Tuesday, 1 May 2012

From Mountains to Terai

As I'm sure you've guessed, we've arrived back in the lowlands. Despite some turbulence the flight from Lukla was uneventful. The final days of our trek were bittersweet: we miss the mountains already but it's nice to have a break from oxygenless treks and plain food!

We've just arrived at our resort in Chitwan from Nagarkot - a gorgeous hilltop station outside of Kathmandu - where we stayed last night. Since we just spent 2 weeks walking everywhere we went, the bus was a nice change despite the bumpyness of the ride. It took 5 hours of winding up and down roads barely wide enough to fit our small bus to get here. After a couple of close calls with opposite-direction traffic, and a massive rainstorm that soaked all of our bags (which were strapped to the roof of the bus), we're finally at the Riverside Resort just outside of Chitwan National Park. The bright green grass, plethora of trees, and teeming wildlife is a welcomed change from the barren landscapes of the upper Himalaya.

A few of us just got back from exploring the village, where elephants were seen mingling with traffic. Tomorrow, we're taking a jeep into the jungle followed by a trip to the elephant breeding centre where we will take some rides of our own. We will be here for a second night on Wednesday, and hopefully the weather will allow for some extra activities such as canoe rides and fishing before we head back to Boudha, Kathmandu for our final night in Nepal.

We'd like to get back to relaxing by the river now, but we hope all is well back home in Canada!


Jamie and Heather.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

We just climbed Mt.Everest!!!


... What do you mean base camp doesn't count?

We're now in a village called Pheriche, just on the other side of the hill from Dingboche. Yesterday, after eating lunch in Gorak Shep - we made the trek up the rocky, icy, bouldery Khumbu glacier to Mt.Everest Base Camp. It was much busier than we expected, but it was pretty cool to see the village of tents filled with people from expeditions preparing for their climb. I think it's safe to say that each one of us got too many pictures, so you'll all be able to see it when we're back.

Last time we updated, we were still in Dingboche. The trek to Chhukhung was fairly enjoyable, and we had a pretty good time while we were there. The village (not sure if that would be an accurate term, it's a small gathering of buildings that is only seasonally occupied) of Chhukhung was chilly - and windy. On our "rest day" there, we trekked up to Imja glacial lake, which is completely frozen at this point in the year. It was beautiful none-the-less. A few people who will not be named were throwing rocks at it and managed to break the ice. Had a GLOF been caused, we'd all be dead. Since there is absolutely nothing around the lake other than Chhukhung, Lhakpa gave us all a packed lunch of Tibetan bread, yak cheese, crackers, a granola bar, and a hard boiled egg. Yum.

Chhukhung to Lobuche was a longer trek. Down the shrubby, rocky hill to Dingboche, through Dingboche, up a hill, and across an expansive plain to Dugla. After lunch in Dugla, we tackled a large, bouldery hill and then up the valley to Lobuche. We had some tea, and then visited the Italian Research Centre (a  large glass pyramid). The electrical engineer for the facility showed us around - he was a very interesting Italian character. Lobuche was cold, but we all slept... for about 2 hours. We all woke up with frozen water and toothpaste.


Today Kala Patthar (or Crawlup Patthar as some of us have been calling it...) was done by most of us after a 6am breakfast. Then alllllll the way down here to Pheriche. Coming down rather than up is great for a few reasons:

1. The air gets thicker. We like oxygen.
2. The food gets better (Lhakpa made us eat too much garlic on the way up to acclimatize).
3. We get to smile as we watch people struggle up the hills that we are now walking down.
4. We are getting closer and closer to fulfilling our various cravings ("Dill pickles!" - Jordan. "Subway sandwich!" - Reed, "Onion rings!" - Meaghan, "Pizza!" - Jamie, "BEER!" - All of us, in unison.)

3 Days until we fly back to Kathmandu to eat, shop, and go see Chitwan National Park.

Hope you guys are enjoying Canada! Eat something other than potatoes for us. :)


- Jamie, Jordan, Meaghan, Reed.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Pictures from Ama Dablam base camp.

Walking through the Clouds

Hi everybody!

This message comes to you from Dingboche (4400m approx.), a lovely little Sherpa village in the shadow of Mt. Ama Dablam.

Our trek from Pangboche only took us 2.5 hours and was relatively easy compared to the others so far, but really dusty. We've had to take extra care in covering our noses and mouths so that we don't eat dust...or bite the dust.

There has been a slight change of schedule since Pangboche. We are spending an extra night in Dingboche to make sure that everyone has acclimatized properly. We will still spend 2 nights in Chukkung ( where we trek tomorrow, April 21), but we've had to sacrifice our second night in Tengboche on the way back from Everest Base Camp to do so.

So far the highlight of Dingboche has been our excursion to the West Base Camp of Ama Dablam. Though the mountain is smaller than Everest, it is far more difficult to climb. In addition to the 300m climb from Pangboche, trekking to base camp added another 400m to the excursion, in order for us to acclimatize for our trek to Lobuche in 2 days time.

The trek to base camp took us on a steep trek over a ridge past the tree line, glacial ice and had us immersed in clouds to the point where we couldn't even see Dingboche anymore. The clouds were a welcome change to the dry dusty air we've been experiencing recently. Once we reached the top of the ridge we felt like we were on a different planet. For those of you Lord of the Rings nerds out there- it looked and felt a lot like the Kingdom of Rohan - only without the horses and people. An expanse of dry land surrounded by mountains with next to no vegetation and big black boulders, eventually led us to a glacial lake at the foot of Ama Dablam. To be honest- the lake was more like a pond or puddle, but you could see by the water line on the surrounding rocks that the true lake is massive in the right season. Regardless, we enjoyed our time there, lounging on the rocks. We even found what appeared to be the remains of a musk deer leg in a nearby cave- likely lunch for a snow leopard. We also caught a glimpse of a few griffins, though no other people. This was a bit of a shock for us seeing as this was a base camp. We were expecting lots of tents and climbers at base camp, even so, the remnants of past expeditions were visible. Lhakpa ( our awesome Shepra guide) informed us that the Western approach to Ama Dablam's summit (where we were) is extremely difficult, so most climbers attempt the summit from the eastern side.

(Side note: we should mention that as we write this we are currently watching people throw yak dung into a stove with their bare hands - but it's keeping us warm so we won't complain!!)

Anyways, the trek down from base camp was considerably faster than the way up, as we had gravity on our side. We saw a snow fox on our way down as well as several yak. The way back included a slight detour for half of the group, but we soon reunited just in time to cross a sketchy bridge that we're sure none of you will ever want to see. Not to worry though, only 5 people fell off      (Kidding!!! : D )

We spent the rest of the evening eating, chatting and playing some rowdy card games.

Today, our extra day in Dingboche was spent lazily lounging around the lodge for the most part, though some of us went on an awesome adventure around the neighbouring hills.

Tomorrow we plan to trek to Chukkung. We'll update on our upcoming adventures as soon as possible!

Till then, Cheers!

Erica, Jaclyn and Jamie


Wednesday, 18 April 2012

One wrong step, and you fail the course.

After Namche we were in Phortse for 2 nights. On the "rest day" in between, we hiked far uphill to a summer pasture where the Sherpa people bring their yaks to graze. Then we continued up to a small peak at just over 4100m. The lodge was great, but conditions are declining from there. Last night we had a local elder who has expeditioned with Sir Edmund Hillary speak to us about village life and how it has changed from Tourism.
So we're in Pangboche - a very small Himalayan village that miraculously has internet. We left Phorste this morning at 8 am, and had a relatively short hike (3 hours including breaks) up and down the cliff side. Along the way, we saw griffins, pheasants, and what Reid thought was a dead body (we're pretty sure it was just a stray red jacket stuck to a tree in the distance).
Upon arrival we feasted on shell pasta with yak cheese and tomato sauce - yum! We've been eating a lot of potatoes lately. We visited another monestary that was over 600 years old.
We finally have an updated schedule for the rest of our trekking. The following is our plans for the next 10 days:
19th: Trek from Pangboche to Dingboche (also, Jamie's birthday!!!)
20th: Trek from Dingboche to Chekkung
21st: "Rest day" in Chekkung
22nd: Trek from Chekkung to Lobuche (we hear this is a tough one)
23rd: Trek from Lobuche to Gorak Shep, and climb Kala Pattar after lunch.
24th: From Gorak Shep to Base Camp, then straight down to Lobuche for the night.
25th: Trek from Lobuche to Tengboche
26th: "Rest day" in Tengboche
27th: Trek from Tengboche to Namche Bazaar
28th: Trek from Namche Bazaar to Lukla
29th: Early morning flight to Kathmandu.

We'll spend a night in Kathmandu then head down to Chitwan National Park for 2 nights. Then we'll be headed back to Canada!

Once again, we miss you all, and we will post again whenever there is internet (but no guarantees!!!).


Eva, Heather, and Jamie.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

We're still alive!

After a short but breathtaking flight to Lukla we finally made it up steep trails to this internet cafe. Friday night was spent in Phakding (a four hour trek from Lukla) and then an eight hour day of trekking brought us to Namche Bazaar - where we are now. Tonight will be our second night here, so that no one passes out from the altitude as we proceed to Phorchhe tomorrow (one step closer to base camp!). The trails can be anything from steep stone stairs that you pretty much have to jump up, swinging suspension bridges that are sketchy to say the least, small muddy trails over large cliffs, or narrow flat logs that have been placed over rockfalls and landslides. Also, we have to watch out for Yaks because they ALWAYS have right of way, and will push you right off the trail (usually over a massive cliff) if you don't give them space.

Today we did a 6 hour excursion on our "rest day" up* to Khunde, where we visited a hospital founded by Hillary and spoke with a local doctor. While we were eating lunch, it started to hail rather hard (the clouds are sometimes beneath us at this altitude, but not today). We geared up and started trekking back to Namche but as we descended the hail turned to rain and we basically slid down mud paths. What took us 3 hours to get up, took less than an hour on the way down. This might help to explain why we won't be at Base Camp until the 24th, but we're flying out from Lukla on the 29th.

On the bright side being really muddy and wet after lunch today is pretty much the worst that has happened for anyone in our group. One person has encountered a bit of nausea over the past few days, but we can assure you they are fine.

We'll try to post again soon when we can find access to internet, but it might not be until were back here in Namche Bazaar on the way down (10 or so days from now). Hope everything is good in Canada, we miss you all!!!


Jamie & Jordan

*by up, we mean pretty much straight up.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Bags are packed, liquids confiscated, and now we're just waiting... for hours... to board...

a 15 hour flight to Hong Kong.

Once we arrive in HK, some of us will be visiting Victoria Peak and Stanley Market since we have a 12 hour lay over.

And then finally, we'll be in Kathmandu - for any final prep before our early morning flight to Lukla on Thursday.

Namaste. :)

- Andrew, Eva, Jamie, Heather, Jaclyn (everyone else is sleeping on the floor)