery which has free wi-fi, great coffee and amazing cheesecake. After eating lunch in a restaurant in town we went to the bakery to gorge ourselves on calorific cakes, fresh espressos and of course wi-fi!
After some games of connect four in Everest Bakery where Tim dominated, we put our packs on and headed up the hill outside of town. The route we followed is the main path most trekkers and climbers use which follows once again the Dhudh Kosi river. Normally the views on this trail are spectacular as the valley opens up to reveal the breath-taking Ama Dablam and Lhotse – Everest’s closest neighbour. Unfortunately for the team we saw none of this and all they had to go on were my descriptions. After about an hour of moving we arrived into Kyangjuma, a place we whizzed by in 2015. We got our keys and dropped our gear off into the rooms which were a little less quality than what we had in Monjo but as Tim is a close friend with the owner Tashi we have been treated very well. Tashi once had a personal audience with Prince Charles when she and her husband visited the UK. Prince Charles offered his hospitality to them when he was visiting Nepal, when they got to the UK they took him up on his offer and went round to the palace for coffee and cake.
We slept well, woke up to beautiful views of Ama Dablam and surrounding peaks, put our packs on and begun our acclimatisation trek further up the valley to a place called Mountain View Lodge and Restaurant – a place I had been to in 2015 on our way back from Base Camp. The route we took to our destination was fantastic. A bit off the beaten path it winds up into a seemingly impossible pass to a section called ‘The Hidden Staircase’ which is cut straight into the massive walls. We worked our way up huffing and puffing and found ourselves through to the other side with our objective in sight. The path continued along the winding valley until we topped out at the restaurant which has great views over to Phortse and surrounding mountains.
The mobile signal has been great for the past couple of days so when I went up to the lookout behind the lodge, I managed to make a Skype call with no quality loss whilst staring at the roaring winds smashing into Lhotse. It never ceases to amaze me the quality of mobile signal out here. Having said that one more bend on the trail and it could be gone for days.
After a nice lunch enjoying the 3900m air we worked our way back down and got back to our lodge. Tim managed to get us access into Tashi’s personal prayer room which takes up half of the top of her lodge. The level of detail is spectacular. Rather than me taking photos I thought I would just provide a link to Tim’s 360 panorama of this room.
Here is the link: Tashi’s Prayer Room
Overall I have not felt any altitude issues whatsoever. It should be the case at a sub-4000m height but last time I was here I was struggling with headaches, shortness of breath, sleepless nights and limited appetite. I was sick with a respiratory infection that time so that may have been a contributor. Plus the fact that we are trekking along a route I already know definitely makes the whole process easier as there are no unknowns.
Altitude adaptation is a funny one, some say it affects everyone differently, some say it affects the same person differently which is what I have always thought but I have found that after getting to Camp 2 at approx 6400m in 2015 (I had been higher at 6962m in 2013 on Aconcagua), I seem to have no symptoms whatsoever at anything below 5000m as I was also fine in July 2016 when on top of Matterhorn which is 4478m. We will see I suppose. One thing I know is that when I am making my way up Everest proper, I will be struggling!
Tomorrow we move to another town. I will do my next post when I find reliable internet. Remember the Track Me page will always be updating my whereabouts.
Over and out.