Day hike to Mongla (3,975m): Ama Dablam views stunning

The day started early for I wanted to capture a few images at sunrise (5:52am). I didn’t sleep particularly well anyway. I think its the jetlag mainly and a little bit the altitude (3,600m) that I need to get used to. Its been a few years that I had an overnight that high up (Mt. Elbrus base camp @ 4,000m from memory). Still I feel well rested and in good form. The staff at Ama Dablam View lodge were very accomodating and helpful despite poor conditions (they literally live in the kitchen). Before 6am I had a hot tea in my hands.

And there it was … Ama Dablam (6,856m) and Mt. Lhotse (8,516m) with snow blown off its top by some gusty winds. No time to climb just yet. Beautiful start to a day and promising weather for the day. Better bring fresh batteries for the camera. While I busied myself with my tripod, a little boy enjoyed inspecting my  camera kit before I put a spiderman episode on my iphone. 20minutes happiness all over his dirty little face.

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The team took a while to get up. Only Blake joined Jon (who was the one to actually work out that we are looking at Lhotse and not some other hill) and myself on the terrace for an instant coffee and some mint tea at 7.30. By now it was very sunny and an excellent morning to enjoy breakfast … today even without being rushed out of the tea house to make the next one on time. Excellent.

Medical update: More team members are now suffering from some form of stomach bugs and general unwellness. I count 2-3 with mild symptoms, one more severe case (Sami stayed home today to rest) and Tim also continues suffer from his bug (but puts a brave fave to it). So far I have been lucky.

Hike to Mongla @ 3,975m (dist: 5.5km asc:370m dsc:370m)

The program today was a pretty steep hike up to a tiny village called Mongla, where we had lunch at the ‘hill top sherpa lodge’. The views were stunning all the way. Ama Dablam with its beautiful and characteristic shape stood out. Great stuff. Worth the effort. Climbing up got the heart rate going, but remains effortless all considered. No signs of altitude problems either. I guess the acclimatisation from the altitude center (2,800m) & Jebel Toubkal (4,167m) help me now. However, sooner or later this will have to change.

 

In the afternoon Tim held a briefing on altitude sickness, how to recognise and prevent it. I guess all of us will drink more now and reconsider pushing high too quick (not that many really did). My take away is that I am glad we have someone here that seems an expert. Feels like a safe pair of hands. Turn around when: vision impaired, vomit, very heavy cough. Else seek advise first. Most altitude issues (other than HAPE) dont occur suddenly. So listen to your body and chdeck in with the guide … I guess thats the message. And drink. Below links to the most common altitude issues:

High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE)

High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE)

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

We concluded a fine afternoon by visiting the host’s amazing prayer room. Her name is Tashi. Take a look here. It’s really impressive.

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Monjo via Namche to Kyongjuma: Steep terrain & first sight of Lhotse/Everest

Day 2: Monjo @ 2,840m to Kyongjuma @ 3,630m (dist: 10.4km, asc: 970m, dsc: 230m)

Having gained no altitude on the first day of our trek, we were looking at 600m gain today on our way to Namche Bazar and a further 200m to Kyongjuma. Namche is the last larger, civilised outpost we will see for the next two month offering all sort of shops and services at reasonable cost all considered.

Our guide Tim likes to avoid crowds so much is clear and this is the official reason as to why we stay here (against the hopes of many team member who wouldn’t mind to enjoy the offering of Namche such as the Irish pub or massages). Tim and the hosting family have also some history together. The host took up Prince Charles on an offer to visit him in England some 23y after it was given during the princes own trekking adventure on a trail now called the Royal trail. Tim hosted the family in the UK and joined the audience. You wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to stay with old friends after all.

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The first section to Namche took 2h30min for 6km. The hike was steep for the latter 3km where we gained most of the 600m climb. The highlights on the path was the double suspension bridge and the first glimpse of Everest and Lhotse. Conclusion: there is a lot more climbing  ahead of us. In fact, more than five vertical kilometers still! I listened to an audiobook telling the tale of a child with cancer and his relationship with the lady in rose (‘Oskar und die Dame in rosa’ by E.E. Schmitt).

In Namche we had lunch at Kala Pathar lodge. As usual, they need 1-1,5h heads up to prepare food. So we ordered and then headed to the well-known Everest cafe. Wifi was free, but slow. The flat white coffee was tasty, but I didn’t get to try the delicious looking doughnuts (Joe judges them as ‘perfect’) nor the cheese cake. I got some blog work done. The lunch at the lodge was unspectacular. I liked the chicken soup, but spaghetti Bolognese was just average.

We all met up after lunch at the Everest cafe and departed for Kyongjuma at 14:45hrs. A bit more than an hour later I completed the 4.4km hike. The weather had turned in the afternoon and was now misty and foggy after a sunny morning session. That’s the mountains for you. So we will have to wait for what should be a stunning panorama.

Arriving at the lodge we got offered tea with ginger (not my favorite, but ok). However, my bags were missing again. The one the didn’t make it past Lukla yesterday (expected) and the bag that did arrive late last night. It has been left behind. Great!

Dinner was nice and by the time I had eaten my chocolate pudding my bag had also arrived. Time for some hygiene, recharging and back to the common room to digest all the footage I am picking up all day. Since we stay here tomorrow another night, we start only 8am and go for a hike somewhere in the area. Can’t wait for the fog to lift … the lodge must have its name from somewhere after all … climb on!

Ama Dablam View Lodge, Kyangjuma

Available

Cost

Comment

Hot shower

YES

R400

Good one

Wifi  

YES

R350/1000

through Everest link, R350 = 100MB; R1,000 = 500MB

Recharge

YES

R200

Mobile signal 

YES

3G strong signal

Beer

YES

R700

500ml can of San Miguel or Tuborg

Water

YES

R150

Lukla to Monjo: Flight of a lifetime & a pretty trail 

The dinner at the New Orleans cafe was decent even though I had slight issues with the local version the lentil soup. The ‘amazing burger’ and ‘superb steak’ topped the list of the stuff available on the menu. Most of us were tired and, considering the 4.30am wake up time, did the sensible thing to hit the mattresses early. Jon (US navy dude), however, suggested to visit a shisha bar nearby … which turned out to be an excellent choice. Zena (UK) joined in too. The layout was like a chill out place with floors mats to rest on and short-legged tables. The walls had been decorated by a Japanese artist with manga & psychedelic type art. Then we enjoyed a superb live music session by a band called ‘strings’ from memory. Some seriously good vibes. By midnight we were back home though.

The morning started early as I mentioned before. After a nightly visit to the toilet at 3am I didn’t really sleep much more. I guess a mix of jet lag (Nepal is 4h45min ahead) and excitement are to blame. Bags were more or less packed and so I was early in the lobby ready for departure to the airport. We separated baggage bound for base camp from the rest, boarded our two vans and off we went. Bye, bye Hotel Manaslu.


Driving to the airport in the morning has distinct advantages … traffic at 5am just about avoids the massive smog build up starting from 7am to 9am rush hour. The domestic terminal was busy with other western travellers heading to Lukla / Everest base camp or trekking routes in the Khumbu valley. After a reasonably swift check in and finally a coffee, weather forced a delay. The airport in Lukla is very exposed to weather and needs very good conditions for planes operate (which often leads to cancellations & jam of travellers). The footage I put below speaks words. So we hit the waiting area and talked. Rory was busy collecting stuff for his column in the Irish times and interviewed the climbers bound for either Everest or Lhotse summit. I started reading a book (didn’t get very far yet). We were now all prepared to wait a long time … when suddenly the flight was boarding. The plane was a 18 seater, twin turbo-prop Dornier DO228. Flying like in the old days. But we didn’t start right away … but waited on the runway just long enough until Michael required the toilet. Needless to say, as soon as he went for it we got the go ahead and the pilot started the engines. We did wait for Michael though ;0)

Day 1: Lukla to Monjo (14.4km, asc: 550m, dsc: 550m)

The flight to Lukla was scenic, in particular for people sat on the left hand side of the plane with great views of the Himalayas and so great views of dirty Kathmandu. Then came the time for the landing of a lifetime. Very short runway, very steep to assist the plane in slowing down. The pilot almost nailed it perfectly (the stall warning came just a touch too close to tires hitting the ground). Anyway, really cool stuff. Next stop for us was Paradise lodge situated literally next to the runway with loads of spectators following planes & choppers coming and going. The owners seemed old friends of Tim judging by their hearty welcome (as are probably most lodge owners on the trail). We had a late breakfast (omelette ‘A la everest’) and got a quick briefing on how to behave on the trial, where to poo, hygienic consideration etc. The most memorable advice for me was that crazy Yak’s are marked with either red bands or have their horns painted in red colour. Unfortunately, not all our luggage made it to Lukla in time. Both my two bags were missing, but then I had almost all the gear I needed for today. And then it was time to hike … 


The first part of the Everest base camp trek would take us 14km from Lukla to Monjo (we hiked beyond on purpose to avoid the crowds next day). Altitude wise, not much to report for both places are on 2,800m though with 550m ascent and descent on the way. Including three stops it took us 6h:14min for the trek. And it was lovely. All the villages were very tidy, the people seemed happy and conversations with fellow hikers were very pleasant and rich in content. 



Once at Top Hill Lodge, we were all pretty shattered and retired pretty quickly after refreshing ourselves and dinner. I skipped the refreshing for lack of change clothes or else even toughen of my bags did arrive later in the evening. Gotta get used to no shower for few days … at last that is going to be the norm once we climb.

Top Hill Lodge, Monjo

Available

Cost

Comment

Hot shower

YES

R250

Beautiful one

Wifi   

YES

R250

hasn’t been working for a week

Recharge

YES

R200

Mobile signal 

YES

3G patchy, call signal good

Beer

YES

R650

500ml can of San Miguel

Water

YES

R150

The night in the lodge was a little chilly govern my room mate Billy and I opted to just use the cover sheets instead of sleeping bags. But it was ok. I got up 6.30am, packed the bag that the porter will take to today’s destination and had breakfast. Good time to blog a little (last night I just couldn’t). The sun was out when we hit the trail. Happy hiking! Next stop will be Namche Bazar, the last proper town we’ll see for a while.

Kathmandu: Crazy start to a long journey

The flight from London turned out really pleasant, as I had the entire row to myself for the Delhi flight and slept better than in business class. No issues transferring to the Kathmandu connection either. On arrival in Nepal I obtained my visa. You fill in your application using the machines provided and take a snapshot of yourself. That way you don’t need to waste two passport photos (so you can use them for your trekking permit or for your application form for a local SIM). Visa fees vary by length of stay. I paid USD100 for 90 days.

Outside the airport I was greeted by the hotel driver and Stephen – a fellow hiker who had arrived on a different flight from London. He is a photographer, which I fully intend to exploit by asking him about all his little tricks to advance my own photography skills. The drive to the hotel gave me us first taste of Kathmandu. Busy streets, polluted air and a fair amount of (creative) chaos. Tim was waiting for us in the hotel. We’d meet the whole gang (almost) for dinner at 6pm. Time for a quick refreshment and wifi (hadn’t been connected since London …).

For dinner we headed to Gaia – a nice restaurant in the Thamel district. They offer decent food beyond traditional Nepali cuisine (I had chicken curry and Everest beer), seemed pretty clean and I would recommend it. After dinner, I quickly replaced the lens cap I lost  (Hubert … do you have it by any chance?) and then joined the others at Sam’s bar. Cool place with some rock classics (rather than Justin Bieber & Ed Sheeran) and a very nice , chatty atmosphere. We bought more Everest beers in turns (I have to note that even Rory is back on the booze after ten weeks abstinence) and started our bonding experience.

Great bunch of people from US, England, Uganda, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and ze German being myself. I think we finished by 1am with a pretty thinned out group and enjoyed a fun cab ride to the hotel. Jon (US Navy) and myself were keen on another beer and got lucky at reception. After midnight it’s apparently super hard to find a place after the government tightened controls. So we ended up chatting for a bit in the lobby. He about his travels with the navy (he works on a supply vessel with usually 4month on / off rotations) and me about rocketontour ;o). Really entertaining evening with a fun crowd.

I slept well and only woke up when my room-mate billy got going. I figured I give myself another few minutes before heading to breakfast. Well, easier said than done as Billy had diligently locked the room. I called reception and he came up to free me …

Sightseeing Kathmandu: By 9am we were all in a bus for a brief sightseeing tour. First stop, Pashupatinath, a hindu temple (the main religion for 80% of Nepali’s). Weird experience really. Right as we arrived they slaughtered a goat as offering to the gods … blood everywhere on the floor. Then a dead body covered in an orange sheet passed by on its way to open air cremation (happens here every day basically). In hindus believe, you have to burn the body within 24 hours of passing. Interesting to see, but strange too. Afterwards we headed to the great Boudha stupa – the largest temple of its kind in the world. While there we also visited an art school where they produce amazing water paintings that depict an areal view of the temple with all its gates and doors and colours. Amazing detail. A master will take 40-50 days for a 30cmx30cm piece and they go for about USD200 each. Less for intermediate or student artist work.

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The team, climbing & health update: Tim is going for Lhotse this year plus another Stephen (who just joined us today) who will meet us in base camp. Four guys plus an additional guide go for Everest (Jon, Rory, Blake, Billy & . As for trekking, there are 6 people so far I count. So far no major health issues to report although Tim did catch a stomach bug. He won’t be the last one …

ab885425-d7ca-4b4c-bbf5-0d082baa7c61

Useful tips: If you are looking for last minute mountain gear go to Shona’s Alpine store (see map), as they have a decent selection despite the small store space and struck me as honest folks. Further, head to the blue dot on the map (Shree Handicraft) to get yourself a local SIM. We went for ncell (best in the mountains) at R700 a piece. Data is USD2,50 per 1GB and calls depend (we think that USD10 = 1-2 hour calls to Europe). Another tip is to get a dumb phone (old fashion, no data device) as they seem to work better in base camp. 

img_1743

So, off to dinner now. Pick-up of our flight to Lukla (crazy airport at 2,840m) tomorrow is already 5.15am!

Off to Kathmandu – Mt. Lhotse here I come

The time has come. The last good byes to friends (cheeky pint with Sean and Hubert) and Alexander have been said and now I am now on board the air india plane for Delhi (8hours & 3,200km) and then on to Kathmandu. The plane looks pretty empty … so might have a row to myself. Great. To check in 45kg when 30kg is the allowance was a bit tricky, but I managed. A smile goes far in this world. A bit of cheating too and often further.

Now training is over. No more hypoxic chamber, but real altitude. No more Santander bike cycling, but hiking into base camp. In short … it’s time to get going. 9 weeks of pure adventure lie ahead. Never done that before! New places. New friends. New emotions. I cant wait! Lets make this one a trip of a lifetime! And please do join me!


As always, please do support my campaign to raise funds for disabled Nepali children and diabetes one research. Many thanks!

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/rocketontour-lhotse