Part 6 #EBC2107-Leaving Namche and heading to Tengboche

This is one in a series of posts about my recent Trek to Everest Basecamp (EBC). If you wish to read the previous posts you can access them at #EBC2017

March 23. Today we left Namche after we spent two days here for acclimatization. After my hyperthermia/dehydration episode two days ago, I felt that this rest period came at the right time. I spent the past two days resting, but also walking around Namche to purchase some supplies for the journey ahead—mainly protein bars, rehydration powder solution, and cash from the ATM.

Namche Bazaar streets
Namche Bazaar streets

The day started very well for me. I slept for almost 10 hours and felt rested and ready to start the trek to Tengboche; a town located at 3,900 meters above sea level and situated around a 5-hour walk from Namche (roughly 15km). Today’s trek was divided into two sections: the first section—which was roughly about a 3.5 hours walk—was mainly an ascent spread over a long distance. The second section—which was roughly about a 1.5 hours climb—was a bit more challenging and included a steep ascent toward Tengboche.

I felt my breathing was a bit better today, something I linked to the two acclimatization days in Namche. It felt good, psychologically, to get some of my breathing back—though I still felt out of shape whenever we needed to climb some stairs, so I knew I wasn’t off the hook yet. The first part of the journey to Tengboche revealed a lot of Nepal’s beauty. We passed by beautiful valleys covered with trees, ice, beautiful brown mountains, and magnificent blue river running in between. Yaks were passing us all the time, adding drama to the entire trek. I kept walking with a smile on my face, and felt good generally with the way I was handling my breathing, steps, speed, and most importantly my spirit. As we crossed through different dust and rocks covered paths, I could see Mt. Everest in the distance. It has become my compass, and my motivator to keep walking even though my mind and body challenged this decision.

Walking to Tengboche - Yaks passing us
Walking to Tengboche – Yaks passing us

The “honeymoon” stage of today’s trek came to an end roughly 3 hours into it. We have reached the last checkpoint before the brutal 1.5 hours (steep) climb to Tengboche began. Since it was the last checkpoint with restaurants, my guide decided to use it as a lunch break. There were dozens of climbers at this checkpoint, all waiting to begin the climb to Tengboche. At this stage of the trek, I realized that having a heavy lunch was not a good idea because it actually slowed me down in previous cases, as my body was using the blood to digest the food as opposed to using the blood to provide oxygen to my muscles. I ended having a bowl of lentil soup and a Cliff Bar. I knew I’d get hungry during the climb, but I only used it as a motivator to order a big dish of egg-fried-rice in Tengboche—yes, I know, it is the little things that counted in this trip :).

Nepal - Trekking to Tengboch. Mt. Everest ahead.
Nepal – Trekking to Tengboch. Mt. Everest ahead.

The moment I took the first step I knew that the next 1.5 hour climb was going to be tough. The climb was so steep that at one point I almost felt backward by losing my balance. In addition to the “short goals” plan I developed, I realized I also needed to add one more variable to the equation: pacing my breathing. 15 minutes into the climb my mind started to play tricks on me, and I knew that I needed to control it. I focused on very short steps and a very slow walk, and this allowed me to inhale in each step, which gave me a good rhythm. As I was climbing up I could see other climbers struggling as well. Many of them, including myself, were taking many long breaks (5-10 minutes) to catch their breath, but also to give the muscles some rest. At this point, I was climbing at a high altitude, and dehydration became a serious matter that I needed to keep in mind. The terrain itself was very rocky and dusty. Every time I stepped on a rock to bring myself up I felt I was gambling because there was no guarantee that the rock will stay in place. There was no way to predict if the rock will lose its grip and make me fall, or worse, make me twist my ankle. I actually turned this situation into a game by basically guessing if the next rock will stay in place or not. I know it sounds weird, but it really kept my mind busy. After what seemed to me like an eternity, I have finally reached Tengboche. I remember almost kissing the ground when I reached the gates, but not because of tiredness (though I was exhausted), but rather because I was famished!

Entering Tengboche
Entering Tengboche–Mt. Everest straight ahead

Tengboche was quite surreal. Imagine an open vast space the size of two-three football fields with only a few houses around, a big monastery, lots of yaks, and beautiful snowy mountains surrounding the entire area. As I was passing through the gates I could not stop but think about what it takes to live here. On the one hand it felt very peaceful, and on the other hand it felt too isolated. No matter what my thoughts were at that moment one thing was for sure, I really felt at peace at that moment in time. As I was walking toward the T-house we planned to spend the night in, I finally saw it very close to my face—Mt. Everest. It was so close I could almost touch it. I took my bag down, pulled a chair out and sat there for a good 30 minutes looking at it. I was interrupted by the sound of my stomach “screaming” for some food, which I am happy to share I complied. I had a big bowl of egg-fried-rice, and later took a good nap. I needed the rest because tomorrow we were planning to climb to Dingboche, a town situated at 4,500 meters above sea level, and I needed all the energy I could get.

Nepal - Tenboche, Yak Napping
Nepal – Tenboche, Yak Napping

I woke up the next morning around 4:50am because I wanted to take a photo of the sun rising on top of Mt. Everest. I made sure to have my camera and Tripod ready the night before and eagerly waited for the time to go out and set everything in place. It was freezing cold outside (around -12C), and it was difficult for me to set the camera because my fingers started to freeze. I waited until the sunrise time, but unfortunately I didn’t see the effect I expected for. I did manage to take one photo with the moon above one of the mountains, but that was about it. Oh well…

Nepal - Tenboche. Night Photo
Nepal – Tengboche. Night Photo

To be continued…

This is one in a series of posts about my recent Trek to Everest Basecamp (EBC). If you wish to read the previous posts you can access them at #EBC2017

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