Fergus and I arrived in Kathmandu on the 6th October. We minced around for a couple of days, picking up last minute supplies and embracing the hustle and bustle of this fabled city. We were keen, however, not to hang around for too long. We had a plan and wanted to get going.
We started our journey with the famous flight into Lukla, the ‘most dangerous airport in the world’.
We shared a Twin Otter plane with 10 locals and guides as we flew from Kathmandu to Lukla. The Tenzing-Hillary airstrip has a reputation for being the most dangerous airport in the world due to regular bad weather and a short, uphill runway that ends on a cliff.
Our flight was smooth for the most part although being able to see into the cockpit was a touch unnerving especially as the pilot seemed to be reading the newspaper.
The views were incredible. The valley grew bigger and wilder and far below we could see small villages and trekking trails. Little did we know that we’d be walking through some of these villages on our way back to Kathmandu a few weeks later.
I stared out the window for the 1hr30minute flight at the distant white peaks, trying to recognise the highest ones. Our trip felt like it had begun when we stepped off the plane and begun our mission to Namche Bazaar, the last big village before we disappear into the wilderness of the Sagamartha national park.
These mule trains are more often than not the only way food and supplies can reach the remote villages in the Himalayas. That means that food and medical supplies can often be weeks away from reaching its destination. Something we have no concept of at home. People complain when a delivery is an hour late.
Fergus and I went big on our first days trekking to Namche from Lukla. We disregarded the recommended 3 days in the name of youthfulness and arrived as dusk fell after a tough 700m altitude gain into the market town which sat in a horse shoe shape at 3440m surrounded by snowy peaks.
We’d crossed narrow swinging bridges, drank and washed in streams and seen our first 6000m peak. Here I’m giving way to a mule procession, something we’d do a lot of over the next couple of weeks.
Namche Bazaar on a crisp morning. We crashed at a ladies house for one night, kept up by the cold as we slept on her sofas in our sleeping bags.She’d lured us in with her deliciously smelling beef MOMO – a Tibetan style dumpling. The highlight though, was her homemade spicy chili sauce. Heaven. We’d be back.
October 10. Not a bad place to turn 25. We’d reached the small Sherpa village of Thame, sitting high at 3800m. Thame is home to one of the oldest monasteries in the Khumbu region and it’s also home to many famous Sherpa mountaineers. It felt like a special place.
We celebrated my birthday with a hike up to this view point at around 4600m, almost the height of Mont Blanc back home in Chamonix.
What made it special was this dude asked if he could come with us and he was stoked to lead us up a trail to this view. I took this photo as he stood silently gazing out over his country. Proud and humble, quite incredible for a 10 year old. Not to mention he did the whole thing in tattered flip flops.
Gokyo Lakes. 4700m. A small settlement on the edge of two turquoise lakes, the highest fresh water lakes in the world. This settlement is so high its only inhabited a few months a year. We reached Gokyo via the Renjo La pass which crossed over from the Thame valley at 5,360m. The Snickers at the top was particularly good. It was hard work at this altitude.
But that’s what we’d come to see. High peaks and dramatic scenery. Man I like nature. Behind me whilst taking this photo stands Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world. We could see it from our window at the lodge next to the lake, taking the term ‘room with a view’ to a whole new level.
We stayed here for a few days. I was recovering from mild AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) whilst Fergus ran up to Gokyo Ri and back for fun, a 600m gain to get the first real view of Mt. Everest. I recovered and did it the next morning although it was still a struggle.
There she is. I was reading Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer along the trail to Everest (along with everyone else it seemed, but I got over the cliché) and it was magical to get my first real sight on the highest mountain in the world that has been through so much. Opinions are divided whether all the tourism this peak attracts is healthy or not but one thing is for sure you can’t underestimate this mountain.
I took the above photo from Gokyo Ri, 5,357m. We headed down, packed our bags and left Gokyo behind, but not before Fergus was told off for swimming in the holy lake.
Certain we were now cursed, we had to cross the Ngozumpa glacier to get to the Cho La pass which would take us up to Everest base camp.
Crossing the glacier was harder than we imagined, we ended up having to throw down big rocks to make pathways between small glacial rivers flowing down from Cho Oyu. It took longer than expected but it was a good work out and we had successfully earned our dinner of rice and vegetables. Again.
We’d spent a few days at Gorak Shep, the closest settlement before EBC and we felt it was time to get moving again. We headed back down the valley, fully acclimatized and speed trekking all the way down back to Namche where we stopped in for some more beef MOMO. On the way we passed Ama Dablam up close, a beautiful jagged peak that reminded be a bit of the Matterhorn in Switzerland. My favourite peak from the trip for sure.
We’d reached Pokhara, a lakeside town 10hrs west of Kathmandu at the foot of the Annapurna ranges, via some jungle trekking from Lukla to Salleri to avoid the expensive airfare, a horrific jeep journey from Salleri to Kathmandu and then a long bus journey from Kathmandu to Pokhara.
We were getting a bit sick of it all to be honest and it was nice to relax for a few days by the lake before our trip came to an end. Unfortunately I became very ill and couldn’t enjoy the last few days but looking back on the trip I have some very fond memories and I’m glad to have spent it with my bro Fergus.