The Home Stretch!

The post is being written on March 18 USA time.

The day dawned bright and sunny with only light winds, but bitter cold. I felt good enough to move on, but my sleep was not the best.  After my typical breakfast of fried eggs, a couple of pieces of toast (no butter), and some fried potatoes, we headed up the trail at about 8:15 am. Today was a fairly short day; our distance was limited by the placement of the villages, and limiting elevation gain so as to allow acclimatization. I also walk very slowly at this altitude.

The route continued to follow the dwindling Dudh Koshi and initially contoured high on its left slope. We gained elevation gradually, but you could still feel the lack of air in my lungs. Thankfully, my cough has subsided somewhat, but soon the bitter cold air made my throat scream. The land was brown and punctuated by soaring icy peaks. I will let some photos do the talking here:

After our lunch at Tukla, we made a right turn and began a 1 hour climb up a towering moraine of the Khumbu Glacier, the glacier that originates in the cirque between Lhotse and Mount Everest. When we reach the top, we encountered a virtual graveyard. Not actual graves, but memorials to the scores of climbers who have perished trying to climb Mount Everest. I would have liked to spend a couple of hours looking at all of them, but it was damn cold and my lungs were searing. About 40 minutes later we arrived at Lobuche; an early day as we arrived before 2 pm.

A line of memorial cairns at the entrance to the Khumbu.
A colorful memorial facing the Himalayas
A memorial plaque to a lost Russian climber.

The lodge here is not too good. I have a long march down a hallway to the toilet. I solved that problem; I procured an empty plastic bottle, so no trips to the loo. The lodge was packed, there are only a few lodges here, so all the lodges are pretty full. The staff are mostly young Nepali who work here during the trekking season. When the yak poo fire wouldn’t start, these kids made an attempt to get it going with a few pieces of wood and kerosene. They managed to get it going only after filling the room with smoke and the strong odor of kerosene. I fully expect a terrible headache tonight from the fumes, but the alternatives meant being somewhere far too cold. Thankfully, I spend only one night here.

Guides and porters gathered around the stinking yak poo fire.

Tomorrow, the plan is to hike to Gorak Shep that last village before base camp. After a snack there, we will continue onto EVEREST BASE CAMP! Lungs and legs willing.


Written on March 17 USA time…

I had another miserable night last night, triggered I guess by the altitude gain and the urine productIon caused by the diamox. I think I only had about 2 hours of sleep. I also saw a return of the irregular breathing issue I had back in Namche Bazar. I was happy when dawn came, but I was exhausted. My appetite was gone too.

Nevertheless, I geared myself for the morning acclimatization hike, up the adjacent mountain about 250 m. I joined the procession of a couple of hundred trekkers snaking up the mount under a bright sun and stiff frigid wind. I forced myself to keep going, resting every one hundred steps. Counting my steps kept my mind off my misery. After reaching the turn-around point marked by a cairn supporting a prayer flag, we turned around and had an incredible view of Lhotse, Makalu (over 8000 m), and Ama Dablam towered over us across the village of Dingboche.

Here are some pictures from our view point:


After the brief photo op, our decent was quick. I sat in the dining room of the lodge in near total exhaustion. My lunch came, but I had little appetite. Still, I forced my self to eat the entire bowl of Sherpa stew. It took me nearly an hour to finish it, then I staggered back to my room, which had warmed in the sun, and crawled beneath my sleeping bag. I fell asleep within minutes, and slept soundly for 2 hours. That was my longest sleep since Namche, and also the longest I have gone without peeing. I felt much better after the nap. I spent the rest of the day hanging out in the lodge dining room in front of the yak poop oven, talking with the other trekkers.

If I can get a decent sleep tonight, I will move up the trail, otherwise I will spend an extra day here. Everest base camp is only a two days march from here, but the air gets thinner. Tomorrow morning will be decision time.

Cold at 4,400 m

No internet here, so although I’m writing this on March 16 USA time, I won’t be posting until a future day.

I had another terrible night of sleep, ruined by frequent trots down the hall to pee – a side-effect of the Diamox I am taking to prevent altitude sickness – and bitter cold seeping into my sleeping bag from below. The dawn was clear, but gathering clouds greeted the start of the day’s hike. To top it off my breakfast of a cheese omelet didn’t have much cheese, and two eggs was just not enough.

Clouds gathered around the peaks, and a cold wind began to blow.
We were now up in the alpine tundra, too cold for trees…and humans.

The hike actually was not difficult, except for the altitude, but I had very little energy. The route followed the Dudh Koshi, with two suspension-bridge crossings. I trudged along at a snail pace, and felt a bit better after my lunch of fried potatoes, cheese, and egg. I’ve had very little meat with during the trek, just some buffalo stew lower down.  I’ll be ready for a big old steak when I get home.

After lunch, the sky had become overcast and a cold, cold wind blew.

Cold at our morning tea stop at Pangboche 

We were now over 4,000 meters high (about 13,200 ft) and no trees broke the wind. The land had turned brown and tundra-like. Then it started to snow lightly. By the time we reached our destination, Dingboche, the wind was bitter cold and the temperature well below 0 C (probably in the low 20s F), and by nightfall a dusting of snow had accumulated on t he frozen ground.

Fortunately, Dingboche (4400 m high) is a fairly large village catering to trekkers and yaks, so I have a relatively nice lodge, with en suite squater so no cold trots down the hall tonight. In the lodge I met two young Americans, Carter and Justin, who had quit there jobs and were roaming the globe. We had a couple of hours of good conversation around the yak dung fire. Tomorrow is an acclimatization day, so I’ll be here a second night. Tomorrow, Bhakta wants me to hike up the mountain to 5100 m and back, I will only commit to 4450 m. So we I’ll see.

Healthwise, I feel like I’m handling the altitude ok, except for having to walk very slowly, one step, one breath, sometimes two. I still have the Khumbu cough, which turns into a very sore throat while breathing in the cold air. I’ll probably bring that back to Chiang Mai. My main worry is the upcoming bitter cold around Everest base camp – I’m freezing here and still have another 1000 m (or 3,300 ft) to go, which translate into somewhere around 5 to 7 degrees C colder than here. It will help if the wind stops and the sun stays out.

On the Trail Again

Last night I slept fairly well except for a very bad fit of coughing about an hour after getting in my sleeping bag.  It finally calmed down by itself.  It’s really hard to lose this cough when you spend all day in cold air breathing through your mouth.  At least it doesn’t seem to be getting any worse.  Also, I think I figured out something about this feeling of suffocation – I think these episodes are self inflicted. They only occur when I am lying still trying to sleep.  My mind starts to worry about the altitude, and I start breathing voluntarily, rather than just forgetting about breathing and let my brains/lungs do their job.  When I take over, I tend to breathe too deeply, thus triggering the loss of CO2 from my blood stream, which in turn lowers the urge to breathe.  Then the cycle starts again.  If I lie there doing something like playing with my phone, I just breathe normally, with no issues at all.  My theory is backed up by the fact that I had no issues while hiking today, and feel fine now even though I am over 3800 m (12,500 ft).  Of course it could also be because I started taking Diamox.  Or maybe it’s a combination.

Speaking of Diamox, One of its side effects is frequent urination.  Both last night, and today while hiking, I must have stopped to pee every 15 minutes on average.  Fortunately, I bought a new hydration bladder at Namche so I was able to keep hydrated.

Fir trees and towering peaks floating above the clouds.

Today’s hike started with a stiff climb out of Namche, then a 2-3 km of contouring, before plunging down a few hundred meters to cross the Dudh Khoshi on another vertigo-inducing suspension bridge.  From there it was up up up about 600 meters or 2000 ft vertical to Tengboche, the location of a famous large monastery.  I passed by without even a picture, I guess I’ve seen one to many Buddhist temples in my time. The weather was sunny for the most part, in spite of clouds swirly about the high peaks.  It is impossible to describe, and photos don’t capture, how dramatic it is when you are hiking directly beneath icy peaks that are more than 2 miles above you.  A mountain will appear impossibly high as it peaks over a diffuse cloud.

The yaks are coming the yaks are coming…..

On the part of the trail above Namche, the donkey trains have been replaced by trains of lumbering shaggy yaks.   They kick up a dust storm as they plod by.  The vegetation has also changed with the pines below Namche giving way to tall fir trees.   Tomorrow, we will climb up above treeline, which should yield unobstructed views, but I fear the cold wind.

Tonight, the lodge’s dining room is filled with trekkers, including a large contingent of Koreans who brought their own food, compete with plates, chickens and chopsticks.  I had horrible spaghetti with tomato sauce and cheese where the tomato sauce was a splash of ketchup.  Ah well, I am not here for the cuisine.

My lodgings tonight – typical tea house room, a bed and not much more.

Rest Day

Last night I had a bit better sleep.  I still had some episodes of suffocation, and spent the first half of the night cough badly.  The cough subsided finally and I got a couple of hours of sleep.  Before getting out of my sleeping bag I decided to take a rest day today.  This rest day most likely means I will have to cancel the add-on part of the trek to Gokyo Lakes, which is probably for the best the way I’m feeling anyway.  I will focus on getting to Everest Base Camp and then see what happens.

Given that I am having issues with altitude at Namche Bazar at only 11,500 ft, I will need to proceed slowly and with caution.  I have plenty of time, my flight from Lukla back to Kathmandu is not until the 26th of March, 11 days for what is normally a 8-9 day trek to base camp from Namche.  One day at a time.

I spent the day mostly lying in my sleeping bag, doing NYT crossword puzzles and dosing off and on.  I had only minor episodes of the periodic breathing that plagued me the last 2 nights.  Additionally, I’ve started taking Diamox, the recommended drug for the prevention of altitude sickness.  Downside is it makes you pee a lot.  Won’t be fun getting out of a warm sleeping bag a few times every night.

Gokul, Bhakta and me sitting around the heater.  What you can’t see is that behind the camera WrestleMania is on the big screen TV behind me.

Its now evening and I’m sitting around the electric heater (only source of heat in the building) with Bhakti my guide, and Gokul, my porter.  They take care of my every need, and I am confident I am in good hands.


Written on March 13 USA time

Just when I thought I was better and was handling the altitude, Wham! I had the most miserable night so far on this trip. Every time I just about fell asleep, I would be slammed awake with the feeling of suffocating. I few deep breaths later, and I was fine…and wide awake. This is actually a normal response to a fast increase in altitude. The panting of climbing in the thin air reduces ethe amount of carbon dioxide in your blood. Since breathing is mostly to get rid of carbon dioxide, the brain signals your body to slow or even stop breathing. When your oxygen level then also falls, your brain says: oops! and you gasp for air. In addition my cough and sore throat got worse through the long night. By the time it was ready to get breakfast and go on an acclimatization day hike, I was already exhausted.

Namche Bazar from above

The route of the day hike took us straight up about 400 m above Namche Bazar. Every step was a chore. I started counting 25 steps, then resting. I stuck with it, and eventually I rose above the village, and dramatic peaks began to emerge. I reached the dirt air strip far above town which is the highest airstrip in the world, although now it is seldom used.

Our goal was a lodge situated on the hill above Namche at 3850 m, with views up the Khumbu Valley. Sure enough, I rounded the corner of the lodge where a magnificent view of Mount Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam appeared. We spent 20 minutes or so admiring and photographing the view, before heading back down. The return trip was much faster.

My first view of the tip of Mount Everest and Ama Dablam 
Mount Everest close up.  It’s a little windy up there.

I spent the remainder of the day resting, doing some shopping for minor supplies, and having a coffee and brownie at Himalayan Java. My cough has not subsided, so I am seriously spending an additional day here at Namche. Hopefully with a good night’s rest, I will be good to go.

Namche Bazar

Note this post was written on March 12 USA time.


What a difference a good night’s sleep makes! I went to bed the night before thinking I might have to take a day off to let my feet heal and my cold to subside. The night before I got the tea house to fill one of my water bottles with boiling water, and I put that in my sleeping back. I was toasty warm and slept very well. I woke up still coughing some, but felt energized enough to get back on the trail.

Today we made the climb up to the famous Sherpa trading post of Namche Bazar. The day dawned with a bright blue sky.

As we walked up the river, we began to see some magnificent peaks.

The trail continued to follow the Dudh Koshi River northward, staying close to the valley bottom. We passed a series of villages catering to the hordes of trekkers heading toward Everest Base Camp. As we approached one of these villages from below, I realized we had reached a significant milestone: The end moraine of the Wisconsin glacier in the Dudh Koshi Valley.  It was pretty hard to miss actually as we had to climb to its top to reach the next village.

Glacial till – the first I have seen.  Presumable from the maximum glacial advance of the last ice age.

Just north of Monjo, another trekkers’ village, a significant tributary, the Bhoti Koshi River, enters from the northwest, and Namche sits high above the “V” made by the intersection of the two streams. The trail was surprisingly graded, with many switchbacks, and crossed the main valley on a dizzying suspension bridge. I felt pretty good thanks to having lived at or above 2300 m for the last week. I reached Namche, elevation 3440 m (about 11,400 ft) by 3 pm, well ahead of schedule.

Namche Bazar

Namche is a large and hugely prosperous village catering to the trekkers. Shops, cafes and bars line the narrow streets. There is even an Irish pub here, touted as being the highest in the world. I am planning on visiting for a high altitude Guinness on my return nearly 2 weeks from now. Tomorrow is an acclimatization day, we will do a short day hike to a higher altitude, but sleep in Namche again. Hopefully this nagging cough subsides soon.


Last night, spent in the small village of Paiya in the Bee Hive Lodge, was one of the longest nights of my life. I went to bed pretty early, about 8 pm, after a dinner of Sherpa stew, a tasty rice and vegetable glop. My room felt bitter cold and very damp. It was made of stone with a door, two tiny windows, and two tiny beds with very thin mattresses. I couldn’t get warm, even though I have a -10 degree C sleeping bag and my thermometer said it was about +10 C. I tossed and turned until I had to pee, which meant going outside, sown some steps, and into the dark squat toilet. Finally I drifted off.  In my fitfull sleep I dreamt that I woke up and it was pitch black and I had no idea where I was, and I had no idea where any lights were. It was if I had gone totally blind. Then I awoke for real and it was pitch black in that cave of a room, and I had a for-real panic attack, complete with hyperventilation and silent screams. Slowly I came to the realization of where I was and where I kept my headlamp under the pillow. Turning on the headlamp only slightly eased my panic. I spent they rest of the night tossing and turning trying to breathe normally. The thin mattress let the cold in from below and added to my sense of doom. I almost fell asleep when it was time to get ready for another day of hiking.

The Dudh Kosi is down there somewhere, you can see my trail in the upper left.

The day’s hike was pure misery in spite of some spectacular scenery. Not enough sleep together with my lingering cold that was threatening to turn into a cough made the going very slow. By mid morning the rain began. Our route contoured high on the north slope of the Dudh Kosi River, then plunged down 700 m to cross a tributary stream, then back up 400 m.

This rugged region is incredibly populated.

Soon we came to the intersection of the trail down from Lukla, where 95% of the trekkers fly into. Suddenly, my lonely trail, that had been populated by more donkeys than humans, became a virtual superhighway of trekkers fresh in from Kathmandu on the flight into Lukla. We ate an early lunch, then made the long trek northward to Pakding, a large trekker’s town of nothing but tea houses. My tea house is large, with a gas hot shower, and a very large heated dining room. I splurged on a coke for nearly $3.50 to go with my dinner of chicken nuggets and French fries. I’m in a much nicer room tonight so I am hopeful I will avoid a repeat of the panic attack.

Rain and Mud

The rain stopped today long enough to grab one picture.

Note, I am writing this post on March 10 USA time, March 11 in Nepal. I have WiFi at my tea house tonight, but is way to slow to do anything but check email. I will post this when I get a good internet connection (Might be Kathmandu).

Today I awoke feeling miserable. My nose was running – a full blown cold. The weather added to the misery, clouds floated amongst the surround peaks, and valley below me. A light drizzle was falling as I got my self ready for another day of walking.

On the map, todays hike looked like an easy day with no serious climbing. My goal for the day was Paiya, really a series of stone buildings scattered along the trail which contours high on the east slopes of the Dudh Kosi River. I have learned that the trekking map I am using is not very accurate. Today we climbed and climbed and climbed. Instead of contouring we were climbing up and around east-west ridges between the tributaries entering the Dudha Kosi from the east. Every time we would come around one of these ridges, I thought we would level out, but instead I would see the trail climbing high onto the next ridge. In the end, we gained over 1000 m in elevation, only to give back 300-400 m as we descended into a tributary valley where Paiya lies.

As we rounded the last ridge, Paiya appeared across a tributary valley. It looked quite close, maybe 20 minutes walk. My guide said 2 hours! I soon found out why. The descending trail was on a very wet, north-facing cliff face, and carved into the gneissic rocks, in places making a C-shaped notch. The path was a jumble of angular rocks imbedded in mud formed from the rain and donkey piss. Mostly piss. I had to easy my way down stepping from angular stone to slippery angular stone. One misstep and the best I could hope for was a face plant into donkey poo. If I went over the edge, the vegetation might slope me down a bit, but the rocks a 1000 ft below would stop me. In places the trail was only about 2 feet wide. The rain kept my camera in my pack the entire day, I think I took one picture.

We are now sitting around the wood burning stove at the Bee Hive lodge. We were treated to locally grown, fresh pop corn, the best I have ever tasted. Looking forward to my dinner of Sherpa stew.

Turn Towards Everest

Note that this post is being written on March 9 (actually March 10 here). The internet is glacial here so I will post this at the first opportunity.

Today actually was a pretty short day, as promised by my guide. Our route took us down down down from the last major north-south ridge. We ended up at the Dudh Kosi River, the major river running south from the Everest region. At the bridge we were also at the lowest point of the trek at 1500 m, lower by 500 m than where we started! Upon crossing the river on a long suspension bridge, our trail turned north.

Crossing the Dudh Kosi, then it’s a left turn toward Everest

No more up and over high ridges, from there the route follows the river up stream towards Everest. There will still be plenty of ups and downs, mostly ups; I have about 4000 m (more than 2 1/2 miles) of vertical elevation to gain to reach Everest base camp.

The Dudh Kosi River

An update on my health. My legs seem almost fine now, my little toe is still firmly attached and not causing any trouble, my left heal is much better thanks to a morning taping job and a strong dose of anti inflammatory. However I seem to be catching a cold, my throat is sore, and I am a beginning to get stuffy. Fortunately my cold is happening now, during some relatively easy days, and not up at high altitude.

My tea house for the evening is in Kharikhola, perched high on the east slope of the Dudh Kosi River. I was able to take a hot shower, which felt nice after hiking the last hour up to here in rain. I’ll keep this post short so I can get some rest and hopefully chase away this cold.