Day 2 – Phakding (8,700 ft – map) to Namche Bazar (11,283 ft) – 6 miles – 6 hours 30 minutes
Up at 6am as we were shockingly cold overnight considering it was the lowest altitude of the trek and I slept only with the aid of Benadryl, mostly for the chest infection but also for mental aid to pass out.
Having heard that our hike up to Namche would end in some difficult switchbacks and learning that Nepali people are actually all supermen, I managed to sneak a couple more pounds of weight from the bag I was carrying into Kishor’s pack.
The hike was fairly innocent in treating us to sweeping valley views over the Dudh Kosi river, seeing our first white cap mountains, and the real treat for the day was crossing some of the longest suspension bridges I had ever seen. The only trick to this though was once you started in on crossing and making it near the halfway mark you may be presented with a convoy of Yak’s or other horned animals crossing from the other direction. If you are daring enough you can attempt to share the bridge in hopes that they do the same, but your common sense and your guide yelling at you to run in the other direction may hold you back.
After lunch we started our ascent up the long dusty switchback trail into Namche. I am still not sure if it was the chest infection, altitude, the weight of the pack, or just the start of getting our bodies into hiking shape; but looking back over the whole trip this first real test of effort left me feeling the worst I faced throughout the whole trip. It wasn’t physically the hardest effort we put in during the trek, but in rating our health it was pretty low for me.
Day 3 & 4 – Namche Bazar Rest Days (11,283 ft – map)
Walking into Namche is how I pictured it must have been like to visit Lhasa Tibet before it became touristy with the gigantic monastery on the hill. The town was HUGE and a shopping mecca, especially considering the only way goods make it into town is by planes flying them into Lukla and porters making the trek to carry them to the stores. Which I was most thankful for after hearing from several folks on their way down just how cold it gets up near the top and me only with my thin down jacket to keep me warm. EmSue had thought ahead and purchased a cheap large puffy jacket in Kathmandu, but now I was kicking myself for missing the bargain shopping and found the best option was to rent a large down jacket for the next 8 days.
Our main purpose for taking these rest days just two days into the trek was to acclimate to the altitude before going any higher. All of the failure stories we had heard from folks being helicoptered out was a result of rapid altitude ascent. Being all too familiar with the mind-splitting headaches of altitude from the hike with Matt and EmSue up to the top of Mount Whitney (14,508 ft) I was in no mood to ruin this trip by rushing it. The rule of high altitude hiking is to hike high and sleep low, so what this meant to us during our “rest days” was to go for a walk up the two nearest hills over the next couple days to ensure we keep our legs loose and our bodies adjusting.
After hearing about all the failed treks of people attempting EBC but not finishing we were beginning to wonder if we would even see Mount Everest on our hike. We started saying things like “I am OK with not making it since it’s so beautiful here, but I just want to see Everest in person from a distance”. So in some ways once we reached our first Everest view point above Namche we truly felt the trip wasn’t a waste of money and that we didn’t fly all this way with Kishor and our rented gear to turn back around; the trip was already a success!
More great pictures from Day 2-4 of the hike in the slideshow below (not visible in email subscription).