TREKKING IN NEPAL
                                        MT. EVEREST REGION

                                              WITH FRIENDS


 It was not clear why I was about to head back up into the Himalayas.  Past experience had taught me that it could be a difficult trek.   Perhaps it was because Steve has always been intrigued by my stories of climbing mountains, withstanding the cold and thin air of high altitudes.   When our cruising friends Marsha and Dave discussed a trek in Nepal we were excited to join them as they are avid trekkers and like us not interested in a guided tour but one of independent trekking.   We could not give up an opportunity to share this adventure. 

Sept. 28, 2009 Kathmandu to Phaplu  (4,600ft. to 7,900ft.)

Dave and Marsha love Nepal.  This is their 4th trek here, second time in the Everest region.  They have chosen to fly into Phaplu at 7,900 foot elevation which was a wise choice.  The airport in Lukla is further up at the 9,000 feet but it is on the well traveled Mt. Everest trekking route.  By starting in Phaplu we have the advantage of fewer trekkers, a chance to experience the middle hills of the Himalayas in the Solo region and an opportunity to meet the Rai people who inhabit this area.


Waiting in the departure lounge of the Kathmandu domestic terminal was a bee hive of activity.  Planes were delayed due to weather into both Phaplu and Lukla the two airstrips into the middle hills of the Himalayas.  A bus can be taken from Kathmandu to Jiri but horror stories of a long arduous journey had us gladly paying the $100US each to take us further up, thus more time to trek.  After a four hour delay we boarded the 14 seat Yeti Airline twin otter anticipating the 40 minute flight into Phaplu.


No one is especially excited about the flight, most of all Marsha. Steve on the other hand has a front row seat and is straining to see the instrument panel to relive his days as a private pilot.  Just before take off the other passengers, Australians and French fill in the rest of the seats.  A stewardess in traditional Tibetan long black skirt with colorful striped apron hurriedly makes her was down the narrow isle passing out candy and cotton for ear plugs.  From my seat near the back I can see the runway out the window thru the open cockpit door and watch eagerly as the pilot grips the two adjacent handles above the cockpit.  Within seconds we are lifting off, the side windows exposing the thick green curtain of valleys, the middle Himalayas.

There is not a whimper from any of the passengers, everyone is stone silent and gripping tightly to the seats in front of them, only the engines drown can be heard.  The flight is smooth but for passing into clouds, then barely descending we are banking left, the wing tip coming precariously close to a ridge dotted with pine trees.  Suddenly Steve stands bolt upright.  I am not sure if he is ready to take over the controls or jump out. Our hearts are in our throats.  It is rather frightening to land so high up.

Leveling out I see dead ahead, out the cockpit window, a tiny thin strip of runway perched on the edge of a flattened knoll on the side of a steep mountain.  Within seconds the nose dips, we drop only a couple hundred feet, the wheels touch down, engines whine, the plane vibrates and shutters to a stop.  Whew!!

We are in Phaplu leaving the terminal of Kathmandu behind.  Steve can not stop talking he is so excited about the flight.  He even corners the pilots to congratulate them on this seemingly amazing feat of landing safely.  There is no airport only a picnic table next to the runway and stone steps climbing up to a one lane stone road with a few cement or stone buildings and a couple lodges. 

            Dave and Steve patiently waiting

                   Cotton balls for ear plugs

        Cockpit of Twin Otter Yeti Airlines

                  Middle Himalayas

                      Phaplu airstrip

The town is very clean with lots of flowers.  There are about 20 buildings, a school and a small hospital donated by Sir Edmund Hillary the first man to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953.

The air is cool and it begins to drizzle.  It is late afternoon so we decide to spend the night.  We check into the Mt. Everest Guest House.  It is only 18 months old and the owners are friendly and obliging.  It was a good decision to stay as it gave us time to adjust, yet it will put us behind on a well planned schedule that Marsha and Dave have worked out. 



Mt. Everest Guest House
dinning area and guest room

Local Rai Villager                   Dahl Baht

After a warm meal of Dahl Bhat (lentils and rice)  the local food we head out for a look at the village gompa.  Every traditional village has a Buddhist temple or gompa.

The gompa is set below the town surrounded by cultivated fields and pine trees.  It's bright orange roof and multicolored paned window frames sets it apart from the surrounding fields.

 Passing through the small wooden main gate we can see the huge prayer wheel, over 6 feet tall, in a small room.  It was once brightly colored now faded through the years.  Short ropes hang from the bottom which you grab hold to spin the wheel propelling the enclosed prayers to the gods.


Gompa prayer wheel

Sept. 29, 2009   Phaplu  to Ringmo  (7,900ft to 8,858ft.)


We begin our trek from 7,900 feet after a good nights sleep on simple wooden beds with thick foam mattresses snuggled up in our down sleeping bags high in the Himalayas.  Our room cost 500rp which is about $7 US.  We are awake at 5AM after a 6:30AM breakfast of banana pancakes, porridge with banana and chapattis, flat bread with honey, we are on our way by 7:30AM. 


 Outside the air is cool and clear with a spectacular view of snow covered mountain peaks.  We adjust our walking poles and backpacks, the packs weighting about 25 pounds and waddle down the trail, across small wooden board bridges across deep mud past the gompa and into the forest.  Then breaking out into the open we have magnificent views of huge green mountains, terraced and dotted with little white houses with blue or green tin roofs. 


A few locals pass us carrying bundles in baskets on their backs with a strap over their head just behind the hairline and the other end supporting the basket. 


Also, a convoy of donkey’s pass by carrying gas bottles on wooden saddles.  Each one has a huge metal bell dangling from a collar around their necks alerting us with a gentle tinkling sound that brings Marsha to a state of nostalgia.  “This is what brings me back to Nepal”.               



It is the one prominent sound we will hear along with the young children passing by, hands raised in prayer fashion shyly uttering the words “Namaste”.  (I salute the God within you)


Mountain views from Phaplu


Porters carrying heavy loads in baskets


The rivers run south and are separated by high ridges so the route is a succession of ups and downs.  The valleys are deep so the climbs and descents are very strenuous with mostly stone steps climbing upward to Ringmo.  A young women passes me on a precariously steep and narrow step with a baby on her back and a young boy with a very large load strapped to his back wearing only rubber crock shoes. 


I find it hard to keep a steady pace with the uneven heights of the stone steps, but I know the key in such rigorous trekking is to keep moving at a slow steady pace.   Steve and Dave have both taken a tumble, only just a drop to a knee, unbalanced with a heavy pack and always on the downward trail.  Marsha keeps a good pace while I prefer to lay back concentrating on each step and begin to feel like the pack animals passing me by.  Fortunately there are rock walls with stone or wood benches to rest along the way.

Day 1 Looking back toward Phaplu

              Wooden bench resting area

We also pass our first Mani walls, to which with respect, we must always pass to the left keeping the wall on our right.   These are long stone walls inlaid with Buddhist prayer slates.  Most of the villages we pass are inhabited by Rai or Sherpa people.  Sherpa’s are more prevalent further up and are famous as guides or porters.   Near Ringmo it begins to rain and sherpas begin to pass us with huge loads protected with umbrellas.


Porter with rain protection

It took 5 hours to reach Ringmo at 8,858 feet.  Steve comments that he is totally ‘knackered’ to which ensues a response that he should be ‘yackered’ as it is the female yak that is called a Nak. 


We check into the Yak and Nak Apple House Lodge.  These lower areas of the Solo region are known for their apple orchards.  At the village of Ringmo the trail also meets up with the Jiri track had we come in by bus. 


The small rooms are all wood, very clean with views once again of snow covered peaks.  Here we pay only 190  rupees but a snickers bar sold here is 200 rupees, 10 rupees more than our room.  As we pass by the kitchen, up steeper and higher steps than we have seen all day, I peer into this dark and smoky room with a bench seat below a front window and a table more like a desk.  A big clay oven is in the middle of the room with two cats on a mat sleeping on top next to a boiling kettle.  An older women in traditional Tibetan dress with long striped apron is moving about tending the kettle for our much needed shower.  But, here a boiler on the back wall used for washing in the kitchen is also used for our showers and washing clothes. 


We each do our own laundry, Steve reluctant to stoop to the small basin in the crude little room but I explain how necessary it is to keep up with clean clothes as we are carrying only three pair of socks and a couple changes of clothing.

          Yak and Nak Apple House Lodge

Cats warming on the stove

We have all ordered the same meal of Dahl Baht after seeing the one burner clay stove and young girls filing in from off in the forest carrying baskets of wood for our fire.    It is also wise for getting our food more quickly and for less effort of multiple dishes to make on the cooks part.  This time we receive the main dish of lentils and rice but with a side of fresh green mountain vegetables and butter fried potatoes.  It is delicious!


While we finish our cups of black tea which is cheapest on the menu at 30 rupees the men fill up our two wide mouth water bottles each, add an iodine tablet to be pumped and filtered in one third an hour with our small hand held Katadine pumps.  While clean mountain streams abound there is still the chance of Girardia and other bacteria our delicate systems are not used to.  In Kathmandu they even recommend not even brushing your teeth in the water.  

   Laundry time

          Filtering water

We all, however, are carrying a pharmacy of medications we bought in Kathmandu, expensive prescriptions drugs at home, here cheap and available over the counter.  We also got Diamox for altitude sickness and I am trying Ginko Biloba for cerebral edema.  Talking to a real mountaineer he states the Ginko has been proven non-effective while Viagra does work.


Sept. 30 Ringmo to Jubing  (8858ft. to 5577ft.)

It is a rough day but probably due to the fact it is only our second day or perhaps because the trail climbed up 3000 feet then dropped 2000 feet.  The descending is sometimes more difficult than the climb.   The 3000 foot ascent took us up past an old gompa then to the Trackshindo La (La meaning pass) at 10,075 feet dividing the Solo and Sherpa areas.  Views of the snow covered Karyalung peaks were breathtaking.  We stopped for tea at the top just before the Kani, an entrance arch with a row of prayer wheels on either side of the interior walls.  




The Chhodar or vertical prayer flags on 8-10m poles and the Lungdar or wild horse flags (prayer flags) with religious prayers and mantras are flopping in the wind hoping to be rubbed off by wind or water and carried to all sentient beings.


Half hour down we arrive at Trakshindo (9,612 feet).  The gompa here was established by the Tengboche Lama in 1996.  From here we could see the Sherpa village of Nuntala/Manidingma (7,710ft) across the terraced fields and tea bushes.  From Nunthala there is a steep decent where at one place the trail was wiped out completely by a landslide.  We had to tip toe precariously over wet stones and slippery mud then climb down over the rubble.  It was on this steep decent that Marsha twisted her ankle and I realized my shoe has come untied and I felt a blister coming on. 


              Nuntala/Manidingma area

 But the day proved to have good weather and the scenery even more spectacular the lower we dropped.  There were fields of potatoes, wheat, bean, barley and buckwheat.  Further on corn was being harvested and drying in vertical racks.  The older houses are made of stone with mud and straw in-between the hand chiseled blocks, and small rectangular windows highlighted in paint.  In front of some housed bright red Dailies were blooming.
                Local house /drying beans

         Local Rai women sorting beans
A young baby was sitting out on a wooden bench with a bowl of rice in front of him, his bare bottom and face smeared with rice as he ate contently away despite the two strange ladies snapping photos. 

Then just around a bend there was an older women toughened from the years bent over digging in the earth while a similar weather worn man guided 2 wooden yoked oxen down a furl with a wood plow.

                 Lunch time of rice
But what is truly mind boggling is the last two years some of the people passing us on the trail have radios and cell phones.  We have seen newer buildings with tin roofs, solar panels and ovens next to pit toilets, gravity fed water, fires for heating in steel barrels with tin can pipes, a mixture of new technology and primitive living conditions.  

Solar Cooker

After hours of steep descents, crossing gullies and little streams we cross a covered bridge and then a 109m long suspension bridge over the Dudhi Koshi river.

This bridge was built by the Swiss for their expedition to Mt. Everest in 1952. After then they set up an organization responsible for building many more bridges across the country.      

The last half hour was hard for me as my pack seemed to get heavier, breathing more labored and the stone steps even steeper.    I prefer being at the back where I can concentrate on my slow steady pace which quite suits me and thus I have retained the name ‘half track’. 

After 9 hours we had descended into Jubing , half hour after the bridge and dropped a total of 4000 feet coming in 15 minutes after Marsha and Dave.   I am sure they wonder if I’d make it at all but my determination always gets me where I want to go.  Today I wondered if where we were going is what I wanted.  

Steep ascents sharing trail

Rock stairs

The main point of Buddhist practice is to always scrutinize and improve yourself.  The

teachings should be applied to make one gentler, more peaceful, loving and compassionate and especially to know that all things are relative and impermanent

which is helpful when we are faced with difficulties. 

Oct. 1, 2009   Jubing to Bupsa    (5577ft. to 7710ft.)

This was our third day and a good one with fine warm weather but Steve and Marsha were extremely sore in the calf muscles. I had no trouble dragging myself out of my warm sleeping bag in the middle of the night, navigating the dark steep steps to make my way outside and across the cold stone path to the outdoor squat toilet.  Once there I did find a few sore thigh muscles preventing any long term stay.  Besides the cold night air was penetrating.  I made my way back up the steep stairway at a faster pace then I’d had all day.   I had also opted for a spit bath before bed in a crude dark cold room using a thermos of hot water.  I found my old trekking trick of dousing myself with baby powder was almost more efficient and certainly more tolerable. 


We stick to the local food of potatoes, yak cheese and mountain vegetables, and the old stand by Dahl Baht.  After dinner we then order breakfast for a 6:30PM serving.  We usually all order the same, a big bowl of porridge with apple and find it very sufficient till the next tea house.  Steve tried the Tibetan bread which is much like Indian fry bread.  The glass front wooden cabinets were full of chocolate bars, Pringle potato chips, Coke, biscuits and whisky.  We all opted out of trying the Snickers pie, Twix pie and Mars Bar pie. 



Drop toilet

The AM dawned bright and sunny with promise of our wet hand washed laundry, dangling from our packs with safety pins, to dry sufficiently.  The purple flower lined path was inviting but once again when leaving this small Rai village must climb 1 ½ hours up to Kharaikola a sizable village where one of Nepal’s better know Sherpa’s hails from, has summated Mt. Everest 18 times. 

We pass through a beautiful fern like forests below a gompa and then continue up before arriving at the  new Pema Nembing Monastery inaugurated in 2008.  The stone Chorten or Buddhist shrine is adorned with colorful Mandela’s, brilliant religious works of art all in primary colors.


    Trail to Kharakkola through fern forest

From here we could see Kharikhola (6726ft) spread out before us and the terraced verdant green mullet fields we must pass through.  Somewhere along here Steve had his first experience with a leech.  Leeches abound during monsoon in this area.  I quickly stretched out it’s body and with the quick flick of a Bic lighter, it let go leaving a big sucker bite on his lower back.


Reaching Kharikohla we met up with Marsha and Dave who opted to continue on, Dave mentioning the possibility of afternoon rain. Steve and I decided a good substantial lunch was in order to get us up the final steep climb to Bupsa. 

While enjoying a hot Ramon soup with vegetable and boiled eggs for protein, we see a young woman holding a phone with an antenna aimed across the valley.  A man is trying to make a phone call and is successful.  They indicated the phone is only 2 months old.  As we head down the trail we see a sign for Applied Technical Institute and once again we are amazed with the high tech along side primitive conditions.


Terraced mullet fields

New cell phone works

We spent the next 2 hours going up a steep incline but this time more mud, not rock and I was able to move more quickly still keeping my heart beat steady.  I made the mistake of chugging down a small Snickers bar and soon was having a sugar crash and literally got stuck on the side of a terraced field.  Fortunately it didn’t send my heart aflutter as chocolate sometimes does.  Three little boys sat transfixed on this white haired lady flopped out in their field. 



It is hot and Steve was getting uncomfortable and bitchy but it was only this AM he told me that no other woman would do this with him.  Then later he comments how rough I must have had it climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Hopefully he will never harass me again when times get tough.  I have already experienced the thin air in high altitudes, which he has not, so I am beginning to wonder if my pace will slow everyone down.  The one factor I learned on that climb was to take a slow steady pace. 

                            Mud trail

          Local mountain Rai children

The word Buddha means ‘one who is awake’.  It is the experience of awakening to the truth of life that is offered in the Buddhist tradition.  He saw that human freedom must come from practicing a life of inner and outer balance and he called this discovery the ‘Middle Path’. 


Bupsa is at an elevation of 7,710feet not yet into the higher altitudes but drinking copious amounts of water is necessary and will be mandatory further up to flush the build up of carbonates from the kidneys that contribute to altitude sickness. AMS (acute mountain sickness) is possible above 10,000 feet and ¾ of all climbers will have at least mild symptoms. 


There are no specific factors such as age, gender or physical condition that determines who will get it.  One of the symptoms of dehydration is no matter how much liquid you put in more comes out.


We arrive in Bupsa to a nice room at the Yellow Top Lodge with great views set up by Marsha and Dave.  We are feeling a  bit guilty that our friends arrive ahead and end up getting us our room.  We are so grateful but feel they might be feeling a bit too much like guides.  We asked them if we could discuss the itinerary they have worked out.  This will give us a better idea mentally to help set our pace.  Hopefully it will take off some of the pressure of always pushing along.


We did arrive at Bupsa by 2PM so this day was encouraging.  We all took hot showers and did our laundry and hung it out to dry.  Steve is still grumbling about doing his but perhaps it is because he seems to be coming down with a cold.  Dave had a cold in Kathmandu so Marsha and I rationalize it is a germ for men only and we are safe.


The lodges kitchen dining area is very nice and the  menu varied.  We break out the game of Pegs and Jokers of which each of us is carrying a quarter of the wood frame game board.  After all it is only fair we each carry our share but we never dare ask Dave for a piece of his chocolate, the 1 pound Trader Joe special that he alone is carrying.

Oct. 2   Bupsa to Surke   (7,710ft. to 7,546ft.)

Spectacular views

Yellow Top Lodge Bupsa
Dining area Yellow Top Lodge

Our fourth day we set off at 7:15AM after our usual breakfast of hot porridge.  Steve slept well after a dose of TheraFlu medication and again we feel very optimistic.  We all think we can make it to Surke but the next valley has to be traversed and we may get separated. 

We descend 1000 feet cross a tributary after crossing the Kari Khada river and ascend it’s north bank below the sacred settlement of Khurte and on past Kari  where we continue up into more valleys and steeper ridges.  Half way from Khari and 40 minutes out of Puiyan we reach Khari La a small pass up 10,000 feet.  From here we can see the Khumbui Yul Lha and Gyachung Kang mountains.  Looking down we can really appreciate the steeply undulating middle hills.


After a contour climb and past a huge rock we can see the town of Puiyan (9,121ft) but the distance is deceiving as we still must decend 1000 feet, cross a tributary on a steel bridge before entering Puiyan, 3 hours after leaving Bupsa.


We meet up with Dave and Marsha who have just arrived and are visiting with a nice Indian couple Airman and Ram.  They are slightly younger but with graying hair.  We all commiserate about us aging trekkers doing this stretch where few younger trekkers venture choosing to fly in to Lukla further up and start there.

                            Airman and Ram


It is still another 3 ½ to 4 hours to Surke so Marsha and Dave set off with our assurance we will make it just fine.

             Steep descents/steeper ascents

                    Lunch in Puiyan

After eating we pass a small festival blessing a new Mani wall.  The local lama is presiding over the ceremony.  Many colorful and delicious looking dishes are set out mostly with sliced apple and below elaborate decorations made of yak butter. 
Men are constructing the foundation for the wall while women are carrying huge carved stones engraved with prayers down from higher up.  Young boys carrying heavy blocks of stone on wood back packs race past us both up and down.            


The perpendicular sides of the valley from here are so steep the trail zig zags upward almost vertically and traverses across the face of the mountain on a narrow trail.  It is slow going with huge rocks on the trail.


At the top of the ridge is the Third Eye Lodge and Steve crashes on the stone step exhausted and spent from his cold and coughing.  He says he is suffering but I say “No, that comes later, today is ‘perseverance’.  The first day was ‘pain’, second ’tolerance’ and third ‘endurance’.    I want him to make it and enjoy this trip but his cold is debilitating.  Still he pushes on.

Building a Mani Wall

Mani Wall celebration

Hauling stone prayer slates


O Mani Padme Hum’ is the prayer or mantra that Buddhists say out loud to themselves invoking the blessings of Chenrezing the Tibetan name for Buddha of Compassion.


I point out some beautiful waterfalls across the valley and once on our way the sacred mountain of Khumbila comes into view as does the village of Surke.  (7,546 ft)  I try to keep Steve focused on reaching our destination.

We arrive at Surke at the Yak and Yeti Lodge for the night after a rigorous and strenuous 9 hour day.  O Mani Padme Hum.                   

Oct. 3,2009   Surke to Padking    (7546ft. to 9121ft.)


The name Surke in Tibetan is Bua which means ‘damp’.  True there is not much sun here between the valleys but we are witness to the spectacular Kongde ridge that is the massive mountain rising up from the Bhote Koshi river in front of the village of Namche.

                                      Kondge ridge

The only flat spot in trail

         Yak and Yetty Lodge in Surke

It was a bad day that ended well.  Upon rising Steve discovers a tick, it’s head embedded in his thigh.  He is anxiously trying to eradicate it’s body while trying to keep it’s head from separating.  I immediately respond trying to reassure him but I really don’t do well with ticks before tea.  Everyone is still asleep so I try the flick of the Bic trick but before it retracts completely and with our impatient and anxiousness the flame causes the tick to explode leaving part of the head in his thigh.  I apply antiseptic and a band aid and vowed to check in at the first aid station.  Later we discover a Dutchman next door, one of the few trekkers we have encountered,  had a device for removing ticks.  Dave remembers that applying Vaseline may have in time caused it to suffocate.  Too late the little half tick will have to trek along with him to Lukla. 


There is a light rain and the steep wet stone climb ahead is daunting.  We must take the direct steep route to Lukla to find a doctor and change our tickets.  We have decided to fly out of Lukla on our return rather than retrace our steps back to Phaplu which will give us extra days in the high altitudes.


Unfortunately we could have saved ourselves by bypassing Lukla going straight to Namche on an easier trail but it is not to be.  We must climb up almost 2000 feet to reach Lukla.  About half way up the Dutchman, a fit 45 year old with a sherpa porter and a guide come up behind me.  I stop for a breath and as they pass by I joke “how is it that you have two and I have none?”.  His dark skinned Caucasian looking porter says in good English,  “You should have a porter.”  Immediately he shifts his load and insists he let me carry my pack.  I am grateful but decline but his words were more like it would be me doing him a favor to carry my pack.  The Dutchman is fine with it so off they go, Ram the name of the polite porter calls back that he will leave my pack at the Khumbu Resort in Lukla where I can find it when I arrive.  

         2000ft. climb up to Lukla

     Porters can carry up to 265 pounds



Steve and I begin the climb once again, this time I am able to keep a better pace with Steve.  Suddenly I am enthusiastic about my surroundings and not plodding along looking at my feet.  I am thrilled. 

 While stopping to observe a gompa a Tibetan looking man is snapping a photo with his cell phone.  His name is Chhiring and he has such a genuinely sincere way about him, we spend a few moments talking.  He has a good command of the English language so Steve has a nice conversation with him as we continue upward.  Chhiring is on his way to church.  He is a Christian Sherpa and is making his way up this 2 hour climb to go to the Khumbu mission.  Although he is from Surke, his wife and four children are already in Lukla for church tomorrow.  Steve asks him about a hospital or clinic, about his life and about his background. 

 Chhiring is 36 years old and is one of the Sherpa people.  They are not just the general helper of the ‘sirdar’s’ (trekking guides) setting up tents for expeditions to Mt. Everest or carrying bags, they are an actual culture of people who migrated here to Nepal from NE Tibet 1300 km away.  Possibly they were pushed by the Mongol incursions over 500 years ago.  Their homeland is now the Khumbu region.  The village of Pengboche is where many live and is the oldest village in the region and highest in the world.  Many tend their yak or sheep in pastures over 17,000 feet high.

Ram is a ‘Chetri’ a warrior caste as the top of the Hindu caste system along with Brahmans who are the priestly caste.  Ram’s father left his mother for another women leaving Ram and his brother to fend for themselves and support their mother.


Chhiring's contagious smile and easy manner made us feel he was genuinely enjoying our conversation and eager to be of assistance.  He escorted us to the Swiss Hospital high up on a hill (of course) overlooking Lukla.  It was closed for a holiday.  Knowing Steve was anxious to get the tick out, Chhiring jumped the front gate and found a doctor.  The next hour was spent digging and prodding but also getting to know the doctor and her assistant.  The Nepalese doctor Dr. Pasang Lhamu was trained in the Ukraine and is now the physician of the Swiss Hospital in Lukla.

The hospital conditions were excellent.  They used sterile technique, had autoclaved instruments, bathed the wound in Betadine and even gave Steve a Tetanus shot.  When asked about the charge there was none as it was a holiday.




We had met up with Marsha and Dave who had already changed our tickets and were anxious to get up to Namche while the weather held.  But not before Marsha had her treat…a big hot cinnamon roll!




When I retrieved my pack at the Khumbu Resort I tried to give Ram a tip.  He flatly refused explaining, “I wanted to help you”.  I was so touched, then explained to  Chhiring to please explain I too wanted to give to him…a bonus.  To this Ram accepted.


So now we have met those amazing people of all sects and caste systems who keep the trekking industry going.  Steve has decided to hire Chhiring and commissions him to carry my pack on to Namche.


Chhiring scurries around town gathering his gear as now an employed sherpa.  He explains later that he prayed all the way up from Surke to find a trekker.  If he can find three during the season, it will support his family for an entire year.  He has settled on the price of 800 rupees ($10US) a day paying his own food and lodging.  These figures never cease to amaze us as others have hired through agencies at $2000US for 2 weeks.   We started off on our own and have been blessed to find Chhring.  He is prompt, caring and even shows Steve a new way to tie his hiking boots then proceeds to tie them for him.

From Lukla, Steve , Chhiring and myself say good-bye to Chhiring's  lovely wife Dayangi and head upward once again.   From Lukla there are many trekkers who have just flown in and with porters, yak and zopkio (crossbreed between yak and cow) carrying bulging trekking gear strapped to wooden saddles all vying for space on the narrow steep trail.  


Chhring and Ram

Street passing through Lukla

Lukla Swiss Hospital

Lukla Airport
Dayangi and Chhiring Sherpa

       Sherpa porters are strong and helpful

It is a busy highway with dozens of trekkers  which is a bit disappointing after the our solitude on the lower trails.  There are also porters carrying 5 sheets of ¾ ply wood on their backs, expedition porters carrying huge water proof North Face bags some three to a porter.  We saw one with 5 cases of beer, cases of coke, and 4 – 5 liter plastic jugs of cooking fuel. 


We have read that one porter will carry up to 265 pounds!  You can’t help but admire and respect these men in almost bare feet squeezing between us and yak trains fully loaded. 

 The trek from Chuplung was so interesting as Chhiring pointed out things of interest.  It was one of the most beautiful rural scenes on the trek.  Such a difference to enjoy the surroundings.  A porter is worth his weight in gold!



Chuplung (8,727ft) is where the trail meets the main trail from Jiri and Salpa-Arun.  More trekkers join the fray.  During the months of Oct. to mid Nov. the trails are known to be clogged with bottlenecks of yak and zopkio convoys especially crossing bridges and they have our respect too, so we always move to the side to wait.  If on the trail we move to the upside as they pass as many areas are steep drops down and these animals can be very determined.  We love sharing the trail with them as the tinkling bells around their necks are music to our ears. 


One of the most deserted and partially uninhabited trails is from Phaplu to Chuplung so we are also most grateful that Marsha and Dave chose this way.  They have gone on ahead but we now have Chhiring to guide us and enjoy his first hand explanations of the area.  Local knowledge is always interesting as it unfolds as we go.   



5 cases of beer

It is hard not to feel elated in this sharp mountain air with bright sunlight warming the day  Then there is the Thado Kosi with it’s elegant bridges crossing the Kusum Khola prayer flags flapping in the wind off the bridge.  And then comes the village of Ghat a little settlement with a gompa at the end of town.


We pass many Phenpu or huge rocks with prayers engraved.  These are from the followers of ancient Bon belief who worship spirits of land, water, trees, mountains, and other natural elements.

Suspension bridges high above the river

Kata scarves and pray flags from bridge

Finally after several hours we come to Padking – lodge city.  We check in to Trekkers Holiday Inn Guest House, get a private room and bath for 600 rupees.  Chhiring knows the owners and gets to chop wood to cook the meals for his keep.  There are many trekkers here and we meet many just starting their trekking.  We learn that individual trekkers like ourselves are in the minority. 


Oct 4,2009  Padking to Namche   (9121ft. to 11,319)

Chhiring is at our room with a smile right on time, a devoted and consciences  sherpa.  We left before Marsha and Dave but were confident they would catch up as we have enjoyed our pace and know we would slow down once faced with the steep climbs.


  Padking/Trekkers Holiday Inn Guest House

The sun came out and it was a beautiful day with flatter areas, along the river, less rocky and many tea houses.  Again we cross one of the well constructed steel cable suspension bridges built by the Swiss this one in 1999 and wide enough for entire yak trains. 


The views become more spectacular after the village of Tok Tok as the sheer face of Thamserku comes into view.  Beautiful small tea houses, shops and lodges take amazingly beautiful spots next to waterfalls.


       Sharing bridges and trail with Yak trains
 We pass yak dung drying on stone walls used to cook our meals over and stone smoke houses.

        Stone smoke house          Yak dung drying on wall


         Yak dung drying for cooking fires


Monjo 9,235 feet is a small gathering area for the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park.  Here we show our TIMS card (trekking permit) we acquired in Kathmandu for 500 rupees and  pay a park fee of 1000 rupees.

Once past the Kani the trail drops steeply to another long suspension  bridge across the Dudhi Koshi and soon another long suspension bridge this one bedecked with many prayer flags and Kata scarves.  These long white silk scarves are tokens of good luck and good journey or presented to the lama at which time he will bless it then return it.

                                                                                                                          Sagarmatha National Park Entrance


We are now truly and officially in the Khumbu region leaving Solo behind.  We meet up with Marsha and Dave just as a yak train crosses the bridge pushing us all back into a space with a porter carrying wood the size of a very substantial door.


The gain upward from the bridge is very steep but there are many stone load resting areas.  Half way up about an hour from Namche we pass an area that was once the border with Tibet in the 1800’s.

Tibet border in 1800's

The walls here are so steep we must zig zag along the ridge at the Bhote Koshi circumventing the impenetrable gorge entrance to the Everest Gokyo valley.  Each step is a deliberate effort requiring a pause to catch our breath.  We check in at a police check post pass under a Kani and shortly after Namche unfolds in front of us.

NAMCHE BAZAR -  11,319ft.


      Steve across from  Kondge mountain
Namche  is a small village on the side of a hill facing the great black face of Kondge high above the Bhote Koshi river with a population of around 2000.  

The village is a colorful mix of local handicrafts and modern day trekking equipment, knock off clothing, and hand woven fabrics, western food, bakeries and traditional food.   There are no motorized vehicles, only yak or animal trains which share the stone walkways with the locals, trekkers and porters. 

Narrow Namche street/no motorized vehicles


         The local school playground                                              Cinnamon rolls, apple pies, pizza

 $2 a  night room                 Marsha in doorway of our Khumbu Lodge            $15 a night room

Every Saturday there is a traditional market and on Sunday a Tibetan market where they come from miles over the high mountain passes to sell there wares. 

Namche Local Market



Women from outer villages

Namche is also the staging point for trekkers going further up into valleys around Mt. Everest or to the Mt. Everest Base camp.  There are many options for further trekking and several loop trails.  It is one of the first stopping places to acclimatize for the higher elevations to prevent altitude sickness and prepare for the colder bleaker environment.  

              Expedition camp site above Namche

Loading up Yaks

Yak Train headed for Everest Base Camp


The first attempts on Everest were from the north in Tibet.  The Dalai Lama eventually granted permission in 1921 and the first 7 unsuccessful attempts were from Tibet.  In 1950, Everest expeditions became prohibited from Tibet, but the Kingdom of Nepal started to grant entry to foreign expeditions.

Edmond Hillary and his sherpa Tenzing Norkay were the first ever to reached the summit of Mt. Everest on the 29th of May 1953, via the route from the South Col.

 Sherpa Tenzing and Edmond Hillary 1953
Since then, overall more than 1,000 climbers from over 20 countries have climbed to the summit by various routes from both north and south.  Their ages have ranged from 13 years to sixty.  At least 100 people have perished, most commonly by avalanches, falls in crevasses, cold or the effects of the thin air and extremely high altitudes. 

Over a dozen women have made their mark in the history of climbing to the summit of Mt. Everest

                                                                                                                                    Women climbers of Mt. Everest

 Marsha, Dave and Steve have decided to continue on a loop trail for another week up the Gokyo Valley which follows the Dadhi Koshi river one pass away from the Mt. Everest Base Camp.  From there they will cross over the Renjo La pass returning to Namche via Thame. 

They head out on a rainy overcast day for the 1000ft climb to Khumjung 12,334ft.   Chhiring will be carrying Steve's pack as his sherpa and  Babu, his uncle, has been hired by Marsha and Dave as their sherpa.  


                  Leaving for Gokyo Valley Loop
I have decided to remain in Namche to await their return. Had I continued on I would have not had a fair assessment of this world around me.   

 I realized it is what I longed for, to be free for a time from the schedules, time frames and expectations.  With each day I realized I wanted  this time on my own, to re-establish my sense of independence, to let go, meditate and revive.   An opportunity for renewal.     


                                                                                                                                  Sacred sites and prayer wheels
Years ago I reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain at 19,341 ft.  The Renjo Pass was not as high but once I realized I could make it I had no desire to continue on and climb another mountain or cross another pass knowing the succession of days ahead in the cold at high altitude.  Instead I could watch, listen, feel and think.  I wanted to savor the day, going no where doing nothing here in the Himalayas.  There was no destination, no end, no purpose.  The way was my journey.

Eternal Knot door cover

Buddhism promises nothing.  It teaches us to be what we are where we are, constantly.  In the 6th point in the Eight Fold Path of the Buddhist tradition is 'Right Effort'.  There is no need to be continually just pushing along, drudging along.  If you are awake and open in living situations it is possible for them and you to be creative, beautiful, humorous and delightful.   'The Myth of Freedom by Chogyam Trunpa'

                 CLICK HERE

             Zong Doong Horns           

       Prayer wheels

       Yak butter lamps

I wake every morning to the tinkling yak bells, the smell of inscents and the buzzing sound of the Zong Doong, horns from the monastery above.  I hear the Thung shell trumpet calling the monks to prayer and see them gliding along the stone pathway in their saffron and ochre robes on their way to enlightenment.  I have seen the Tibetans arrive over high mountain passes with yak loaded with wares to sell at the market.  I sat beside the glowing flickering butter lamps before the lama observing a blessing ceremony presenting the Kata scarves for good luck and safe journey.   I am renewed. 

Namche  Bazar  Oct.9,2009


The clouds have cleared.  It is freezing cold but sunny and clear.  As I climb alone on the steep stone steps above Namche I was greeted by a trekker coming down.  “The mountain awaits you.”

Suddenly I am in that space I longed for 360 degrees surround by snow capped peaks.  And then… the mightiest of all, Mt. Everest (29,035 feet)  the highest mountain in the world.  I stood transfixed watching the jet stream lift the snow off it’s peaks and into the blue sky.  To the right is mighty Lhotse with still more streams of snow blowing upward.


 Gayla in front of Mt. Everest

Mt. Everest and Lhotse
The highest mountain on earth Mt. Everest is known by the Nepalese as Sagarmatha
The Tibetans and Sherpas name is Chomo Lungma which translates as 'Goddess Mother of the Earth' 

The panorama of mountains over 20,000 feet captures me.  Ama Dablem with it’s steep jagged peak covered in snow and then the sun rises up over Themsurku and magnificent waterfalls cascade down it’s face.  The jagged range to the right, Kasumkhanguru and beyond and below the valley we ascended from is now filled with clouds.  Kondge, directly in front of Namche rises up as does Tengirangitahu behind the monastery.   Then the sacred mountain of Khumbila which no one is allowed to climb, Tawoche, then Nupse, Lhotse and back to Mt. Everest. 


The sun rises higher and beats down on my face.  It is warm and soothing in this harsh environment.  I sit transfixed for hours.

The Kasumkhanguru Range

Longchempse, a peerless master of the deepest teachings of Tibetan Buddhism- Dgogchen or ‘The Great Perfection’ explained:  ‘High among the mountains, mind grows clear and expansive.  Perfect as the place to bring freshness when dull, or to practice visualizations.  Snow clad regions make meditation limpid, awareness bright and lucid.  Ideal for cultivating insight and where impediments are few’. 

  Dave, Marsha and  Steve continuing up the Gokyo Valley about 1000ft (300m) elevation a day stopping in Dole and Machherma

   Village of Gokyo 15,584ft. below on the banks of Gokyo Lake from Gokyo Ri


Gokyo Ri  17,575 on top of the peak                            Steve in front of Mt. Everest

 Resting en route to Renjo La in front of Mt. Everest and Lhotse


     Chhiring and Babu eating cheese to celebrate reaching Renjo La then climb the boulders to place the prayer flags

                  View from Renjo La of  Mt. Everest 29,029ft.  (8,848m)  highest mountain in the world

     Steve reaches his greatest height of 17,772ft.  (5,430m) crossing the Renjo La

"There is an art to conducting oneself in the regions by the memory of what one saw higher up.

 When on can no longer see, one can at least still know.”

  Rene Daumal

We each found our place high in the Himalayas.  Marsha and Dave discovered spending more time in the middle Himalayas gave them a better appreciation of the people and culture.   Having  Babu and Chhring as porters for the higher altitude climb was a new experience for them, one they may consider again in the future.   But most of all this was Steve's time, his first to stand high, as he found that sense of personal accomplishment in reaching heights he had never imagined
As for me it was the  journey not the destination that mattered.   I did find the renewal I had hoped for in a strange and magical environment surrounded by the most majestic mountains in the world.