The climb to Thangboche and 5600m

Saturday 26 September 2009, 9:22AM
By Global Treks n Tours

Its our sixth day under the watchful eye of Mt Everest and no one looks as hypoactive as they did two days ago as it dawns on us the walk up to Thangboche at 3864m won't be easy. 

Les Russell of Global Treks n Tours talks about the journey to Thangboche after five days in Nepal.

Day 6:

We expect to be there about 1.00pm. Most mornings we leave about 8.00am and the tramping time each day seems to be 4-5 hours. 

It’s a slow pace with plenty of time to rest, take photographs and stop at little guesthouses to have our regular intake of fluids whether it is a cup of tea or a hot lemon drink or follow the locals and have a garlic soup. They swear by garlic at altitude. 

We will be camping tonight at 3864m which is not a lot higher than Namche Bazzar where we have just left. We have to go down to cross the river. Sadly as most trampers know the downside of going down is you have to go back up the other side! And in this case it’s a big down and a big up! At the bottom we cross the bridge and after a short distance we stop for an hours break at a nice little guesthouse with  shady outdoor seating and mentally prepare ourselves for the haul to the top and Thangboche our destination. 

Our Nepali guide constantly reminds us ‘slowly slowly catch the monkey’ in other words, slow ourselves down! 10 minutes of walking up the hill and we don’t need reminding anymore! After an hour of plodding uphill through the bush the vegetation starts to thin and the mind blowing views start to come into sight. Mountains everywhere! 

Travelers at the Namche Bazzar markets.

The views certainly take your mind away from your pounding heart and laboring lungs! The thigh and calf muscles are starting to call out for more oxygen now. It doesn’t take long and we reach the top where the village of Thangboche is nestled into a small plateau. From here we can look back and see where we came from that morning. Its 12.30pm so we have done well!

We are taken to our campsite and here we just lay down to rest for awhile. The yak drivers and their wonderful Yaks carrying all the equipment will not be here for another hour so after a rest we feel that its time to start exploring this little village. We check out the Bakery (every village has a ‘German Bakery’) and chat to other tourists and wait for the 3.00pm opening of the Monastery. 

The Monks are gathering outside and the tourists are starting to gather around as well. The sign outside states women to wear suitable clothing and cover there shoulders etc but sadly every time I came here there are a few that choose to ignore that simple request. People should respect other people’s cultural beliefs, it’s not too much to ask. Inside the Monastery it’s fascinating! We spend a couple of hours here before wandering back to our camp. The cooks and Yaks have arrived while we were away and our tents have been erected and the billy boiling. 

Once again we are fussed over with lots of hot drinks, food and hot water for washing. Most people are just happy to lie down and rest. Tomorrow is a bigger day than today so it’s an early night.

We wake to the normal cup of tea and hot bathing water and over breakfast we are told that from today it will become more difficult so we must walk slowly and keep sipping away at our water. We will be walking to the village of Pheriche at 4252m. There are a number of villages around here and the bush line is now way below us, the skies so blue. 

Even though we are only carrying a day pack it’s starting to become hard work. The slight headaches have started for most people as well as the loose bowels but overall we are all doing ok. Personal hygiene is very important but that’s another story. Lip balm and sun block on your face should be applied several times a day. Tomorrow is Day 8 and it is to be a rest day but that doesn’t mean rest, it means acclimatization which means we will go for a walk higher somewhere then come back down. 

This day has always been the hardest for me but the extra day here seems to be what my body requires because I come good again and the headache goes away. It’s interesting observing other tourists here. Some of them look fine but others look very sick. There are usually 3-5 helicopters a day fly to Pheriche to remove sick people. At this altitude the helicopters need to be modified to fly here. It reminds you of how high we now are! At US$3500 per hour for a rescue helicopter you can see why Travel Insurance is so important. 

Sadly its often young people who get flown out with AMS. The reason is normally because they cannot be told that they need to slow down. They think because they are young they can shave 1-2 days off the tramp time but this is wrong. Study has shown that altitude doesn’t care about your age and in fact it is starting to look like altitude has less effect on older people. 

On this rest day we tramp to 4800m and back down again and oh it’s so good to be back!

Day 9 and it’s the normal start. Off we go to Lobuche at 4930m. We leave the cooks and Yak drivers to pack up the camp. It’s not long before we cross a rocky stream which is the water running from the glacier that starts at the bottom of the icefall on Mt Everest. It doesn’t seem so hard today and that makes for an enjoying day. The day’s walk yesterday has really helped. 

A lady at work in the Namche Bazzar markets 

It’s interesting to note that even the local porters etc going about their business don’t go any faster than we do. This is usually my rule of thumb, if I’m walking with locals carrying equipment etc I don’t walk any faster than they do and when they stop for a rest then I do as well. We climb onto a ridge that has many rock memorials for climbers that have died on Mt Everest. Lots and lots of them! Lobuche is only a small village and is only inhabited by a few for the tourist season. There is very little vegetation of any type now, just some patches of short grass but oh the views……we are all very tired but the exciting is mounting knowing that we are getting close to base camp. It’s hard to sleep tonight.

Day 10 and we tramp to the village of Gorak Shep at the same altitude as we have just left. It’s also known as the highest village in the world. It’s also the location of Base Camp for the 1953 British Expedition. Base Camp as we know it is not where Sir Ed was based during his successful summit of Mt Everest. The distance today is not very far so we arrive early. After a rest and a meal we are pointed to a well worn path leading up Kala Pattar. If we wish to see the best views of Mt Everest then we must climb this rather large hill. We have all afternoon to do this so off we go with our day packs carrying drinking water, camera and windproof jacket. It’s a long haul up there but it’s worth it! We finally reach a rocky point covered with Prayer flags where we cannot go any further so we sit down and just stare all around us. 

Mt Everest is only one mountain that we see. It’s hard to describe the emotion one feels while sitting here looking at the highest place on earth. We are sitting at nearly 5600m yet the summit of Mt Everest is still more than 3km’s higher than we are! Most photographs of Mt Everest are taken from this very spot. Our guide points out where Base Camp is way down below us on the glacier and that’s where we will be tomorrow. It looks a long way but we have come this far so nothing will stop us now!


This is the second installment of a series of stories by Les Russell about Global Treks n Tours trips to Mt Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

See the first articles here: 5 days into a once in a life time experience

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