Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Upward through the Khumbu Valley we arrive at Namche!

We left Phakding just before 9am after a breakfast of dry cereal and eggs (and a fair amount of coffee).  We had a big day in front of us as our goal was to trek into the heart of the Khumbu Valley and reach it's largest town, Namche Bazaar, which has a population of about 1,650 (mostly) Sherpa.  Below is a simple map showing Namche in relation to the path ahead for us.  We are to move up the right fork of the path to Gorak Shep, which is only a couple of hours away from Everest Base Camp.  You can see also the locations of Everest and Lhoste (Anders' main objectives) as well Lobuche (a peak Anders and I hope to climb in a couple of weeks).  You can also see Island Peak which is still a TBD for me:

We once again were blessed with perfect hiking weather and much like yesterday it was a great combination of interesting passages through the many little Sherpa villages and fantastic views.  Below is a peak, whose name escapes me but was the first near 20,000 foot peak that we glimpsed--the giants are still hidden from our view:

Anders hanging with a couple of the many Yak friends we are making along the way:

The trekking was fantastic and we both felt really good.  I was very pleased to see how my old body responded this morning--especially my knee.  Yesterday, despite being relatively easy, was surprisingly hard for me, as my body felt tired and stiff from the four days of modest activity leading up to the start of our actual trek.  Today, throughout the day however, I felt very comfortable and my knee felt just fine (yea cortisone!)  Anders was in full command--he is really at the peak of his climbing fitness right now (and will need to be with the challenges that await up the valley).

Along the way many of the Sherpa families are selling things to those who pass by.  Many of these families depend on the climbers for their livelihoods and indeed the Khumbu Valley is one of the most prosperous in all of Nepal.  Here are a husband and wife selling very delicious clementines (or something like them).  They had 3 sizes for 3, 4 and 5 cents respectively.  I enjoyed one of the 5 centers:

We stopped for lunch about half-way up to Namche--noodle soup and veggie fried rice (seems like a go to on this trek).  Very delicious.  After lunch, Brent led Anders and I, plus a couple of our other teammates ahead of the main group as the pace to this point had been quite slow.  From my perspective we really flew up the mountain.  This was the famous "hill to Namche" which has about 2,500 feet of vertical over about 3 miles--quite a significant ramp up in grade, a good 15% on average with many sections exceeding 25-30%.  As we climbed above 10,000 feet for the first time I thought this was a quite demanding effort.

My pulse rate was up into the 150s, which over two hours is a significant effort for me--about what I would typically experience during a half-Ironman race.  I hung with Brent and Anders for about 50-60% of this pitch and then throttled back to a more comfortable, albeit still quite quick pace (at least from my perspective).

 Several times we crossed these wobbly bridges the swayed in the wind and with the foot traffic, some times several hundred feet above the rushing waters below.  At first this was a little unsettling but then became fairly routine.

Here is Anders and I after crossing the "high bridge" not too far below Namche--you can see the older "low bridge" below and to the right:

And here is a pic of Anders and Brent, who will be teaming with Anders as they climb Everest and maybe Lhotse above EBC.  I'll tell you some more about Brent later, but suffice it to say he is one heck of an accomplished mountaineer and a really great guy.  I feel lucky that Anders has him as a guide and teammate for the big effort ahead.

I enjoyed the last 45 minutes or so when I walked by myself up higher and higher.  What a privilege to be able to do this!  Here is a look back down part of the valley that we hiked up today:

Finally we rolled into the lower parts of Namche and ran into two delightful little Sherpa sisters--probably aged 4 and 2 or so.  The oldest asked to slap five with me and greeted me with Namaste.  She saw the Kermit the frog that accompanies me on all my big treks and climbs and wanted to know about him.  So I stopped and told them a story about Kermie and how he was my "Sherpa Frog".  They laughed and giggled with delight.  The kids here are absolutely beautiful and adorable!

 I arrived a few minutes after Anders and Brent and my "smile" below reflects the joy, satisfaction, and relief (for finally arriving) that I felt.

A great day in the mountains with my son and our new team!  In total we hiked for 5:23 (including stops) and covered 7.2 linear miles. We ascended 3,379 feet in total and had 662 feet of descent along the way as well.  An important validation of our fitness for sure.  We have a long way to go, but we made a big step today.

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