Saturday, April 22, 2017

RC here: Another change of plans--all good!

Late yesterday afternoon up in Gokyo it really started snowing--we would get about 6 inches in 90 minutes.  That combined with a forecast of two more days of heavy snow, caused me (in discussion with Judy on Face Time Audio) to consider what the best way for Tsewang and I to return to EBC.

(Btw, if you're wondering how I'm getting these posts out, I made friends with the owner at the Fitzroy in Gokyo and he let me use his iPad charger.  I also had a little juice left in my lap top so I was able to get the pictures from yesterday pics will have to wait until I get back to EBC)

Anyways, as I am Tsewang's first client (and to be fair, he is my first Sherpa) he really didn't know first hand any way back except over Cho La pass, I was able to get several other Sherpa's to convene a "Sherpa's Council" to give us some advice on how best to get back.  I was also concerned about the snow depth up at 18,000 feet, where Cho La pass is and whether or not it was safe to go back there (especially with the forecast) for me and Tsewang (he only has with him tennis shoes, a light jacket and sweat pants).  One option would have been for us to helicopter back to Base Camp if the weather was clear.

Anyways,  we poured over the map I brought and there was much animated discussion in Nepalese that would occasionally have the Sherpas stop and look at me--and then translate.  I wasn't sure I was getting all the nuances but after about 25 minutes we concluded:

1. Cho La pass was too risky given the snow (which at that point had not stopped) and so was a no go.

2. They thought the weather would be fine in the morning (they predicted the snow would stop shortly) and that we should go the long way around to EBC.  This involved going South down the Ngozumba Glacier Valley on the west side of the Western lateral moraine through Longpongo, Phang, Machherma, Luza, Dole and ultimately reaching Phortse Tenga, where we would cross the Dude Koshi River and climb up to Phortse, where we could spend the night.  They said the trail would be safe and straight forward, even with our snow fall.

So this is what we decided to do.  The upshot of this decision is essentially we would be doing the two long sides of a narrow angle triangle as opposed to the short side.  We were in effect replacing what was about a 7 mile trek over Cho La pass with somewhere around 25 miles to go the long way around the mountains.  This, at least so far, was a great decision!

We awoke at 5:30 and hit the trail around 7.  As advertised, the skies dawned sunny and clear with no wind, about 30 trekking weather.  The views were once again stunning as everything was now dressed in a fresh white coat.  Up valley, Cho Oyo was magnificent!

The trail was great and we made rapid progress down the valley passing two more (of the six major) lakes that are a calling card of this region.  I have some great pics and some video to share later.  We put the hammer down, as we were told it would likely take us 10-11 hours to reach Phortse.  In fact we had an intermediate check point (Thare) we were supposed to stop at if we didn't get past it by 1 pm.

As it turned out we made Thare by 10 and rolled into Dole by 11:30 where we both had some fried veggie rice.  I brought my map out and suggested we might want to push on up the Khumbu to Pangboche. Tsewang resisted and as I probed, I realized that the Tea House in Phortse he wanted us to go to was owned by his "big mother" (with a little digging, I learned this was the older sister of his mother).  She called to inquire of his progress shortly thereafter and I realized we were going to stop in Phortse this day.

This was probably a good thing because by the time we climbed the 700 foot climb up to Phortse, it had taken us 6:46 to cover the 11.4 linear miles.  In total we had climbed 1381 feet and had descended a whopping 4,209 feet.  In fact we are now all the way down to 12,500 feet, almost 5,000 feet below EBC (which, we'll need to climb in the next two days).  As an aside, the richer atmosphere definitely makes it a lot easier to move and no doubt contributed to how great we felt today.

When we reached the Namaste Tea House we were warmly welcomed.  After some tea, I grabbed a guitar and tried to teach Tsewang "The Numbers" by Radiohead but he said he preferred Nepalese music (probably more a function of me than Radiohead).  Although, he did confess he liked Drop D tuning...

So tonight, it's hanging at big mother's Tea House and if all goes according to plan, we reach Dingboche tomorrow and Base Camp on the 24th, where I'll be reunited with Anders and team.  BTW, due to the miracles of acclimatization, we'll essentially be covering in 2 days, what took us 5 on the way in.

That's it for now.  Can't wait to see Anders and here the details of his voyage up to Camp Two.  I'll hang with him and the rest of the team at Base Camp for a few days and then he'll head up for rotation two and I'll head back home.

All good here in Nepal!

No comments: