November 16, 2022
Start: Pheriche 4371m (14,340ft)
Via: Tengboche 3867m (12,687ft)
Stop: Namche Bazaar 3440m (11,284ft)
Distance: 20km (12.5 miles)
Last night I was all tucked in and asleep by 7:40pm. But descending deep into this valley has its consequences. All that pristine, cold, dense Himalayan air has settled in at Pheriche and it feels like our coldest night of the whole trip. Over and over I wake up terrified because I keep dreaming that I’m freezing to death like they did in the Everest movie we watched yesterday afternoon. My sleep data shows that I got a lot of deep sleep, but it hasn’t put a dent in how exhausted I feel. It’s so cold that the flush water freezes in our bathroom. The tub of water over the sink for hand washing is frozen solid. In the morning, the bitter cold makes it hard to focus on dressing and packing efficiently. I have to stop every 30 seconds to warm my hands in my pockets. Our porters seem unfazed by the cold as they efficiently pack their loads for the day outside of our rooms.
After a plain omelet breakfast, I head back to the room for my final preparations. As I exit the dining hall the young woman who’s been looking distressed for days, is audibly wheezing. OMG, like really loud! I collect my backpack and step out of our room just in time to watch a helicopter come flying into the valley. The young woman and her gear is escorted by her guides and our guides all the way across the village to the helipad. As usual, the helicopter leaves as quickly as it arrived. Watch a series of videos 1HERE, 2HERE and 3HERE. As our departure time comes and goes, we huddle around the dining room stove hoping the warmth will seep into our frozen bodies. I bounce on my toes trying to bring the feeling back into them. We pack up our to-go lunches just before we march out around 7:30am into the piercing morning. I stow my poles and start with my hands in my pockets and definitely don’t take off my down jacket.
The shady trail crunches under our feet as we make our way to a small bridge that crosses the Tsola River. Tiger hangs back with Silke as they both are taking pictures. Tiger’s additional duties today include taking pictures for Sophie with her phone because she doesn’t take any pictures while she hikes. We pass above a yak farm and I can see a few baby yaks romping around. There are two people picking up frozen yak dung and tossing them into the baskets on their backs. The sun slowly creeps into the valley and as soon as it hits me I have to ditch some layers.
Bikram teaches me that the wheels I’ve seen being turned by water are for prayers. The water touched by the wheels is believed to become blessed and can purify and remove negative karma from what ever it then touches. Watch the VIDEO HERE. I saw big wheels like this in Namche Bazaar but thought it was for creating energy. Just after passing through Pangboche we cross a large suspension bridge over the Imja Khola River, which is a tributary to the Dudh Koshi. The chill returns as the trail meanders slightly uphill through a shady forest. We pass the Deboche Nunnery before climbing steeply to Tengboche. It seems like I should be able to move faster and with more ease given the lower elevation. But I slowly drag my weary body up to Tengboche where I happily take a break in the sun. I take my morning calcium and eat some trail mix hoping this will give me an energy boost. Near the end of my break, Silke and Tiger arrive and Silke announces that she’s on vacation and will be staying for lunch at Tengboche. The Tengboche Monastery, also known as Dawa Choling Gompa, is the largest monastery in the Khumbu Region. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the terminus of the “Sacred Sites Trail Project.”
Caspar and I with Bikram decide to push on since it’s only 11am and we have a packed lunch. We drop steeply into the next valley as hordes of hikers push up the trail. It’s sunny and exposed near the top and the yaks that are doing the hard work of climbing have their tongues hanging out and their fur is glistening with sweat. That’s how I feel sometimes.
We follow the switchbacking trail down the valley and I’m grateful to be out of the hot sun and back in the shade of the forest. You all know that what goes down must go back up (check out the elevation profile with my pulse ox data below). We descend all the way back down to the Dudh Koshi River and cross a suspension bridge to the other side. Luckily the forest is still thick enough to provide shade as I slowly climb upward. I feel lightheaded and exhausted and move at a dreadfully slow pace. Caspar and Bikram stick with me as we joke about things that I can no longer remember. I may be slow but at least I keep moving. Not too long before we stop for lunch, we pass the trail we took nine days ago (Day 4) towards Gokyo. We are officially back on trail that we’ve hiked before.
By 1:30pm we stop at Ama Dablam View Lodge for some tea and our packed lunches. I give my lunch to Bikram because I don’t like hard boiled eggs and I’m sticking with my trail mix lunch. Bikram shares some Tibetan bread with the pictured dog and soon there are several more dogs looking for some lunch. A quick trip to the toilet and then we are on our way, making one last push to Namche Bazaar.
On downhill or flat trail I can move quickly but as soon as the trail begins to climb I have to immediately slow my pace. We pass familiar sites before we peer over Namche Bazaar at about 2:50pm. We make our way back to Hotel Everest and are absolutely surprised to be greeted by Susan! In a semi-crazy leap of faith, she hopped onto a helicopter in Lukla (with minimal gear) and was dropped on some mountain top, where she managed to find her way down to Namche.
Before changing clothes Caspar and I head out to do some shopping. I return to the shop I had checked out during our first stop in Namche and the Sherpa woman remembers me. After a little negotiating, we get good prices on yak wool blankets, yak wool scarves, and a yak bell for me. Since price negotiating is part of Tanzanian culture, Caspar is way better at it than I am!
Caspar and I return to the dining room to visit with Susan and find her sitting with Sophie. We ask them to move to a larger table so that we can sit with them. Sophie says she is not moving so Caspar and I go to another table and spend some time looking through pictures. Being back in Namche means my NCell sim card is working so I send pictures to Caspar’s phone. Caspar gets up to grab something from the room and I can hear Sophie ask him why he’s being antisocial. After he points out the obvious, Sophie and Susan move over and sit with us. I chat with Susan about her time in Lukla and I tell her how I almost came and joined her. My stomach is screaming for dinner so Jeremy and Clearance’s late arrival is a test of patience.