Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The trek to Everest begins!

Randy here reporting from Phakding in Nepal.  We are on our way to Everest at last.

Anders and I awoke at 3:30 as we were to get all of our gear down to the lobby and get checked out by 4:30.  We left a bag of our civilian clothes at the hotel to be picked up when we return to Kathmandu.  We finally rolled to the airport around 5am and went through a chaotic but relatively effective check-in process.  Anders and i ended up on separate planes but by about 6:30 both of our flights departed.

To call these flights exciting does not do justice to the flight.  It was a bit hazy around Kathmandu but it was instructive to see the sprawl of Kathmandu from the air.  It's a relative short flight--maybe 35 minutes or so and I've been told, only about 85 miles.  After a short period of time we gained enough altitude and traveled close enough to Lukla that we begin to see the Himalayan range for the first time.  As my comments to Judy indicate, your reaction is one of "Wow"!  These are mountains of an entirely different persuasion for sure.

Soon enough we began to travel up a tight valley with cliffs very near us on either side and when you looked out the front of the plane you could see the 1500 feet (yes just 1500 feet) landing strip cut into the side of a mountain at Lukla.  The landing strip is angled upward somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees and as we hurtled towards it you could feel your whole body tense up.  We hit the ground hard just past the beginning of the strip and the pilot immediately slammed on the brakes causing us all to jerk forward.  In a remarkably short time we had slowed and it was clear that we would survive this first part of the journey.

We stumbled out of the plane a bit shellshocked and were herded off the tarmac just as Anders' plane touched down about 2 minutes later.  We all were looking up at the massive mountains around us (which as it turns out are really just the "foothills" all being well under 20,000 feet).  We watched a couple of other planes land and take off (its quite the operation as the planes are on the ground for a very short period of time--maybe 10 minutes--before they are loaded up with passengers for Kathmandu and they take off to repeat the process).

We had breakfast and then wandered around the tiny village of Lukla--probably about 500 people.  The air was crisp and clean and a brilliant early morning sun was out--quite a contrast to the frenetic environment we had lived in for the prior two days.

Finally we began our hike, which today was more downhill than up.  We entered the Sagarmatha National Park and would our way through a fair number of charming sherpa villages.  It was interesting to see the Sherpa villagers going about their lives and especially endearing to see the tiny and irresistibly cute little toddlers all dressed up in colorful clothes who would invariably wave or great us with a high pitched "Namaste".

The views were incredible and the hiking very enjoyable as we trekked in light pants and t-shirts.  While I found the views compelling, Brent told us that they are nothing compared to what awaits us.  if this is so it will be truly amazing.

In total we took 3:40 (including 3-4 breaks) to hike the 5.7 miles up to Phakding.  As I mentioned there was more down than up and we had total descent of 1368 feet and total ascent of 725 feet.  Stat-wise this looks like a pretty easy day, which is was, but there were several pitches where the steepness and probably the altitude, set my heart racing a bit.  Gaining acclimatization to the ever increasing altitude will of course be a major objective in the days ahead.

We are at the Sunrise Lodge and Restaurant and Anders and had a lunch of veggie rice, which was quite tasty.  We are in our tiny little room, which has two small beds and our own, pretty serviceable bathroom!  We are awaiting our bags which are being carried here by a group of porters and hopefully will arrive before what looks like a possible afternoon shower.

All systems go as we feel strong and have smiles on our faces.  A nap is probably in our near future.  More later!

1 comment:

jlchristofferson74 said...

This is so great! Love you both! We are cheering you on here in Delaware!