Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Three Passes of Everest...

                                                           "Everest One Handed Handstand"

Here is a link to some photos from the trek

Well where do I begin.  Wow what an experience from start to finish.  Hmm lets start from March 6th., that is when I had to pick up mt TIMMS card. (a record system of all individual foreign trekkers).  I had not planned on doing this trek alone (guide was recommended).  As I was filling out the form I struck a conversation with another trekker.  He did not know what he wanted to do so he decided to join me.  This was good for me, cause if I ran out of food, I could then resort to Cannibalism.  We shall call this guy Bill Julson for privacy reason.  I will be mentioning this "Bill" often along with two lovely Brits that I met later on in the Journey...

On a side note Bill asked me what he should have for the trek and I gave him a list of things to make sure he had.  The funny thing is that when I met him at the airport he had the worst possible shoes on a person could have.  I met fricking porters and Sherpas who had better footwear (for those that do not trek, they usually are barefoot, or wear sandal, or shoes that do not even have laces and are littered with holes), he was wearing old shoes that were lower than "lo tops".  I thought this was interesting cause we were going to be doing "three passes" all snow covered with up to 3-5 feet of snow.  Oh well it makes for an interesting story and I was not the one suffering...  Well here we go...

March 7th:
The flight was of course delayed which is a common occurrence with mountain flights.  I boarded the 18 passenger twin otter flown by "Tara Airlines" which is an affiliate of Yeti Airlines...  I think they changed the name due to the fact of their recent plane crash at Lukla that killed everyone.  So for anyone that does not know, Lukla airport is (Tenzing-Hillary) the most dangerous airport in the world to land an take off at due to it's short length of only 1500 feet.  There is no room for error here, as at one end of the runway is a mountain, and at the other end, is a 2000 ft. cliff drop off.   Here is a link check it out... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lukla_Airport
I rushed the Terminal get to be the first one on the plane as I wanted to sit in front (pretty much in the cockpit) and soak of the views.  I video taped the landing and I will post it when I get back to the US.  After a smooth flight and an outstanding landing I arrived in Lukla, where I was pretty much "attacked" by numerous people wanting to be my guide and or porter.  After collecting my bag, I headed out towards the trek.  It took about 10 minutes to get out of town, which was a ghost town (low season).  We (Bill and I) trekked 2-3 hours to Bengkar (2630m).  This was hell for me, cause I was coming off of three days of being sick, and had not eaten a meal in that time.  When we arrived I had my first full meal of Dal Baht (Nepalese Rice and Soup dish)  which satisfied me well.  Today was a nice hike and the valley was amazing with some spectacular views of the mountains we were trekking to.  The night spent here was probably going to be the last "warm night" spent on the whole trek...

March 8th:
The next morning I awoke feeling like a million bucks and we started early on our way up to Namche Bazaar.  This was a good elevation gain for us, over 800 meters.  Bill definitely started feeling the effects of altitude today.  Today we got our first view of Everest way off in the distance.  We arrived in Namche early afternoon and stayed at the Khumbu Lodge (Jimmy Carter stayed here in 1985 was their claim to fame).  It was nice place.  Walked around town and purchased some stuff for Bill, which he not gotten yet.  Now he was better prepared and we were ready to tackle the mountains and snow in his low top dress shoes...  It was cloudy most of the day, so we never really got any good views from Namche.  Went to bed early.

March 9th:

According to my guide book we should have stayed another day in Namche (for acclimation reasons) but I was antsy and wanted to get going and so did Bill, he was ready, willing, and able.  So we headed out toward Tengboche in the morning.  To challenge us a bit we took the high route, which took us to the Japanese built Everest View Hotel.  This, accordingly to Guiness World Records is the highest hotel in the world.  They used to fly guest straight to the hotel where they were put into "pressurized" rooms, so they would not get altitude sickness. (stupid idiots)  This practice did not last long.  The rooms are over a 100 bucks a night and food is outrageous, considering a hot chocolate is about 8 bucks.  Nice building and nice views, but not for me.  From here we made our way down to the main trail.  It is here where we fell on our asses many times and got really dirty and covered in a mixture of mud and Yak shit.  Woo hooTengboche (3860m)  Heaps of snow everywhere, we checked out a bunch of lodges and settled on the Himalaan View Lodge.  It is here that we met 2 people that would be our trekking friends along the way.  After Settling in I sat down and talked to the two Brits for a bit and found out that they were doing the "three passes" trek.  We decided to do it together (hopefully they would not regret it)  We went to the Monastery in the village and watched the monk pray for about an hour (which was 58 minutes to long), and froze my toes off.  Tonight was the first night that I was glad that I had my nice -20 down sleeping bag to keep me warm.   No comment for Bill...

March 10th:

Woke up to clear skies and amazing sunrise photos.  The Brits took off early and we were going to meet them at the end of the day.  This is where my Camera started getting it's first work out.  I took heaps of photos.  After about 9am we headed out, and were treated to a group of the Monks skiing on their homemade skis, which consisted of some plastic piping and some boards of plywood.  I was also treated to my first great views of my favorite mountain of the trek (Mt. Ama Dablam)  The walk down through the fresh snow was a surreal experience as the trees hung over you as they were about to reach down and hug you.  You could not see sky, only branches with fresh snowfall on them, it was something out of a fairy tale book.  This part of the trek was so much fun for me, with outstanding 360 degree views of the Himalayas.  Each step you took was taking you down the throat of the great Mountain range and closer to the mighty Everest.  I also attempted my first of many (One handed handstands) with the Mountains in the background.  After about 5-6 hours of hiking and photo taking (Bill also did not have a camera with) we arrived in Dingboche (4410m) and met up with our new friends at the Snow Lion Lodge.  This place by far had the best food on the whole trek and it was a shame we only spent one night there.

March 11th:

Woke up had a lovely breakfast and made our way up to Chhukhung(4730m)  Here we met up with some Great people from all over the world, and we decided to do Chhukhung Ri together the next day.  The rest of the day was used as a "rest day", but of course I could not sit still so I wandered around the surrounding valley with two Israeli's.  That afternoon and night we played cards (Presidents and Assholes)  which was great fun, and became a tradition most nights of the trek.

March 12th:

Today we got up early to make the ascent to the top Of Chhukhung RI (5550m)  which would be the highest point of this whole trek (minus all that great Sherpa Weed we smoked jk Mom)  For me I was excited, I could not contain my Energy.  Hung with the group of us early but headed to the top as fast as I could.  When I got up there (100mins), and had the whole place to myself for nearly 20 minutes, and just sat up there in awe as I turned and looked at the endless Mountain ranges in front and behind of me.  The views were picture postcards.  This moment, this very moment is why I do what I do, and you cannot explain it until you get up and do it for yourself.  The photos do it no justice.  When you are over 18,000 feet up in the air looking down on massive glaciers and lakes, and then you look up to these Peaks that seem to go forever, you are having one of the most surreal moments that you could ever have.  When the rest of the group arrived, we all still stood around with amazement.  We were lucky to have such a great day for the summit.  It was a challenge but we all made it up and back down safely.  Wow what a day...

March 13th:

So much for rest days...  Today was our Kongma La Pass (5535m) attempt.  We left a little before 6am, as we have read it takes nearly 9-10 hours to do this summit with 800 metres of ascent and 600 meters of shitty down hill in scree and snow.  We were told by many people that the Pass was closed, and we were having second thoughts.  Locals were telling us that the snow was up to our chest along the pass.  It is one thing when someone says this, but when we are repeatedly told by many...  But hell it is all about the adventure and if we got stuck we could always eat Bill.  We headed out and were treated to an amazing sunrise as we made are climb up towards the pass.  Thanks to our trusty map reader we were able to navigate through the first valley to a frozen waterfall.  Here we took a break and took a nice lunch while soaking up the "sexy" views around us.  After this we struggled through the snow the rest of the way.  It was not to bad.  It never really got over a meter deep, but there were some areas where it was up to our waists and we would hit little packets of snow where we fell in.  It was adventure, but 5 and a half hours later we were at the Pass.  Amazing views again.  Took many photos and looked down at what was to come (looked pretty ugly) Took us awhile to get down, slipping and sliding on the snow and rocks all the way down for 2-3 hours.  Next we hit the Khumbu Glacier (one of the largest in the world)  Here we had to go up and down endless amounts of times while hearing the Ice Crack and rocks fall around us.  One and half hours later we were in Lobuche (4910m).  This made us the first non natives to make the pass in 2011.  Guides and Sherpas did not believe us, and we had to show them the photos.  Had a massive dinner and a well deserved rest that night. What a day...

March 14th:
Rest Day, a much deserved one, but of course I could not sit still.  The four of us slept in and did a little trip up to the Italian Pyramid (Built to Measure K2 and Everest).  Today it is used to monitor Global warming and weather patterns.  We took a tour of the place, and this was a lot of fun.  This is where we found out about the Japan Quake and Tsunami.  They were monitoring the possibility of a nuclear cloud from the station here.  The research team there had core drilled one of the local glacier the previous year and in it they had found traces of waste from the Hiroshima bomb.  Crazy shit.  After the tour they headed back to the Guesthouse and I decided to wander around on the Khumbu Glacier for a bit alone.  I trekked over scree and Ice to two different lakes and Ice fall areas.  Had a blast and took heaps of photos.

March 15th:

Made our way in the morning up to Gorak Shep(5140m).  This is the highest village and closest to Everest Base camp, and Kala Patthar.  This was about a 2-3 hour trek in one of the worst winds I have encountered.  Straight into it we walked as we got sandblasted the first hour.  We arrived, and dropped our stuff.  It was rather clear so I decided to make a try for Kala Patthar (5545m).  Bill joined me and we made the trek into the wind.  Two hours we reached the summit.  Now everyone says this is the best view of Everest, but I was not to impressed.  Every other viewpoint we went to was much better.  Hung out here for about 10 minutes and made our way down.  Ate some lunch and I said, "shit man lets do Everest base camp"  most people do one or the other, not both in the same day.  Of course Bill came with.  It was a nice hike with some great views.  You cannot actually see Everest from the Camp, as it is located on a Glacier right next to the Mountain and it is obscure by the nearer mountains.  Since it was not quite yet climbing season camp was not set up, so basically it was a couple of rocks with Everest Base Camp written on them and some prayer flags scattered all over.  The surrounding area was beautiful, as it was actually on the Glacier.  Took heaps of photos and headed back as we watched the near full moon rise from the Mountains.  Later that night we found out that the Porters staying at our guesthouse were on there way up the following day to set up base camp.  An expedition was going to be starting to summit Everest in 2 weeks.

March 16th:

Woke up early and watched the sunrise on Everest was a powerful experience for me.  I sat there for quite awhile watching the clouds pound into the side of the massive Mountain as the sun rose from behind it.  Bill and I headed down to Lobuche to meet up with the Brits.  At 130 we met up with them and then made are way to the last village before the Cho La Pass.  It really was not a village but 2 guesthouses.  One was closed and one was a piece of shit run by a bunch of weirdos.  This place was Dzongla(4830m) and I could not wait to get out of here...

March 17th:

So got up early again eating breakfast and starting the trek by 6am.  Weather was nice and I was taking layers off as soon as the sun popped up.  The nice thing about this hike is you could look behind you and see the magnificent Aba Dablam Mountain centered in the valley Again I had some extra energy and that might be the fact that I just wanted to get as far and as fast away from that place as possible.  Today was going to be another 9-10 hour day.  Took about 1 hour to get to the face of the pass, and then it was basically straight up for about 45 minutes.  When you got to the first ridge, you could see the massive snow field (glacier) you had to cross.  Luckily it had not snowed recently or else we would have been in trouble.  It was about a mile across the snowfield until you arrived to Cho La Pass(5368m).  Here we took a well deserved break and snacked a bit and checked out the views on the other side for which was all new views for us.  This was probably my favorite pass as a whole from start to finish.  Had so much to over and was just amazing walking on a gigantic ice field at over 5000 meters.  Well the way down sucked, as it was a gruelling 5 hour descent over scree, and up and down over valleys.  To cap it off we had to traverse another stupid glacier, but it was not as bad Khumbu.  We were rewarded with a final destination of Gokyo(4790m), which happens to be my favorite village on the whole trek  Luckily we left when we did, because the fog and snow was coming just as we entered the first guest house along the lake...

March 18th:

Gokyo has a series of sacred lakes located to the north and south of the village.  All were fully covered in ice except the largest one nearest to town which had a small area exposed with the river running into it.  Bill and I headed up to Gokyo Ri around 830am.  We were going to rest, but the day was pretty nice.  About halfway up the clouds were rolling in, but these were valley clouds, not ones that would obscure Everest.  It took about 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the top of Gokyo Ri(5360m)  Here were the most astounding views of the whole Everest Region.  Everest and all the Surrounding Mountains were completely exposed to our eyes, and we gawked for hours at the impressive sites.  Clouds kept rolling in, but they just kept dancing off the mountains as if they were like cotton candy being made fresh at the local fair.  Cloud were below us, but it was mostly clear views 360 degrees around us.  The sun beat down on us, and we were in T-shirts before to long.  Then of course I stripped down to my underwear to take some glamour shots and of course to be an idiot.  Also threw in one of my classic hand stand shots.  Spent about 3 hours up there wandering around.  The peak itself was more of a saddle or cradle and you could walk a great distance along it to get your preferred vantage point.  Well on the way down the clouds started coming in and it started cooling down.  Of course when I got back down to the lake, I decided to do what most people do from Minnesota.   Yes that is go for a dip in the frozen lake.  Now this is a sacred lake and I did not want to offend anyone, granted I already was with my smell and Star War Pajamas.  So I asked a few locals and they said it would be fine, it is just sacred to the Sherpas.   Their next question was "so you are going in know?"  They looked at me as if I was a crazy Yeti.  Well I jumped in, lets just say I did not stay in long, and I think I lost part of my manhood in the process...  Well what a day that was and of course we ended it with many hours of playing some cards...

March 19th:

So the Brits did not go up the day before to the top, so they went up this morning.  The weather was great and we decided to go up again.  The views were even better this time (I bet you I took at least 300 photos from this area up top)  Spent about 3 hours up there this time and then headed back down for some fresh popcorn and hot chocolate...

March 20th:

Today we were going to do the Renjo La Pass which would be the final one, but the wind was horrible, so we decided to put it off for a day.  Hung around town and we ordered a Yak Burger, which in hind sight, is what caused me to get sick the following day.

March 21:

So how many of you have done a pass over 5300 meters with massive shits?  Well I will tell you this, it sucks.  So got an early start and I felt like shit (no pun intended)  lets just say I was lightening my load on the way up to make it easier.  It took about 4 hours and we got to the pass, man what a relief.  I thought I was going to die.  Renjo La Pass(5360m) had spectacular views all around, and Everest stood in the background as a force to be reckon with.  Hung out for about 30 minutes and then made are way down.  The top third of the pass was recently made staircases all done by had labor (massive rocks).  Quite impressive and made it quite easier to go down.  3-4 hours later we arrived at the first guest house appropriately named Renjo La Pass Support lodge.  Here we decided to stay.  I just chilled and relaxed as I was not feeling to hot.

March 22:

Today if we would have done the pass I would have not made it.  I have never in my life felt so helpless.  The Brits took off early and I just basically did a small slow crawl (I actually think 2 glaciers passed me on the left hand side)  4 hours later we arrived in Thame.  Here is where I took a nap and popped some pills.  When I awoke I felt better and had a little bread to eat.  Now it was pretty much downhill from here back to Namche and we arrived there around 5pm.  Where I ran into some German friends that I had met in Chitwan.  I just wanted to lay down and rest and that is what I did.

March 23rd. 

Today was going to be a long day all the way back to Lukla.  It was a pretty good day, and it was very warm out, as I was in a t-shirt all day.  Along the way we saw heaps more people, and massive yak trains hauling Everest Expedition supplies.  I am glad that we did this trek when we did, because I hate crowds.  Along the way you begin to appreciate the warmth as we had froze our ass off the last 2 weeks (well Bill more than I).  We got to Lukla around 1pm and found a nice guesthouse next to the airport so we could watch planes crash...I mean land and take off...  It is amazing watching them come in for approach and take off.   That night we met out at the local pub for one last hurrah together as a group.  We signed our names above a Nepali flag along the wall and said our good byes to the great region of Everest.  We were already discussing plans for the near future for some visits to do some summits in the area.  Cannot wait...

March 24th:

Pretty uneventful minus the small flight delay.  Made it back safely to Kathmandu and just wanted a good nights sleep in warmth and comfort.  Funny I had to come back to this shit hole to get a good nights sleep.  Oh well....What to do in Kathamandu? 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Langtang, Chitwan, and Throwing Up

Well the last two weeks were amazing.   Met and made many friends, saw some beautiful sites, and of course puked for only the second time in my life.  So we begin in Langtang.  The beginning of this journey was quite interesting.  Of course it began with a horrible bus ride for 9 hours...Bumpy, Dusty, and people throwing up (not me though, that will come later).  I spent last entry complaining about the bus ride, this time I will talk more about the trek.  So I met a couple fellow Americans and a French Guy on the bus, but it was the two Americans and I that started the trek together.  The first day was a great day of hiking up along the river through a glorious forested valley.   We saw heaps of birds and many monkeys along the way.  We stayed at Lama Hotel (village name) on the first night.  Stayed with a family that had just introduced a new member to the family (16 day old baby boy).  It was the cutest thing... After a decent nights sleep we headed up the valley the next morning.
The next village we hiked to was the actual village of Langtang.  Along the way it gradually got colder and there was snow beginning to show more and more.  Here at our guesthouse I met my "mini me" Nepali version of me.  The kid was a riot.  I might have actually been cleaner than him, but not by much. (check out the photos from the links below).
The next day was on to the last village of the valley.  We stayed at a great guest house run by a young couple with a 9 month old baby girl.  I was kind of made honorary "uncle" while I was there.  The other two Americans took off the following morning while I stuck around for another 2 nights.  There was heaps of snow on the way up and it only got deeper as we made are way there.  All the day hike trails from this area were impossible to locate so I pretty much had to make my own path.  After my new friends left I attempted to do the Mountain summit of Tserko Ri.  This was around 5000 meters and as I headed out to hike it, I could see the clouds coming in.  I tried anyways.  about halfway up she started to snow, and I made it about 4/5ths to the top when I decided to abort my ascent (first time ever).  Did not feel like being frozen to death on the side of a hill by myself.  Probably one of the best decisions I ever made (besides dropping out of college).  So I lived to see another day.  So what does one do to following day?  I decided to trek for 10 hours through 1-3ft of snow to the glacier of one of the side valleys.  Now this was hell.  I have trekked all over, and I have never been so exhausted.  Pretty much made a straight line to the glacier, which now when I look back at it, it probably would have been quicker to go up high on a ridge and come back down to it, but what the hell it was a learning experience.  Hanging out at the terminal face was a riot.  Watching ice fall in front of me and hearing the ice crumble and rumble in the higher valley parts was a blast.  After spending an hour on the glacier, I started to make my way back.  I got about halfway back when two climbers (I say climbers cause they were hauling all their gear to do a summit) yelled down to me. "are you all right?"  I said "yeah of course" and carried on, but then they shouted back "you are nowhere near the trail"  and I answered "yeah I know, but I am having fun".  They shouted back "you are crazy and good luck"  and I said "thanks"...  This whole conversation was taking place at nearly 1000 feet apart as they were up on the ridge looking down at this "kid" who is up to his waste in snow moving about 5 feet per minute...  oh well it is all about the adventure.
When I got back to the house I ate 2 meals and drank heaps of water and sat up and talked with the family about everything about life and how life in Langtang is different from life in America.  While we were talking, the parents would take turns holding the now naked baby close to the fire and rotate the girl as if she was a rotisserie chicken on a skewer.  It was kind of comical, but an everyday occurrence for this family.  After the fire burned out I headed to bed.  The next morning I said my goodbyes and made my way back down the valley.  Trekked about 7 hours and stayed at a nice little place with 3 beds and had an amazing sunset to fall asleep to.
The next morning I headed a new route back to the beginning of the trail head.  This required me to make a nice ascent and then hang out on a ridge on the opposite side of the Mountain range that I just walked up the middle of.  This detour was amazing.  Beautiful views, sweet smells (not me) and a great companion from Sweden I met along the trail.  One of the coolest experiences I have ever had visually was on this stretch (and I am not talking acid or mushrooms)  So me and this 60 year old Gardener from Sweden are chilling on the hillside when all of sudden we can see this "grainy" spotted black circle coming near us.  It took a minute before I realized it was a massive flock (500-1000) of very large black birds.  They were swaying this way and that, figure 8's and what not.  They would bear left and disappear and then all of a sudden reappear out of thin air.  They did this as they gained altitude and made their way further up the valley.  After about 15 minutes (and out of sight) of silence and watching the aviation spectacle all that the Swede and I could do is just look at each other and say "whoa" at the same time.  Simply remarkable.  Well we split paths as he was heading to another village, I embarked on the horrible 900 meters of straight downhill hell...  I have the blisters to prove it...  The next day was sure to be better after showering and going to bed early...
Woke up and I got on the first bus out of town, which is also the local alarm clock cause they toot this annoying horn at the wee hours of 6am loud and clear.  To make the ride better, I decided to ride on top with a couple of locals.  I tell you the 3 dollars I spent to ride this bus, is a hell of a lot cheaper than an amusement park ticket, and twice as fun...  Nine hours later, and heaps of peas eaten, and a few near "fall offs" I was back in Kathamandu.  But only for about 9 hours.
I met my friend Ryan that I met on the Annapurna Circuit for dinner and we booked our ticket to Chitwan National Park.  On the ride down I started getting sick (not motion sickness, just bad sick)  we got to the park chilled for a bit and as I sat up I was like "Ryan I think you might want to leave cause I am going to heave"  before he even shut the door behind him, it was coming up.  Horrible feeling.  But felt great afterwards.  I paid for all my meals in advance, and I only ate once during the 2-3 day ordeal.  Watched the sunset along the river (are hut was located on the river) and headed to bed.  The next morning got up early and did a canoe trip for an hour, saw some crocs, deer and heaps of birds.  Then we had to hike back to the hotel, which shit man, I am sick and I half to walk back..?  We were searching for some Rhino's which we saw (from 10-20feet up in a tree that we had to climb)  I am sure I would have enjoyed this more had I not felt like shit, but man, that 3 hour walk was the longest 3 hours of my life.  I was actually thinking I would rather be healthy and trekking in 3 feet of snow again...  Well when we made it back it was bath time.  That is with the elephants.  This was a blast  they would lay on their sides and you could scrub them down, then you could crawl on their back and they would fill their trunks up with water and spray you down.  Great fun.  After this we went through the Jungle on them and had a blast (I know people and their views on riding elephants in Thailand it was horrible, but these elephants are well taken care of and were never struck with those stupid metal hooks found in other countries)  I would have not rode one had I seen mistreatment of them.  That night we ended with a culture show which was a blast, that involved dancing, fire and a crazy peacock.  We met some great Germans after the show and we ended up meeting up back at Kathmandu.  We ended up going bowling and seeing the movie "The Fighter"  which is really good...  I highly recommend it...
Oh by the way I am feeling much better, today was my first day that I ate three meals.  I lost a bit of weight, but I am sure I will put it on soon enough...  Well it is getting late and I am off to bed, I have an early flight to Everest in the morning.
The links below are for your enjoyment....

and of Chitwan...