Featured Image: Just another mountain (outside lodge gate, Dingboche)
Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 December 2016
Trekking in the Everest Region in Spring 2013: Phortse to Lukla via Dingboche
April 16 to Macchermo to Phortse
In Everest Region Trekking 1 we finished on the way back from Gokyo at Macchermo halted by bad weather. Teresa in her Trek Report (see below) says of that night: we danced our buns off last night and went to bed at the unthinkable time of 9.30. Great to see the totally unselfconscious way our boys dance with us and with each other.
In consequence next day — a long day — became longer but it was very interesting, quite different to coming the other way and much quicker downhill. Dhole was full of yaks getting ready to move up the trail. Phortse Denga where we’d stayed before on the river was again a lovely place for a brief stop. I never find retracing one’s steps in Nepal is a bother because it is always different.
Unfortunately, our destination was Phortse the main village — the zig to the right and new territory — which is on a plateau high above the river. The walk was fascinating but a slog at the end of the day.
Teresa says: By the time we reached Phortse the village was shrouded in mist. Clouds swirled around the ancient chortens and old houses. Wonderfully atmospheric. The lodge was a rather traditional, shabby place but the dining room was cosy and the food good. Were we low enough to enjoy a rum and coke again?
April 17 to April 19 Phortse, Pangboche, Dingboche, Bibre (tea house)
It is a really steep pull up out of Phortse, straight out of the lodge. We followed a bunch of yaks that were headed up, unloaded, for a spell of high-pasture grazing. The lovely soft brown one having a dust bath was entertaining. Sadly, the view from the ridge was fairly cloudy. Thamserku and Kang Tega came and went in and out of the clouds but Amadablam was very shy indeed, appearing only once for a few minutes.
It is a very rugged little trail, not as well-used as the main track up to Everest Base Camp. I especially like the towering dark crags above the trail. We saw pheasants, mountain goats and then one lone blue sheep high on a crag.
Thamaserku (6608 m) and Kangtega (6782 m) were new mountains to me or new views but our old friend Ama Dablam (6812 m) looked quite different from the other side.
We stopped at old Pangboche and attracted by burning juniper and incense had a cup of tea and witnessed Bhuddist monks chanting at a new house blessing ceremony, which was very interesting. We then walked on to Pangboche.
The trekking village of Pangboche is quite extensive with a few little shops, a bakery, a phone service and a trinket stall. Our lodge, the Sri Dewa, is very comfortable with large beds (most welcome after last night’s narrow, sloping bunks) and a very helpful didi. The yak-dung fire has been going flat out since 3 pm and everyone has had a gas hot shower. (Teresa)
On the morning of the 18th, we minimised our possessions and stored unwanted gear for a two night trek and stay at Dingboche.
The climb up to Somare village (4010 m) was relatively arduous. We passed a lot of World Expedition porters as Teresa says loaded like donkeys and carrying too much, some more than 40 kilos. We were on the trail to base camp here but diverted again to Dingboche although some base camp treks come this way (it is more spectacular).
Dingboche is a pleasant village with some farming. We stayed in a large but comfortable lodge, which we shared with other groups. Next day was a rest day but although it was cold and windy in unsheltered spots, it was also sunny. A few of us set-off towards Chukkhung.
Dingboche (4410 m) is the start of the walk to the Island Peak (6189 m) climb — the easiest small peak in Nepal. (Dorje had done it with some adventurous souls the previous year.)
A small group of us made it to the teahouse at Bibre (close to 5000 m), which was sheltered and didn’t continue on to Chukkhung (4730 m) because of the wind. Despite the weather it was a pleasant and interesting walk with excellent views of the mountains including the approaches to Island Peak. Denise and I stayed at the Bibre teahouse for about an hour. It was very pleasant in the sun and a huge rock and the building sheltered us from the wind.
The whole time we were there one man from one of the commercial treks lay slumped across one of the tables with his head in his hands, others of his small party also looked a bit green and unwell. One wonders if it is worth it trekking when one hasn’t become acclimatised.
We decided not to go on to Chukkung, which we could see from Bibre and headed back well-wrapped in everything we had into the teeth of the wind.
The four (two trekkers and two guides) who had split from our party at Gokyo and gone over the Cho La Pass to base camp and Kala Patthar arrived in Dingboche at 4pm very tired but content.
April 20 to 21 Dingboche, Pangboche, Dengboche, Thangboche Monastery, Kangzuma
It snowed overnight. The wind disappeared and next morning was a wonderland. It was snowing lightly but beautiful when we headed off down to Somare. At the tea stop we met and old friend of Teresa’s who’d been trekking alone around the Everest Region for a month. He was in his 60s but always teams up with someone for high passes and in remote places.
In the nice Sri Dewa lodge at Pangboche, also covered in snow, we picked up our gear and some wonderful dried washing. It stopped snowing after lunch and the village and valley looked gorgeous.
The walk down to Devouche was easy and across the bridge the walk was through rhododendron forest and birch woods. We stayed at the very posh Rivendell Lodge at Dengboche (a clever ploy by Teresa at this stage of the trip). Big beds, clean western style toilets and gas showers. Chicken, chips and vegetables were very popular after our vegetarian fare since Namche. And our own music on the lodges sound system.
It snowed most of the night. The morning was gloomy with an occasional mountain view through the mist. But, it was still and not that cold. The forested trail up to Thangboche was stunning, despite the melting snow and sometimes muddy trail.
Thangboche Monastery is renowned for its views particularly of Everest but today it was misty and atmospheric instead. The only viewpoint on the trip where we had no views at all.
The trail plunges steeply from Thangboche. It must be a long hard haul up. We dropped out of the clouds quickly and the view down to the river was spectacular. There was still plenty of snow but not on the busy trail. The rhododendrons were spectacular particularly the snow covered ones.
The rhododendrons after three weeks were magnificent in the advancing Spring.
We descended over 700 metres to Phunki Tenga for lunch. The new bridge was not so new any more and we had to wait for long lines of yaks to cross ahead of us. (Never meet a yak on a bridge, or you might end in the river.) The fried rice was delicious!
It was quite warm down here. The climb back up to Kangzuma was steep but not difficult without the altitude.
Just before Kankzuma I took a photograph of the team, mostly guide porters, I think the rest were in front or behind. A few more rhododendrons are peeping through the mist.
April 22 to 24 Kangzuma, Namche Bazaar, Chumoa, Lukla
It snowed again overnight but was clear. We left early walking into a winter wonderland once more. The trial was relatively flat. It was chilly and beautiful. The two hours went too quickly before we were having tea at the Hotel Everest once more. We spent a couple of hours wandering around Namche before heading down the big hill.
A few of us huddled on a pinnacle of rock above the bridge awaiting an endless train of yaks and dzo to pass. It began to rain in earnest but we were a cheerful bunch. An American began ‘Singing in the Rain’ and we all joined in. A magic moment.
We slogged on through the rain to the gates of Nirvana our favourite lodge. All the group were here, waiting impatiently an hour for their food. We latecomers were served fried rice in minutes, go figure.
It was raining miserably but we forged on through the mud and puddles down stone steps cascading with water. Dorje called a halt at Chumoa. A fire had been lit when we arrived and we all stripped off our wet gear to be dried in the glass palace of a dining room.
The rain stopped in the twilight and the view was beautiful. Next morning dawned clear. The valley was much greener and the spring more advanced than when we’d left. It was a long haul back to Lukla but very pretty and an amazing contrast to the high altitudes we’d come from. It was also rather sad our last walking day.
Arriving at Lukla, we stayed at the North Face Resort in seeming luxury. Eating and drinking like non-vegetarians once more. Early morning and continuing beautiful weather made us confident of the flight back to Kathmandu, where we duly arrived after 21 days on trek.
From previous experience (though we seem to have become stuck on around 21 days) three weeks is about right for a main trek in Nepal. We’ve done this four times: Jomsom, Muktinath, ABC in 2004; Langtang, Gosainkunda, Helambu twice in 2005 and 2009; and now Everest Region in 2013. It takes a few days to bed in a trek, before you become used to getting up in the morning looking forward to a day’s walking. It takes a few days more before you no longer think about it, when getting up and going walking becomes part of the natural order of things. Your legs get stronger after about ten days and you no longer notice that it’s difficult. Then, you can walk uphill for eight hours and not feel imposed upon.
The best part of trekking also comes after about ten to 14 days. You begin to have the most vivid dreams, sometimes recalling people you haven’t seen or thought about for years. It seems to take that time for your brain to quieten down and for the cares and preoccupations of civilisation and the electronic world to die away. It’s great. The other good thing about trekking is that you can go to bed around nine at night and sleep like a log for nine hours or more but wake up feeling wonderful, perhaps a bit stiff but that goes away quickly.
We were very lucky with the weather in our trekking in the Everest Region. We mostly had fine weather when it was important; the occasional wind is inevitable, but again we had less than expected. The snow was important to show us the different aspects of the region but it was never a nuisance. If you get the chance you must try it! And, don’t get focused on going to base camp. It’s not necessary.
The whole tourist climbing of Everest and the need to experience base camp is becoming tacky. Some feel that there needs to be a moratorium on climbing Everest, perhaps until the bodies are removed and a clean-up of the rubbish on the mountain is done. The climbing Sherpas and the porters themselves are in a difficult situation. They need the work and the money but they are also uneasy about the situation. I think the overcrowding on Everest is ludicrous, the idea of 600 people on the mountain at one time and queues waiting to climb each section is obscene.
The documentary Sherpa 2015 by Jennifer Peedom is worth watching to gain an idea of what climbing Everest is from the Sherpa’s point of view. Peedom was beginning to do this documentary during the 2014 climbing season, when tragedy struck. At 6.45 am on April 18, a 14,000 ton block of ice fell on the climbing route on the Khumbu Icefall killing 16 Sherpas. It was the worst tragedy to strike Everest.
Over the following days, in the emotionally charged atmosphere, the Sherpas collectively closed the 2014 climbing season on Everest. Peedom follows these events rigorously and sensitively.
In 2015 on 25 April at 3.32 pm, the massive earthquake in Nepal unleashed an avalanche on Everest base camp, which killed 19 expedition members, 10 of them Sherpas. Again in various parts of Nepal, a tendency to favour tourists over Nepalis on helicopter evacuations also caused anger, even occasionally when it was not justified.
Climbers in the 1950s, including Hillary, made the decision to treat the Sherpas they climbed with better than was normal in that era. They paid decent wages and became involved in Sherpa culture, education and community support. Some of this has been lost in intervening years both in climbing and in the rise in trekking tourism. I don’t have any instant fixes and realise that I am part of the problem. All I can say is that we need to treat the region and the Nepalese people with sensitivity.
Album and Slidshow via Google Photos.
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Key Words: Trekking, Nepal, Everest Region, Spring, Machhermo, Dhole, Phortse, Pangboche, Dingboche, Bibre, Chukkung, Kangzuma, Namche Bazaar, Chumoa, Lukla, Ama Dablam, Island Peak, snow, rhododendrons, Teresa, Slow Trekking
Teresa’s Slow Trekking Website
Teresa’s Trek Report
Guide Porters for arranging your own trekking
Dorje (Kathmandu/Everest), Lahar (Pokhara/Annapurna) are both lead guides. When not working for Teresa they are available to organise trekking and can always arrange for guide porters from their own networks. The best way to do this is to contact Teresa who is happy to work out what you need and pass you on to them. If you haven’t trekked in Nepal before, I’d highly recommend Teresa’s slow trekking as the way to start.
Mountains around Dingboche
Everest 8848 m
Lhotse 8516 m
Hillary Peak 7681 m
Nuptse 7861 m
Ama Dablam 6812 m
Island Peak 6189 m
Cho Polo 6735 m
Num Ri 6677 m
Baruntse 7152 m
The tragedies on Everest in 2014 and 2015
IMDB on Sherpa 2015
Youtube discussion with Jennifer Peedom about the film (37 min)
YouTube Footage of the Avalanche in2015