3 Passes — wait, make that 2

8 Oct

Ok — our trek.

Well — as you know, we finally made it to Lukla.  Once there, Katherine, Ben and I (we somehow lost Scott in the shuffle) started making our way to Namche.  Everyone pretty much has to go through Namche, no matter what trek they are doing.  Even though you technically start in Lukla (or in Shivalaya if you are trekking in instead of flying in — but more on that later), it really seems that the trek starts in Namche.  Lukla is quite a scene – porters and guides asking you once you arrive if you need them, gear shops galore and lots of ‘products’ everywhere.  There is a ‘starbucks’ there as well — not a real starbucks, but it looks very similar (inside and out) though the logo has mountain instead of whatever the real logo is. And the coffee wasn’t half bad!  It took us a day and a half to get to Namche — we got there on the second morning.  Imagine, hiking up in the hills when all of a sudden you come around a corner and there is a small village!  It was kind of a surprise — tons of guesthouses, internet cafes, bakeries, bars, gear shops and a market on saturdays!  I could see how people could get stuck there for awhile (plus the apple turnover and coffee we had there was awesome!).  It is also kind of a fun scene because there are people there from all over the world — well, ok, mostly French, German, some Israelis, Canadians, Australians and a few Americans.
We were in Namche for the earthquake — which was fairly exciting since we did not really know what was going on.  It was kind of scary since our guesthouse was kind of on stilts (Namche is set into the side of a very steep river valley — meaning that it is nestled into the hillside facing a huge valley that has cliffs and mountains far on the other side – pretty beautiful).  At first we weren’t sure if it was wind or mud or…. an earthquake!  But we all ran outside and then it was calm….  it was strange being some place where you don’t speak the language and something like that happens — you realize that life could change pretty drastically in a matter of seconds…..  Funny enough, we had found Scott earlier that day and Ben, Scott, Katherine and I were all hanging out talking when the earthquake happened!  A plane adventure, now an earthquake adventure….   seemed like it was time to hit the trail!
The next day — we all did just that and went our separate ways.  Katherine and I were headed to Chhukung where we would prepare to go over our first pass, Kongma La. It took us a few days to get there — which were spent traveling through landscape that could have been in Lord of the Rings (only made more so by the rain and clouds).  It is tough there because you can only trek so much in one day – you don’t want to go too high and risk altitude sickness.  So, that meant for some long days in the tea houses for us.  The tea houses mostly had sunrooms which were pleasant enough to sit in, though the rooms tended to be drab, damp, cold places.  We spent a lot of time drinking milk tea waiting for our next meal in the sun rooms.  At least in Chhukung there were some good day hikes – Island Peak base camp and Chhukung Ri (which was actually our highest point at 5546m)– a mountain that should have had amazing views — that is if it was sunny out!!!!  which it was not….  though we did get some views….  Did I mention that Chhukung is at the base of Ama Dablam?

it finally started getting pretty clear in the mornings!

Island Peak Base Camp with a huge amazing glacial pool (that is growing due to global climate change)

Ama Dablam

 Finally, it was time for us to go over our first pass – Kongma La which was at 5535 meters.  It was a beautiful morning, though unfortunately it did not stay that way all day…  that is also the day my camera battery died….

on top of Chhukung Ri – our high point of the trip

Early morning on the way up

beautiful morning

on top of the pass

So – we make it over Kongma La — it was clear on the way up, but clouded over by the time we reached the pass — you can see in the picture above that there was this awesome lake up there — but no real summits in view.

Coming over the pass, we dropped down to the Khombu side — meaning we had to cross over the Khombu glacier into Lobuche – which is where we met up with the Everest Base Camp trek folks.  We were so use to quiet – most people do not go over Kongma La — so the wave of people going to EBC was kind of crazy (and it wasn’t even busy season yet!).  Crossing the glacier was kind of cool — it was just so huge – and the moraines on either side were huge rock piles we had to cross.  It wasn’t dangerous where we were – but it was cool to hear the rockfall into the glacial pools that were forming where the ice was melting.

Once we dropped into Lobuche we could go to the actual base camp and Kala Pattar – which is a summit that people climb in order to see Everest.  We did go to both places.  Actual base camp isn’t all that exciting — though it is cool to see a place I have read so much about.  There were two parties there preparing to climb — though it is a heavy snow year (we ran into another group that had tried to go up Lobuche Peak and were stymied from all the snow).  It was pretty cool to see the Khombu Icefall – which I have also read so much about.  But you cannot see the summit of Everest from base camp – so it is just a mass of tents, really.

Kala Pattar was beautiful on the way up.  We started up at 4:30 in the morning – hoping for clear skies.  It was clear on the way up — but just about the time we reached the summit – it clouded over….  of course.  I did get a glimpse of Everest and there will be pictures coming.  We ran into Scott up there and he had some good pictures and Katherine has some as well.

I can’t say we were sad to leave that scene — it was definitely kind of crazy — everyone trying to get to base camp — which is strange because there are just so many amazing other places to go up there.

Ok — i will continue the rest of the trek story later.  Enough for now!  I will leave you in suspense on the rest of the story!

Take care – love – AK

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