Wow, it has only been 5 days since I left Montreal, but it feels like weeks. 25+ hours in the air, another 17 hours in airports. Arrived in Kathmandu at noon March 29. In the L.A. Thai Airlines check-in I met Phil and Sue Erschler, and Eric Simonson. Phil is a legend in climbing circles. He is the first American to climb the north side of Everest in 1984. He has climbed many of the most difficult mtn’s around the world. Eric organized our expedition and he also summitted Everest in the 90’s after his 3rd attempt. He is co-author of the “Ghosts of Everest Past” about George Mallory and Andrew Irving and the “Detectives on Everest”.
We had Tuesday the 30th in Kathmandu to organize ourselves with any last minute details and then had a big dinner together as a team to launch our Everest expedition.
Wednesday morning up at 4am to fly in a small 10 seater plane to the tiny airstrip of Lukla. Immediately, we started hiking for about 5 hours up the valley to Phakding and got there at 1pm. I didn’t sleep the nite before so I crashed for 4 hours, got up to eat, then slept again for 10 more hours. I think I’m close to recharging the sleep tank. We are 14 hours forward of EST.
Anyways, this morning we were up at 6:30, had breakfast and were back on the trail up the Dudh Koshi River Valley. The valley is framed-in by steep 1000 foot walls on both sides, forested by tall pines, and a raging glacier fed river. We continually crossed back and forth over it on long suspension bridges sometimes 100’ high above the white churning water below.
Finally, we crossed into the Bhote Koshi River Valley and climbed almost 3000’ up to Namche. Namche Bazaar goes back hundreds of years as a trading centre. Tibetens and Sherpas alike would cross the Nangpa-la 17,000’snow covered pass to trade salt, barley, and other goods. Entering Namche brought back to me a flood of memories from 40 years ago, when at 22 years old I had trekked for 32 days alone up in the Himalayas to Namche and then up the Khumbu Glacier to the base of Everest. It was difficult holding back some tears as I entered the village. It has changed alot in 40 years but it is still one of the most beautiful villages in the world in a setting that defies words. Surrounded on all sides by great snow peaked mountains and a Sherpa culture and people whose gentleness and smiles take your breath away. This surely is the gateway to Shangri-la.
We will stay here for 3 nites to acclimatize and do some day hikes to keep busy. Namche is situated at 11,300’altitude and is one of the highest permanently populated places in the world.