Everest Base Camp – Day 3, Bhupsa to Ghat

The climbing of the last couple days was hard enough that my calves ached to the point where it was hard to sleep.  But had an excellent veg fried rice and, upon Ashraf’s advice slept in just my boxers in the sleeping bag.  After about 5 minutes, it was very warm and I didn’t feel cold during the night.

Today we will pass Lukla, which means we’ll catch up with the majority of trekkers.  So far we’ve only seen an old Swiss dude and two spacey Danish hippies. It’s another day of 800 meters up and about the same down. Aye caramba!

***

Namaste, Mr Cow!

Namaste, Mr Cow!

We left at 7:30 and walked until 1, where we stopped for lunch.  Best mountain views yet–beginning to become a bit of a theme.  More of the nice rhododendrons were blooming.  A couple of good adventurers this morning–a donkey charged me!  I was already on the side of the path and had to leap away, into the ditch.  No harm done though, and though my heart was beating I was uninjured.  Less than an hour later, I tried to slip by a big bull standing in the middle of the path.  He turned and horned me.  I had to catch his horns and was knocked over by the force of it.  Luckily the ground was dry here as well.  And then, less than two hours later, a little goat charged me.  This was just cute though–but still, there was something about my appearance or (more likely) smell that day.

Chow mein!!!

Chow mein!!!

Anyway, lunch was great–chowmin with lots of veggies and bountiful amounts of soy sauce.  We walked on and up, ever climbing.  The last two hours, where we joined the trail from Lukla (and just before) were the best yet.  Lots of flat, some crazy big boulders, streams, mani wheels, picturesque villages, and friendly people.

This place rocks

This place rocks

We reached our intended destination but all of us were feeling good so we pushed on for another hour, to a nice village called Ghat.  We turned down a few 200 rupee rooms and found a nice one for 100.  It featured the first Western toilet of the trek and some really good food.

Mani Walls

Mani Walls

A guide walked with us for a bit.  When he found out where we left and did some calculating, he nodded in approval.  “Very fast. This is Nepali time,” he said.  He was maybe being nice, but we did cover 29 kilometers in 8 hours.  Ghat is only at 2592 meters, so we’ve net gained less than 200 meters these three days of hiking.  It’s brutal, but I am tiger balming like a champ.

Cool villages

Cool villages

The chlorine pills aren’t nearly as annoying as I thought.  Nonetheless, two bottles are vital, as it takes 30-60 minutes for them to work.  We’re shooting for Namche tomorrow–the thought of bakeries is powerful antidote to the fear of 1000 meters of elevation gain.

Lurking Mountains

Lurking Mountains

I haven’t been hungry–body is too tired  So my budget so far has been less than 7 dollars a day.  But prices keep going up.  I still haven’t showered–will save it for Namche!

Day 3

From / To: Bhupsa to Ghat
Elevation: 2592 meters
Lodge: Llama Lodge
Budget: 725 rupees

 

Everest Base Camp – Day 2, Nunthala to Bhupsa

Woke up to another sunny day, and the sounds of birds cawing and donkey bells ringing.  The day began with a  lot of descent (700 meters) through very pretty country.  And then we bottomed out, crossed a bridge, and climbed back up 400 meters in an hour-and-a-half.  Stopped at a nice village called KariKola and lunch was the best food so far.  The others got daal bhat but, not as hungry, I stuck with the old classic spring roll.

Even more donkeys today.  I finished “A Horse and His Boy” on audio as we climbed to increasingly nice views. My legs were pretty sore still, and my neck/shoulders were quite unhappy as well.  But the days were still utterly enjoyable.

After lunch, we climbed some more, through the beginnings of rhododendron forests. The company was divided about what to do when we reached Bupsa at 3:30.  There was still plenty of time in the day, but more climbing didn’t sound that great.  But Mads and Jamie, who were keen to keep going, thought if we pushed on for another hour it would put Namche at just two days away.

Lethargy won the day, and we ended staying with in a lodge with a really cute little girl who kept us all entertained that longish afternoon.  Another 50 rupee a night room, and although the hot shower on offer was only 100 rupees I chose to wallow in my filth a while longer.

The body was sore, but no blisters yet is a major success!

Day 2

From / To: Nunthala to Bupsa
Elevation: 2640 meters
Lodge: LT Sherpa Lodge and Restaurant
Budget: 590 rupees

 

 

Everest Base Camp – Day 1, Salleri to Nunthala

It was Tibetan New Year, which means we were woken early to blasting Om Mani Padme chants on the hotel sound system. We found we’d been kind of gouged on the rooms and food–300 rupes for the rooms and 350 for the dahl baat, which would be the most expensive we paid for a week. But at the same time, it wasn’t too much and we hadn’t had much choice.

While the others ate breakfast, I explored the small town. Even here, there were shops with trekking equipment for sale, hanging in the windows. The sun was up and the blue sky was filled with Simpsons clouds. A great day for trekking!

Views from Salleri

Views from Salleri

Once we left, we found that there were a lot of donkeys. And a lot of donkey shit. We walked through an unholy combination of mud and donkey shit for hours. One of us, I won’t say who, slipped at one point and got a pretty crappy hand.

Many miles of poo trail

Many miles of poo trail

Lunch in Ringmo took some time–an hour and a half for our food to come out. It was sunny but chilly and we played Zombie Dice while we waited. None of us were impressed with our food when it did arrive, and after it was a steep climb to the highest pass until Namche Bazaar. I listened to some Narnia on audiobook for a bit and passed some great ruins.

Donkey Trains

Donkey Trains

We started to see mountains today–it felt like day 3 or 4 of the Annapurna Circuit. The views were unexpected and already so nice. On the other hand, the people in general were less nice. Fewer smiles, more glares, even a handful of people who didn’t respond to our “namastes.” Weird. We did meet a cool Nepali guy whose sister just moved to New York. He showed us of the american clothes she had shipped back to him for his baby, and I shared my orange with a slightly other child while he talked.

All told, we climbed 600 meters (crossing our first pass or “la”) and descended 800 meters. So all that climbing and yet ended up in a town (Nunthala) with a lower elevation than Salleri the previous night! It was a tough and long before the end of the day I got the jelliest of jelly legs.

Walking into Nunthala

Walking into Nunthala

Nunthala is a nice town, and we got rooms for 50 rupees each. Some wild mushroom fried rice for dinner hit the spot. Afterwards, I broke out Cards Against Humanity and we all had a hilarious time. Ash and Jamie shared a Tongba–Tibetan millet beer–but I was firmly on the water. Crashed before 9 and slept all the way until 7:30 the next morning.

Tongba - Hot Tibetan Millet Beer

Tongba – Hot Tibetan Millet Beer

Day 1
From / To: Salleri to Nunthala
Elevation: 2330 meters
Lodge: Himalayan Trekker Inn
Budget: 525 rupees

Everest Base Camp – Day .5, Kathmandu to Salleri

Many people fly to Lukla (the so-called world’s most dangerous airport,) but it’s quite expensive and cuts out on at least 3 days each way. So the 3 guys I met on trekking partners and I all agreed that walking in was the way for us. The traditional route is taking a bus to the town of Jiri, but we found that by jeeping into a town called Salleri, we’d save 3 days of up-and-down climbing.

I was up at 3 this morning and after meeting the guys and a short taxi ride, at the jeep stand at 3:30. There was no one there. We were supposed to leave at 4:15. Some people did show up but still nothing was very clear. After much standing around, jeep changing, standing around, and sitting around, we set out at 5 after 5.

Refueling Jeep

Refueling JeepE

It was a beautiful road–figuratively stunningly so at times. (It’s a new road, built by Nepalis with Japanese support, funding, and equipment. It’s supposed to be finished in 2015 but already–with lots of diversions–people are making the trip.) We were packed in tightly; four people per seat, so 12 people in a smallish jeep. There was a lot to talk about with the guys. All of us were tired but it was nigh impossible to catch any sleep on those bumpy roads.

Goat Crossing

Goat Crossing

We passed so many small communities, cows and goats and chickens and just life everywhere you saw. Drove through a river valley and then climbed slowly, slowly, slowly up into the mountains. We stopped for breakfast puri and aloo jeera and then for lunch at a place with 100 rupee daal baht. At one point, we stopped for about an hour-and-a-half because of a strike or road work or something. At any rate, the 12 hour jeep ride ended up taking 16 hours, and by the time we arrived at Salleri it was 9 pm and quite dark.

River Valley

River Valley

We were worried a bit about finding a place to stay, but the jeep took us to a guesthouse Bruised from the grueling ride–the last 2 hours was a potholed, uneven track that even the 4-wheel drive struggled with, we stumbled out and ordered daal baht and mint tea.

Although we were only 1522 meters up, it was quite chilly. I slept in my thermals inside my sleeping bag, and wasn’t too warm. This bodes poorly!

Day .5
From / To: Kathmandu to Salleri
Elevation: 2390 meters
Lodge: Laxmi Lodge Hotel
Budget: 650 rupees

Yeti Hikes: Annapurna vs Everest Base Camp (3 Peaks)

Hiking in Nepal is a rather exceptional experience.  During the day you walk through pine forests, granite rivers, soaring mountains, and yak trains.  And at night you end up in a lodge for a dollar or two with menus offering items like pizza, spaghetti, and of course dal bhat.  I first hiked the Annapurna Circuit in 2010 and when I came back in 2013 I had to go back and hike it again.  Now, as of April 2014, I have just returned from Everest Base Camp.  It was an early season hike, and two of the three passes were snowed over, but I got to cross Cho La and spent time in the great towns of Gokyo and Chukkung.

How do the two hikes compare?

I’m glad you asked.

EVEREST BASE CAMP / 3 PASSES

Gokyo Ri - 5357 meters

Gokyo Ri – 5357 meters

Though most people fly into Lukla (for 160 dollars each way) I jeeped into Salleri–a crushing 16 hour ride over pretty rough roads.  The Japanese have funded the building of a proper road, however, and it is completed I think Salleri will become a very popular trailhead–perhaps even surpassing Jiri.

  • The mountains come sooner, there are more of them, and they are quite frankly astounding.
  • You are walking through sherpa land, and meet people who have summited Everest (and other peaks) dozens of times.  The host in one guest house I stayed was the guide for Bear Grylls when he climbed in 1998.
  • More Yaks!  Bigger, hairier and hornier–true alpine beasts.
  • Fewer Tims checkpoints.  Small point, but it’s annoying to have to stop and dig through your pack.
  • Monastery at Tengboche.  The chanting and singing here is a profoundly beautiful experience.
  • Sherpa Stew.  Veggies and noodles and flour balls all in savory broth–a true treat of a meal (I never saw it on the AC.)
  • Easier to get change.  Because it’s more touristy, there’s less problem making change for 500 and 1000 rupee notes.
  • Longer at high altitudes.  This is both good and bad, but you get higher on the 3 passes track and stay higher for much longer.

THE ANNAPURNA CIRCUIT

AC - Mustang Valley

AC – Mustang Valley

Though some people jeep in, the full circuit starts at Besi Sahar and ends at Naya Pul.  This is a 14ish day hike and both ends are a fairly short bus ride from Pokhara.

  • The ride from Pokhara to the trail head is much shorter!
  • It’s not an out-and-back, which is always nice.
  • The people you meet along the way are much friendlier.
  • There are water stations to refill–no chlorine pills or filters needed.
  • It’s easier to wash and dry your clothes along the way.
  • Manang > Namche Bazaar.
  • There is more seabuckthorn juice!
  • The food in the guesthouses is cheaper.
  • Free showers along the way.
  • The villages are much, much better.
  • The general rhythm of the trail; climbing for half and descending for half, is much nicer than the constant up-and-downs of the 3 Passes.

Part of it might be first love, as I hiked the AC first, but for me it’s still the better hike.  But both hikes are great and well worth doing–maybe multiple times.  I liken them to Nirvana and Pearl Jam–which ever you heard first is probably still your favorite, but you can’t go wrong either way!

 

Photo of the Week: All You Need Are Owls

This might not be the greatest tshirt in the world, but then again, it just might be.

–Found in Bangkok at the Chatuchak Weekend Market.

John, George, Paul, and Ringwhoooooo?

John, George, Paul, and Ringwhoooooo?

Yeti Eats: Khun Churn

While we didn’t go out to eat that much in Chiang Mai, there was a vegan buffet only about a 15 minute walk away that became a favorite.

Well, largely vegan as some dishes had eggs. But even throwing those out there were all kinds of options, including salads, curries, soups, and tempura. At only 129 baht (about 4 USD), it was cheap and a great, shady place to spend an afternoon.